[Article] le 01 Mar 2023 par

Revitalising a mother tongue that a (Kurdish) child does not know because of linguistic genocide – are there any Linguistic Human rights?


I will start with the recent crackdown in Turkey, after the failed military coup. “The crackdown has included purges of military, police, judges, prosecutors and other civil servants, but also of academics, teachers and doctors; universities, dor- mitories, schools, radios, newspapers, news agencies, TV channels, magazines, publishing houses, food banks and other civil society organizations have been closed, businesses confiscated and local elected administrations overthrown and replaced by AKP curators” (Jongerden 2018, 5). The crackdown involved 80,000 arrests, 170,000 firings, the clo- sure of 3,000 schools, dormitories, and universities, and the dismissal of 4,400 judges and prosecutors.

Timur Kuran and Dani Rodrik wrote on 4th September 2018:

“The system Erdoğan has instituted leaves no place for com- petent politicians or bureaucrats at the helm of the economy. They have been pushed out because their goals transcend the leader’s self-interest. Fear prevents honest debate of issues. Businessmen, academics, and journalists at the top of their fields have fallen mute in the interest of self-preservation. His circle is packed with yes-men (and some token yes- women), who strive to satisfy his sense of omniscience and magnificence. Even opposition leaders in Turkey’s now- toothless parliament become cheerleaders whenever he sig- nals that lack of support would be treated as aiding the enemy”.

(Timur Kuran is Professor of Economics and Political Science at Duke University. Dani Rodrik is Professor of International Political Economy at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government).

The Venice Commission, the Council of Europe’s advisory body on constitutional law, concludes that the new presiden- tial system in Turkey will ‘lead to an excessive concentration of executive power in the hands of the president and the weakening of parliamentary control of that power’, and that ‘democratic accountability of the President is virtually absent’ (European Commission For Democracy Through Law, 2017).

When following the developments towards an absolute dic- tatorship in Turkey, it seems slightly optimistic to discuss what Linguistic Human Rights (LHRs) Kurds should have in education, especially in Turkey where most basic human rights of ethnic Kurds (and also many Turks) are routinely grossly violated every day, including the right to life. Fernand de Varennes has (I suppose) presented “The Linguistic Rights and Human Rights of Minorities”, so there is no need for me to add to that. I have written extensively on LHRs in many books and articles (see my home page, publi- cations; see also my publications about and together with Kurds, since 1980). Instead, I will discuss what might be rel- evant in a future where Kurds might, if we are optimistic, have at least some of those rights. I am afraid that this may not be in my lifetime.

What is needed if the Kurdish language(s) is/are to be main- tained, and to thrive in the future?

Kurds are a minority in every state where they live at present. There is at least some language shift going on from Kurdish to a dominant language in each state. Joshua Fishman, the father of sociolinguistics lists (e.g. in his 1990, 1991, 2001) situations where a minority language should be (allowed to be) used if one wants to maintain it. Formal education is one of the important ones. Fishman’s Graded Intergenerational Disruption Scale (GIDS) provides an eight-point scale of endangerment, from almost-extinction to full maintenance. Kurdish is today nowhere near the full maintenance end. He also gives concrete recommendations about necessary social action to reverse an ongoing language shift. The intergenera- tional language transmission, i.e. parents speaking the language to their children, is a decisive factor. This is what gives the Kurds hope because many Kurdish parents proba- bly still speak Kurdish to the children at home. But most other really important requirements on Fishman’s scale are not fulfilled, for instance literacy (many if not most parents are not literate in Kurdish themselves). Fishman’s require- ment of education through the medium of the minority lan- guage is more or less non-existent, except in Iraqi Kurdistan, and Kurdish is in most cases not used in high-prestige domains.

After Fishman, other researchers have presented additional factors to gauge the vitality and to predict the future of lan- guages. John Edwards (1992) lists for instance demography (here there is a plus for Kurds), economics, education, geog- raphy, history, linguistics, media, politics, psychology, reli- gion and sociology. All are to be approached from the point of the speakers, the language itself, and the context/setting.

Lenore Grenoble and Lindsay Whaley (1998) added literacy. UNESCO (2003) added the absolute number of speakers, the proportion of speakers within the total population, shifts in domains of language use, response to new domains and media, and the availability of materials for language educa- tion and literacy. UNESCO 2011 has revised the earlier frame- work.

After discussing the shortcomings of the frameworks men- tioned, Paul Lewis and Gary Simons developed their Expanded Graded Intergenerational Disruption Scale (EGIDS) (2010). They represent The Ethnologue, the best list of the world’s languages that exist, supported by SIL, Summer Institute of Languages, a Christian missionary organisation.

The most sophisticated framework so far has been developed within the ELDIA project (European Language Diversity for All). Their EuLaViBar (the European Language Vitality Barometer) measures the degree of language maintenance at group level, and is based on large-scale quantitative surveys of many Finno-Ugric minority languages in various European countries. EuLaViBar “offers a complete method for processing quantitative survey data into information about what needs to be improved in language policies and practices if a given language is to be rescued” (see Johanna Laakso, Anneli Sarhimaa, Sia Spiliopoulou Åkermark & Reetta Toivanen 2016, 33). The EuLaViBar Toolkit is freely downloadable for non-commercial use. It “consists of five parts:

A practical guide to the EuLaViBar Tool;

  • the survey questionnaire with which the empirical data is to be collected;
  • an overview of the EuLaViBar scaling system which pro- vides the operationalization of the different types of answers to the survey questions;
  • the statistical explanations of the scaling system;
  • a template for creating the polar diagram and instructions on how to do it in practice” (Laakso et al, 2016, 37).

It would be very interesting to use the Toolkit for the Kurdish language(s) in several countries – but unfortunately the large- scale surveys needed are at present impossible to perform except maybe in Iraqi Kurdistan, partly because even the basic data needed about the Kurds do not exist.

In summary, thinking of the chances of the Kurdish language(s) to thrive, and the possibilities to evaluate what these chances are, we have to state that many people who are “ethnic Kurds” and who identify as Kurds have today poor possibilities of developing or maintaining their capacity even to understand or speak Kurdish in all situations and all domains. The capacity to read and write Kurdish has even fewer possibilities to develop1. The use of the Kurdish language has most probably been decreasing (see, e.g. Coşkun, Derince & Uçarlar’s 2011 book Scar of Tongue. Consequences of the ban on the use of mother tongue in education and experiences of Kurdish students in Turkey, and other publications from DISA (Diyarbakir Institute for Political and Social Research; www.disa.org.tr).

The minority languages that were studied in the ELDIA pro- ject were Estonian in Finland, Hungarian in both Slovenia and Austria, Estonian in Germany, Seto and Võro in Estonia, Veps and Karelian in Russia, Karelian and Estonian in Finland, Meänkieli in Sweden, and Kven and North Saami in Norway. All are very small languages demographically, and all are endangered. Still the situations of many of them do fulfill some of the requirements in the frameworks presented above to a larger extent than Kurdish. One conclusion here might be the following: if the requirements in several of the frameworks that can be used to predict the future for a lan- guage will not be met, Kurdish may, despite the very large number of speakers, become an endangered language. Next I will sum up some of our knowledge of demographics in terms of the Kurdish mother tongues, and especially the situation of Kurdish children.

How many Kurds are there? How many have Kurdish as (one of) their mother tongue(s)? Do Kurdish children know their mother tongue?

The number of “ethnic Kurds” is not known, because those states where the majority of Kurds live either do not include ethnicity or language in their censuses, or the figures are unreliable. Thus the numbers given in various books and articles vary widely. The most reliable figures are probably from the Kurdish Institute in Paris https://www.insti- tutkurde.org/en/info/the-kurdish-population-1232551004 (as of 2 September 2018). They write: “There are no official and reliable statistics on the numerical importance of the Kurds in the Near East states where they live.

Country Minimum estimate Current estimate % minimum of total
% current of total population
1 Turkey 15 million 20 million 19,00 % 25,00 %
2 Iran 10 million 12 million 13,00 % 17,50 %
3 Iraq 8 million 8,5 million 25,00 % 27,00 %
4 Syria 3 million 3,6 million 12,50 % 15,00 %
5 Kurdis diaspora
in Europe
1,2 million 1,5 million
6 Kurdish diaspora
of the former USSR
0,4 million 0,5 million
Total 36,4 million 45,6 million

In the longer written version of this paper I quote much more from the Kurdish Institute in Paris – here I am only presenting the Table.

Table 1. The number of Kurds

Largely rural until the late 1960s, the Kurdish population is now more than 75% urbanized. The destruction of 90% of Kurdish villages in Iraq under the Saddam Hussein regime and the destruction of 3,428 Kurdish villages and hamlets in Turkey in the 1990s accentuated the rural exodus, and thus also the possibility of Kurds to use their mother tongue, espe- cially when they (were) moved to western Turkey or to cities where the majority spoke the country’s official languages.

The figures for people who speak Kurdish as (one of) their first languages do not exist. In the three states with the largest numbers of Kurdish speakers (Iran, Iraq and Turkey) no regular state schools use Kurdish as the main teaching language during the obligatory formal education. Generally, Kurdish can not even be studied as a language subject (but see Sheyholislami 2017, 2018, for Iran; see also Kalan 2017). The possibilities of using Kurdish outside homes, in official situations, including the parliaments and the courts, are also often severely restricted.

What is a mother tongue? Is Kurdish still “ethnically Kurdish” children’s mother tongue (or one of their mother tongues)? Even if they do not know it?

Today hundreds of thousands, maybe even millions, of chil- dren with Kurdish background no longer speak or use Kurdish in their everyday lives, in schools, and in general outside their homes. My question then is: Can Kurdish still be seen as the mother tongue of these children? Even if they do not speak it (much), if they do not know it outside the domain of home, or if they know only a few words and phrases? In my view, yes. I am asking this question because most of the few rights in international law to a mother tongue, for instance to an education through the medium of the mother tongue, would not apply to these children if Kurdish is not seen as their mother tongue. This will be important if there is a chance that Linguistic Human Rights and other international human rights will ever be applied in any parts of Kurdistan.

How are mother tongues defined, then? (Often other terms are also used: the first language, or the language of the group, but here I am only looking at the concept of mother tongue).

Table 2. Short definitions of Mother Tongues

ORIGIN the language one learned first IDENTIFICATION
a. internal
b. external
a. the language one identifies with
b. the language one is identified as a native speaker of by others
COMPETENCE the language one knows best
FUNCTION the language one uses most


For linguistic majorities (e.g. speakers of Turkish in Turkey, or speakers of German in Germany) all the definitions usual- ly converge. They have learned Turkish/German first, they identify with Turkish/German, are identified by others as native speakers of Turkish/German, know Turkish/German best and use Turkish/German most. Thus, a combination of all the definitions can be used.

If linguistic minorities live and work where the majority lan- guage dominates, the majority language usually becomes their most used language in most formal domains and often also informally. Therefore it is not fair to use a mother tongue definition by function – they have not chosen freely to use the majority language most. The expression ‘not fair’ here means that the definition does not respect linguistic human rights, and here especially the right to choose freely what one’s mother tongue is.

If linguistic minorities get their education in submersion programs, as most Kurdish children do, i.e. through the medium of the majority language, the majority language often becomes the language they know best in most more for- mal domains. Therefore, it is not fair to use a mother tongue def- inition by competence either.

Often a combination of mother tongue definitions by origin and by internal identification is a good mother tongue definition for linguistic minorities. This may be a good definition of a mother tongue for many Kurdish children today – but only if the Kurdish parents consistently use Kurdish with their chil- dren at home.

But there are exceptions where not even this is a good, fair and respectful definition. One important exception is forcibly assimilated Indigenous or minority children. If Kurdish chil- dren are being taught in a dominant language, and if there is no alternative, meaning if Kurdish-medium education does not exist, then the children are being forcibly assimilated. If the forcible assimilation has taken place already in the parent or grandparent generation, it is not fair to use a mother tongue definition by origin either, because the parents have not spoken (or have not been able to speak) the mother tongue (e.g. Kurdish or Saami or Maliseet or Ainu) to the children. In this case a mother tongue definition by internal identification can be the only possible fair definition.

Thus, if the mother tongue is defined as the language first learned, or best known, or most used, Kurdish would NOT be the mother tongue of many Kurdish children within a generation or two. Thus they would NOT be able to refer to those international instruments that grant at least some rights to a mother tongue.

But what if the (Kurdish) child is NOT one of the fortunate ones whose parents have used the mother tongue that the parents and the child identify with (Kurdish) from the begin- ning? And the child (just like the parents) has/have had most or all of the formal education through the medium of the country’s official/dominant language, not Kurdish. What if the child does not know the language of her (internal) iden- tification, at all, or knows only very little of it?

My claim is the following: it is possible to identify with a lan- guage that one does not know. It is possible to have a mother tongue that one does not have (any or “full”) competence in.

If this were to be accepted both in research and in interna- tional law (and it has not been tried in any court case yet), then those few rights that exist about mother tongue medium education and about learning the mother tongue as a subject would also apply to Kurdish children.

When attempts by the state at forcible assimilation has led to a language being neglected (endangered, in need of revitali- sation), we should use ONLY a mother tongue definition by internal identification, when demanding full Linguistic Human Rights (LHRs) for individuals and collectivities, regardless of whether the individuals are receptive (under- stand) or productive users, or non-users of the language.

Language revitalisation and linguistic and cultural genocide

Why will these children no longer know Kurdish? And if they don’t, both the Kurdish language, and these children need lan- guage revitalisation. “Revitalisation [is] commonly understood as giving new life and vigor to a language that has been decreasing in use (or has ceased to be used altogether)”2.

Why is revitalisation in general needed? Individuals and groups in need of revitalisation have not had Linguistic Human Rights (LHRs) or even language rights (LRs). In most cases those whose LHRs have been (and are) violated are

ITMs: Indigenous/Tribal peoples, linguistic Minorities, or Minoritized people. The last ones are people who are not necessarily numerical minorities but who have less power and fewer material and immaterial resources than a numeri- cal power elite in their country, and who therefore lack rights, including LRs. Kurds are a minoritized linguistic majority in Kurdistan, and in any case a linguistic minority, regard- less of whether the states where they live recognise and respect them as a linguistic minority. Thus they should have at least all those LHRs that minorities have. Fernand de Varennes has presented these rights3.

In order to understand the background for the need for revi- talisation, we need to look at the present definitions of one of the most critical causal factors, namely genocide. The United Nations International Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (E793, 1948; http://www.hrweb.org/legal/genocide.html) has five defi- nitions of genocide in its Article 2:

Table 3. Definitions of genocide in the UN Genocide Convention

“In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: Killing members of the group;

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

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

Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;

Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group

(emphases added).

Historically the physical genocide of Indigenous and tribal peoples through direct killing (Art. 2(a) above) has caused and continues to cause many groups – and of course, with them their languages – to disappear, “wholly or in part”. This is what is still happening to many Kurds today. The disap- pearing happens also through taking away their lands and resources. Even today, many Indigenous peoples are under- going genocide according to Art. 2(c) and 2(d) above. They are prevented from susbsisting and reproducing themselves, through logging, mining, damming, extraction of oil (including through fracking, tar sands, oil pipes, etc.), forced sterilizations, and so on. Some of this fits Kurds too, especially in Turkey. But here we are more interested in the role of education (and to some extent the media) in the cultural and linguistic genocide. I contend that the education of minority and minoritized children, including the Kurds, historically and to a large extent also today, can be seen as genocide linguistically, educationally, sociologically, econom- ically and psychologically, according to definitions in Art 2(b) and 2(e), This is the case when formal education is conducted using a dominant language as the (main) teaching language, in submersion (sink-or-swim) programmes, i.e. in a subtrac- tive way where (some of) the dominant teaching language is learned at the cost of the children’s mother tongue (see Skutnabb-Kangas and McCarty, 2008 for definitions). It is very clear that subtractive education through the medium of a dominant language at the cost of minority mother tongues has ‘caused serious mental harm’ to children, and often also physical harm, e.g. in boarding schools (e.g. Dunbar and Skutnabb-Kangas, 2008; Magga et al., 2005; Magga and Skutnabb-Kangas, 2001, 2003). This form of education has also tried and often succeeded in ‘transferring children of the group to another group’. This has happened ‘forcibly’, because the children did not have any alternative (e.g. mo- ther tongue-medium education did not exist).

What about the requirement of ‘intent’ in Article 2 of the Genocide Convention? For obvious reasons, no state or edu- cational authority today can be expected to openlyexpress an intention to ‘destroy’ a group or even to ‘seriously harm’ it, even if some politicians in strongly assimilationist countries such as Denmark (see Example 20 in Skutnabb-Kangas and Dunbar, 2010) express what can be seen as a wish to forcibly ‘transfer its members to another group’. Turkey has been and is still also very clear about wanting to make Kurdish chil- dren into Turks. However, the intention can be inferred in other ways, by analysing those structural and ideological fac- tors and those practices which cause the destruction, harm or transfer. Rob Dunbar, a human rights lawyer, and I (Skutnabb-Kangas and Dunbar (2010) have done this in sev- eral ways, comparing current situations with older, more overt ways of forced assimilation (which often used more ‘sticks’ and/or ‘carrots’, in addition to ‘ideas’, than present- day more covert and structural methods). The negative results of this education using a dominant language as the teaching language have been known for a very long time through earlier concrete empirical feedback (as shown, for instance, in examples from Canada, the United States, and India) and through solid theoretical and empirical research evidence (as they have, at least since the early 1950s; see, e.g., UNESCO 1953). In the longer written version of this paper I give many examples. We can thus claim that if state school authorities continue to pursue an educational policy which uses a dominant language as the main medium of education for minority children, even though the negative results of this policy have long been known, this refusal to change the poli- cies constitutes, from discourse-analytical, sociolinguistic, socio- logical, psychological, political science, and educational policy analysis perspectives, strong evidence for an ‘intention’ as required in Article 2 above.

Structural and ideological factors have also started to appear in some lawyers’ interpretations of, for instance, the concept of discrimination in education (see Gynther, 2003 for a short summary of the development from more sociologically oriented discussions) as well as more legally oriented clarifications, mainly from the USA and Canada; see also Gynther, 2007). Päivi Gynther pleads for cooperation among lawyers, sociologists and educationists and for a broadened analytical framework in clarifying some of the basic concepts which are used when subjugated minorities are denied access to education. She traces a trend in academic discourses:

from a concern with ‘evil motive discrimination’ (actions intended to have a harmful effect on minority group mem- bers) to ‘effects’ discrimination (actions have a harmful effect whatever their motivation) (Gynther, 2003: 48; emphasis added).

Gynther also notes, that when discrimination and racism [including linguicism] ‘permeats society not only at the individual but also at the institutional level, covertly and overtly … racial control has become so well institutionalized that the individual generally does not have to exercise a choice to operate in a racist manner. Individuals merely have to conform to the operating norms of the organization, and the institution will do the discrimination for them’ (Gynther, 2003: 47; emphasis added).

This means that Turkish and Kurdish teachers can be very nice to Kurdish children and claim that they are thinking of the best of the children – but still the organisation of the schools harms the children. Civil servants in several countries are also starting to take structural discrimination into account. This kind of rea- soning needs to be tried in court in relation to the interpreta- tion of ‘intent’ in the Genocide Convention. The problem here is that those countries where this kind of linguistic and cultural genocide is happening have no respect for decisions from inter- national courts. President Trump is a good example, and president Erdoğan is not better.

As we state in two reports for the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, and especially in Skutnabb- Kangas & Dunbar (2010), submersion education, mainly through the medium of a dominant language, violates the right to education, and is organized against all that we know from solid research about how Indigenous and minority edu- cation should be organized. It can and does lead to genocide and conflict. It can probably also be seen as a crime against humanity (see Skutnabb-Kangas, Phillipson & Dunbar 2019).

LHRs, especially in education, are a necessary (but NOT suf- ficient) prerequisite for preventing language endangerment and genocide.

Summing up, there is very strong research evidence, and agreement among solid researchers on how minority educa- tion should be organised4. This includes theoretical explanations, large- and small-scale hard-core and more anthropo- logically oriented empirical studies, and descriptions in fic- tion (which often complement other types of research, giving important insights). This also applies to Kurds. Still, submer- sion continues in all parts of the world. Past genocide in edu- cation is the main reason why revitalisation and regenesis of languages are needed.

Today, in addition to education, the public media also play an important role in killing Indigenous and minority languages. They do this through manufacturing consent, trying to brain- wash people into believing how useless these languages are, how minorities benefit by language shift, and how using dominant languages as the (main) teaching languages is the best/only way of learning them. All these claims are of course completely false. Media could also (and some do) play a role in supporting revitalizing efforts, by reporting on the struggles of countering genocide, on success stories in revi- talisation, and on arguments for maintaining linguistic diver- sity (along with biodiversity).

Are there binding international language rights in educa- tion that support Indigenous and minority language main- tenance and revitalisation?

The short answer to the question is a fairly simple and resounding NO. There are some binding LRs (few in educa- tional Articles) where a sympathetic reading could be used to support language maintenance, but often they are too vague to be of much use; there are also some vague but non-binding LRs in education that can support language maintenance5. There are no binding or even non-binding LRs in internation- al law that support revitalisation of minority languages in education. Revitalisation is a non-concept in international law.

Even when national constitutions or regional agreements sup- port or even mandate the use of Indigenous or minority mother tongues in education, extremely little implementation on a large scale is happening. A review of achievements in Africa concludes ‘[W]e are not making any progress at all’ (Alexander 2006: 9); ‘these propositions had been enunciated in one conference after another since the early 1980s’ ( 2006: 11); ‘since the adoption of the OAU [Organisation for African Unity] Charter in 1963, every major conference of African cultural experts and political leaders had solemnly intoned the commit- ment of the political leadership of the continent to the develop- ment and powerful use of the African languages without any serious attempt at implementing the relevant resolutions’ (2006: 11). This has led to ‘the palpable failure of virtually all post- colonial educational systems on the continent’ (2006: 16). An excellent analysis of this is Rassool 2007. The Asmara Declaration on African Languages and Literatures from 2000 (https://www0.sun.ac.za/taalsentrum/assets/files/Asmar a%20Declaration.pdf) is one example of the impressive African declarations of intent. Even more optimistic plans are contained in The Language Plan of Action for Africa (http://www.acalan.org/eng/textesreferenciels/pala.php), one of the results from ACALAN’s (The African Academy of Languages, www.acalan.org) conference in Bamako, Mali, January 2009. Similar pronouncements exist on other conti- nents but are less impressive. And there is, as far as I know, nothing about Kurdish, anywhere.

We need implementation of the existing good laws and inten- tions (there are many), but the political will for that is mostly lacking. Neville Alexander’s analysis of reasons for it (2006: 16) states:

The problem of generating the essential political will to translate these insights into implementable policy … needs to be addressed in realistic terms. Language plan- ners have to realize that calculating the cost of policy interventions is an essential aspect of the planning process itself and that no political leadership will be content to consider favourably a plan that amounts to no more than a wish list, even if it is based on the most accurate quanti- tative and qualitative research evidence.

Alexander thus advocates that the costs of organising – or not organising – MTM (mother-tongue-based multilingual edu- cation) are made explicit in economic terms. This necessitates the type of multidisciplinary approach that minimally includes sociolinguists, educators, lawyers and economists. Without that, it seems impossible to even start convincing states of rational policies that would in the end be really beneficial not only for the minorities but for the states them- selves. François Grin has in his many projects shown that the costs for supporting minority languages would be minimal6. Ajit Mohanty and I in our discussion of India and Nepal (Mohanty & Skutnabb-Kangas 2013) build on Mohanty and Misra’s 2000 book on poverty; we also use economics Nobel laureate Amartya Sen’s theories of “capability development”. To be able to develop one’s capabilities, mainly through for- mal education, is more important for poverty eradication than material possessions of the poor. Today’s education of Kurds using a dominant language as the teaching language is capability deprivation. Properly organized MLE works towards poverty eradication7.

Future directions: some recommendations for theory and practice

Thus the first recommendation is that minority education should be organized so that it follows and implements firm research recommendations of minimally 6-8 years of mainly mother-tongue-based multilingual education for minorities, with good teaching of other languages, given by bi- or multi- lingual well-trained teachers. It is extremely clear that the remaining (fewer and fewer) counterarguments against this type of strong models of mother tongue-based multilingual education are political/ideological, not scientific. Economic arguments against MLE are also in most cases completely invalid.

Even when there are laws, Conventions, and Charters which make states duty-holders, the words on paper mean little if implementation does not follow. UNESCO’s 1953 publication The use of the vernacular languages in education included firm recommendations, written by experts, on how multilingual education could best be organised, but these recommenda- tions were not often followed. Similar informed consulta- tions went into drafting UNESCO’s Education position paper in 2003, Education in a multilingual world.

Secondly, some of the remaining definitional hurdles must be clarified, if necessary, through court cases. It is difficult but necessary to start court cases about present-day and earlier linguistic and cultural genocide8, and compensations for them, as long as some of the basic concepts in both the Genocide Convention (such as “intent”) and Indigenous and minority Conventions (such as who is a “minority” and who is “Indigenous”, at both individual and collective levels) have not been clarified. Indigenous peoples have in principle the right to define themselves who is Indigenous, but this right is constantly violated. Rights to land and water, rights to compensations of various kinds, rights to education and language, all these are necessarily dependent on who has the right to define who the rights-holders are. These issues are hotly debated all over the world.

Likewise, court cases are needed to clarify how the latest for- mulation of what constitute “crimes against humanity” is interpreted and what it means for Indigenous and minority education and the need for revitalisation. The most complete description of these crimes (in the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court of 17 July, 1998 (the “ICC Statute”)

(http://untreaty.un.org/cod/icc/statute/romefra.htm) include crimes committed not only in wars but also in peace times (Article 7, paragraph 1 of the ICC Statute defines “crime against humanity”), but peace-time crimes have not yet been tried in courts. The Joint EU – UN Statement from 23 September 2018 shames both Trump and Erdoğan (of course without mentioning the names) for their violations of human right (see Appendix).

Without these clarifications it is not easy to even start formu- lating the questions of what (language) rights Indigenous and minority people/s have to revitalisation. Today, sadly, no direct and binding LHRs or educational rights relating to revi- talisation exist in international law. What rights they should have we do know.

Joint EU - UN Press Statement

New York, 23 September 2018

The United Nations Secretary-General, the President of the European Commission and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice President of the European Commission, met in New York for their annual meeting in the margins of the seventy- third session of the United Nations General Assembly.

Today, they expressed their determination to further strengthen the cooperation between the United Nations and the European Union. At a time of unprecedented and pressing global challenges, the United Nations and the European Union continue to engage together as positive forces for change to promote and renew full commitment to multilateralism and a rules-based global order, in line with their respective mandates, and to work closely for stability and prosperity to promote a safer and better world for all.

The 70th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is an opportunity to reaf- firm the commitment of the two organisations to stand up for human rights and fundamental freedoms for all across the world. It is also the 70th anniversary of United Nations Peacekeeping, an institution that for seven decades has helped protect the vulnerable and promote peace and security across the globe.

In a rapidly evolving global landscape, the implementa- tion of the reform of the United Nations system is crucial. The European Union is committed to strengthen and fur- ther promote the multilateral system, with a reformed UN at its core.

Partnerships with regional organisations are central to the United Nations' preventive action, and the European Union is an indispensable partner of the United Nations, contributing to regional and global peace and security, as well as to sustainable development and human rights. The United Nations and the European Union will also continue to cooperate with other regional organisations such as the African Union, and with sub-regional organi- sations, including through the United Nations regional offices, cognizant that a closer cooperation among regions is an important pillar of a stronger multilateral architec- ture.

The leaders further reiterated their determination to seek innovative and forward-looking solutions to global chal- lenges which require collective action, drawing on all parts of society to maintain the global efforts to tackle cli- mate change, including the Paris agreement, and mobilising private sector investments for sustainable development, with women and youth at the centre of all action. Together, the United Nations and the European Union will continue to reinforce efforts to prevent conflict. Not least, the United Nations and the European Union will also continue to leverage their respective strengths to support the implementation of the landmark 2030 Agenda and its ambitious goals.

The strengthened cooperation between the United Nations and the European Union will continue, notably in areas including the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, addressing global challenges, in conflict preven- tion and in the promotion of peace and security.