The following was written by John Lubbock, Communications Coordinator at Wikimedia UK.
When you do a Google search for ‘most popular websites’, the first result is Wikipedia’s List of Most Popular Websites, which will tell you that Google is number 1, and Wikipedia number 7. What is interesting about this list is that out of the 100 most popular websites, Wikipedia is the only one run by a non-profit charity and makes no money from advertising.
Wikipedia is run by the Wikimedia Foundation and its national chapters like ours, Wikimedia UK. The goal of these charities is to create a world in which every human being has access to the sum of all human knowledge for free and in their own language. It’s ambitious, but Wikipedia is already one of the biggest collaborative projects humanity has ever created, and it’s still only 15 years old.
The English Wikipedia has 5,270,355 articles, 29,375,869 registered editors, and 121,916 active editors. In contrast, the two Kurdish Wikipedias (Kurmanji and Sorani) only have around 40,000 articles collectively.
Help Improve Kurdish Wikipedia by increasing number of articles in Kurdish
For a language Wikipedia to be useful, it needs to be reasonably large, so we need help from the Kurdish diaspora to increase the number of articles in Kurdish. All of the information on Wikipedia and its sister projects like Wikimedia Commons (where photos, videos, audio and other media are hosted) are on Open Licenses (or Creative Commons licenses), meaning you don’t have to ask anyone’s permission to use them, as long as you credit the source.
This means that you can take content on our websites, or on other websites but under Creative Commons licenses like this editing tutorial, download it, translate it into Kurdish and re-upload it as a Kurdish Wikipedia editing tutorial.
The majority of the editors of Wikipedia are white, European and male, and the content on the sites reflects the interests of the people who write it. The number of WWE wrestlers on lists of the most edited articles of all time give an idea of the gender gap between male and female editors. Because of this, we try to reach out to people who aren’t white men to show them the value of Wikipedia.
At the moment we are concentrating on reaching the Kurdish diaspora community in the UK and holding training events to create confident and knowledgeable Wikipedia editors. But of course, people from anywhere in the world can help to support Wikimedia UK’s work by learning to edit and contributing to the English or Kurdish Wikipedias remotely.
If you write a Wikipedia article in English, it could be seen by hundreds of thousands of people who are searching for that topic. If you search for Kurdish Culture on Google, the third and fourth results are Wikipedia pages which we have already started to improve. By editing and improving these articles, you can influence what information people will see when they want to know about Kurdish culture. Wikipedia is an incredible outreach tool.
The fact that anybody can edit Wikipedia means you don’t have to be an academic or have any qualification to take part. All you have to do is follow Wikipedia’s rules, to write in a neutral tone of voice, and to only talk about facts that can be referenced with citations to credible sources. This means that you, the Kurdish people, can be responsible for writing the most accessible online facts about Kurdish history, culture, or any other subject in Kurdish. You can help to write and influence the resources that future generations of Kurdish children will use in school.
We need to think of other ways to coordinate Kurds around the world to get involved in editing Kurdish Wikipedia. We will start using the hashtag #WikiKurds on Twitter to tell people about the work we are doing in London, and anyone who is helping out from other parts of the world can tell us what they’re doing using that hashtag.
If you want to participate in the project remotely, you can follow Wikimedia UK on Twitter or Facebook. You can also like our Facebook project page, where we will be posting resources, events and updates specifically about the project. We would love to hear from you if you’re writing Wikipedia articles in Kurdish or about Kurdish subjects.
We urgently need people to learn to edit Wikipedia so that they can start translating some of the most read Wikipedia pages from English (or other languages) into Kurdish. You could translate some of the most read Wikipedia articles or (perhaps more usefully), this list of the most read medical articles. You can also use or add to this list of articles on Kurdish subjects in English which need improving and maybe translating into Kurdish.
You don’t need to ask our permission if you want to set up a Wikipedia editing club at your school, university or community centre. Wherever you are in the world, there is probably a national chapter or user group or Wikipedians associated with them who you can reach out to for help. Just search online for your local Wikimedia organisation and get in touch with them to ask for support.
Bringing Kurdish people together
Wikipedia has been shown to reduce conflict in political discussions on the internet. I hope that by working together to promote Kurdish language and culture online, Kurds will concentrate on their collective identity rather than their political differences. They will create a resource that will transfer knowledge of history and culture from one generation to the next, like a 21st century digital Dengbej.
Kurds are proud of their culture and history, as well as their fierce independence. They have fought hard to decide their own political destiny and retain their culture, and one of the ways they can continue to fight for it in peacetime is to contribute to this project. Together we can educate the next generation of Kurdish children and make sure that Kurdish culture is visible and protected. It really is as simple as pressing the ‘edit’ button.