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      /  Language   /  Monolingual Education and Ethnic Genocide

    Monolingual Education and Ethnic Genocide

    When examining the violation of education rights, one must clearly talk about the violation of language rights in the education system and language genocide which exists in Iran as well. In this regard, I would like to refer to international covenants that define language rights, child’s rights and cultural genocide.

    Structural limitations

    Regarding different national groups in Iran, the structural limitations in the education system are factors that can lead to what can be amounted to a linguistic-cultural genocide. In the International Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide we come across 5 articles defining genocide, linguistic and cultural genocide correspond to two of this definition, i.e., clauses (b) and (e) which demonstrate that an education system based on the dominant language leads to cultural genocide of linguistic and cultural minorities.

    In the present convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group, as such:

    (a) Killing members of the group;

    (b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;

    (c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;

    (d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;

    (e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

    It can be said that based on the definitions of genocide in the United Nation convention, the compulsory education in the dominant language is a crime and violation of human rights and a cultural genocide targeting minorities.

    In a letter to the Permanent Assembly of the United Nations, we have shown, based on a sociological and legal argument, that in the system of compulsory education in the dominant language, children who do not speak the dominant language are psychologically abused and traumatized. This is done in such a way that it leads to insufficient access to knowledge and eventually dropping out of school. We focused on the details of this issue and demonstrated how such a policy in a discriminatory monolingual education system can lead to cultural genocide from an educational and social point of view.

    Hence, items (b) and (e) of the definition of genocide are clearly applicable to the nations who are victims of a monolingual education system. According to child education specialists, beginning the school year with a language other than the mother tongue, results in mental pressure at the beginning of a new phase in their lives. For this reason, illiteracy has been recorded in regions of the countries where such compulsory, limiting and destructive education systems has been implemented. This result is completely consistent with item (b) and is a form of genocide.

    Also, forcing the children of a group of people to study and learn at monolingual schools at the beginning of their education also results in their marginalization and leads to the assimilation of children in the culture of the dominant language and their transfer to that dominant language group. This is consistent with the definition of genocide in item(e), which defines the forced transfer of children from one group to another as genocide.

    Previously, it was thought that this definition only applies to the physical transfer of children from place to another, while today it has been proven that the transfer of the language and culture from mother tongue to another language leads to cultural genocide and the loss of identity, language, and culture of the future generations.

    Such a repressive education system can legally be an example of the violation of human rights and the crime of genocide in the brief way it was explained. Violation of human rights in the sense that eventually these policies lead to ethnic-linguistic extinction of the targeted groups. By applying these concepts, in international criminal law, such oppressive systems should be punished to stop their implementation. Where the linguistic pyramid overlaps with the political and economic power pyramid, the lack of access to linguistic rights by minorities is a predictable phenomenon that leads to conflict and tension.

    A part of the interview of Dr. Simin Sabri, a member of the board of editors of the “Biz Feministler” website, with Professor Tove Skutnabb-Kangason on February 21 (International Mother Language Day).

    Professor Tove Skutnabb-Kangason is of Swedish-Finnish descent, and bilingualism has been an integral part of her life. Tove started her primary education in the field of pedagogy and teaching in Helsinki and in 1976, she received her doctorate in the field of “bilingualism”. The subject of her activities is primarily research about bilingualism and bilinguals, and she developed this subject with research on linguistic discrimination and, specifically, discrimination in the case of minority languages. Professor Kangason mentions the issue of underestimating bilingualism as a political goal for economic-political gain, which the ruling powers engage in “linguistic genocide” to achieve. And this work is done not by accident, but it is planned and purposeful through making some languages informal and others formal. The results of Kangason’s research show that the destruction of languages is not due to natural and random factors, but due to the political and totalitarian factors of governments. Professor Kangason is one of the rare people who scientifically revealed and proved the inseparable link of educational and political mechanisms in the direction of language suppression and of “unofficial” language groups.

    Source: End of Monolingualism