Ferhat Yaşar / DUVAR
A Kurdish author named Şivan Zeren opened a second-hand book store in Istanbul, where he is giving Kurdish books as a gift to anyone donating Turkish ones, as well as giving children books in Kurdish in an attempt to combat the assimilation of his native tongue.
Turkey's assimilation policies on the Kurdish language have been ongoing for decades, and have caused damage as far as auto-assimilation, Zeren said.
"Turks still find Kurdish odd because we hide it, disguise it, and don't share it. We need to integrate it into daily life to combat this."
Zeren thinks that Turkey's Kurdish community has gone beyond auto-assimilation and lost its roots as a result of the collective trauma it endured.
"We relate to each other in identities that were imposed upon us. We communicate and express our love in this language. A lot of social media users complain about this, but they do it in Turkish. Why? Because it has a larger audience."
Zeren started his swap campaign in an effort to reach out to other Kurds who are concerned about the loss of their language, and as a result, a part of their identity, he said.
There is a significant portion of Kurds who are able to speak their mother tongue, but can't read or write in it, Zeren noted, as all levels of education in Kurdish are lacking in Turkey.
"If these people could read, we would see a Kurdish Renaissance," Zeren said, adding that Kurdish literacy needs to start with adults. "Otherwise the kids will question why they're studying it if the adults haven't."
In an attempt to encourage kids' reading of Kurdish books, Zeren started handing out dictionaries, children's novels and science books with any adults' purchases.
"My top-selling books are Turkish children's books. Who are these kids? Kurdish children whose homes were destroyed back in Şırnak, Mardin and Diyarbakır. They'll recognize the size of their losses if they bring Kurdish into their lives."
Zeren's goal was to distribute 5,000 books in Kurdish when he started his campaign, and he has handed out over 4,000 already.
"These 5,000 books will enter hundreds of homes. The kids will ask their parents about them, and the parents will confront themselves. These books are like seeds."
Zeren's campaign is available for participation on Instagram, under the user for his book store Liberta Sahaf.