I sat with Erdal for dinner during the Firefox Plus Summit, he localizes Firefox into Kurdish. I was incredibly humbled and inspired by his story about how he started contributing to Firefox Kurdish. At the risk of embarrassing him, I hope I do not; I would like to share his inspirational story of contribution.
Erdal is a medical doctor and spent some time in Turkey during their “war” (the war of the Turkish army against the PKK Guerrilla) in the 90s involved in humanitarian help. He saw many horrific things during this time that stayed with him. After this experience, Erdal wanted to find ways to help. He learned the Kurdish and Turkish languages and because he was technically skilled and felt that would be valuable contribution; he started localizing open source software into Kurdish, with the belief that this would be a peaceful movement forward. After the 1980 coup in Turkey no one could dare to even speak Kurdish for fear of being imprisoned or persecuted.
Erdal found a Mayor of a town in Turkey who had supported the translation of children's books into multiple languages including Kurdish. They connected and the Mayor felt that localizing open source software would be a wonderful thing for his Kurdish constituency and the community at large so he offered his support to Erdal’s efforts. Erdal and a team of contributors (including journalists and others) translated Ubuntu and Firefox. Since offering his support, this Mayor has since been indicted on criminal charges of misappropriating state funds and his governing council has been dissolved. Erdal says, while this sounds terrible, if that mayor had been mayor in the earlier time and did similar things, he would not have been tried but probably faced more severe consequences e.g., death.
Erdal’s hope is that by localizing Firefox into Kurdish he is making a contribution to a peaceful togetherness. I believe he is and so, I am encouraged to support localizers in their efforts to bring accessibility to communities around the world. Thank you Erdal. I hope others take inspiration from this story in their work.
I appreciate that language can be a highly emotionally charged topic as it carries with it political, historical, cultural issues. I mean no offence to other languages or cultures by describing this story. My intent is to share one person’s story that I found personally inspirational.