Volume 13 Issue 1, Spring 2019, pp. 34-51

Scholarly literature highlights the systematic actions taken in the modern Middle East to destroy the Kurdish language. With a primary focus on Turkey, scholars have described this process as a policy of linguicide, or language genocide, which is “the extermination of languages, an analogous concept to (physical) genocide.”2 In contrast, similar processes at work in southern Kurdistan (Kurdistan of northern Iraq) have often been described as “linguistic suppression.”3 This paper argues that linguistic suppression does not adequately describe the Iraqi Kurds’ experiences. Rather, linguicide better captures the practices of cultural genocide that have targeted this group. This paper focuses on how the Kurds in modern-day Iraq were subjected to linguicide under the Language Education Policy (LEP) from 1932 to 1991. This policy was established during the monarchy (1921–1958), and advanced through the time of Saddam Hussein’s regime (1979–1991).4 While much scholarly work has associated the process of linguicide with the birth of a nation-state,5 this article further argues that linguicide in the Iraqi Kurdish case predates the formation of the Iraqi nation-state.