Unconventional thinking about the Middle East.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Bush Learning Kurdish As A Second Language?

In late October, the Turkish media went ballistic when President George Bush hosted Iraqi Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani at the Oval Office and referred to him (appropriately) as ‘President of the Kurdish Region.’ It was a coming of age for international recognition of the Kurds; they had come a long way since early 1991 when not even the Iraq Desk officer at State would deign to meet with Jalal Talabani, now President of Iraq and another recent guest of Bush’s. Indeed, times had changed from when Barzani could only travel the world on a Turkish diplomatic passport, rescinded by Ankara a couple of years ago over some provocative statements the Kurd has made about the contested city of Kirkuk.

Well, another milestone that is likely to irk the Turks has also been reached: George Bush hired a Kurdish translator for the White House, a couple of weeks after Barzani’s visit, according to a Kurdish source. The translator, Dr. Ahmed Ferhadi, is an associate professor of Arabic linguistics at New York University, and is expected to be on call for the next three years whenever a Kurdish president is in town. Apparently, what recommended him to the job was his defense of Bush’s pronunciation of the word ‘Abu Ghraib’ (that the Texan mangled into ‘abugah-rayp’), whereby he suggested that this is how Iraqis would pronounce it. Maybe Iraqi Kurds would do just that, since they tend to speak Arabic with a heavy accent.

So, the author of a book titled “Kurdish Liberation Movements” (Palgrave, 2003) now has the ear of the president, literally. This is just the kind of thing that would freak-out the ever-jittery Turks. Maybe a sequel to “Metal Storm” is in the offing.

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