An historical account of the establishment of Radio Voice of Kurdistan on the 34th anniversary of its establishment!

Below is an historical account written by my father Omar Amini on the occassion of the 34th anniversary of the establishment of Radio Dengi Kurdistan. A radio station which has had great impact during many years of guerilla warfare against the iranian military and a historical period in Kurdish history starting after the fall of the Shah of Iran, a radio station of many which he played a central role in founding.

Omar Amini

Omar Amini

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After the revolution of the peoples of Iran and revival of political awareness together with the opportunity for free political expression in Iran and especially in Kurdistan, the seeds once planted by the great Qazi Mihemed in Chiwarchira square in Mahabad, had strengthened its roots. With the force that had been built up during the past 30 years, these roots sprung above the surface during these tumultuous times and manifested its force in the region, first as a delicate plant and later tall and regal with majestic branches spread out.

This was the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran, PDKI.  A tree which gave shadow to the people of Kurdistan in the shape of both hope and security. This was the case until the theocratic regime of Iran with the mullahs in the forefront established itself and started a wave of threats and violence and a devastating war against the people of Kurdistan and the PDKI.

A destructive war that would come to be known as the “Three Month War” started throughout Kurdistan but was heroically resisted by the brave people of Kurdistan and the untiring struggle of the Peshmergas of the PDKI. The daring efforts of the people and the Peshmerga forces led to an end to the war and the declaration of a cease fire by the Iranian military as well as dialogue between representatives of the people and regime forces. It would soon become clear however that this was no attempt at peace making from the Iranian side but merely a halt in military operations while regrouping and repositioning the forces. After the experiences of the Three Month War and the subsequent peacemaking efforts which did not bear any positive results, the PDKI gathered the Peshmerga forces and prepared them for an extensive revolution.

A modern and proper propaganda unit was needed for the developing revolution and the political work ahead. The leadership of the PDKI thus decided to establish a radio channel as a counter voice in the revolution and to both reveal the propaganda spread by the regime forces but also make sure truthful information relating to the ongoing war would reach the Kurdish population in the region. The historic decision was taken in 1979.

The Kurdish revolutionary with Azeri background the late Reza Xeyati, known as Engineer Xeyati, and I were given this important mission and so this esteemed and important radio station was built and moved on the backs of and with the tireless help of the villagers in the Sershaxan region and the attributed Peshmergas from the village of Ligbin through the valley of Babekrawe and was finally placed in a cave near the village of Keli Sershaxan in the valley. On 6 November 1979 I proudly started the very first test broadcast of “This is the Radio Voice of Kurdistan” with the songs of late Kurdish singer Mohammed Mamle.

First broadcast

First broadcast

Sershaxan and Babekrawe village was located in a very rough terrain and transport was problematic leading to difficulties transporting necessities for the radio station. Had it not been for the weekly attention of K. Sh and S. Agha as well as the late commander Seyid Rasoli Deqan, who was known as Seyid Resuli Babigewre, may he rest in peace, life in the valley would not have been bearable or even possible. Therefore merely two months after arriving at Babekrawe Valley, the decision to move the radio station reached me.

Also this time around, a great number of tireless volunteers arrived to help us. The people of Ligbin and Sershaxan came together and with the use of home woven rope and strong wood, every single item was moved by hand and on the strong shoulders of the helpful villagers. This time we moved to the Lacan region and Kelekokey Sere and made the green and heroic lands of Lacan the home of the radio station.

Moving the radio equipment

Moving the radio equipment

Despite the fact that the majority of the force of the PDKI was located elsewhere in the cities and the villages, my colleagues and I proudly took on the task of protecting the radio station and our newly started test broadcast and continued our work, being far away from all sorts of settlement and human life.

While I was busy with my duties as a Peshmerga and while continuing to develop the work of the radio station, the situation in Kurdistan had turned even more tumultuous and there were talks of the situation “exploding” any day now. Subsequently the different units and logistical groups within the PDKI started to relocate in the remote villages outside of the cities while the situation turned more and grim with each new day. It was during these procedures that the PDKI was labeled an illegal organisation by the Iranian state in an effort to halt the growing Kurdish revolution. Within the same period different groupings formed within the party which aimed at dividing the PDKI and regrouping independently. In the midst of all these events, the news of relocating the radio station reached me once again. My colleagues and I moved the broadcasting equipment of the radio station yet again, some of it by car, but most by foot and on our shoulders and backs, including the now full storage rooms, and began our journey for the third location.

This time around we headed towards the green plateaus of the region of Qelaty Shay and the Shexan Valley, opposite the village of Shexan, in the high plateau behind Hesenchep village under a hill. In houses built on stone foundations, with mice and snakes and scorpions as our only neighbours, we slowly settled in.

Setting up the antenna

Setting up the antenna

The selection of locations where the radio station was settled as well as security and appearance of buildings and houses built in these places was all done according to the plans and knowledge of Seyid Rasoli Babi Gawre.  It was here, that is Shexan Valley, we thought we would  remain permanently, or at least for a long time to come and so we started to settle in properly. It was also here that we, with the participation of late Dr Qassemlou and late Dr Seyid  as well as the Peshmergas of the PDKI, started the official broadcast of the radio station on 17th of June 1980 with our first radio program under the name of  “This is the voice of Iranian Kurdistan”. It has now been 34 years since that day and the sound of the radio is today still reaching the ears of the people of Kurdistan with news and information about the situation in the region but now under two different names; “This is the voice of Kurdistan” and “This is the voice of Iranian Kurdistan” respectively, but still with the aim of setting the record straight about the constant lies and propaganda spread by the Islamic regime of Iran.

"Êre Radyo Dengî Kurdistana" - This is the Radio Voice of Kurdistan!

“Êre Radyo Dengî Kurdistana” – This is the Radio Voice of Kurdistan!

This was a very short piece on the most basic events leading up to the establishment of this very important and revolutionary radio station during a historic period for the Kurdish people, prepared for the 34th anniversary of its establishment. There is however much more to be told and remembered in relation to the radio station and the work put in to make the broadcasts possible such as the unselfish acts of volunteers working day and night and the heroism of people making it all possible once upon a time.

I hereby congratulate Radio Dengi Kurdistan on the 34th anniversary of its establishment and hope to see it strive and continue to be successful for the future!

 

Omar Amini

Stockholm, June 2014

The Un-academic Nature of the Third World Kurdish Congress- A Personal Account of a Peculiar Conference

Attendants during the WKC 2013

Attendants during the WKC 2013

It has now been 10 days since the third World Kurdish Congress ended. I decided, while still on the second day of the three-day conference, to write a blog post about how I experienced the conference and the lack of academic content, which was very evident.

Before I develop my argument I however wish to mention that this blog post is in no way an attempt to undermine the efforts of the many volunteers who helped organise the conference, nor is it a critique of the works presented by the speakers or the attendants’ discussions.

The aim of this post is merely to give my thoughts on what I expected from this conference and why I was disappointed at the management of a conference, which claims to be both “scientific and cultural”.

The conference took place in Stockholm this year, in Musikaliska, a venue where mainly concerts are held, located in the central parts of the capital and it was held during 11- 13 October.

The first day of the three day conference was dedicated to opening statements, after which the first panel consisting of representatives from “successful Diasporas” was presented. The panel consisted of Natan Sharansky, Former minister and Deputy Prime Minister of Israel for a talk about the experience of the World Jewish Congress and how they managed to create a successful diaspora, and Jim Karygiannis member of the Federal Parliament of Canada for a talk about the experience of the World Hellenic Inter-Parliamentary Association and last but not least Kaspar Karampetian, President of European Armenian Federation for a talk about the experience of the Armenian Diaspora.

It is here where I start to scratch my head and think: “Is the first panel really going to consist of politicians and nationalist representatives of equally nationalistic movements in an academic conference?” But as it is the first day and I am not sure if these are prolonged opening speeches, I listened to the talks, many of which were very interesting, although un-academic.

The following Q&A session was not helping my mood in any way either, with attendants asking the panel;

  • how they thought the Kurds should go about becoming a state
  • what they thought the world community’s response to a Kurdish state might be
  • what they could advise us (i.e. “poor Kurds”) to do to achieve unity amongst ourselves.

This was truly upsetting but as organisers cannot be blamed for what the attendants talk about and discuss, I took deep breaths and continued listening.

The second really upsetting aspect of the conference however came later before the keynote speech of Michael Gunter. Minutes before, the panel was told that they would have to shorten their speeches as the conference has not gone according to the time table and they were behind schedule, but when Gunter takes the stage he starts with saying that he will not accept 20 minutes even but wants his full 30 minutes.

This is not what upset me, I have been to enough conferences to know that conference attendants always conduct a war over minutes to prolong their talks.

No it was the fact that the conference organisers, in this case Alan Dilani and KRG representative Falah Bakir, shouted aloud “ Not this guest of ours, he is a special guest. Let him have his full time” while pointing to the stage in a manner resembling old stereotype images of Ottoman Sultans half sitting in Harems pointing at their subordinates.

The looks on the panel members’ faces were heart breaking at this moment, but the show went on as if this was perfectly fine.

Next Gunter presented his talk, which was more a summary of the last years’ events in the Kurdish regions than anything substantially analytic and academic. He however mentioned these facts, which did not please the organisers;

  • The Goran party is an anti-corruption party- (as professed by themselves, no matter what one may or may not think of them).
  • The PYD is a political party of importance in Syria (Western Kurdistan) (Yet another fact, no matter one’s own political views)
  • Kirkuk will be hard to return to Kurdish governance no matter efforts that may be made by the KRG (Also a fact, although a tragic one)

After the talk the floor was open for questions and in normal procedure being the WKC, Falah Bakir was given the first opportunity to talk whereas he expressed his discontent with Gunter’s talk.  Not based on critique of Gunter as an academic though, but based on Bakir’s personal preference of the details of Gunter’s talk.

His main points for his harsh criticism were that Gunter apparently “talked less of political unity and more of party politics” which was his expectation as a friend of Gunter’s (!?) and he continued with the below points as a reply to above statements by Gunter.

  • Goran was a part of the PUK until disputes occurred.
  • Why do you say that Goran is an anti-corruption party, as if the rest are corrupted?
  • Kirkuk has not been forgotten so nobody can claim that. We are working on returning Kirkuk but it is difficult.
  • Why do you mention PYD in Syria and no other parties? They are not the only actor you see!

Gunter in turn replies: “I try to be an objective scholar. A friend tells you the truth and not propaganda!”

By this time I wonder where I am and whether this is a parallel universe where this conference is being held.

If that comment had been directed at me I would have dug a hole and escaped from it out of shame for what that really means.

It does not stop there however.

During the last session yet another peculiar aspect of the conference is to take place, namely the WKC’s annual report and KRG’s statement.

Why oh why is there need to dedicate one whole day, of a three day conference during which only one day has seen panels being held, on something the organisers and financial supporters could deal with themselves before or after the conference?

But it was held and the organisers entered the stage, shared some (long) views about their ideas for the future of the WKC, most of which first praising the WKC for excellent academic work.

After this, the microphone was sent around the room for the audience to speak and give their suggestions to improve the WKC.

I had not intended to speak but as I was sitting in the back and they were waving the microphone at me and nobody else was in line to speak, I rose up and started to talk.

I had not prepared any notes besides, in my opinion, the hilarious comments above. I did however give suggestions from my heart, as a Kurdish academic, feeling strongly about my homeland and wishing to improve this great platform for exchanging research on Kurdistan, that unfortunately has seen fewer and fewer attendants for each year since the first congress was held merely three years ago.

My points for suggestions were;

  • Could there perhaps be a board for next year which could deal with questions about nomination and future prospects etc. instead of using up a whole day of the conference?
  • We need to see greater gender balance amongst the speakers. I have several women sitting here who all have submitted papers, which have been accepted as posters but not for the panels.
  • Last but not least there needs to be a clear divide between politics and academia and in this case between the WKC and the KRG. This is not a political platform in which to discuss political unity in Kurdistan and how to achieve statehood for the Kurds. This is an academic platform (or aims to be) and I wish these discussions could be shaped into academic ones where proper analysis of the current situation in Kurdistan can be made.

I was still on the second point when a member of the first panel by the name of Jim Karygiannis started shouting and pointing my way. I had preciously engaged in pleasant discussions with him about his work and had formed the opinion of him as a social figure who loves to talk and gather crowds for good laughs over alcoholic drinks. You know, the kind of prejudice you might have of people when you hardly know people.

Well that opinion of Mr Karygiannis changed quickly when he interrupted me for the second time. I asked politely if he could let me finish my talk but he was screaming and pointing fingers at me accusing me of inexperience of conferences and claiming that this conference met all and more of his demands as a seasoned conference attendant and speaker.

That did not bother me as I had formed a whole new opinion of him by then, expecting nothing less than what he was delivering. I was upset that he was allowed to continue with his at times furious and static repetitions claiming indirectly how he was a better academic, conference attendant and “Kurd” than me as he was appreciating it all and not criticising, while I was interrupted several times and also the people that stood up and agreed with me.

I was also interrupted by the panel chair and ended my talk abruptly.

What follows next is disturbing as Mr Karygiannis is given the microphone to continue his harsh speech directed straight at me. Next after, attendant after attendant, with the few exceptions being those who thanked me for speaking up about the WKC, takes the microphone and teary-eyed they describe their love for Kurdistan and how they would do everything for that flag (pointing to the Kurdish flag on the main stage). This includes Mr Bakir when he finally ends the session, but not before he adds; “It is enough now. It feels like we are on trial here. It all went wrong with that first woman speaking. There are people here who can improve the WKC the way we want it. I wished some of you would have spoken instead. You know who I mean. But now we will end this session.”

I had suggestions to improve something that claims to be scientific and a base for academics working on Kurdistan or with an interest in Kurdish issues. Do not make this about a national pledge to let all evil pass by in order to save our Kurdish faces. This conference is not a reflection of me as a Kurd, or as someone who loves their country. This conference is a reflection of the organisers.

Having said that I agree with the last sentence of Mr Bakir. Let us end this session. And hope for the best!

Kurdish TV Survey

kurdishtv_banner A interesting research project to learn more about TV habits of Kurdish speakers in Turkey. Who watches which channels? See link below for survey.

Eger hûn li Tirkîyeyê dijîn û di televizyonê de li bernameyên Kurdî temaşe dikin, ji kereme xwe vê lêpirsînê bersiv bidin. Gelek spas.

Eğer Türkiye’de yaşıyor ve Kürtçe televizyon programlarını izliyorsanız, lütfen birkaç dakikanızı ayırıp bu anketi tamamlar mısınız? Teşekkürler.

If you live in Turkey and watch Kurdish-language television programming, please take a few minutes to complete this survey. Thank you.

https://tr.surveymonkey.com/s/televizyona_kurdi

We promised ourselves it would not happen again…

…after the Dersim genocide in North Kurdistan. After the massacre of Qarneqelatan in East Kurdistan. After the Amude cinema fire in West Kurdistan. After the Anfal campaign in South Kurdistan. After Halabja. After the imprisonment and torture of youngsters during the 1980s coup in Turkey. After the Qamishlo massacre in the aftermath of the football game in 2004. After the murder of Shwane Seid Qader in Mahabad. After the assassination of Qassemlou in 1989. After the Roboski massacre. After the Kurdish exodus following the uprising in 1991. After the assassination of our Kurdish heroines Sakine, Fidan and Leyla in Paris this year. 

 

Yet it is happening. Everyday. In front of our eyes, may it be through television screens, Facebook ‘journalism’ or Twitter feeds. We know what is happening and yet we do nothing. We say nothing. We are failing the ones we promised. We are failing ourselves as a group. As an ‘imagined community’ of sisters and brothers. We are failing the people of the West, as Kurds, as fellow war experiencers, as fellow humans.

 

While innocent people are being slaughtered in the Western parts, the leaders of the South decided that the only passage out of enemy hands should be closed. While Kurdish families in Syria are without food and water, Kurdish families in Sweden are discussing which fancy new restaurant to try the coming weekend. While old Kurdish women and men in SereKaniye are taking up arms to defend their families, old Kurds in Europe are discussing whether or not ‘the time for guerilla warfare’ is over and done with.

Image 

And then the always reoccurring questions; but what can we do? How can we help? What can I as an individual change?

 

It was an individual the helped launch the greatest non-violent uprising in the world, it was one young individual who took a bullet for her belief in educating women and opened the eyes of an otherwise sleeping world community. It was the act of one woman on a bus that set of a civil rights movement that would come to change much, if not everything. It was the acts of a group of friends that set of a national struggle and awoke a sleeping Kurdish community in the north.  It was the acts of one man, imprisoned on an island that initiated a peace process between the two giants of the Middle East. It was many individuals and small groups of friends and family who hid illegal immigrants in their homes in Sweden in the 1990s, who hid wounded peshmergas in their homes in Kurdistan during the many Kurdish wars.

 

We as individuals and groups of friends made promises to each other. To the people of our bleeding land. We promised to never let them suffer in pain again without us reaching out. Without us doing whatever we could to stop their agony. Their pain. Their hunger.

 

I am a woman of my promises. Let us honour our words!

 

 

Recent fighting in Til Temir escalates

The following report was submitted by Rodi Khalil

Til Temir is a small town of Kurds, Arabs and Assyrians, situated on the road between Serê Kaniyê and Al-Hasakeh. Despite its population of only 7,000, it is an important town because of its strategic location, serving as a gateway to all Kurdish cities in the region.

teltemirOn 25th April an armed gang, led by Hasan To’ama (Secretary of the Ba’ath Party Brigade in Til Temir) attacked the city centre of the town and shot live bullets to scare and terrorise its citizens, spreading chaos and looting shops. But the Kurdish defense units, YPG (Kurdish initials for Yekîneyên Parastina Gel, or Popular Protection Units in English) immediately intervened to stop them. The armed group shot randomly towards YPG forces, which led to the death of a child and one YPG member.

The YPG forces spread throughout the entire city and gained control all of city outlets. The conflict in Til Temir has links to the conflicts in Serê Kaniyê, which continued for months and ended with the victory of YPG forces against the terrorist armed gangs – including Jabhat Al-Nusra, which has links to Al-Qaeda.

The FSA has put a new plan into place to fight YPG, but different from how it was in Serê Kaniyê. It is designed to push Arab clans to fight YPG in Til Temir by persuading these clans that Kurds are going to take control of the area, and that they will eventually displace Arabs and divide Syria. The FSA is providing Arab clans with money, weapons and training. The result is that FSA’s hands are ‘clean’ as the fighting is only between YPG and Arab clans. The FSA then appears innocent. But in actuality, many FSA groups are fighting with those clans against YPG, for example: Ghuraba Al-Sham, Moota, Omar bin Al-Khattab, Ahfad Al-Rasul, and Al-Faruq. Ten members of these armed gangs were killed in clashes with YPG forces when they tried to storm the city.

The armed gangs have built barriers on the roads around Til Temir, preventing the entrance of foodstuffs, water tanks and medicine to the city. They even stopped Kurdish citizens at the barriers and insulted them, and kidnapped some.

On 30th April, eight members of armed gangs killed and some were arrested by YPG forces after they shot at vehicles belonging to YPG forces near the village of Ain Al-Abd. Two YPG members sustained injuries. Later, clashes continued near Til Temir and one YPG fighter, Hogir Qahraman, was martyred in the clashes, and more than ten members of the armed gangs were killed.

Military reinforcements of YPG arrived in Til Temir on Wednesday, 1st May. After midnight, Kurdish YPG forces attacked a barrier of armed gangs near village of Ain Al-Abd and killed more than 20 members of the armed gangs there, and one YPG member was injured. YPG forces gained control of the barrier.

YPG forces entered the village of Ain Al-Abd yesterday, 2nd May, and took complete control of the village. Later they went to the villages of Dardara and Mujebra to free them as well from the armed gangs. Clashes are still continuing there.

The armed gangs, including some groups of FSA, are persistent on entering Til Temir and kicking the Kurds out of the city, while the Kurdish defense units are insistent on destroying and controlling all the barriers of the armed gangs around Til Temir.

Ossama Al-Hilali, who led some of FSA groups against Kurds in Serê Kaniyê is now fighting YPG forces in Til Temir, and he is wanted by the Qamişlo court, and Kurdish Asayish are looking for him.

In a call I made to one of the YPG leaders, he told me that YPG advances day by day and they will not leave Til Temir. He also added: “We have enough numbers of fighters and plenty of weapons to defend all of Rojava, and we’ll win in Til Temir as we have done in Serê Kaniyê.”

/Rodi Khalil/

I Spent My First Newroz in 2013

Since the very first time I watched the Newroz celebrations on television, live from the Kurdish city of Amed in northern Kurdistan, I have been mesmerized by the thought of participating at least once during my life time.

This past Newroz it finally happened. I decided that this Newroz would be the one. Did it have anything (or everything) to do with the then rumoured speech by the Kurdish leader Abdulla Ocalan? Or was it the images of the early Newroz celebrations from the city of Wan that captured my heart and would not let go?

Either way I picked up the phone while watching the singer Ciwan Haco enter the stage on TV, live from Wan, and be greeted by thousands of expecting fans with loud cheers and slogans: ‘Biji Newroz’ (Long live Newroz) being one, ‘Biji Serok Apo’  (Long live leader Apo) another, as if they were each other’s missing pieces, conclusions or just like the water to the plant and vice versa.

Before I knew it I had booked the tickets, packed and was with a crew of six, boarding the flight that would take me to the utopia of my heart, which I was hoping would be anything but a utopia. I was so excited, so happy yet I was still miles and miles away from what would come to be the best trip in my life so far. The first Newroz I can count as having celebrated to the full. Kurdish style. ‘Kesk u sor u zer’ style (the colours of the Kurdish flag: green, red and yellow).

I have cried during this trip and cried some more. I have laughed on this trip and held hands on this trip. I have let my sentimental Kurdish heart be filled to the brim with goodness and kindness and Kurdishness and respect and everything that is good in this world and makes me want to make it even better.

My first tears came on the flight. I saw young and old, bashuri and bakuri, rojhelati and rojawayi Kurds on the Turkish airlines carrier to Amed, to celebrate a Newroz, which is still not recognised in Turkey.  I was delighted that we were all united in our wish to see the fire of Newroz burn freely in yet another part of our wonderful land, but at the same time sad that we had to endure the fear that comes along with having the Kurdish colours or Kurdish dresses in one’s luggage at a Turkish airport security control.

I was not worried about the over weight of my bags due to me over packing running shoes, comfortable clothes and scarves for the hostilities and clashes that happen every Newroz in Amed and the rest of Northern Kurdistan. I was ready to be a part of that. To partake in the resistance against Turkish police brutality. To partake in the unity that came along with being a group standing up to a bully. I was ready to say that I had been to Newroz in Amed and felt and experienced what my people experience every Newroz, every time, every day.

And then it finally happened. Our plane landed and as the plane acted as a taxi taking us to our final destination, I looked around to take it all in.  What I was met with was nothing short of a heartbreak. An abrupt end to an illusion I had carried with me. I am not a child. I know what is going on. I have seen it on TV. “Seen it on TV”, that says it all. I had not experienced it with my own eyes since I grew out of my pink pony pyjamas at the age of 5.

Now I was seeing it live and what was I seeing?

Military trucks. Military people. Military tents and military planes. My beloved Amed was a military station in every sense of the word. My heart was broken and I had not left the plane yet.

But it was to be mended as soon as I heard: “Hun bixerhatin Amede” (Welcome to Amed). I realised then that many other things had changed since I was 5 besides the colour and design of my pyjamas. People greeted me in Kurdish wherever I looked. I was home. I was finally home!

A quick gathering of the group, checking up on impressions and the warm winds blowing our way and we were soon in a car heading for the Sur district of Amed to meet with district mayor Abdulla Demirbash.

No appointment. No official procedures. No stiff bureaucracy. Just plain humanity welcomed us at the door, decked out in green, red and yellow balloons in honour of the approaching Newroz celebrations.

We met with this humble man, protector of ethnic diversity. Protector of minority languages. Protector of religious diversity. Abdullah Demirbash was wearing Kurdish clothes in a beautiful dark green colour, reminiscent of the dress worn by the Kurdish guerrillas. One of his sons, Baran is a Kurdish guerrilla, another has been called to do military service in the Turkish army.

“Baran’s mother and I cannot sleep at night whenever we hear the military planes rise above Amed. What if another attack occurs? What if Baran and our other son meet on the battle ground?”

Two brothers, left with no alternatives than to take up arms and fight on two sides of the same battle, within one land.

One land with its borders decided over on a negotiating table while fat cigars were smoked and middle aged men in suits decided what once belonged to one united group of diverse people, now would be cut into streaks and pieces between those whose lungs bore to scream the highest.

We thanked Demirbash for his hospitality and promised to meet again during the Newroz celebrations the next day. We left for the hotel. Stepped out of the car. Took out our luggage. Inhaled the scent of resistance and hope while a white minibus drove past us with  large speakers on the side proclaiming: “Newroza we piroz be” (Happy Newroz) followed by information about the importance of 2013’s Newroz, namely freedom for Ocalan and a political recognition of the Kurdish people.

This was our first day in Amed. I was already in love and I was already fearing the moment I would set my foot on the plane home.

The morning of the 21st I woke up, dressed up in my Kurdish dress from eastern Kurdistan with that specific waistband and shoulder shawl. The group of six all did the same, and as we were from all parts of Kurdistan except rojawa, so were our clothes.  While on our way to the Newroz field we saw young and old people decked out in the Kurdish colours and Kurdish dresses decorated with sequins and pearls, waving, laughing, and jumping of joy.

The 20-minute car ride felt like a few seconds as the anticipation was high and everywhere I looked, I was met with a smiling face wishing me a joyful beginning to the New Year.

We arrived. Went to the security control. Passed by a few police vehicles. Police vehicles that only a few months ago had been used in disturbing Kurdish events by the use of water canons and teargas. They were covered with dots, marks after stones thrown at them during past events.

There were the only police vehicles I saw.  It bode well for the Newroz celebrations but also for the always-unstable peace dialogue that has just begun standing on formerly crippled feet.

The event itself cannot be described. The songs. The yellow, green and red flags. The scene decked out in the same colours. The people in the same colours. The Kurdish dresses sold in the same colours. The incredible feeling of pride when 2 million eager Kurds sing the Kurdish national anthem, not once but twice in one loud voice. I did not know if to take photos, sing along, say hello to all friendly faces or to ease my goose bumps.

Newroz in Amed cannot be summarized by a 3-page retelling, or by a 10-page booklet or a 300-page book. It has to experienced.

You have to go and eat newly made bread from the people on the festival area.

You have to sit next to a “dayiken ashti” (peace mother) and let her tell you about the two sons that she has lost due to the war.

You have to visit the great wall of Amed and dance with youngsters singing songs praising the liberation movement and the Kurdish guerrilla fighters.

You have to drink dew (cold yogurt drink) and eat newly peeled cucumbers from a stand after your dance.

You have to visit the mayor of Amed, Osman Baydemir, and give your opinions on improvements for the city and hear him reply: “We are not leaders, we are the servants of our people and I carry your suggestions close to my heart”.

You have to answers questions of where you are from only to be given hugs and kisses and gifts when they realise you are not from bakur but from another part of Kurdistan.

You have to ease your goose bumps whenever they tell you: “You are our guests from our common land. You have come all the way from rojhelat to spend Newroz with us. This makes us proud, this makes us united! Bixerhatin, ser sera, ser chawa”! (Welcome from the depth of our hearts).

That is when you will feel at home, and realise that the utopia of your heart is reality in Northern Kurdistan today and that neither military stations nor over weight luggage can take that feeling away. You will know in your heart that in Amed you will always be welcomed by a friendly face decked out in “kesk, u sor u zer”.

A few photos from Newroz 2013 in Amed.

The photos are property of Shiler Amini

I Will Not Forget Helebce

It was 1988.

In 1988 we; my parents, my two sisters and I, were living in a city filled with ultra-nationalist MHP supporters in Turkey. We “were Persian” while living there as to avoid being harassed due to our Kurdish identities.

‘Kurd’ was still a swear word then and I learnt early on to protect my identity, from being exposed and expressed, but also from being exterminated and extinct.

I was 5.  I was trying not to speak when out of the house. Police were everywhere. I was told that they could hear me speak Kurdish and send us back to Iran so I kept shut and watched the police. There were so many of them everywhere.

It was still a few more months before we would come to Sweden and start a new life for ourselves.

It was a Wednesday and people were going on about their business as they would any other day except this day was the day many of them would not live to see any other days.

It was March 16th 1988, any other day everywhere else, in any other place except this was Helebce; “the Kurdish Hiroshima”, “The Kurdish wound”, “the day I lost my whole family”, “the day my body survived but my soul died”, “the day Omer Xaweri tried to protect his baby with his body but failed”.

So many names and descriptions for one city, yet not all of them. Only a few from the few that survived.

It was the day which resulted in the deaths of more than 5000 people. From one city. Of less than 80 000 people. That is 6% of the population killed painfully, slowly and coldheartedly.  I choose not to write inhumanely as who else than humans would do this to one and another, yet choose to label everything executed unsympathetically as inhumane?

I was 5, living in Turkey, being called “Persian”, having just left Iraq, waiting to go to Sweden, just witnessing one of the many tragedies experienced by the Kurdish people.

Today I am 30. Living in Sweden.

The Turkish president came to visit this past week. I was out to demonstrate against his visit. I was carrying the Kurdish colours and shouting slogans in Kurdish. I was not calling myself Persian. Police were guarding us. There were more policemen than protesters. I am used to this situation.

The Turkish president on a visit to Sweden. Sweden, which  just a few months ago announced that they recognise the Helebce genocide as genocide. People applauded. Many were happy and thankful.

Should we be? Should we forget that Sweden was one of the countries that had a direct hand in distributing the weapons used by Saddam Hussein in the attack in the first place?

Should we also forget about the use of chemical weapons by Turkey against the Kurdish guerrillas?  And the visit of the president of that country to Sweden?

Should we overlook that the Swedish MP Carl Bildt is protecting the country that is giving us the sequel to Helebce but in another region of Kurdistan?

It has been 25 years since Omer Xaweri’s baby boy died in his father’s arms. 25 years since I was hiding behind my parents trying to find an alley free from Turkish police to be able to walk home. 25 years since the pomegranate trees in Helebce stopped producing the fruit of life but the fruit of death. 25 years since the black dust and destruction silenced children singing in the alleys of Helebce.

25 years yet we are “honoured” with the label of genocide now. As that will bring them back, put the responsible behind bars, stop the use of chemical weapons used against us by others such as Turkey, stop the sale of dreadful weapons to dreadful states.

I am not ungrateful but please remind me again what I should be thankful for?

While bombs produced in the west are sold to the east and mines produced in Sweden harm children on the streets of Kurdistan, while plants growing kill animals feeding on them in Helebce.

Remind me again why I should applaud?

While police are hindering me from expressing my contempt against a state that arrests, imprisons, kills, tortures, rapes, executes and uses chemical weapons as easy as diplomatic politeness.

Remind me again why I should be happy?

Omer Xaweri with the infant he was trying to protect.

Do not forget Helebce is the reoccurring slogan this week.

I will not forget Helebce; by always fighting against use of chemical weapons, by never allowing another Helebce to occur anywhere in Kurdistan, ever again, by promising myself to shout louder next time I protest against Abdulla Gul, by promising to taste a pomegranate from Helebce at least once more before I lay my head next to Omer Xaweri for my last sleep.