Dr. Arezu Jahani-Asl (C), a Kurdish-Canadian scientist made a groundbreaking discovery to help solve the puzzle of glioblastoma, a deadly brain cancer. (Photo: dynamicmedia)
MONTREAL, Canada (Kurdistan24) – A Kurdish woman made a groundbreaking discovery to help solve the puzzle of glioblastoma, a deadly brain cancer.
Arezu Jahani-Asl, a Professor of Medicine at McGill University and a Principal Investigator at the Jewish General Hospital, spoke about her discovery with Kurdistan24. She is also the lead author of a recent study published in Nature Neuroscience.
“We have discovered that a gene called OSMR plays a key role in the growth of glioblastoma tumors,” she said.
In her lab, Jahani-Asl and her team work to develop a compound to suppress the gene in glioblastoma, a type of cancer that resists radiation and chemotherapy and is difficult to remove through surgery.
She lives with her 6-year-old son, Aaron, and husband Professor Soleimani in Montreal.
The McGill Professor graduated from a high school in Mahabad, a city that announced the first Republic of Kurdistan in 1945 (also known as the Mahabad Republic) before Iranian troops marched in, suppressed the fledgling democracy and executed its leaders, including President Qazi Muhammad.
Her pleasant childhood memories are those of her loving grandmother who had faith in her from an early age, she says. Jahani-Asl also remembers the caring collective culture of Kurdistan and glittering bazaars where she shopped for clothes with her cousins to attend frequent weddings.
But when Iran imprisoned her father, when she lost her older brother, and when her cousins and uncles were executed for speaking against oppression, she understood the depth of Kurdish suppression in Iran.
Shortly after her father was released from prison, her family left Iran with the 17-year-old scientist-in-making. They spent two rough years in Turkey where they sought asylum from a United Nations High Commission of Refugees (UNHCR) office. Her other brother was arrested and imprisoned by Turkish police at that time.
“I think Kurds learn to develop a thick skin from an early age. That kind of hardship has in a way helped me to overcome obstacles and be patient and persistent and has enabled me to pleasantly go through my long journey in academia in Canada,” Jahani-Asl told Kurdistan24 on the phone.
When her family settled in Toronto, the unease did not end but reshaped itself into an anxiety mixed with excitement and expectations. She attended the University of Toronto while learning a new language and adapting to a new culture.
Higher education took Jahani-Asl to Ottawa, Boston, and Montreal among other places. As a Post Doctorate Fellow, she worked with Kurdish Professor Azad Bonni at Harvard Medical School and decided to pursue her work on brain tumors.
It was around that time that Jahani-Asl realized that in addition to meeting the high expectations of an Ivy League university, she soon had to care for an infant.
Aaron is the reason that Jahani-Asl cares even deeper for her patients, she says. “It breaks my heart to see people dying from a disease. I imagine I am the patient or the mother of the patient,” she stated in a hushed voice.
Jahani-Asl said she reads the news every day and keeps up with Kurdish events.
“Women and people of Kobani, in general, are my heroes! I admire them. They give me strength,” she said.
After demanding days at University, she plays with her son and listens to Hani, Shahin Beser, Chopi, and other Kurdish musicians to relax. She also said that she likes traveling and trying various cuisines.
But she prefers to focus on science rather than politics, the world of less chaos and more logic, Jahani-Asl stated.
“I feel helpless when I think about politics, but when it comes to science I feel I can do something to help humanity," she concluded.
LOS ANGELES, United States (Kurdistan24) – For the first time, the Kurdish language will be taught at one of the most prestigious American universities, University of California, Berkeley.
“Hûn bi xêr hatin Pola Kurdî ya Destpêker - Welcome to the Beginner Kurdish Course,” announced the Near Eastern Studies of UC Berkeley.
The course will introduce complete beginners to the Kurmanji-dialect of Kurdish, a language that is rarely taught in the United States.
Deniz Ekici, the language director for the University of Arizona’s new Kurdish Language and Culture Studies program in Diyarbakir, Turkey, will be teaching the course at Berkeley this fall.
Ekici is a former Visiting Professor at Middle Tennessee State University. He received his Ph.D. from the Centre for Kurdish Studies at the University of Exeter, UK.
“UC Berkeley has some funding for a pilot project involving Kurdish language and area studies. Within the framework of this pilot project, the university offered a Kurdish history, politics and culture class taught by Nicole Watts last year," Ekici told Kurdistan24.
"This year UCB want to follow up with Kurdish language courses for fall and spring semesters. Depending on their funding and interest they might continue offering Kurdish courses. I think this is a great accomplishment for the field of Kurdish studies and I hope more universities offer similar courses,” Ekici added.
He is the author of Beginning Kurmanji Kurdish DVD-Rom, University of Arizona Press (July 2009) and Kurmanji Kurdish Reader, Maryland: Dunwoody Press (February 2007).
The course will “introduce basic grammatical forms, essential frequent vocabulary and key aspects of pronunciation,” UC Berkeley announced.
“Participants of the course will have opportunities to practice communicating in Kurmanji-Kurdish in class on daily topics such as routines and activities, hobbies and habits and so forth,” the university added.
The course hopes to enable students to communicate on everyday topics in various social contexts.
Interested individuals can then progress to the “Beginners Kurdish 2” class in the Spring term.
Berkeley’s Near Eastern Studies Department, founded in 1894, is one of the oldest and most distinguished departments in the country.
The department offers both general instruction and specialized training in Archaeology, Art History, Assyriology, Egyptology, Iranian Studies, Judaic and Islamic Studies, Comparative Semitics, Arabic, Hebrew, Persian, and Turkish.