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Kurdish literature

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Title: Kurdish literature  
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Kurdish literature

Kurdish literature (in Kurdish: Wêjeya Kurdî) refers to literature written in the Kurdish language. Literary Kurdish works have been written in each of the four main dialects of Zazaki, Gorani, Kurmanji and Sorani. Ali Hariri (1009-1079)[1][2] is one of the first well-known poets who wrote in Kurdish. He was from the Hakkari region.[3]

Zazaki - Gorani literature

One of the first literary works in Kurdish is a poem from the 7th century, written in the Hawremani dialect. The poem, called Hurmizgan, talks about invading Muslims.[4][5] Some of the well-known Gorani language poets and writers are Parishan Dinawari (d. ca. 1395), Mustafa Besarani (1642–1701), Muhammad Kandulayi (late 17th century), Khana Qubadi (1700–1759), Shayda Awrami (1784–1852) and Mastoureh Ardalan) (1805–1848). Zazaki and Gorani which was the literary languages of much of what today is known as Iraqi, Turkish and Iranian Kurdistan, is classified as a member of the Zaza–Gorani branch of the Northwestern Iranian languages.[6]

Kurmanji literature

A Yezidi religious work, the Meshefa Reş, is in a classic form of Kurmanji, and could well have been written sometime in the 13th century. It is held to have been written by Sheikh Hasan (born 1195 CE), a nephew of Sheikh Adi Ibn Musafir, the prophet of the Yezidis. Based on this date, Meshef can be considered as the oldest piece of prose in Kurmanji.

The Kurdish poet Muhammad Faqi Tayran (1590–1660) collected many folk stories in his book In the Words of the Black Horse. He also wrote a book of Sufi verse, The Story of Shaykh of San’ân. Faqi-Tayran also had versified correspondence with the poet Malaye Jaziri. Some of the well-known Kurmanji poets and writers are listed below.

  1. Ali Hariri (1425–1495).
  2. Mullah Ahmad (1417–1494) from Hakkari region, who wrote the author of Mawlud, a collection of verse and an anthology;
  3. Salim Salman, author of Yûsif û Zuleyxa in 1586;
  4. Malaye Jaziri (1570–1640) from Buhtan region, the famous sufi poet. His collection of poems contains more than 2,000 verses
  5. Ahmad Khani (1651–1707), the author of Mam and Zin, a long poem of 2,650 distichs,is probably the best known and most popular of the classical Kurdish poets.[7]
  6. Ismail Bayazidi (1654–1710), author of a Kurmanji-Arabic-Persian dictionary for children, entitled Guljen.

The tragedy of Mam and Zin

The drama of Mem û Zîn(Mam and Zin) (Memî Alan û Zînî Buhtan), was written in 1694 by Ahmad Khani (1651–1707) from Hakkari, is a rich source of Kurdish culture, history and mythology. This work also emphasizes the national aspirations of the Kurdish people.

Mam of the Alan clan and Zin of Buhtan family are two lovers from Alan and Butan families, respectively. Their union is blocked by a person named Bakr of the Bakran clan. Mam eventually dies during a complicated conspiracy by Bakr. When Zin receives the news, she also dies while mourning the death of Mam on his grave. The immense grief leads to her death and she is buried next to Mam. The news of the death of Mam and Zin, spreads quickly among the people of Jazira Butan. Then Bakr's role in the tragedy is revealed, and he takes sanctuary between the two graves. He is eventually captured and slain by the people of Jazira. A thorn bush soon grows out of Bakr’s blood, sending its roots of malice deep into the earth between the lovers’ graves, separating the two even after their death.

Contemporary Kurmanji literature

The first Kurmanji newspaper, titled Kurdistan, was published in Cairo in 1898. The Kurds in the Soviet Union, despite their small numbers, had the opportunity of elementary and university education in Kurdish and for many decades. This in turn lead to an appearance of several Kurdish writers and researchers among them. The literary works of Kurdoev and Shamilov are the well known examples of Kurdish prose in the 20th century. The first modern latin-based alphabet for Kurdish was created by Jaladat Ali Badirkhan, the poet and writer who fled Turkey in the 1920s and spent the rest of his life in Syria.

Since the 1970s, there has been a massive effort on the part of Kurds in Turkey to write and to create literary works in Kurdish. The amount of printed material during the last three decades has increased enormously. Many of these activities were centered in Europe particularly Sweden and Germany where many of the immigrant Kurds are living. There are a number of Kurdish publishers in Sweden, partly supported by the Swedish Government. More than two hundred Kurdish titles have appeared in the 1990s. Some of the well known contemporary Kurdish writers from Turkey are Firat Cewerî, Mehmed Uzun, Mehmed Emin Bozarslan, Mahmud Baksi, Hesenê Metê, Arjen Arî, Abdusamet Yigit, Berken Bereh and Rojen Barnas. Besides these writers, there is a new generation that emerged in the middle of 90's and aftermath, writers, poets and translators such as Kawa Nemir, Rênas Jiyan, Lal Laleş, Îbrahîm Seydo Aydogan, Yaqob Tilermenî, Cîhan Roj, Mîran Janbar, Şener Özmen, Ferzan Şêr, Yunus Eroğlu, Dilawer Zeraq, Sîdar Jîr, Omer Dilsoz, Hemîd Dilbahar, Ergin Öpengin, Gulîzer, Lorîn S. Dogan, Kovan Sindî,Lokman Ayebe and Ehmed Ronîar.

The main academic center for Kurdish literature and language in Europe is the Kurdish Institute of Paris(Institut Kurde de Paris) founded in 1983. A large number of Kurdish intellectuals and writers from Europe, America and Australia are contributing to the efforts carried out by the Institute for reviving Kurdish language and literature.

Sorani literature

In contrast to Kurmanji, literary works in Sorani appeared only in the late 18th century and early 19th century. Nalî was the first to write poetry in this dialect. and Haji Qadir Koyi of Koy Sanjaq in central Kurdistan (1817–1897), and Sheikh Rezza Talabani (1835–1909) also wrote in Sorani dialect after Nalî. The closeness of the two dialects of Sorani and Kurmanji is cited as one of the reasons for the late start in Sorani literature, as well as the fact that during 15th to 19th century, there was a rich literary tradition in the Kurmanji dialect.

Despite its late start, Sorani literature progressed with a rapid pace, specially during the early 20th century and after recognition of Sorani as the main language of Kurds in Iraq. The language rights of Kurds were guaranteed by the British and school education in Kurdish started in earnest in the early 1920s. It is estimated that almost 80% of the existing Kurdish literature in the 20th century has been written in Sorani dialect.

Increased contact with the Arab world and subsequently western world led to a translation movement among Kurds in Iraqi Kurdistan in the early 20th century. Many classical literary works of Europe were translated into Sorani, including the works of Pushkin, Schiller, Byron and Lamartine.

Kurdish is one of the official languages of Baghdad. Kurdish language departments were also opened in some Iraqi universities including Baghdad University, University of Salahaddin and University of Sulaimani. The well known sorani poets include Abdulla Goran (founder of the free verse poetry in Kurdish), Sherko Bekas, Abdulla Pashew, Qanih. Many Kurdish writers have written novels, plays and literary analysis including Piramerd, Alaaddin Sajadi, Ibrahim Ahmad, Karim Hisami and Hejar.there are also some contemporary well-known novel and play writers such as Medhit Bexaw, Karim Sharaza, Abdul Khaliq Aladdin and Dr. Ezzadin Rasul.

A historical list of Kurdish literature and poets


  • Mishefa Reş, The religious book of the Êzidî (Yezidi) Kurds.[8] (in French) It is held to have been written by Shaykh Hasan (born ca. AD 1195), a nephew of Shaykh Adi ibn Musâfir, the sacred prophet of the Yezidis.
  • Serencam, The book of Yarsan.

Zazaki - Goranî dialect

  • Perîşan Dînewerî (d. ca. 1395),
  • Mustefa Bêsaranî (1642–1701),
  • Muhemmed Kendulaî (late 17th century),
  • Khana Qubadi (Xana Qubadî) (1700–1759),
  • Muhemmed Zengene Xemnakî Kerkûkî (early 18th century),
  • Mîrza Şafî Dînewerî (mid- 18th century),
  • Şeyda Ewramî (1784–1852),
  • Ehmed Beg Kumsî (1796–1889),
  • Mastoureh Ardalan (Mestûrey Erdelan) (1805–1848)
  • Mawlawi Tawagozi (Mewlewî Tawegozî ) (1806–1882)
  • Muhammad Welî Kirmanşahî (d. ca. 1901)
  • Ehmedê Xasî (1867–1951)
  • Usman Efendîyê Babij (1852-1929)
  • Celadet Alî Bedirxan (1893-1951)
  • Mehemed Malmîsanij (1952-)
  • Mehmed Uzun (1953 – Aralık 10, 2007)
  • Qemerê Alî (1957 -)

Famous poets in Kurmancî dialect

Soranî dialect

For more details see.[12] Also see [13] for an English translation of a poem by Ahmad Khani and [14] for a list of Kurdish poets and writers.

Kurdish poets and writers of the 20th century

Hazhar, Kurdish poet, in Iraq (1970).

Kurdish poets and writers of the 21st century

  • Ekber Rezaî Kelhor(1966-),Contemporary writer,poet from Kermanshah, Iran.
  • Besam Mistefa (1977-), Contemporary Kurdish poet, writer and translator, from (Khamishli), Syria.


  1. ^ A Kurdish grammar: descriptive analysis of the Kurdish of Sulaimaniya, Iraq By Ernest Nasseph McCarus, American council of learned societies, 1958, The university of Michigan, see page 6
  2. ^ Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, Volume 2 By University of London School of Oriental and African Studies, JSTOR, 1964, see page 507
  3. ^ "The Kurdish Language and Literature". Retrieved 2013-09-02. 
  4. ^ Hurmizgan Explained
  5. ^ Binüçyüz Yıl Evvel Yazılmış Kürçe Helbest
  6. ^ J. N. Postgate, Languages of Iraq, ancient and modern, British School of Archaeology in Iraq, [Iraq]: British School of Archaeology in Iraq, 2007, p. 138.
  7. ^ Kreyenbroek, Philip g. "KURDISH WRITTEN LITERATURE". Encyclopedia Iranica. Retrieved 2009-06-04. 
  8. ^ "Kurdish Institute Of Brussel - Enstituya Kurdî Ya Bruskelê - Instituut Kurde De Bruxelles - Koerdisch Instuut Te Brussel". Retrieved 2013-09-02. 
  9. ^ [1]
  10. ^ [2]
  11. ^ [3]
  12. ^ [4]
  13. ^ [5]
  14. ^ [6]

External links

  • PHILIP G. KREYENBROEK, "Kurdish Written Literature", Encyclopedia Iranica
  • , Part VI of Kurds and KurdistanKurdish Folklore and LiteratureT. Bois, , Encyclopaedia of Islam.
  • Kurdish Literature, by Prof. Mehrdad R. Izady, Kurdish Academy.
  • The Kurdish Language and Literature, By Joyce Blau, Professor of Kurdish language and civilization at the National Institute of Oriental Language and Civilization of the University of Paris (INALCO).
  • Kurdish Written Literature, By Philip G. Kreyenbroek, Encyclopædia Iranica, Feb. 2005.
  • The Kurdish Institute of Paris
  • Kurdish Language Academy in Iran
  • The Kurdish Language Department, University of Salahaddin
  • Kurdish Literature, Columbia University
  • Index of Kurdish Literature and Authors, Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University.
  • The Anthology of Kurdish Poems
  • Links for Kurdish literature, Kurdish Library
  • Mem and Zîn or the burning wings of love, Interview with Sandrine Alexie, the translator of Mam and Zin into French.
  • Publications of Kurdish Institute of Istanbul
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