Saturday, November 15, 2008


Our class trip to Halabja...
A memory to be remembered...
In Security Studies with our professor Caterina Tsoukala we went on a trip to Halabja, in the exact place where thousands died as a result of Saddam's Chemical weapons. it was over four hours drive to Halabja, as we drove through Koya and Sulaimani. We had an 'unsteady' start with the girls arriving almost 45 minutes after the set time, but the rest of the day went better than what we had hoped for. The experience was beyond words- laughter, tears, dancing, singing - we did it all. After lunch in the local restaurant (what else but Kurdish KEBABS!!) we set straight to the Halabja Cemetry, it is still under construction, yet we were all touched as the bus entered the large gates- THE SIGN SAID IT ALL:

It was tears and emotions of devastation. I learned hearing and reading is one thing, nonetheless, to listen and see is completely another. To watch the sea of graves, each with more that one person, some families of six and seven. Brothers and sisters, relatives, aunts, uncles and cousins...What caught my attention the most, was at mid-day prayer time. A local elderly man went and prayed by a group of graves... It was not difficult to guess he was a survivor of the catastrophe of March 16, 1988. This is the only place he could come and feel close to the ones he lost. Even for survivors, as we learned, the wound is deep, has not heal and never will...Two little boys with their note books were sitting near a mass grave... I asked if they knew about the catastophe. I was struck to realize these two youngsters shared deep emotions and beliefs regarding this genocide that has left everyone affected.This is a very well-known photographic picture that has been transformed into a sculpture. It is an elderly man in his traditional Kurdish clothing, who died tring to protect a baby child held tightly between his arms. We met the father of one of our students in University. He is one of the survivors living in Halabja. His eye witness account brough many of us to tears. Up to today, it was evident this elderly man is affected in every day of his life by a horrific past. He temporary blindness of his children and running into the basement for protection. He spoke of 136 members of his own relatives dying as a result of the catastrophic event. He expressed of his grief and wounds through tears as he recalled a small section of his never ending story.

As Halabja is in the process of being rebuilt, 20 years after the deadly commemoration I am hurt to see little is done for the innocent people. Whilst I am not entirely sure of any compensation but the way of life is still devasting to witness. I hope to return one day and see Halabja in better shape. It is a beautiful area, despite all its beauty during the day I spent there, you can not feel anything but gloom and sadness. The atmosphere itself is hard to live. Simply, because on those rocks that you step on, the streets you walking in, the houses you see... children died in pain, families suffered until their last breath. They were victims of an atrocious Baath political party, they were killed simply because they were Kurd. They committed no crime, they did not hurt a single person. What is the guilt of an innocent child, who knows nothing of this world, what is the guilt of a mother who lived for her children or a father who worked hard to bring food home that evening.... these people were victims of a genocide, that up to today we fail to show the world just how devasting the Halabja incident of 1988 really isOn the way back we stopped by a sculpture... the story behind this is very touching. Two young children; brother and sister. Were on the way to school in a winter's day, they were lost on the way and froze to death... Just another small story with a rich background.
Sazan Madhi Mandalawi
November 15, 2008

Saturday, November 8, 2008

"No friends but the mountains"

I had saved a large collection of beautiful sceneries and views of Kurdistan, these are just a is breath taking natural beauty?

Please note: All pictures were taken by Shivan Sito
With much appreciation

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Univeristy Life

Above: Students of Politics & International Relations (all but Jang & Lana) with our proffesor of History of Political thought- Dr. Greaves
Having returned from such a beautiful country such as Australia, today I proudly say "I am lucky to be in Kurdistan!"
Many would consider this remark naive and to a degree foolish of me. However, living amongst people of my own background, culture and people who understand me for me is like a dream come true. I will not deny the fact that if I sit and compare 'there' with 'here' there difference is enormous, and of course, life 'there' when compared to the region can be described as more than perfect. Despite this, something inside me does not want to return to my second home- not just in another country, but another continent- Aussie Land!!

I miss it.

But my life here is more energetic, diverse and special. I lived many years as 'the foreigner'. I had wonderful friends and lived in a very friendly atmosphere. Nevertheless, I could not fit in. I was not one of them, and I could never be. No matter what I did, I was different and no matter what they did sometimes it was hard to understand me.

I was brought up in a small family where from a young age I was taught what it meant to be a Kurd, my father would spend hours telling us stories of his experiences and the past of Kurdish people. Even living far from home, we were made to watch videos our relatives sent of weddings and other special celebrations. I was taught why I was a Muslim, and how I was a Kurd. I often try to think how I have deep emotions to a nation that I have only lived in during my early childhood...

Having this tie to your roots in any country it is difficult to manage every day life. Life becomes a routine, I personally found difficulties to engage with the wider community despite my friendly nature... no matter what I did contentment sometimes just didn't come to me. Often I would speak of our culture and beliefs to the girls, even though they never said anything, deeper inside I felt my reasons did not make any sense in their minds.

When I think back now, at that delicate and sensitive age, especially teenage years, I admit I at times did now have the 'courage' to stand up and say that’s who I am.

Coming back to Kurdistan was not all sweet for me (in fact the first year of my life back here can no even be described in a nightmare… but we shall leave that for another blog!!) now, I do not regret a single second. When I sit and engage in a discussion amongst my peers the feeling is unbelievable. I can express, and even if there is no agreement they understand where I come from. I can talk and they realize what I mean, because they share my background, they know the culture; they know what I see as ‘morally’ accepted or unaccepted.

This may mean nothing, but for a young Kurdish girl who was brought up far from her own soil the feeling is much beyond description and words. Inside I often feel I had a jar and the lid was on, now it is all bursting out. It is by no means all delightful but university life in Kurdistan, for me, is indeed a learning experience like no other.

No matter how much I am open minded, flexible and tolerant of all cultures, beliefs and in many issues. I am a Kurd, I often talk with emotions and no rational or logical thought, I talk from the heart and some times give no reasonable or scientific justification. But I am proud to be just that. I am proud to have fond to these traditions to these values, some of which have been passed down from many generations before.

To end… all I can say is that no matter where I was, (on the other side of the globe & hemisphere) home is home. My home may not be perfect but the beauties it offers me is enough to keep me happy… meanwhile Dr. Greaves lesson today was rather difficult to grasp- Aristotle, My telos is living happily in my home country, hehehehehe I think I have learned something today, it really does allow for your mind to wake up and function!!
Sazan Mandalawi