Wednesday, December 30, 2009

2010 through the eyes of Kurdish girls...

Like young woman in all corners of the world, Kurdish girls too have dreams and ambitions for the upcoming year. A group of friends shared their thoughts and dreams with me:

Lara Aziz“For this New Year, I wish that I'll succeed at school because I want to be accepted in a Medicine school in France. This is my biggest wish for 2010, and I will do my best to make it come true. I want to prove that Kurdish Girls are smart and they are able to have a big career.”

Narin Bahat“I feel that 2010 is going to be wonderful; I will be able to discover many new things around me and make new communications. I expect more political, economical, educational and social developments in Kurdistan. I hope to see so many happy, optimistic and excited faces on the streets.”

Ashna Sharef “First of all I hope to witness an end for women’s inequality and pain in the entire Kurdish society. And for myself, I hope to graduate and become an active member in Kurdistan and help to develop this beautiful nation.”

Reveen Muhammed“I wish Happy New 2010 to all the people in Kurdistan, I hope that this year will bring joy, peace and prosperity to all Kurdish people and I want to see Kurdistan flourish more and more in 2010. My dream is to become a painter as I have a passion for art, I wish to continue this passion into the next year as well.”

Friday, December 25, 2009

A Brit in 'Jli Kurdi'

My new British friend makes Kurdish clothes

It was an entertaining experience, when Jessy, 14 from the UK came to spend the Christmas holiday in Kurdistan with her grandmother who happens to be working here. It is her first time in the region, and the first thing she wanted to do was buy ‘Jli Kurdi’. We bought the material, went to the tailors and the second day this is what it looked like on her.

So proud of our culture!!
I am so glad that foreigners enjoy the experience of staying in Kurdistan, and it makes me proud and happy to have young people from the developed world come and be our guest!

Kurdish Santa!!

Ho! Ho! Ho!

It is Christmas day once again, and the atmosphere in Erbil demonstrates just that!!
Ankawa is primarily known to be the Christian suburb in Erbil, but Muslims and other groups make their way to Ankawa in the evenings just to enjoy their time and get into the season’s fun spirit. The streets all over Erbil, and Ankawa in particular, are brightly decorated, at night the city sparkles with light. Text messages are going though with both ‘Merry Christmas and a happy New Year' and Muslim Kurds are visiting their Christian friends to wish them the best.

What is amazing about living in Kurdistan is that we all celebrate special occasions together, a Muslim myself, but I am in the Christmas mood and spirit. The other way is also true, when Jezhn comes we celebrate with our non-Muslim friends.
I know Muslim Kurds who have put up a Christmas tree in their house- “it’s for the mood of the season” they explain, “and the New Year”, now that is acceptance and co-existence!!

Many of the shops and malls have been selling Christmas decorations since for the past month or so. The shops are all decorated, and it is not rare to find a Christmas tree in almost one in every two public places you may visit.

I just wish Santa came to our house too :( and that some snow falls to complete the feel.

* Picture from M. Kurdi -- Majdi Mall in Erbil, on Christmas day

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Breakfast of a KING in Kurdistan

There are often the simple things that we do not normally think of when we are home (but miss them a lot when we leave… even for a few days) one of those is the first meal of the day- breakfast!! No matter how rich or poor you are, I believe every Kurd has the breakfast of a King.

Not much of breakfast fan myself, but whether you are in the city, or the village (even better) breakfast has its own unique taste.
The yoghurt is fresh, and no matter how much yoghurt you have tasted, the one in Kurdistan has a completely unique taste. Believe me, I am not much of a fan when it comes to dairy products, but this is something that one must try when coming to the region. Now just imagine that perfect tasting yoghurt with freshly baked bread to dip it in- from the bakery to your plate. Warm, soft and has a special scent to it.

If you are in the village and prefer eggs for your early morning meal, than it comes from under the chicken to your plate (that does not sound too ‘nice’ but for those egg fans out there, I guess fresh eggs must taste better than the usual ones). For those who like Milk, then it’s from the cow to your glass (not too sure about the health risks there!).

The bread in the village comes in extra large size, but it is also very slender, it dries and then dampened with water a few minutes before any meal. Within minutes, it is soft and ready to eat.

Not long ago we stayed at the Mergasoor village for few nights, I must admit, the honey came directly from the bee hives. And as for the tea… you ought to ask for more- that is all I can say!

So no matter where you are in Kurdistan, city, village, home or the local restaurant; you are sure your day will be a delight, as every morning you will wake up to a breakfast of a KING.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Thursday, December 3, 2009

My time spent behind bars

My journey in Erbil’s women’s prison is one that will remain with me for a long time.

I first went to the female’s prison with START Social Development Organization for the Jezhn (Eid) occasion where we gave the women in the women’s shelter and prison some gifts, as it is also the annual campaign of ‘anti-violence against women’.

For the second year now the event has become an annual weeklong celebration, campaign and activities held by government and non-governmental organizations in the region. It is a time of year where major focus is dedicated to women in the Kurdish Society, and it was through this that I met the most vulnerable women in our society- those who are in shelters, because they are under threat from violence and women in prison, the majority of whom have ‘supposedly’ committed a crime.

As for the women in the prison, I had a chance to speak to a few of them individually, when I left I knew this was not the last time I’d set foot into the prison. Less than a week later, (in fact less than two hours ago) I was back there, but for a different purpose. I knew some of the stories had to be listened to and written for others to read and realize what there is hidden ‘behind bars’.

Each story is a tragedy of its own, each women with a story and each case can be turned into a novel of its own. Some are victims, and others guilty. I realized most of them do not belong in the prison but maybe in a shelter where they can be kept safe, I also learned a group of these young women were not guilty of committing crime but they are victims of ancient cultural traditions that remain in existence in some areas of the region.

I must admit I was proud to see the good food they are offered on a daily basis, they have air-conditioning and heaters, television and bunk beds to sleep on; but at the same time there are many things lacking such as sufficient number of professional staff. Unfortunately, many people do not realize the importance of working in such places. Many of the women need to have workshops to keep them busy and others classes for reading and writing.

One thing I found fascinating was for one second that I was in the prison I did not disrespect or judge any of the women as criminals, in fact the respect and love they received from me was like any average women I see in my everyday life, because I was sure that behind every crime and every story there was a deep reason and regret. Today I realize I was correct.

Read the next issue of the Kurdish Globe for an in depth report of life for women behind bars.

START Social Development Organization:
Women’s prison in Kurdistan
Erbil prison

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Najwa Karam lands in Erbil

After much security barriers and question and answers finally got through to the Diva. After more than hour journey of patience she was behind a blind wall in the VIP section of Erbil International Airport just before 6 PM this evening.
She was sitting calmly on a majestic chair, with a surprisingly humble voice (taking into consideration the singing voice she possesses). From firsthand experience I can say she definitely has sweetness about her and has a rather friendly presence.
She did not provide a press conference although she did express her delight to be in Kurdistan, in exact words she said “Erbil el Habiba”, or the ‘beloved Erbil”, she also hoped her visit will open doors for other artists to also visit the region.
I had no opportunity but I wanted to ask her about her roots and background, as some argue she has Kurdish blood within her, and the fact that her husband was a Kurd. It would have been to see what she says regarding the secret of why Kurds seem to like her so much.

Generally, personally I think she is one of the greatest Arab voices there is, and if there is any Lebanese artist that I respect it is her, simply because of her music, choice of songs she sings and more importantly behind the pretty face is a strong personality!!

* all pics were taken by Sazan M. Mandalawi