This year, almost 3,000 students applied for Rojava’s three universities, Rojava, Kobani and Al Sharq. Students took their exams on 1 September and those who passed had to choose which department they would like to be registered by 19 September. Rojava, Kobanê and Al Sharq Universities will be starting their 2021-2022 academic year on 10 October.
“In light of the discussions of how to make the revolution in Rojava better, the idea of establishing the Department of Humanities had developed in our minds,” said Dr. Sardar Saadi in interview with Yeni Ozgur Politika.
“But Turkey’s attacks were about to start during those days, and we had to establish our work in a dangerous atmosphere under the threat of war,” he added.
Dr. Sardar Saadi is the Coordinator of the Institute of Social Sciences at Rojava University. It was established in 2020. “We are working hard to improve the system and education here,” Dr. Saadi added.
Despite having established connections with universities from Europe and America, the ongoing attacks by Turkey and its mercenaries against the region and also the Syrian regime’s lack of recognition of the Autonomous Administration of Northern and Eastern Syria (AANES) have had a negative impact on education.
“Syria has pursued a policy of assimilation and Arabization of the Kurds for many years. Therefore, most Kurds do not use Kurdish as a language for reading and writing. Since our programme is in Kurdish, students have had to work hard to be able to read and write in Kurdish,” Dr. Saadi stated.
People working to develop the university’s profile and programmes have not only been restricted to academics and staff based in Rojava. “We have established a committee in Toronto,” Dr. Saadi said, “We’ve talked to academics all over the world. In light of these discussions, we came up with the idea of first educating students in Rojava, and then these students will be the future staff of the institution.”
The academics, who have formed a 10-member Advisory Board consisting of experts in Kurdish studies, regional studies, and international studies around the world, are conducting valuable work both for the promotion of the university and for the establishment of its educational system.
Slavoj Zizek, one of the world’s most respected thinkers, made a presentation in Rojava University which was moderated by Dr. Saadi. Linguist, philosopher and historian Noam Chomsky also made an opening speech there.
Dr. Saadi noted the significance and impact of key academics and international universities that have supported the university: “Let me put it this way: when progressive universities in the world, or any professors, philosophers want to work with us, it’s very, very incredible. I can’t tell you how important this is. For example, when we are working on credit assessments. We work with the most expert professors on these subjects at Cambridge University.”
“Whenever we wish to consult over certain matters or when we want to explore new ideas, academics and scientists we contact communicate with us, help and assist us. They’re happy to do that. This is incredible for Rojava and the Kurds. It also shows how important Rojava universities are for the recognition of Rojava.”
This year, they are planning to organise panels, seminars, and camps, along the lines of the course Chomsky gave last year and the course held by Zizek. “However,” Dr. Saadi added, “Some Kurdish academics are distant from us because of Turkey’s stance. They do this because they fear that Turkey will do anything against them. There are many Kurdish academics living in Europe. And unfortunately, some Kurdish academics have other concerns. Our work is called Rojava. The name Rojava has a political, revolutionary identity, of course. But we’re doing academic work.”
Dr. Saadi underlined the need to work with more academics who can read and write in Kurdish.
“I’d like to make a call here through you. We’re an e-mail distance from anyone who wants to work with us. We want to work with academics and scientists from different perspectives. We must strengthen this institute, the university, as much as we can. We need everyone who can teach Kurdish, especially in social sciences at the academic level.”
Dr. Saadi also talked about plans and schedules for the new semester, which begins in October. “We want to improve this Institute. Now, it’s just ‘social science.’ We want to open different departments as well. We have friends who work in ‘political science’ these days. There’s a study of the history department. As a university, we are considering a Master’s programme in the Kurdish Language and in Literature as well. We also have some initiatives in the sphere of archaeology.”
This year, they are planning a summer school in Europe as well. “Of course, similar to the situation last year, we will have lessons with well-known scientists; however, unlike last year, we plan to make these courses thematic. In addition, the third university of Rojava, Al-Sharq University, was established in Raqqa. The language of instruction will be Arabic there. Coordination has been established in Rojava, which manages the University of Kobanê, the University of Rojava and the University of Al-Sharq. Our work will be carried out within the framework of this coordination.”