(This is not a story; I was a witness to it.)
The year was 1973. I had already finished my graduate studies in English at UC Santa Barbara and earned a Ph.D. in that field. At that time, I was working on an English-Kurdish dictionary, which I eventually published in 2006 (The Azadi English-Kurdish Dictionary).
The Chair of the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures at the university of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), who was a friend of mine, tried very hard to get a chair for Kurdish studies in his department and was thinking of having me apply for the position even though I wasn't thinking seriously about it because it would have meant moving to Los Angeles, which I didn't want to do. He succeeded in getting the approval of all the relevant university officials, including that of the Dean of Letters and Sciences. There was one final hurdle, though, to overcome, which was the approval of the Department faculty. And when it was put to a vote, the faculty --- Arabs, Turks, and Persians --- turned it down. What else! Thus, the Kurdish chair never saw the light of day thanks to those who believe in the "Live and let die" idea.
If anything, this shows that those who believe that only the regimes of the four countries dividing and occupying Kurdistan are to blame for the oppression of the Kurds and the denial of their rights are wrong. I believe that the peoples of those countries bear an equal degree of responsibility for the denial of Kurdish human and national rights and for the crimes committed against them, including genocide. Countless regimes and governments have come and gone in those countries in the past hundred or so years, yet the anti-Kurd policies and their oppression of this much maligned people continues unabated. Not to my surprise, of course, what this episode at the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures at UCLA, one of the most renowned institutions of higher education in the world, showed was that it was not only the average national of the countries occupying Kurdistan who was against Kurdish legitimate rights, but also those who are supposed to have an open mind --- the so-called intellectuals and educators.
The faculty of the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures acted in the despicable way they did because they were prisoners of their past and their upbringing. They had been told by their parents and their parents' parents and by their culture at large that Kurds were inferior to their race and their language was inferior to theirs, too, and did not deserve to be learnt or taught. "If they weren't inferior," they must have thought, "how come they don't have a country or a state of their own like us?"
One wonders what it would take for these ignorant and bigoted people to see that they are no better than the Kurds or anybody else and that the Kurds are no less entitled to anything that they are entitled to. If being an oppressor makes you a superior person to those you are oppressing, then so be it. But we know where the truth lies, and every truly civilized person knows that justice does not lie with the oppressor but with the oppressed. Any fair-minded person would say that the way the faculty of the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures at UCLA acted towards a legitimate Kurdish right that they themselves had enjoyed for decades was despicable. They proved that they were not educators but mindless bigots. The sad fact is that the Kurds have to deal with this kind of mentality, and even much worse, every day of their lives.
Perhaps it was a mistake by the university administration to give a veto power to people who should not have the power to decide what classes, subjects, or languages are to be taught at the university. The arbiter, in this case the university, should have decided the issue based on its merits without giving deference to those who don't deserve it because of their inherent mindset and bias.
But this, of course, has been the story of the Kurds for a long, long time. The Western powers, the arbiters, have perpetuated the oppression of the Kurds throughout occupied Greater Kurdistan by siding with the oppressors rather than the oppressed. One cannot put it any other way. Any other explanation would simply be distorting the facts.
The Kurds refuse to ever again allow those who have occupied their homeland and oppressed them for as long as they remember to vote on whether their language is "good enough" to be taught at educational institutions anywhere, for they know what the outcome would be. They know for sure that if it were up to those people, they would be denied the right to be born in the first place --- and there is no indication that that attitude is about to change. Given what we know, we can safely say that nothing but full liberation and statehood for the Kurds and Kurdistan will ensure that no one will ever have the right to take a vote similar to the one at UCLA. Such right must rest with the Kurds themselves --- and them alone.