Kurdish Journalism Day: ‘Kurdistan’ newspaper’s legacy lives on 123 years later
ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Over a century ago, the founder of the first Kurdish-language newspaper realized that journalism was one way for stateless Kurds to follow developments at home and around the world.
On April 22, 1898, descendants of a Kurdish prince living in exile in Cairo established the first Kurmanji-dialect Kurdish newspaper. Until its demise four years later, 31 issues of “Kurdistan” were printed, and all were free to readers.
The newspaper was issued by Miqdad Madhad Badirkhan and later his brother Abdul Rahman Beg, the grandsons of Badirkhan Pasha of the Botan dynasty.
Following the abolishment of the dynasty in what is now southeastern Turkey, the founders of "Kurdistan" settled in Egypt, where the paper’s first issue was published.
Due to constant pressure from Ottoman authorities, the paper moved homes frequently during its run, eventually being printed in Cairo, the Swiss city of Geneva, and London and Folkstone in England.
Most of Miqdad Badirkhan’s family is gone and some have changed their names, but his descendent Sinam Khan Badirkhan remains in Kurdistan, and has lived in Erbil since 2006.
“This newspaper has a great meaning for the whole Kurdish nation,” she told Kurdistan 24 in an interview at her home this week.
The first issue of “Kurdistan” was printed in Cairo on April 22, 1898. The importance of journalism in general and a newspaper specifically for the Kurdish people were stressed in its first editorial.
“The Kurdish people, unfortunately, are not as literate and rich as other nations. They are unaware of what is happening around them,” Miqdad Badirkhan wrote.
“In this newspaper, the benefits of science and information are discussed: from where people learn, in which place there is war, the stance of world powers and how they fight, and how trades are done, will all be published here,” Badirkhan wrote.
History and literature took center stage in the first issue, including poetry and the story of the Kurdish struggle.
Over a century later, Kurdish journalism remains alive in both printed newspapers and news websites.
There are nearly 800 registered newspapers in the Kurdistan Region along with roughly 1,000 news websites, Azad Shekh Younis, the General Secretary of the Kurdistan Journalists’ Syndicate, told Kurdistan 24 on Wednesday.
Kurdish lawmakers have this year marked the 123rd anniversary of the paper by declaring April 22 Kurdish Journalism Day, to “recognize the vital role of newspapers and journalism in protecting and developing language, culture, and national sentiment.”
Editing by Joanne Stocker-Kelly