Sharif Behruz for www.sharifbehruz.com
This week was back-to-school day in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. As this part of Kurdistan faces uncertainty vis-a-vis the adamant central government in Iraq and the surging Islamic State terrorists, infamously known as ISIS, the pupils head back to school optimistically. To begin with, they kick-off school in their mother tongue; their instructors and school officials communicate with them in the same language used at home. They proudly raise a flag that represent their people, territory and government. Aside from learning their mother language, they learn their history, culture and literature. This is on top of all the affordable educational services that this semi-independent entity has been able to offer its youth at all the stages of learning, despite the many shortcomings.
Pictures: Courtesy of Rudaw
A short distance to the east of this burgeoning society, lies another somewhat similar but much bigger plateau, the Kurdistan Region of Iran. However, it is neither back-to-school day there nor there is any enthusiasm among the pupils heading back to school. Non-Persian kids as young as four are forced to learn a language other than the one they have just started to be comfortable with at home. The instructors and officials most likely speak a language quite foreign to the kids – Farsi (Persian) or Turkish. The flag and symbols that fly over the educational institutions make little or no sense to the kids. They start learning about geography, history, personalities and literary works that have no place within the hearts and minds of those poor kids and society in general. This is beside the point that these schools resemble any standard educational institutions in terms of staff, facilities and safety. (A blaze in a Kurdish school in Iran injures dozens)
Back to the other side of the border, where smiles fly on the faces of these children as the school doors roll open, the kids look to the opportunity to pursue higher education without any discrimination. The public and private sector awaits them after their graduation. Back in Iran, discrimination and deprivation does not start and end at primary and secondary level, it haunts them throughout their lives: Higher education is mostly reserved for non-Kurds and/or for those who have links to the ranks and file of the oppressive apparatus. Even those who manage to break the barriers to pursue higher education are shut out of the public/private sector opportunities under the monopoly of the state and its oppressive institutions such as the IRGC or the intelligence network.
Kurdistan region in Iran is among the highest level of unemployment in Iran, especially among the youth.
This exclusionist and oppressive system in Iran is not an isolated Islamic Republic of Iran policy, rather regrettably it is rooted in the culture of a society “ including its self-proclaimed democratic opposition – that has little to no regard for the fundamental collective and individual rights of the others. Can these two different educational policies and systems bring about devoted and patriotic citizens in these contemporary boundaries? The smiles on the faces of Kurdish pupils in the liberated Kurdistan in Iraq give us hope in this part of the motherland. However, the grim looks and nervous minds of the future generation in the deprived part of Kurdistan in Iran, paints an ominous picture.