Beginning next month, Kurdish-speaking members of the Iraqi Council of Representatives (parliament) in Baghdad will be allowed to use Kurdish during parliamentary sessions.
The new Iraqi constitution was approved in June 2004 and Article 4 states that ‘Arabic and Kurdish languages are the two official languages for Iraq.’ However, according to the constitution, the manner of implementing the rules of this article ‘shall not be direct but will be defined by a law.’
Apparently, that legal ‘definition’ will now include its use in Parliament and at the meetings of the Council of Ministers.
Kurdistan Alliance member Mueyed Teyib remarked that Kurdish parliamentarians could have demanded to speak their native language in previous sessions but had not introduced a demand given their knowledge of Arabic as well. He also said that ‘[a]lthough Kurdish parliamentarians know Arabic, we introduced a demand in this session to speak Kurdish for the recognition of Kurdish in the parliament as a Constitutional right.’
Teyib expressed that technical preparations are being made for Kurdish in the parliament hall, saying, ‘After the end of parliament abeyance, each Kurdish person will be free to speak Kurdish by the beginning of February.’ Teyip added that translation services will be provided in this respect, calling attention to the translation services given in other parliaments where different languages are spoken.
The Iraqi Council of Representatives has 325 seats. Forty-one of those seats (13%) are held by representatives from the three northern governorates under the control of the Kurdistan Regional Government. Dohuk has 10 seats; Erbil, 14 seats; Suleimaniya, 17 seats.
In Turkey, home to some 20 million Kurds, the use of Kurdish is not permitted in parliament or in the courts.
Kurdish allowed in Iraqi parliament. ANF News, 20 January 2011.
The legal status of the Kurdish language in Iraq. Niqash, 07 November 2007.