Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Drug addiction death toll rising in Iranian-Kurdistan

Drug addiction death toll rising in Iranian-Kurdistan
In 2015, a larger number of drug addicts in Rojhalat (Iranian Kurdistan) lost their lives to substance abuse. In Sina (also known as Sanandaj), the capital city of the Kurdistan Province located in the North West of Iran, at least 29 men and four women died in 2015 as a result of drug addiction.
The rate of drug addiction in Iran is on the rise despite the fatal penalty for drug users and distributors. Being a neighbour to Afghanistan, the world’s largest opium producer, drugs are accessible and inexpensive in Iran.
The Director of Research and Education at the headquarters of the Drug Enforcement Iran, Hamid Sarami, said in a conference in Ahwaz that Iran has approximately 1.3 million registered drug addicts. The number does not include occasional users and unregistered addicts.
Of these addicts, 58% are reportedly younger than 34, 9% are women, and 22% have higher education. Thus, some 10 million Iranians of the 80 million population have to struggle with the consequences of drug addiction. 
Sarami also outlined that drug addiction has killed an average of seven people per day over the past two decades and is the second largest cause of death in Iran after road accidents, according to the Iranian news agency Aftab.
Azad Heidari, a doctorate student from Sanandaj, told K24 that “Drugs are much cheaper and more accessible than alcohol. The youth in Sanandaj have no form of entertainment and drugs are very common nowadays. Some just don’t know their limits and get themselves in trouble.”
In addition to the availability of drugs, Heidari pointed out that most of the people he knows in the city who become hooked on substances are those with family issues.
“Some of my friends who are now desperate addicts were the ones who had problems with their parents and consider drug abuse and self-destruction as a form of revenge on their family,”Heidari said.
Psychologists believe that mental health issues and addiction are often intertwined problems. In Kurdistan, an ostracised and underdeveloped region of Iran where citizens struggle with excessive economic and political suppression, there are not enough awareness and support programs for people with mental health problems.

Hundreds of Kurdish children education-deprived in Iran

Hundreds of Kurdish children education-deprived in Iran
In 2015, fifty-three children, between the ages of 6 and 11, in the city of Poldasht, Western Azerbaijan Province, could not attend school due to poverty. Poldasht has a population of 18,000 and is located in the North West of Iran, near the Turkish border.
In this province, 268 students in their first and second year of high school also dropped out of school, according to Fars, the state-run Iranian news agency.
In a statement, Mojtaba Talebi, the Chairman of Western Azerbaijan Province Education, warned about the increasing rate of illiteracy in this region.
In the spring, Iranian officials announced that 1500 students in the Western Azerbaijan province, that is home to Kurdish and Turkish ethnic minorities, have been unable to continue their education.
Kurdistan Province officials announced in October that 391 children have missed out on school in 2015, but 193 of them are now registered. Reportedly, 160 homeless children live in Sina (Sanandaj), the capital city of the Kurdistan Province, but are not included in the official statistics of the 391 students who have been denied education.
According to the Iranian laws, elementary and high school education should be free and available to everyone. The schools do not charge tuition, but families have to provide their children’s textbooks, stationeries, and school attire and pay for transportation costs. Many Kurdish families in villages are not able to cover those expenses.
Although Iran is rich with resources, the Kurdish region flounders.
Most students who are not attending school are now working odd jobs to provide for their families. Sadly, many female high school students are denied education in poor villages because of their gender.
Provinces such as Baluchestan, Khuzestan, Lorestan and Kurdistan–which are located near the borders of Iran— are home to non-Persian ethnic groups, and are underdeveloped. For the children in these regions, the first grade of elementary school is often a traumatic experience, since they have to learn literacy along with a new language.
According to The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Constitution, the States parties believe “in full and equal opportunities of education for all, in the unrestricted pursuit of objective truth and in the free exchange of ideas and knowledge.”
Many children in the Kurdish region of Iran (Rojhalat) are denied the right to education.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Rojava comes to California

LOS ANGELES, United States (K24) — The Kurdish American Relief Fund held a seminar and a fundraiser in Los Angeles on Sunday to support the Kurdish fighters in Rojava (Syrian Kurdistan) fighting against the Islamic State (IS).
American journalist Paul Z. Simons, pen name El Errante, spoke about his experiences in Rojava to a diverse and full room of Kurds and non-Kurds at the Malibu Hills Community Centre in Agoura Hills.
Showing pictures on a large screen, Simons described his adventurous trip to Rojava in October and expounded on the secular, leftist, feminist worldviews that many Kurds adhere to there.
“I was not there to photograph ‘women in uniform,’ rather to grasp a sense of local assemblies, how they interact with the militia, the executive councils, and some of the new institutions—schools, universities and infrastructure that the PYD and their allies have built.”
The Partiya Yekitiya Demokrat‎ (PYD) or the Democratic Union Party is a Rojava-based political party co-chaired by Salih Muslim and his female counterpart, Asiyah Abdullah. The party describes itself as believing in “social equality, justice, and the freedom of belief” as well as “pluralism and the freedom of political parties.” 
In the non-hierarchal system practiced in Rojava, council communes' members must include a minimum forty percent female in order to make decisions based on community needs and to forward these observations to their executive committees. 
Additionally, no one individual maintains power for more than six months. This allows different members to practice leadership skills and prevents potential corruption from holding power for an extended period of time. 
Rojava is under a great deal of pressure by their neighboring countries: the war with Daesh (IS) and border closings between Turkey and Syria—stopping transportation of medicine and equipment from reaching civilians—are two of the main daily concerns.  
Simons then showed the audience a photo of a gun that had a bullet placed next to the barrel. The gun belonged to a Kurdish fighter who said he kept the bullet there “to remind himself to always leave one bullet, in case he got captured.”
In Rojava, despite access to oil in Hasaka Province, people are focused on building infrastructures and agriculture so their economy does not dependent solely on oil. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and his late father Hafez, also a former President, had limited the type of agricultural crops Kurds were allowed to plant in their region, but now the inhabitants of Rojava are discovering that their lands are fertile and capable of nurturing a diversity of plants.
“I had lost hope in humanity but after seeing these people, I was infected by the Kurdish disease—hope,” said Simons, while fighting back tears.
The presentation and question and answer period lasted three hours and the fundraising dinner to support Rojava was served in the popular Kurdish restaurant Niroj, also in Agoura Hills.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Resume Peace in Turkey

A call to action by Gültan Kışanak, the co-chair of the Union of Southeastern Anatolian Municipalities regarding the recent curfews, the rising death toll, and conflict escalating towards civil war. A series of demands have been voiced in this letter, we hope you may help us in spreading them and calling for the restart of a peace process here in Turkey,

In solidarity,

Women's Initiative for Peace

End military curfew in Kurdish towns of Turkey!
The war in Turkey is intensifying; people, all living beings and history is being destroyed!
As the State becomes more and more ISIS-like, the peoples’ resistance resembles Kobanê!
In the Kurdish towns/provinces of Hakkari, Dargeçit, Sur, Nusaybin, Silopi and Cizre, the State:
•       Has removed all doctors’ leaves and permissions, calling all medical equipment personnel to be prepared,
•       Has emptied out student dormitories, placing security forces within them instead of students,
•       Has swiftly removed teachers from places where it has declared or is planning to declare curfews and perpetrate massacres,
•       Is currently preventing entry into and exit from these districts by way of police and military forces,
•       Is continuing an endless dispatch of military equipment, ammunition, soldiers and police forces at the highest level possible to these areas. What this means is more killings, greater massacres, destruction and pain.
Since the 7th of June, indefinite and all day long curfews have been declared 52 times in the 17 districts of 6 different provinces, where 1.3 million people live.  As a result:
•       More than 140 people have been killed, including 20 women and 26 children.
•       The wounded and sick have lost their lives due to the impossibility of timely intervention, as their right to health care has been denied.
•       Electrical grids and water systems have been shut down, preventing people from meeting even very basic needs.
•       GSM operators have also been rendered inaccessible, denying people their right to communication.
•       Children have been denied their right to education.
•       Historic mosques, churches and residential areas within the Sur neighborhood, which is a world heritage site, have been damaged, bombed from above, burned down and destroyed.
•       People have been displaced, forced to migrate from their homes once again.
•       People – and especially women – have been subjected to all kinds of insults, abuse and mistreatment.

We call all women’s organizations, human rights defenders, academics, journalists and politicians to action in order to prevent this murderous attempt to massacre the population in entire districts. We ask you to support the resistance against these policies in each and every place you are, with any and all means you have.  Join us and let the Turkish state authorities to know our demands; to lift the military curfew in Kurdish towns, to withdraw police and military forces, to declare a cease-fire,  end the policy of isolation upon Abdullah Öcalan and to resume the peace negotiations.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Simplicity, originality and authenticity: the secret to Kurdish filmmaker’s success

LOS ANGELES—Although the only Kurdish filmmaker who’s ever been shortlisted twice for best live action short film at the prestigious Academy Awards, the 35-year-old Sahim Omar Kalifa is unpretentious and friendly. 

With a shy smile on his face, Kalifa talks to me on his iPad from his hotel room in Qatar where his film is screened in a festival. This is the second time this director’s work has been shortlisted for the Oscars Short Films award and he has only made three movies so far. 

The members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences selected Bad Hunter among 144 live-action shorts.

But Bad Hunter has already won several awards: The Jury Award for Best Short Film in Montreal, the Silver Spike in Valladolid, the Jury Prize in Dubai and the Special Jury Award at Australia’s Flickerfest. Los Angeles, London, New York and San Francisco screened the top ten movies in December.

The Belgium government and the Kurdish ministry of culture funded Bad Hunter, which was produced by Belgian production company A Private View. The film was shot in the scenic Zakho area (Iraq) and recorded in Kurdish. The film tells the story of the young man, Bahoz who does some hunting in the nearby valleys both as a pass-time and a way to feed his family. “Bahoz is not happy about hunting animals. He just can’t think of anything better to do. He is a young man who needs to grow up, to become an adult,” says Kalifa who wrote the screenplay with Belgian scriptwriter Jean-Claude van Rijckeghem.

One day this hunter finds an older man raping a young woman in a remote valley. The traumatized woman not only has to deal with the physical and psychological scars of her assault, she needs to make sure her family will never know what happened to her.

“Women in our society who become victims of rape are doubly victimized by their families.’ If they physically survive a rape, the women won’t know how to survive the anger of a family who will want to regain their lost honor.

But the woman of Bad Hunter finds an excellent solution to her problem. Her cleverness creates a twist to the story that surprises and pleases the audience.

In 2013, Kalifa directed Baghdad Messi, which was shortlisted for the Academy Awards last year and it won 60 awards. It is the story of a 10-year-old boy who is obsessed with football and star player Messi. He dreams about becoming a star and meeting his hero but the kid has lost a leg in the Iraq war, a misfortune that directly affects his ability to do what he loves the most. When the day the young boy has been anxiously expecting finally arrives -- watching the Champions League Finale Barcelona and Manchester United-- his television breaks down. This leads to a surprise. 

Baghdad Messi was another success that won numerous prizes and was invited for about 150 festivals. Land of the Heroes, Kalifa’s first film, was produced in 2011 and was also a festival darling. 

But Kalifa was not born into movie making and success. When he was a child in Zakho, taking photos and recording films was a luxury beyond the reach of the average person. “I had good parents and I was finally able to convince my father to buy me a camera that I could work with and make some money.”

When in 2001 Kalifa went to Belgium, he wasn’t sure what to do with his life. “I told a few people I knew that I liked films and they said I could try to get into a good film school in Brussels.” In 2008, Kalifa received his Master’s Degree from St-Lukas Film School but that was no guarantee for success for a lower-middle-class immigrant.
“I had no money to make films with but I was lucky enough that my graduation film NAN won a Wild Card competition from the Flemish Film Fund in Belgium. I wasn’t allowed to spend the award money on a car or a house and had to make another short film with that money.”

He says that he never predicted that any of his shorts would get this much attention, if any at all. “But this year I really hope, I can make it to the final nomination.
On January 14, the five nominees will be announced and on February 28 the award ceremony will be held.
 “My brothers are also trying to make films. People tell me you win awards because you live in Europe and have professional actors. But that’s not true.”

What the jury tends to say about Kalifa’s movie is praising his work for three qualities: his films are “simple, original, and authentic.” Writers and filmmakers know how difficult it is to create something simple. “Some Kurdish filmmakers tend to use heavy political and historical context. But it can work against you. I like to keep my work simple.”

Trying to say too much at once can be self-defeating for Kurdish writers and artists who are often overwhelmed by having to deal with too many untold stories of excessive suffering. Kalifa is currently developing his first feature-length subject ZAGROS with producer Dries Phlypo and writer Jean-Claude van Rijckeghem at A Private View. The story is set in Bakur (Turkish Kurdistan) and Brussels. 

He believes there are many gifted Kurds out there who should not be intimidated by obstacles and follow their passion. “Everything is digital and easy now. If you like to make a film, you have equipment at your fingertip.” He picks up his cellphone and holds it before the Skype camera.

Ahmet Kaya’s daughter says plagiarism allegations against Adele under investigation

 Adele (L) and Kurdish singer Ahmet Kaya. Photo: AFP
Adele (L) and Kurdish singer Ahmet Kaya. Photo: AFP
LOS ANGELES - The daughter of legendary Kurdish singer Ahmet Kaya says allegation that British singer Adele has plagiarized from her late father are being investigated, and that her family is not ready to make any accusations.
The Kurdish singer’s name appeared in the international media recently, when his fans accused Adele of plagiarising his song.  Kaya’s 1985 hit "Acilara Tutunmak," which means “clinging to pain,” is believed to have astounding similarities with “A Million Year Ago” of Adele’s third album, “25.”
“We heard about the incident indeed,”  Ahmet Kaya’s daughter, Melis Kaya, told Rudaw
“There is a harmonic similarity between two songs, yet we left it to the music experts and lawyers. Also, we contacted our edition company in London. We believe that fans are somehow being a bit too excited about it though; it's not fair to accuse someone with something which is uncertain,” she said.
She added that the deceased singer’s recording companies in London and Istanbul are investigating the matter, but the family refuses to make any accusations just yet. 

(Melis Kaya)

The international pop singer of the UK’s biggest-selling number one album of all time, Adele was once before accused of plagiarism in October, when Tom Waits’ fans pointed out similarities between Adele’s “Hello” and Waits’ “Martha.”  
If the latest allegations about plagiarising from Kaya prove to be accurate, the pop singer may end up in a court.
Outraged fans of Kaya stormed Twitter with accusations of plagiarism.
Ahmet Kaya, who was a cab driver before the world discovered his astonishing talent for music, bravely stood up for Kurds in the 90s era in Turkey, when anti-Kurdish sentiments there were at a peak.
"Because I have Kurdish roots, my next song will be in Kurdish. And the video will be in Kurdish. I know there are brave people who will broadcast it," Kaya said in Istanbul in 1999. 
Because of his speech, he received cruel messages and even death threats. At the time, the singer was among the very few voices who protested to the extreme oppression against Kurds in Turkey.
After the Turkish state and media attacked him for his comments and accused him of having sung before the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), he fled to Paris. A year later, he was sentenced by the Turkish government in absentia.
When in November 2000 the controversial singer died of a heart attack, his music was still banned in Turkey.
Years after his death Turkey finally removed the ban on Kaya's music and the singer Serdar Ortac, who had taken part in the backlash against Kaya, officially apologized.
Kaya is buried in the famous Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris.

This article was originally published HERE

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Visible and Invisible Violence against Women

From 25 November through 10 December, Human Rights Day, is the United Nations-sponsored 16 days of activism against gender-based violence. At this time, conversations tend to revolve around Boko Haram’s kidnapping of school girls, or the Islamic State’s treatment of Yezidi women as “spoils of war” where they were reduced to sex slaves—no longer humans.
Thinking about less extreme yet still relevant cases, many protests against “honour” killings are staged in major cities around the world. Though it is hard to fathom, globally an average 5,000 honour killings happen per year, according to the UN.
But where do such extreme cases against women begin? Can they be prevented at an earlier stage?
Violence against women can take on much more subtle forms than killing or kidnapping. It starts with an idea, the thought that women are inferior to men, that they are less than human, that they do not exist as independent individuals but they are "created" mainly to please men. In Kurdish and many other cultures women are commonly spoken about or referred to by the roles they play in relation to a man: somebody’s mother, daughter or wife.
Long before we can physically take a human beings life, we start to kill them in our minds. The “male gaze” and the perception that removes the human face from a woman and denigrates her to a mere object of desire can be a seed for future physical violence. In most cultures, including Kurdish culture, men are rarely held accountable for their gazes and instead women are often pressured to dress conservatively. Women are blamed and the men are not taught to change their views.
Another common unjust perception of women in Kurdish society is that a woman’s main duties are to serve men, cook, clean, and raise children. In such a society, active participation of women in most roles are discouraged--except, of course, in armed resistance and in promoting nationalistic views. Managing a company, playing sports, or expressing individuality in any form is thus inherently invading men’s territory.
How women are seen, literally and figuratively, is also reflected in language. Everyday language gives an inferior position to women. In Kurdish, for example, a woman does not choose a spouse, rather she “ba sho adre”--is someone’s daughter who is given to a man. By implication, her father is the decision maker, the unstated subject in the expression, the one who gives the daughter to another man.
The very concepts of “gheirat, sharaf, or namoos” roughly translated to “honour” in English requires men to exert full control over a woman’s body who is related to them: their wife, sisters, mother, cousins and sometimes even women in the neighbourhood.
These concepts are double-edge swords that not only subjugate women but also put a significant amount of pressure on men to prove their control. A man who cannot safeguard his female family member’s “chastity” (another problematic term) will find his masculine identity threatened.
Verbal violence also gets promoted in the sexist jokes that present a woman as a dullard, incapable of thinking. These jokes produce and reproduce demeaning images of women, and a seemingly harmless joke can penetrate a society’s conscious and subconscious mind and enhance unfair views of women.
Hence, a lot of invisible violence against women is repeated daily in the way women are seen and referred to in everyday language.
But a society in which subtle emotional and verbal abuses go unnoticed is an unhealthy society that will produce an unhealthy next generation, creating a vicious circle. Children who witness spousal violence are also victims of violence.
According to the UNISEF, an estimated 375 million children around the world are exposed to domestic violence. In the United States alone, 95% of the domestic violence cases involve female victims of male partners. Psychologists believe that children who have to bear witness to their parent’s harsh treatments of each other are 80 percent more likely to become victims of violence or turn into victimizers in the future.
It is no surprise then that the 2015 World Economic Forum global gender gap report shows Middle Eastern countries are some of the worst countries for women to live in. Syria, Iran, Yemen, Pakistan, Lebanon, and Saudi Arabia have some of the lowest rankings among the 145 countries.
UN reports that globally “a staggering one in three women have experienced physical or sexual violence in their lifetime—a pandemic of global proportions. Unlike an illness, however, perpetrators and even entire societies choose to commit violence—and can choose to stop. Violence is not inevitable. It can be prevented.”
Thus, to prevent physical violence, Kurdish society needs to be better educated about verbal and psychological abuses that tend to be less visible than broken bones or bruised eyes. A society in which making fun of a woman’s appearance is commonplace is a society that paves the way for unfortunate physical violence.