Translation & Linguistic Rights / Cyfieithu a Hawliau Ieithyddol (part 1: 2015 – 2017)

Translating the Mabinogi / Cyfieithu’r Mabinogi

Turkish and Kurdish Translation & Linguistic Rights 2015-2017

Salih Agir Qoserî

 Visit of Kermanji Kurdish short story writer and translator Salih Agır Qõseri 6-15 March 2017
Salih visited Aberystwyth at the invitation of WPC and Literature Across Frontiers

Translation of the Mabinogi story ‘Lludd and Llefelys’
Caroline Stockford acted as editor of the story by using Sioned Davies’s English translation and translating it orally, line by line into Turkish so that Salih could check that he had captured the right meaning.  They worked together on this text for four days and consulted Simon Rodway, lecturer in Medieval Welsh and Irish at the Welsh Department of Aberystwyth University.  Words we paid particular attention to or struggled with are listed at the end of this report as a translator and editor’s note.

Translation of the Kurdish Folk Tale ‘Porzerine’
An associate of Salih had written this story down as it was told to him by an old lady in a village near Mardin, Turkey.  Caroline and Salih worked through the text using Turkish as a bridge language and Caroline corrected any problems or errors.  Salih is keen to go and collect as many folk stories from older members of village communities and WPC could consider supporting this project in a small way financially and also by securing a good mobile recording device so that Salih can record, transcribe and then translate the stories.

Visit to the National Library of Wales and Poetry translation
Caroline took Salih to visit the NLW and Salih was very moved and impressed, saying,
‘In my country I had to hide my books and cassettes in a plastic bag in the ground for 15 years until it was possible to listen to and read Kurdish again.  If they had been found in my house by police I would have been immediately arrested and tortured for reading Kurdish, or listening to Kurdish music.  And you in Wales have built such a large building to house your books, this is so wonderful.  I think the sign of a great country is one where they have a library that is bigger than a castle.’

Caroline and Salih co-translated Hedd Wyn’s poem ‘Y Blotyn Du’ into Kurdish after seeing an exhbition about him at the NLW.

Visit to Ysgol Penweddig, Aberystwyth
Salih spoke to a group of pupils at the school and they were very intersted and engaged and said that they had not known of the existence of the Kurdish language or of Kurdistan or of the political problems being experienced in Turkey.  Salih reminded them of the value of being able to freely read, write and speak in your own language.

Mabinogi Story Telling Festival
Salih’s visit coincided with the Mabinogi story telling festival organised by Peter Stevenson at the Arts Centre in Aberystwyth (and other venues).  Salih and Caroline attended the launch and Salih was very impressed by the lively group of story tellers and said he wished to encourage younger people to continue the tradition in his home city.
Salih and Caroline attended three days of the story telling festival and made some great contacts for future working on the stories of the Mabinogi.

Visit to Bishop Vaughan School, Swansea
Salih spoke to a large group of students who had come to the talk for different reasons.  Some were part of a reading group that had just finished Orwell’s ‘1984’ and discussed the book with Salih, who has translated it into Kurdish.  Students asked questions and Salih spoke at length about translation and the historical and political occurences in the Turkish part of Kurdistan.

Caroline spoke to the class about the work of Wales PEN Cymru and the teacher has asked us to send more WPC members to give talks to the group on our work and various projects

Visit to the Refugee Drop In Centre, Swansea
Caroline and Salih visited the Drop In Centre run by volunteers, including Tom Cheeseman of WPC and Salih spoke to Kurdish and Farsi speaking refugees who had gathered there to share a meal and to learn language and craft skills and to socialise.  The centre was busy and vibrant and Salih said that he enjoyed the visit, even though it brought back some sad memories of his time as a refugee for seven years in Sweden when he found it hard to be accepted by the local population.

Caroline and Salih met with Filiz and Jenni of WPC and all attended a meal at a Turkish restaurant at which Salih sang Kurdish folk songs and made new contacts.  Filiz was extremely hospitable and went to a lot of trouble to help Salih, including proposing that he attend a Kurdish dialect project launch at Manchester University and hosting him afterwards in Swansea.

Free Word Centre and London Book Fair
Salih and Caroline attended the Free Word Centre launch of Iraqui Kurdish author Bahtiyar Ali’s book ‘I saw into the Night of the City’ chaired by Alexandra Büchler.

They then attended the London Book Fair where Caroline took Salih to the Literary Translation Centre and to the English PEN area where they listened to talks on literary translation.

Salih left the Book Fair to go to Manchester and was to spend some days in London before returning home.

Media Coverage
Salih and Caroline spoke to Radio Wales and Radio Cymru about their project and S4C filmed Salih’s visit to Ysgol Penweddig.
Links to article in the press and Aberystwyth University’s press release.

WPC would like to thank their partner organisation in the visit, Literature Across Frontiers and the Mercator Institute for their oranganisational support and for Elin Hâf Grufudd Jones’ great networking and Sian Clement’s effective management and to Alexandra Büchler for all her support and encouragement.

Salih will be producing a report in Kurdish on his visit

On International Mother Language Day Menna Elfyn writes to the Prime Minister and the Minister of Justice in Turkey:

On Mother Language Day, 21 February 2018 , on behalf of Wales PEN Cymru we wish to   support the rights of Kurdish people to use and and promote their own language and culture.  We also wish to condemn  the sustained repression of Kurdish language and culture in Turkey as we witness the   crackdown on  free speech and self expression.

We understand as  Welsh members of PEN the way repression of language and identity  can be detrimental to the wellbeing of a people. Unlike  the present situation in Turkey, the  Welsh language which  was once   banned in schools and in the public domain, gained equal status to English due to the peaceful , non-violent campaigns of the sixties and seventies.  We  believe that linguistic rights should be the basic human right of all people, worldwide. We find it unacceptable that the repression of  the Kurdish population has intensified in the last few years.

Furthermore, we wish to  highlight the targeting of writers, the 50 journalists of Kurdish (or pro- Kurdish outlets)  who are  currently in prison . It is totally unacceptable that  the acclaimed reporter and editor Nedim Türfent  has received such  a long prison sentence for reporting the situation between the Turkish army and the  PKK. Another example which conveys the extremity of  the present authorities in Turkey is the  imprisonment of  Zehra Doğan,  the much celebrated journalist, painter and  poet.

We therefore demand the immediate release of  Nedim Türfent and  Zehra Doğan and  others who are imprisoned solely for having exercised their  right to freedom of expression.

We wish  to call for an end to the repression of the  Kurdish culture and heritage and instead  urge  the powers that be recognise the Kurdish language and linguistic rights of its people.  The first step should surely be to permit the reopening of Kurdish language media outlets.

The aim of  Wales PEN Cymru, as that of other  PEN organisations is to see the end to persecution of all those who peacefully strive for  the wellbeing of all people. In this instance, all those who call for peace in the conflict  between the  Turkish authorities and the Kurdish  population,  both within and outside of Turkey, should be respected and  those unjustly imprisoned should be released  immediately.

Menna Elfyn

President Wales PEN Cymru


21 Chwefror, 2018

Ar ‘Ddiwrnod Mam-iaith’, 21 o  Chwefror 2018, ar ran Wales PEN Cymru, hoffem gefnogi hawl  y Cwrdiaid i ddefnyddio a hyrwyddo defnydd o’u hiaith a’u diwylliant. Dymunwn hefyd gondemnio  yr hyn a ystyriwn fel  gormes  ar yr  iaith a’r diwylliant Cwrdaidd. Gresynwn at y   mesurau creulon i   wahardd hunan fynegiant .

Deallwn fel cenedl Gymreig y ffordd y gall gwasgfa ar iaith a hunaniaeth fod yn andwyol i hunan les y bobl. Yn wahanol i Dwrci, mae’r iaith Gymraeg, a oedd unwaith wedi ei gwahardd mewn  ysgolion ac mewn sefydliadau cyhoeddus, yn awr wedi ennill hawliau o ganlyniad i ymgyrchu heddychlon di-drais yn y chwedegau a’r saithdegau.  Credwn y dylai hawliau ieithyddol fod yn hawl sylfaenol i bob dinesydd ym mhob ran o’r byd. Ystyriwn hi’n annerbyniol i ormesu  y boblogaeth Gwrdaidd  a’r ffordd  y mae hynny wedi cynyddu yn ystod y blynyddoedd diwethaf.

Yn ychwanegol at hyn, dymunwn danlinellu y targedu annheg sydd ar awduron gyda  50 a mwy o newyddiadurwyr o dras Gwrdaidd  wedi eu carcharu ar hyn o bryd. Mae’n annerbyniol hefyd bod newyddiadurwr a golygydd nodedig fel Nedim Türfent wedi  derbyn dedfryd hir o garchar am wneud dim byd mwy nac adrodd ar y sefyllfa rhwng y fyddin Twrcaidd a’r PKK. Enghraifft arall sy’n cyfleu eithafrwydd awdurdodau presennol Twrci yw carcharu Zehra Doğan, y newyddiadurwraig, bardd ac artist.

Dymunwn alw felly arnoch i ryddhau ar unwaith y ddau yma ac eraill sydd wedi eu carcharu ar gam   am wneud dim byd mwy nag arfer yr hawl i hunan-fynegiant.

  Galwn  hefyd am  roi terfyn ar ormesu diwylliant y Cwrdiaid a’r rhai o linach  Gwrdaidd ac yn lle hynny, credwn y dylid hyrwyddo ‘r iaith a hawliau ieithyddol ei dinasyddion. Y cam cyntaf tuag at wneud hynny fyddai i ganiatáu  ail agor cyfryngau’r iaith Gwrdaidd.

Nod Wales PEN Cymru , fel sefydliadau eraill PEN  yw gweld diwedd ar erlidigaeth y rhai sy’n ymdrechu mewn modd heddychlon a di-drais  dros hunan les pobloedd. Yn hyn o beth, dylai’r rhai sydd yn galw am heddwch rhag y gwrthdaro sy’n bodoli rhwng yr awdurdodau Twrcaidd a’r boblogaeth Gwrdaidd , y tu mewn a thu allan i Dwrci, gael eu parchu a’r rhai sydd yn y carchar ar hyn o bryd – eu rhyddhau ar unwaith.




Turkey: The refaruk-melik-cevik-381909-unsplashpression of Kurdish Language and Culture must stop



On International Mother Language Day, PEN International is supporting the right of Kurdish people to use and promote their own language and culture

21 February 2018 – On Mother Language Day, PEN International wishes to highlight the sustained repression of Kurdish culture and language in Turkey, the impact of which is becoming ever more harrowing.

Kurdish and pro-Kurdish journalists and media outlets have been among the principal victims of the crackdown on free speech that followed the attempted coup of July 2016. Most pro-Kurdish and Kurdish-language media outlets have now been closed down. Since 1 January 2017, pursuant to a decision by the Turkish Press and Advertisement Council, ‘all font and text except advertisement on any print press must be in Turkish’.

At least 50 journalists of Kurdish or pro-Kurdish outlets languish in prison. In a prominent example reporter and editor Nedim Türfent, who was covering clashes between the Turkish army and the PKK, was arrested and charged with ‘membership of a terrorist organisation’ and ‘making terrorist propaganda’ on account of his reporting and social media posts. During pre-trial detention, he was held in solitary confinement for over a year, and although 20 of 21 witnesses who appeared in court claimed that they gave evidence after having been tortured by the police, he was found guilty and sentenced to 8 years and 9 months’ imprisonment in December 2017.

In another example, in March 2017 journalist, painter and poet Zehra Doğan was convicted of ‘propagandising for a terrorist organisation’ for her work as a painter and journalist. She is currently serving a sentence of 2 years, 9 months and 22 days. The criminal charges against her relate to a painting; in which she recreated a photograph by the Turkish military taken during the five-month curfew imposed on the town Nusaybin, a newspaper article in which she reported on the fighting between the Turkish army and the PKK in Nusaybin, and her social media activity.

Since the founding of the Turkish republic in 1923, which enshrined a mono-cultural national identity, the country’s large Kurdish minority has often been banned from expressing its culture or from speaking the Kurdish language. Towards the end of the previous decade, President Erdogan loosened some of these restrictions, but the repression of the Kurdish population has come back in full force since the breakdown of the peace process between the Turkish authorities and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in July 2015.

Renewed violence after the end of the ceasefire has seen thousands killed and wounded. Scores of historical sites and buildings have moreover been destroyed. The Sur district in Diyarbakir, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, has been the site of some of the fiercest fighting and entire neighbourhoods have been demolished. Some government-appointed authorities, who have partially replaced democratically elected mayors and officials in Kurdish-majority municipalities, have taken down cultural monuments throughout the region. For instance, in the city of Bazid the statue of the prominent classic Kurdish writer Ehmedê Xanî was removed.

Meanwhile, the Turkish authorities have taken to persecuting those who call for peace. For instance, criminal proceedings have been instituted against Academics for Peace, a diverse group who signed a declaration calling for peace in Turkey’s south-east in January 2016, and who are facing terrorism-related charges as a consequence. Recently, after the central council of the Turkish Medical Association issued a short statement to express its opposition to the on-going military operations by the Turkish army in a Kurdish-majority area in northern Syria, senior council members were arrested and accused of propagandising for terrorist organisations.

Wales PEN Cymru has taken action and written to the Turkish authorities:

  • Demanding the immediate and unconditional release Nedim Türfent and Zehra Doğan, and all others who are imprisoned solely for having exercised their right to freedom of expression;
  • Calling on Turkey to lift the state of emergency;
  • Calling on Turkish authorities to respect the right of Kurdish people to use and promote their own language and culture and to study in their mother tongue;
  • Calling for an end to the repression of Kurdish culture and heritage and instead to promote Kurdish language and linguistic rights;
  • Calling on Turkish authorities to permit the re-opening of Kurdish language media outlets; and
  • Calling for an end to the persecution of those who call for peace in the conflict between the Turkish authorities and the Kurdish population both within and outside of Turkey.

Publicity & social media

PEN members are encouraged to:

  • Publish articles and opinion pieces in your national or local press highlighting the right of Kurdish people to use and promote their own language and culture
  • Organise public events, press conferences or demonstrations;
  • Suggested tweet: #Turkey The repression of Kurdish Language and Culture must stop #IMLD2016 @pen_int (add link to action paper);
  • Suggested tweet: On #IMLD2018 call on #Turkey to end the repression of #Kurdish language & culture @pen_int (add link to action paper).

For further details please contact Laurens Hueting at PEN International, Koops Mill, 162-164 Abbey Street, London SE1 2AN | Tel: +44 (0) 207 405 0338 | Fax +44 (0) 207 405 0339 | email:


Kurdish writer to translate Mabinogi

Salih Agir Qoserî

A Kurdish poet and translator is at Aberystwyth University this week (6-10 March 2017) where he is translating some of the tales of the Mabinogi into Kurmanji, the Kurdish language used in Turkey.

Salih Agir Qoserî is working with Caroline Stockford, an Aberystwyth-based translator of Turkish poetry and literature who will in turn be working on English-language texts of Kurdish folk tales.

Funded by the Arts Council of Wales and the Creative Europe Programme of the European Union, the residency is organised by Wales PEN Cymru and Literature Across Frontiers (LAF) – European Platform for Literary Exchange and Translation based in the Mercator Institute at Aberystwyth University and leader of the Literary Europe Live initiative.

During his residency, Salih Agir Qoserî will visit Ysgol Gyfun Penweddig school in Aberystwyth and Bishop Vaughan school in Morriston, Swansea.

The Director of Literature Across Frontiers, Alexandra Büchler, said: “One of our primary aims is to make minority language writing more visible so we are very pleased to have been able to arrange this visit to Wales and to celebrate the richness of the Kurdish literary scene in Turkey”.

“Salih Agir Qoserî lives in the Anatolian city of Mardin, having spent fifteen years in Sweden. He has translated a number of Swedish, English and Turkish books into Kurdish, including George Orwell’s 1984. Now he turns his attention to the fabulous stories of the Mabinogi and by translating them into Kurdish, he will be doing what LAF does best – making literature travel.”

The Director of Wales PEN Cymru, Sally Baker, said: “Support for translation and linguistic rights are core activities for Wales PEN Cymru. We are therefore delighted to be working alongside LAF and Aberystwyth University to welcome the Kurdish translator, Salih Agir Qoserî, to Wales, and to have the opportunity to demonstrate our continuing solidarity with all Kurdish and Turkish writers.  His visits to schools and public events will highlight the plight of Kurdish language and culture and we are proud to be able to facilitate translation of the Mabinogi into Kurdish and Kurdish folk tales into Welsh.”

At the end of the residency, Salih Agir Qoserî and Caroline Stockford will have the opportunity to attend the London Book Fair – the leading event for the international publishing industry where Literature Across Frontiers co-organises the highly successful Literary Translation Centre and its three-day programme of seminars.


Llenor Cwrdaidd i gyfieithu’r MabinogiSalih Agir Qoserî

Mae bardd a chyfieithydd Cwrdaidd ym Mhrifysgol Aberystwyth yr wythnos hon (6-10 Mawrth 2017) i gyfieithu rhai o chwedlau’r Mabinogi i Kurmandji, iaith Gwrdeg sy’n cael ei defnyddio yn Nhwrci.

Mae Salih Agir Qoserî yn gweithio gyda Caroline Stockford, cyfieithydd barddoniaeth a llenyddiaeth Dwrcaidd sy’n gweithio yn Aberystwyth. Fe fydd hi yn ei thro yn gweithio ar destunau Saesneg eu hiaith o chwedlau Cwrdeg.

Wedi’i ariannu gan Gyngor Celfyddydau Cymru a Rhaglen Ewrop Greadigol yr Undeb Ewropeaidd, trefnwyd y cyfnod preswyl gan PEN Cymru a Llenyddiaeth Ar Draws Ffiniau (LAF) – llwyfan Ewropeaidd ar gyfer cyfnewid llenyddiaeth a chyfieithu sy’n rhan o Sefydliad Mercator ym Mhrifysgol Aberystwyth ac sy’n arwain menter Ewrop Lenyddol Fyw.

Yn ystod ei gyfnod preswyl, bydd Salih Agir Qoserî yn ymweld ag Ysgol Gyfun Penweddig yn Aberystwyth ac ysgol Bishop Vaughan yn Nhreforys, Abertawe.

Dywedodd Cyfarwyddwr Llenyddiaeth Ar Draws Ffiniau, Alexandra Büchler: “Un o’n prif amcanion yw gwneud ysgrifennu iaith leiafrifol yn fwy gweladwy felly rydyn ni’n falch iawn o fod wedi gallu trefnu’r ymweliad hwn â Chymru a’r cyfle i ddathlu cyfoeth llenyddol y Cwrdiaid yn Nhwrci.”

“Mae Salih Agir Qoserî bellach yn byw yn ninas Mardin, Anatolia, ar ôl treulio pymtheg mlynedd yn Sweden. Mae wedi cyfieithu nifer o lyfrau Swedeg, Saesneg a Thwrceg i’r Gwrdeg, gan gynnwys 1984. Nawr mae’n troi ei sylw at straeon hudolus y Mabinogi a thrwy eu cyfieithu i Gwrdeg, bydd yn gwneud yr hyn y mae LAF yn ei wneud orau – sef rhoi llenyddiaeth ar daith.”

Dywedodd Cyfarwyddwr PEN Cymru, Sally Baker: “Mae cefnogi hawliau ieithyddol a chyfieithu wrth wraidd Gweithgareddau PEN Cymru. Rydym felly wrth ein bodd cael cydweithio gyda LAF a Phrifysgol Aberystwyth wrth groesawu’r cyfieithydd Cwrdaidd Salih Agir Qoserî i Gymru, a chael cyfle i ddangos ein cefnogaeth i bob awdur Cwrdaidd a Thwrcaidd. Bydd ei ymweliadau ag ysgolion a’r digwyddiadau cyhoeddus yn tynnu sylw at sefyllfa’r iaith a’r diwylliant Cwrdaidd ac rydym yn falch o allu hwyluso cyfieithu’r Mabinogi i’r Cwrdeg a chwedlau Cwrdaidd i’r Gymraeg.”

Ar ddiwedd ei gyfnod preswyl, bydd Salih Agir Qoserî a Caroline Stockford yn cael cyfle i fynychu Ffair Lyfrau Llundain – un o brif ddigwyddiadau yng nghalendr y diwydiant cyhoeddi rhyngwladol.

Llenyddiaeth Ar Draws Ffiniau sy’n cyd-drefnu Canolfan Gyfieithu Lenyddol y Ffair Lyfrau a’i rhaglen hynod lwyddiannus o seminarau dros gyfnod o dridiau.

Wales PEN Cymru supports Linguistic Rights in Turkey