Sunday, November 29, 2015

A lovely letter from a kind reader

Dearest Ava, I just finished reading your powerful story Lullaby. No title could be more appropriate.
Even though this is a short story (not a poem) the words are so carefully chosen, the rhythm is perfect, and the story evolves effortlessly and allows you to identify, relate to and connect with the characters. Few words are spent on the mother and yet we imagine her strong but struggling, and eventhough she suffers, as a mother who is in pain in front of the oppression and torture exercised on her son, she finds the right words to console and strengthen her son's spirits. 
Thank you Ava for making us aware of this terrible and ungrounded  injustice. Let's hope that soon man's mind will understand how futile, vane and vicious he is and will look for a higher goal and truthful meaning in human life.  
You express your awareness and pain with depth and delicacy. I'm happy to have met you!
A big hug from wintery Milan,


Monday, November 23, 2015

سیروس ملکوتی -آوا ‌هما-Pooyesh157


نقش ادبيات و زبان در زندگي انساني ما
گفتگو با اوا هما نويسنده و استاد ادبيات انگليسي دانشگاه در كانادا

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Kurdish Women Football Players Fight for Equality in Iran

Kurdish women football players fight for equality in Iran
Despite lack of resources, the Kurdistan team became the country’s champion.
LOS ANGELES, United States (K24)—When the Kurdistan Women’s football team became the Iranian champion in winter, they thought their financial and cultural problems were over—or at least significantly diminished. After all, they had proven how strong and successful they had become.
This team had won an honour for Kurdistan province in Northwest Iran that men’s football teams never achieved. Rather than being praised for their success, they received a cold shoulder from Kurdistan Province authorities.
“Only a few families, mostly women, showed up with flowers and pastries. None of the sports officials welcomed our team. I am sure if men’s football team had become the country’s champion, all the authorities and citizens would go to welcome them, and the news would be everywhere,” Mohtaram Heidari, a coach and organizer in Sanandaj [Sina], told K24 in a phone interview.
“In their interviews and speeches, the authorities claim that they support men and women sports equally but, in fact, the short-sightedness and patriarchal mentality prevents them from walking their talks. We have to struggle and fight and put all sorts of pressure on the authorities to receive the smallest support,” Heidari added.
This passionate coach says that men run and control almost all the sport affairs in the province and that includes women sports too. She says men strongly discriminate against female athletes.
“I can identify four main reasons why women sports is marginalized: Ideological views that says women have been created only for domestic duties. Patriarchy that is threatened by athletic and strong women. Traditions that chain women. Corruption that does not allow the allocated budgets to reach women athletes,” Heidari said.
She says and her few devoted female colleagues aren’t only fighting for sports and their battle has a larger context.
“We want Kurdish women to be psychically and mentally healthy and sport is one of the most effective tools. Sport also strengthens women’s personalities and builds confidence in them. In addition we want to take these women out of the impoverished region so they meet athletes from across the country and become familiar with the diversity of culture within Iran. It will open their horizons.”  
The players, organizers, and coaches say that not only have they not received any payment for their efforts, but also they have been “attacked and humiliated.”  
These women have been accused of being “hermaphrodites” and having “hormone issues.”
The women deny the accusations and say they play according to FIFA standards and they go through all sorts of tests and maintain medical files.
“But the society we live in is intimidated by women’s success, especially in fields that are traditionally assigned as 'men’s territories,'” Heidari explained.
When the Kurdish team went to compete in the national match, the players were weary and tired. Boushehr, the city that hosted the game is in Southern Iran, 1,035 kilometers from Sanandaj.
Because of lack of budget Kurdistan teams can never fly and have to take a bus to attend the matches.
“Most other teams have nice and new athletic outfits, a psychologist, a masseuse, and a dietician with them. Many of the players in the rest of Iran receive payments from their municipalities. The Kurdistan [province] team has a group of volunteer players between the ages of 16 and 23 who weren’t even properly fed or clothed,” Sharmin Rahmati, one of the prominent coaches, told K24.
Despite lack of resources, the Kurdistan team became the country’s champion.
The Kurdistan province had been in the Premier League of Iran since 2004. But they lacked good sponsors and players. For that reason in 2010, the Kurdistan team was canceled.
Rahmati and Heidari started a futsal, or indoor football, team in 2010 and relied on friends and relatives’ contributions to raise a meager fund for their team.
But in 2014, these two coaches, who are deeply enthusiastic about women’s football in Kurdistan, were able to gather some good football players from across the province. Young and eager football players volunteered to practice with the fledgling team.
“We had six players who were only 13-year-olds. The rest were older. Practicing for the competitions was only one of the many challenges. We had to go to meetings after meetings to raise funds for the players, hoping to reimburse them for their commute and accommodations expenses,” Rahmati said.
“A lot of time after practicing for hours I had to run home and cook for the team because we had no other way to feed the kids!” Rahmati said.
These days, however, the Kurdistan Women’s Football Team is feeling hopeful.
“Thankfully, we were able to recruit the prominent player Bayan Mahmoodi in 2015 and she has brought us new players too,” Rahmati said.
Bayan Mahmoodi, from Jawanro, Kermanshah Province, has been invited by teams in England and Italy and used to play for Isfahan before she gave up on the financially rewarding opportunities and joined Kurdistan team.
“I feel I owe Kurdistan. This was my way of paying back my dues,” Bayan Mahmoodi told K24 in a phone interview.
Fatemeh Sadeghi is another loyal and strong team member. Because of her skills on the field, she was offered a decent payment to play for the Uremia team but she settled for less than half the pay to stay with the Kurdistan team. The team is also happy that the new chair of the municipality in Kurdistan has been offering some financial support.
For these women playing football isn’t only a sport. They are fighting for equality and demonstrating women’s power and abilities outside of the domestic life.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

A Quest for Identity from Amude to America

A quest for identity from Amude to America
Nothing but Soot 
by Sirwan Kajjo
Create Space Independent Publishing Platform

Released in October, Nothing but Soot is Sirwan Kajjo’s debut novel. He is a Syrian Kurd based in Washington DC. Kajjo, like his main character, Kawa, has a journalist background and this is his first creative work. It is one of the few Kurdish novels written in English.
Nothing but Soot is an entertaining coming-of-age novel that follows the story of Kawa as he grows up in the persecuted streets of Amude, drops out of high school and moves to Beirut, eventually embarking on a journey to America.
Kawa starts his job as a reporter in Beirut where he enjoys a relatively free lifestyle. But his Kurdishness and Syrian citizenship are double-edged swords in the complicated Lebanese capital. Depending on which political group he comes face to face with, his identity can save him or get him into trouble.
Kawa, who is not given a last name in the book, eventually leaves Beirut in his early twenties after he is arrested and beaten by one of the sub-branches of Hezbollah. 
As a political refugee in Washington DC, alone in an unfamiliar world with only a moderate grasp of English, Kawa navigates his way in building a home away from home. The duel themes of exile and home snake through the novel like golden threads.
America is also an opportunity for this young man to start exploring his sexuality, a part of his identity that along with his ethnic identity is suppressed in the country of his birth.
Kawa is a complicated character and full of contradictions that make him compelling and multi-dimensional. He is observant yet naïve, at times simple and yet unpredictable, funny, feisty, and brutally honest about his desires as well as his trivial dishonesties. He does not shy away from sharing with the reader how he urinated in a mosque when he was a young boy in Amude, or how he felt “important” when he received mail in America. 
Kawa makes insightful comments about Kurdish identity as well. “Each individual in this world has a country inside which they live; only the Kurds have a country that lives inside them.”
He effectively recounts the struggles that Syrian Kurds go through: poverty, the fear of secret police,  criminalization of their culture and identity—owning Kurdish books is punishable—the infamous Qamishlo football match that ended in protests and arrests of thousands and so on.
Kawa also refers to the arbitrary 1962 law that rendered hundreds of thousands of Syrian Kurds stateless. The Syrian government decided to strip many Kurds of their birth certificates under the pretext that they were Turkish Kurds. This denial of citizenship was part and parcel of the wider Arabization campaign in resource-rich Syrian Kurdistan, affectionately called Rojava.
In contrast with the detailed and sharp observations of discriminations in Syria, the America that Kawa describes is sparkly and fairy tale-like.
Immediately after arriving, he also finds sexual partners—the top priority on his list—easily find a decent office job without ever trying odd jobs, and effortlessly finds love as well. The interpretation job Kawa finds seems to be stable and well-paying—we never read about Kawa worrying about bills, for instance.
Within a few months of his arrival in Washington DC, Kawa starts a serious relationship with a perfect American lover. Dawn is a flawless beauty: educated, understanding, kind, and supportive, and who finds no language or cultural barriers communicating with the new immigrant.
The protagonist never encounters discrimination, prejudice, racism, or any form of ignorance in America. Almost everyone he meets is as friendly as they are knowledgeable. 
Nonetheless, Kawa has a lot to learn when his relationship enters a new stage; his homesickness and identity crisis suddenly take a new twist as he has to make quick, critical decisions.
At times, readers will find this novel funny and amusing, and will learn how Kawa maneuvers through obstacles and if he maintains the good luck bestowed upon him  in the United States.

Turkey's Election after the Election, a State of Exception

Against all the odds and the predictions of the analysts and intellectuals, Recep Tayyib Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) won back the majority they had lost in the June election. Even those who predicted that AKP will win back the majority were surprised by the fact that AKP won 317 seats in a nine percent increase in the votes.
Even though the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) saw some decline in votes, it was the right-wing National Movement Party (MHP) that lost half of their support and now maintain only 40 seats of the 80 seats they gained in June.
In the first few days after winning back the majority of votes, Erdogan resumed cracking down on dissidents, and killing civilians and guerillas in the Kurdish majority Southeast.
The country that was steadily moving forward in the early twentieth century and had aspirations to join the European Union is now moving away from progress.
The election results were unpredictable because many analysts believed that Erdogan’s strategies in creating instability would backfire and Turks will disappoint him (AKP) in the elections. Turkish citizens, however, worried about their safety and economy and changed their minds about their June ballots and voted Erdogan back to power.
 But what caused such a significant change in election results from June to November?

What analysts underestimated was how deeply polarized Turkey is, and has been.
Even though the Ottoman Empire was ethnically and religiously diverse, the nationalism that the Turkish Republic's founder, Mustafa Kamal Ataturk introduced and fostered is driven by a lack of acceptance.
In the 1920s, Turkish became the only legal language in a country where people spoke many different languages. For example, Kurds are a sizable majority in Turkey (roughly 10-15 percent) whose mother tongue was banned outright until only a few years ago. In the 1940s and 1950s, Kurds’ existence was summarily denied, and their distinct culture became condemned and referred to as “mountain Turks” or "eastern Turks who forgot their language."
This policy of marginalization has roots deep in Turkish history
From an early age, Turkish nationalism with its emphasis on exclusion is engrained into the minds of the school children. Regardless of what ethnic or religious group they belong to, children have to say their pledge of allegiance every morning before class. “I am Turkish,” they have to scream at the top of their voice before entering their classrooms, and “Happy is the one who calls himself a Turk,” affirmed by Mustafa Kamal Ataturk in the early days of Republic of Turkey, continues to be a popular motto among Turks.
Within a culture where Turkish identity is not just the superior culture, but the only fully accepted culture, it is no surprise that many Turks grow up hating Kurds and other minorities. Turkish society rarely debates why these groups continue to be persecuted. 
The Turkish journalist, Asli Aydintasbas, wrote in the New York Times about her generation of Turks. “Instead of questioning why Kurds weren’t allowed to speak their own language, live in their own villages or sing their own songs, we blamed the Kurdistan Workers Party, or P.K.K., which had been waging a guerrilla war against Turkey since 1984, for all of Turkey’s woes.”
With deep-rooted hatred, it is clear why Turks turned a blind eye or sided with their government when in the '90s Turkey committed horrendous atrocities in the Southeast. Turkish army burned down Kurdish villages, arrested, tortured and killed thousands of civilians and guerillas.
The wound from the terror of those days runs deep in the veins of the country. Hundreds of murders have remained unsolved. Turkish Colonel Cemal Temizoz’s case, under review since 2009 for murdering 21 Kurds, was dismissed this week by an Istanbul court. In 2012, the Council of Europe saw the legal case as an “opportunity to shed light on a period of systematic human rights abuses in southeast Turkey.”
However, no light was shed. Three decades ago 40,000 people were killed, mainly Kurds, and no one has been brought to justice.
“Turkey has a history of impunity for the state’s forces…Denying justice for its citizens means the wounds cannot heal,” Emma Sinclair-Webb of Human Rights Watch told AP. Not only Erdogan does not want the wounds to heal, but also he triggers them to divide and rule.
The periphery southeastern town Cizre was once again under seized in September and 20 civilians were killed in clashes between Turkey and the PKK. Re-seizing Cizre was a strategic move. It wasn’t just to put a town in around-the-clock curfew. This was a calculated move to invoke the horrors of the '90s, to trigger a historic pain and citizen’s emotions have been manipulated so a lost power can once again be regained.  Erdogan tapped into Kurdophobia to win back his power without thinking about how that will damage his nation.

Giorgio Agamben in State of Exception, talks about the post-September 11 era in America when President George W. Bush tried to produce a “situation in which the emergency becomes the rule, and the very distinction between peace and war (and between foreign and civil war) becomes impossible.”
In this case, the State of exception and emergency was just what Erdogan created to scare people into submission. The message was clear. If you want stability—Erdogan pointed out repeatedly—AKP will give it to you. “I hope our nation makes its choice for stability,” Erdogan said after casting his vote.
Erdogan’s strategy was also reminiscent of Niccolo Machiavelli’s politics of fear. In The Prince, Machiavelli writes that a ruler should be feared not loved:
“For men are less concerned with hurting someone who makes himself loved than one who makes himself feared, because love is held by a link of obligation which, since men are wretched creatures, is broken every time their own interests are at stake; but fear is held by a dread of punishment which will never leave you.”
In Machiavelli’s highly demoralized perspective, humans are by nature selfish and therefore, they have to be controlled by fear, not by morals. Erdogan might share some of that perspective especially now that he had his major comeback.
But Turkey’s real vote was the one cast in June when citizens were not breathing an air of terror and division.

Lack of free expression is the last major reason that affected the outcome of the November election. Fair elections cannot happen in a closed environment.
The Turkish Radio and Television Corporation (TNT) has reportedly discriminated in airtime between the ruling party and other parties.
“The TRT gave 30 hours of airtime to the AK Party over the past 25 days and 29 hours to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan,” said Ersin Ongel, a board member of a member of the Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK).
On the other hand, HDP was only given 18 minutes of airtime in Turkey’s main state broadcasting corporation! The MHP was provided one hour and 10 minutes in total, comparatively.
But this is not news. Turkey has a history of persecuting journalists. In 2012, Turkey was the world’s biggest prisons for Media. Throughout the years, numerous journalists have been imprisoned in Turkey because of their work, including Mohammed Ismael Rasool of Vice News as well as Dutch journalist Frederike Greerdink.
Thus, through creating a sense of emergency, stimulating old wounds, and stopping freedom of speech, Erdogan intimated Turkish citizens into submission but the price the country has yet to pay for this decision may be high.  
Turkish citizens now enter greater uncertainty as Erdogan seem to be entering his country into a civil war by reinstating attacks on the armed Kurdish resistance group of PKK.

As the media will forget about Erdogan’s games and will focus on atrocities elsewhere, citizens in Turkey will have to deal with their President's insatiable thirst for power and his undemocratic ways.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Interview with an exiled writer: Ava Homa

In PEN International Congress 2015 held in Quebec City, I met an amazing South African writer, lawyer and activist, Bettina Wyngaard. I was impressed by her intellect, strength and kindness. We talked about many things and she decided to interview me. This is what she wrote about our encounter. I felt exposed by what she had written, I decided to share it nevertheless. The Afrikaans version was published but she kindly sent me the English version which I will share with you here.

By Bettina Wyngaard

If we have to say what writing is, we would have to define it essentially as an act of courage”-Cynthia Ozick
Loss and repression are themes that run like a golden thread through Ava Homa’s writing. This Iranian-born Kurdish author’s first anthology of short stories, Echoes from the Other Land, shines a sharply critical light on the repression women live with in modern day Iran.
Her writing is heart rending and evocative, probably more so because she is writing about a country that she left in 2007, knowing she would never be able to return. Every reader reads through the lens of their own expectations and experiences. Even though I consciously admonished myself to remain open to the stories and not to try to see the author in the stories, it was difficult to read Echoes and not experience a profound sense of the loss of home. Home is a word we use carelessly every day. I’m going home, I left something at home. For those who cannot go home, however, it is a loaded word.
Homa grew up in an Iran that was transformed by the Ruhollah Khomeini into a theocracy that repressed citizens and used legislation and divine rule to limit and extinguish any criticism of the regime. As member of the Kurdish minority, Homa experienced the intersectionality of discrimination based on race, gender, religion, culture and language at an early age. This experience appears to have had a lasting influence on her creative writing and her activism.
I spoke to her on the eve of her European tour, where her story Lullaby is being released in Germany and Italy. She has also completed a novel, Many Cunning Passages. Our conversation encompassed a wide range of topics :identity, creative writing, activism, memory, family and much more. She is a fascinating, eloquent conversationalist, with her finger firmly on the political pulse of what’s happening around her.
Homa was very firm about her identity; she’s a Kurd first and foremost. She does not identify as being Iranian. When I asked her why, she explained that Kurds in Turkey, Syria and Iraq are being repressed in the same way as Kurds in Iran. Artificial geographic boundaries do not change the suffering they endure. Our conversation took place days after the attacks in Ankara, Turkey, where allegations were levelled that the government was behind the attacks on pro-Kurdish peace groups. This placed her words in a chilling perspective.
Homa currently lives in Los Angeles, but held the position of exiled writer in residence at George Brown University in Toronto, amongst others, where she taught creative writing. She holds an M.A in English from Iran, a further M.A. in Creative Writing obtained in Toronto, as well as a diploma in editing. She writes about the Kurdish condition for a number of publications, articles that are at the same time enlightening and frightening.
It’s almost impossible to listen to what Kurds are going through today without drawing parallels to the situation Black South Africans found themselves in during apartheid in South Africa. For example, Homa was not allowed to receive instruction at school in her mother tongue. All Kurdish children are compelled to be taught in Farsi, the official language and the language of the ruling majority. As expected, this leaves the Kurdish child at a significant disadvantage: they not only have to cope with new material, they have to do so in a language they are struggling to understand. They are then portrayed as being inferior if they do not excel academically. This is a stark reminder of the way in which Black South Africans were forced to receive instruction in Afrikaans, leading to the 1976 Soweto uprising. In Iran, however, the discrimination is in some ways worse, as Kurds are not even allowed to speak Kurdish to each other in public. There is a constant threat that some government agent will report citizens who speak Kurdish. Kurdish captives in Iranian jails are also not allowed to communicate in Kurdish.
Homa learned to write in Kurdish as a young adult, only to discover that the version of Kurdish they were allowed to speak at home, was a pale imitation of the rich language. She does all her writing in English. I can understand her refusal to write in Farsi as politically driven. She explains that her decision to write in English rather than Kurdish is to make her work more accessible to a larger audience. She wants the world to know what it means to be Kurdish, to be repressed and discriminated against based on your cultural identity.
The one topic Homa shied away from discussing was religion. She was quite happy to explain to me the difference between Suni Muslims and Shi’a Muslims, and that most Kurds are Suni Muslims. When I asked about her own religious beliefs, though, she clammed up. She knew that I’m active in church (we were both staying as guests of the Anglican bishop of Quebec), and she advanced that as reason for her reticence. I though afterwards that most traditional Christians would probably share her misgivings about my spirituality- my beliefs are simply too radically inclusive to be acceptable to many.
I wish I had told her that.
It was only afterwards, when I read through her short stories and articles, that I realised the extent to which ordinary Kurdish life is governed and repressed by religious rules. The Ruhollah claims a divine right to rule, and as such cannot be questioned or criticised. There are rigid dress codes to which people must adhere. There are strict social rules for how men and women may interact with each other. Just recently, for example, two Iranian bloggers were sentenced to 99 lashes each for the offence of shaking hands (at an international conference) with members of the opposite sex who are not directly related to them.
Homa’s fiction portrays a country where parties with alcohol are considered decadent and illegal. Small wonder then that she is suspicious of religion; she has witnessed it being used to repress people for too long. Kurdish Muslims are called najes (filthy) because they are not Shi’a Muslims, for instance.
Her entire family remained behind in Iran. As a young child, her father was arrested because he was found in possession of forbidden publications. At a time when most Kurds struggled to complete high school, her father had a master’s degree. I imagine that in itself must have been sufficient to paint a target on his back. For the two years that he was detained, they never knew what his fate was, where he was kept or even if he was still alive. Their only source of information was the radio, where every day a list of the names of executed prisoners were read out. For two years Homa, her mother and two younger brothers lived in limbo, constantly fearing that his name would be amongst those killed. When he was finally released, he came home a changed man, Homa says. He could no longer provide for his family, as he was listed by the security police as a dissident. I can only imagine how utterly soul destroying it must have been for a man to be unable to provide for his family in a paternalistic society.
Homa is visibly affected when she describes the scars of the lashes that was administered to her father- a reminder once again that not all scars are visible. Her father bore the physical scars, but for her and the rest of her family, there had been emotional scars, far more difficult to heal because they are not seen.
Self-immolation is disproportionately high amongst Kurdish women. For many, Homa explains, it is the only form of control they have over their bodies. Her activism in large part focuses on empowering these women. The organisation she works with, sends volunteers into the villages to raise awareness around a number of issues. This poses considerable risk to the volunteers, something that seems to weigh heavily on Homa’s mind. Contact is furthermore kept through the use of discussion forums where topical issues are discussed. Participation is anonymously. There is a risk that government agents will attempt to infiltrate these forums, and identify participants, says Homa. This is a risk the participants are willing to take, though.
My last question to her was whether she would ever return to Iran. “Only if I want to kill myself”, she answered.
The ease with which I could imagine her self-immolating scared me. She is eloquent, highly intelligent, in turn vulnerable and a seemingly unstoppable force, a caleidoscope of contradictions, a talented wordsmith and activist whom we will see and hear plenty more of. There is also a sense of being balanced on a knife edge, however. It doesn’t matter how much Homa tries to leave behind her bond to Iran, her writing, her activism, everything that seems to drive her is shaped in that arid land.

She reminds me of the lyrics of that well-known Leonard Cohen song “There is a crack in everything, that’s where the light gets in.”

Monday, November 9, 2015

What Type of Victim Are You?

“The mark of the immature man is that he wants to die nobly for a cause, while the mark of the mature man is that he wants to live humbly for one.” This is my favorite sentence from The Catcher in the Rye.
Kurds are a nation who have been attacked physically, culturally, and psychologically. We have been bombed, targeted by firing squads, imprisoned, and tortured, regardless of which country we are bound to. Even our lifeless bodies are dragged through the streets and cursed.
But it is not only our bodies and our lands that have been the subjects of annihilation and exploitation. Our culture and history have also been humiliated, denied and appropriated. Our language and identity are often banned and criminalized, even today.   
Struggling to survive under the boots of oppression, we each have defined different positions as victims. Relying on what I have observed and read of victim psychology, I have come up with these various victim positions.
The list is merely suggestive and not comprehensive. Additionally, most of us shift between these three positions throughout different stages of our lives.
Victims Who Deny their Victimhood and Identify with the Oppressor
This group of victim steps on others while trying to climb societies’ ladder. They are the ones who detach themselves from suffering, make their way up to the oppressors’ boots, and kiss them. These people spend a tremendous amount of energy pretending to be someone else, making up histories and stories to belong to the dominant group.
They are also forced to downplay subtle or even explicit humiliation and distrust in the eyes and smirks of their newfound friends, and hang onto the boot tips, living with the constant danger of falling off into oblivion.
At best, they will live a life without dignity and steeped in denial; in return they are contented with their higher status and the opportunity to escape persecution to some degree.
Relying on the privileges they have gained at the price of their roots and dignity, this group happily sing along with the oppressor in belittling the oppressed. For them, they "made it. So it can’t be too bad. Those who haven’t made it are not as smart as I am.”
Crucially, they deny the subjugation and blame the victims. You may also hear them make statements such as “My country isn’t as bad with the Kurds as the others,” or “Kurds need to adapt.” 
To make this position clearer, I will quote a musician I recently approached to interview. He knew I was a journalist and wanted to interview him for a Kurdish media outlet and yet he told me, without any sense of shame or irony that he only plays for Turks and Persians, and that Kurds do not understand his music and are lazy, poor, uneducated, and so on.
Dismayed by his remarks, I asked how he could say such a thing when only recently a group of humble Kurds had worked hard to provide him the opportunity to perform before an international audience. “Oh, those educated Kurds are different!” he replied.
Victims Whose Only Identity is Their Victimhood
This second group, at the opposite end of the spectrum from group one, have numerous stories (all facts, some exaggerated) to prove how they are one of the most betrayed nations in the world and have had the most tragic history on the planet.
These people are overrun by self-pity and can easily burst into tears every time a new incident triggers their pain: the body of Alan Kurdi washed ashore or the bombing of a group of dancing Kurds in Ankara, for example.
Being submerged in agony, they lose sight of the fact that power structure has millions of victims in every continent such as Apartheid in South Africa, Slavery in America, Genocide in Rwanda, Bosnia, and Cambodia, the plight of First Nation’s in North America and Australia, and so on.
This group of victims take their sad history personally and are consumed with anger and hate for the ethnic groups who are directly responsible for Kurds’ suffering.
Sweeping every single member of the neighbouring ethnicities with generalization, a member of the second group slams any member of his nation who would refuse to share his hateful sentiments.
He may even appeal to exaggerations, make-up history to prove the superiority of his nation and belittles the neighbors. For example, if they are educated or have lived in the West, they may start sentences with: “I am not a racist, but…” and anyone who does not agree with me is a betrayer just like those in group one.
People Soaring above the Victim Role
This group does not use their energy in denying realities as in group one, nor do they let the tragedies take full control of them.
The focus their energy on creativity, education or activism to help their nation without hate or denial but instead with compassion and understanding.
These people see flaws in their people but know that this is the result of years of oppression. They mingle with individuals from the oppressing countries but neither look up to them nor look down upon them.
Kurdish community is blessed with individuals like these who humbly help their nation. They may be as well-known as Leyla Zana, the woman who proved that Kurdish women, despite double oppression, can become leaders. Or they could be lesser-known individuals.
In a speech given at the World Kurdish Congress in 2011 in the Netherlands, Leyla Zana stated that she often wonders what it would be like to be part of a group of people for whom the right to live is a given and not something to that must be fought for.
However, if she had to choose between being part of the oppressor or the oppressed, she would choose the latter because she thinks it would be much more difficult to live with crimes your nation has committed than to live with brutalities they have endured. Though I have paraphrased her idea, I will never forget her message.
It is likely that most of us go through different stages of victimhood, a desperate first attempt to belong to the dominant group, a sorrow-filled stage when we learn about our history, and then a final stage of helping oneself and one’s people through awareness, resistance, art and culture, or other means.
If you are trying to make sense of Kurdish situation and are not sure how to deal with a tragic past and an uncertain future, just know that you are not alone in this world and continue to live humbly for your cause.