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.

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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!

 

 

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Runaway to Nowhere

Runaway to Nowhere is the first novel by Kurdish-American author Qasham Balata. She was born in Duhok (South Kurdistan) in 1968 and now lives in Boston, MA, USA.

From the author’s website, she says:

My novel’s events happened during the Kurd’s uprising after the first Gulf War and their mass exodus from Northern Iraq to refugee camps along the Turkish and Iranian borders and when the western journalists compelled the first Bush administration to establish the safe haven better known in the 1990s as ‘the Northern No-fly zone.’ In my book I wrote about modern Kurdish history, tradition, and women.

Kani Xulam of the American Kurdish Information Network (AKIN) published a reflection on the book yesterday on the AKIN website and he describes it as a book about love, war, and the haplessness of the Kurdish woman.

It is about the cruelty of the Kurdish man. It is about the brutality of Arabs. It is about the fickleness of ‘Great Powers.’ It is about the dearth of virtue. It is about the absence of honor. And yes, it is also about the transience of freedom.

With some levity, the reflection continues and discusses how brides are chosen at funerals. They are chosen at funerals ‘one character tells us in the book, to avoid an ugly bride, for in Kurdish weddings, the Kurdish maidens put on a lot of make up.’

But it is a serious novel that tells a story of love and loss and separation. Xulam’s reflection continues…

It is a war drama. It starts off in a place called Mosul. For those of you who don’t know of the place, it is a dusty city on the banks of Tigris. But for the narrator, a Kurdish woman, who attends its university, it comes close to being idyllic. Initially, you are thrown off by the incongruence of the comparison, but soon you realize that even Nome, Alaska would have qualified for the same description. The reason: it is away from home.

Pray to God that war has not knocked on your door for a visit, says Xulam’s reflection. He mentions war and the mountains and their indifference to the young and the old.

In the words of one character, they [the mountains] devour especially ‘children under three years old and [the] elderly.’  Cold wears the robes of the angel of death.  Hunger and thirst aid and abet and thousands are lowered into shallow makeshift graves.  You can’t help but remember your Thomas Hobbes from college.  Life, as the English philosopher once so memorably put it, is ‘solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short’ in the spring of 1991…

Author, Qasham Balata

The reflection leaves us with a wish from Nareen, the narrator, who ‘becomes the reluctant chronicler of this mass exodus’ to the mountains. In a conversation Nareen has with her American photojournalist friend, Emily, she says she wishes ‘we had a united Kurdish state –a wish that will continue to live in my heart and the hearts of millions of Kurds across the globe.’

To read the rest of the thoughtful reflection penned by Kani Xulam, visit the AKIN website.

To learn more about the author, visit her book’s website.

After that, go buy the book!