The family, the last hope of the kumzari

A few hours later, at the entrance to Khasab, Abdul Qader, 30, sips lemon mint juice in a restaurant. This former English teacher tells better than anyone the history of his language (without however being able to date it) and its evolution: “Sailors of several nationalities created this language to communicate with each other with a special language to maintain confidentiality in their dealings.”
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Even though he refuses to accept that kumzari might disappear one day, he admits that a process has inevitably taken place: “It all depends on the families. Some teach their children Arabic and others learn Kumzari and Arabic or only Kumzari. Some do not want to teach Kumzari to their children because they consider that learning this language will be done by itself since everyone speaks it in the family and in the village. It should happen naturally, according to them. ”

However, for the former professor, this may not be enough: “Arabic is taking an increasingly important place in the local identity. Kumzari is village specific only and has no legitimacy in the eyes of the Omani authorities and their policy of nationalization. ”

Inter-Shihuh tensions

Because if the Omani government wishes above all to make it’s country a nation and not a constellation of tribes, the Sultanate of Qabus also worried for a time about the external influences which hovered over the village of Kumzar. Contacted by MEE, Marc Valeri, lecturer in political science at the University of Exeter and specialist in the Middle East, has his little idea on the subject:

“In 1970, there was consultation with the tribal sheiks of the region for a division of the Oman-United Arab Emirates border. The sheiks of the largest confederation of Musandam [the Shihuh] have come out in favor of an attachment to Muscat, and therefore to Oman. The people of Kumzar, who for the most part also belong to the Shihuh confederation, but a relatively weak politically branch, had no say and had to follow what was decided in Bukha and Khasab [two important towns of Musandam] by the most important Shihuh sheiks.

“This created tensions in Kumzar, where the majority wanted to join the Emirates, but also in Dibba. They were quickly suppressed by the forces of the Sultan. ”

Closer to the Emiratis, the Kumzaris do not appreciate being subject to the authority of Muscat. But their desire for a Musandam far from the Sultanate of Oman does not come at the right time.

“It happened amid the Dhofar uprising [1964-1976], which, from the south of the Sultanate of Oman, on the border with Yemen, was beginning to spread to the north of the country”, observes Marc Valeri. This communist uprising, born in one of the poorest regions of Oman, and supported by the communist government of South Yemen, is opposed by the Omani government, which then tends to consider any agitation or insubordination as a communist threat.

“Certain Musandam groups which opposed the reunification with Muscat were thus accused of being linked to the Dhofar uprising and to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Oman and the Gulf, which was very present in this region until the end of the years. 1970. So it is in this context that arrests took place in Musandam, under the guise of “the fight against communist terrorism.” ”

Almost fifty years later, the wound is still there. Hassan Bourassaf, a 27-year-old Kumzari engineer, remembers the demeaning looks of the people of the city, the remarks on their outfits considered too close to those of the Emiratis, or even facial crimes when hiring. Also, if the man admits that the tensions have calmed down a bit, the inequalities remain.

A researcher who insisted on remaining anonymous confirmed the persistent distrust of the Omani authorities towards the Kumzari: “Their language is close to Farsi, and they are the closest geographically to Iran. This is why, after the Islamic Revolution, the government kept a close eye on the village for fear that Iran would take it back. ”

Mistrust of the authorities, the appearance of the internet and television, compulsory learning of Arabic at school, kumzari is more than ever threatened in the long term. But for Abdul Qader, its extinction would mean the end of an era, not its demise. Because the teacher is an individual, his native language remains and will remain “always in the soul” of his people.