Finding love and peace: The story of learning Turkish in Yemen

Turkish drama series, films and songs attract young Yemenis to learn and practice Turkish language in their daily lives

Mohammed Alragawi   | 12.07.2021
Finding love and peace: The story of learning Turkish in Yemen


July 12 marks the foundation day of the Turkish Language Association (TDK), the official regulatory body of the Turkish language, which was established in 1932 at the initiative of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, founder and the first president of the Republic of Turkey.

Since then, the Turkish language has spread around the world and is being taught in many countries, including Yemen.

Mohammed ِAdel, founder of the “Our New World” initiative, a Turkish language teaching center in the city of Taiz in southwest Yemen, told Anadolu Agency the initiative aims to spread Turkish culture by teaching young people to speak the Turkish language.

Using simplified teaching methods, the initiative started in early 2018 as an educational YouTube channel focusing on teaching simple Turkish words and highlighting the lives of some Yemeni families whose their Turk ancestors lived and made families in Yemen during the Ottoman Empire.

“The name of the initiative refers to Turkey as a ‘new world’ for Yemenis to explore and discover via learning its language and culture, in addition to learning from its political and economic experiences,” Adel added.

Building on the great historical relations between Yemen and Turkey since the establishment of the Ottoman Empire, with the contribution of Turkish drama series, films and songs, Yemeni youths were attracted to learn and practice the Turkish language in their daily lives as much as possible.

Adel noted that learning Turkish is a “key tool” for many Yemeni students who wish to continue their educational journey in Turkey as it became “one of the preferred destinations for graduate and postgraduate studies among Yemenis.”

“Since 2018, more than 1,500 students in Taiz city have joined our face-to-face and online lessons, some of whom became teachers too,” he added.

Surviving the crisis

The center is the only place in Yemen for learning the Turkish language as the Turkish language program in the Faculty of Linguistics at Sana’a University was closed due to the armed conflict that erupted at the end of 2014.

Nasser Albishari, a Yemeni PhD student at Ankara Yildirim Beyazit University and a graduate of the Turkish language department at Sana’a University, told Anadolu Agency that due to Turkey's historical ties with Yemen, he preferred to study the Turkish language over Italian and English.

“In 2011, I joined the fourth batch of the Turkish language students at Sana’a University and graduated with a few of my colleagues in 2014 as the last batch before the program got closed by the Houthi rebels and later replaced with the Persian language in 2016,” he added.

The Turkish department was initially opened in 2007 with only four lecturers. In 2013, the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA) brought some developments to the department as it established its own library, department head office, teaching staff room and additional classrooms.

The Turkish Embassy also helped organize some activities, including the summer school program that takes place in Turkey for a month, which Albishari joined in 2013.

“Unfortunately, the closure of the department prevented 149 students from finishing their studies,” he added.

Finding a spouse

The Turkish language changed a lot in Albishari’s life, especially meeting his wife, who was studying in the same department.

“Mastering the Turkish language made it easier for me to win a scholarship to do my master’s degree in Turkish literature at Gazi University in the capital Ankara,” he said.

Albishari also highlighted that the Turkish language helped him build new relationships, facilitate business, and establish cultural and social bridges between Turkey and Yemen.

The “Our New World” initiative is currently working on recording a song in the Turkish language called "Despite Everything" performed by young Yemeni students in Taiz.

“The song talks about love, war and peace, aiming to convey a message that despite the seven-year war in Yemen, love and peace are still possible,” Adel said.

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