Syriac Language in Iraq: 43 Schools Championing a Civilization Against Extinction

BETH NAHRIN — The number of schools offering Syriac language education in Iraq has reached 43, spanning both primary and secondary levels.

Initially allowed in private schools run by churches in 1932, Syriac language teaching continued until 1968. In 1970, the Iraqi government endorsed the establishment of a scientific academy dedicated to the Syriac language, which operated for roughly a decade before merging with the Iraqi Scientific Academy.

Since 1991, the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) has been actively teaching the Syriac language across primary, intermediate, and preparatory stages. Higher education also embraces Syriac language studies with two dedicated departments, one at the University of Baghdad (College of Languages) initiated based on the Iraqi Scientific Academy’s recommendation, the Syriac Authority.

Imad Salem Jajo, the General Director of Syriac Studies in Iraq, has expressed optimism about the future of the Syriac language, emphasizing its resilience despite challenges. Jajo highlighted ongoing initiatives, including a project under consideration to extend the teaching of Syriac curricula to diaspora countries.

Notable progress in teaching Syriac has been observed in the KRI, where newspapers and magazines are published in the language, alongside radio and television broadcasts. Additionally, there are schools exclusively teaching all subjects in Syriac, surpassing the conventional approach of teaching it as a standalone language.

Before the devastating impact of the Islamic State (ISIS), the Nineveh Plains region alone boasted over 240 schools with Syriac curricula, catering to some 21,000 students. Despite facing challenges, such as the emigration of many Chaldeans–Syriacs–Assyrians, Jajo remains hopeful about preserving the Syriac language’s rich heritage.