Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Class of 2010!

July 10th marked our graduation at the University of Kurdistan- Hawler. I had the honor of giving the students' commencement speech. For this blog I thought it would be a good idea to write to you what I said, and here it is:

Vice chancellor, distinguished guests, professors and lecturers, parents, siblings, relatives, friends and last but definitely not least the class of 2010!

Good evening,

In one of our initial classes on political philosophy, it was Dr. Greaves who introduced us to John Lock and his ideas of the Tabula Rasa- he said the human mind is like a white paper and with education it begins to be filled. That is how I can sum-up our educational journey in the University of Kurdistan Hawler, a Tabula Rasa that is now filled with knowledge, information, experience and most importantly lessons for life.

For most of us we leaped into an education system unfamiliar in many ways, like the Greek Philosopher Aristotle wrote, “The root of education is better but the fruit is sweet”. We certainly tasted much bitterness in our four year journey.

We wrote essays and undertook research in a different language and we endured the many changes of the university. But here we are today, in what seemed like a never ending voyage, has come to its end with a blink of an eye. The sleepless nights have paid off. We conquered C++ and eradicated plagiarism. Every single one of us, as we receive our degrees we know too well that we have put our hearts and souls into this. The fruit is indeed very sweet.

As I stand here and look into your sparkling eyes, I have flashbacks of our time in UKH. Together in the past four years we have laughed, cried, danced and mourned. The university became a second home, and the students a second family.

It is difficult to say good bye and know that our paths will leads us to different directions. Goodbye is undeniably that saddest and hardest word we will ever say. But for all of us this is the beginning of another road, and we ought to be excited because the future is waiting for us.

I don’t want to say something cliché like UKH gave me wings to fly, no. In fact UKH did not give me wings, although it taught me how to fly, how to keep flying in the sky and how to take off from the ground. Isn’t this the best way to be equipped to face the world?

We quoted and cited many scholars. Soon our names will be on the back page of essay papers cited as references. Days will come where our books will be on library shelves, and our decisions and actions will influence not only us, but our society, for so many people, their future is in our hands!

As we climb the ladder to the top we should not forget what it was that originally began our journey. Dreams at the back of the mind of our grandparents are reality today. As victims of genocide, ethnic cleansing and people who were forbidden to dress in our traditional clothing and speak our mother tongue, today we are empowered by education to secure our identity and existence.

Over two decades ago our future lay in the hands of cruel regimes that detested who we were. Those days are over, today, as young people full of hopes and dreams, the future is in our hands, the future is ours! We are in control of our future, because we are empowered by quality education.

We believe that we are what Kurdistan needs!
We believe we have the audacity to confront and take on any challenge!
We believe this nation can stand on its feet and teach the world many things!
We believe we have the potential to accomplish what is otherwise the impossible!
And we must believe the future is in our hands!

Class of 2010, finally I want to remind you of what Elenour Roosevelt said “the future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams” my message to you this evening is “let your dreams take you to the mountain peeks of Kurdistan” together we can move a mountain. You must have dreams not just for yourself, but for this region, because after all the future is ours.

Ladies and gentle man, distinguished guests, I assure you, today the University of Kurdistan- Hawler has just unleashed a new millennium of young people who are eager for prosperity, development, success and who will make fruitful citizens of this society. The university has cultivated seeds that will be trees of the forest in the years to come.

To the first undergraduates of an English language University in Iraq!
To the future leaders, decision makers and visionaries!
To the class of 2010!
Yes! We graduated!
Yes! The future is ours!

Thanks to Photographer S. Hamed
Speech by- me!!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Summer days!

The weather is really hot! And life here seems to begin after 6 p.m. Although if you are like me and can never take a mid-day nap and can’t stay up after 10 p.m. then summer still has its good side in Kurdistan.

When life gets busy with exam, exam results, an unexpected viva voce, and of course the World Cup then you can forget about a social life no matter where you are in the world, including Kurdistan.

I have not been blogging for a while, not because nothing has happened. Believe me in my part of the world there is something new and interesting every day but just did not get around to sitting down and writing something.

Since I am here now let us recap my series of quests since the last entry:
Quest I: Met Boran Zaza, a talented female musician, only 18, Zaza is already juggling a hectic life of a musician. I had the chance to catch up with her in the Institute of Fine Arts in Erbil where she was playing behind her piano. A young girl with boundless talent and ambitions in her life, her day begins at 6 a.m. and does not end till past midnight (and I thought I was a busy bee).

I am always proud to see young girls like her having goals in their life and doing the impossible to achieve them. Zaza admitted it is never easy to be a female (even worse a female musician) in any Middle Eastern culture and achieve your goals without confrontations. “There are always limits and boundaries… but we just have to push forward” she told me.

Zaza is one of the many young females in Kurdistan who have set their goals in life and are doing the impossible to reach their dreams. Although she is a role model for those still at the beginning of their journey, when I listened to her playing the piano I began to shiver. The softness of this young girl, the way she fulfills her job, her volunteering, her dedication to what she loved was inspiring, even to me! Keep an eye for Boran Zaza in the near future, a rising star who is reaching the sky on her own!

Quest II: Between the end of the exams and the time results came out Y-Peer Kurdistan undertook a series of workshops, it was an interesting three days and I tried to train young people about women’s rights, inequality, public speaking and awareness of other issues in the Sorani dialect, it went great. I must say I am very proud of the team who voluntarily work hard just to raise awareness and increase the confidence of youth to be able to leave their homes and be part of the process in building their society. I shamefully forgot about the second set of workshops (because the second round was after my results came out!)* but there is a lot of Y-Peer activity coming up including an environment awareness campaign later this month!! (Keep an eye out)

Quest III: I thought it was time for another visit to the nursing home, after I began thinking of Daya Gulizard at the elderly people’s home in Erbil. We had been planning to take another trip for a while, but were busy with exams (that’s no excuse I know) so Bewar ** and I prepared some sweets, snacks and off we went. Met our elderly friends, got lots of hugs, we spoke for a while, laughed and cried.

I still think there is a lot that can be done for these elderlies. I feel as though people are just waiting for them to die. They are wonderful individuals who need love and care. Our trip lasted just over two hours, Bewar and I sat in the garden with a group of them after going around to every single room (hint: elderlies absolutely LOVE sweets) with our goodies, almost all of them wanted long conversations –and we tried our best--. I feel so great when I visit the elderlies in Erbil, they love and respect me so much considering the fact that most of them do not remember that I was the same person who they were with last week. I think that is the magical feeling I feel every time I visit them.

Quest IV: With guests arriving from Australia we thought it was perfect timing for our first summer visit to the Bekhal waterfall. (If you spend the summer in Kurdistan without actually visiting Bekhal for one day then it is like going to Paris and not seeing the Eifel tower or going to Sydney without taking a picture with the Opera House or the Harbour Bridge—simply, you better GO!) I will not write much about this special adventure, instead will put a post exclusively on Bekhal!!

Quest V: After a hectic week I thought I should spend the day at home, I completed Elizabeth Gilbert’s book: Eat Pray Love (if you are a young girl and have not read it yet then you BETTER get your hands on a copy). After much reading and seeing that ‘she lives happily ever after’ my stomach began to rumble, with no one at home but a brother who is no better than I am in cooking I thought it was time. Time to cook my first PROPER meal (I should footnote this section and state that: I consider myself a typical Kurdish girl although when it comes to cooking it is the one thing that I just can’t get right, which is opposite to most Kurdish girls who can cook up the most mouthwatering meal in less than an hour). Anyhow, I called my aunt for instructions and recipe and made the famous Brnj & Bamya without burning the kitchen or breaking a plate. For further information on my cooking adventure just ask my family. I’m officially a chef!

The point is that there is so much out there for a Kurdish girl to do these days, if only she had support and the encouragement from family and relatives. There is a lot to discover in our society and so much that we can give to the community that we live in. it’s a beautiful world here, if we only see the bright side of life.

*Not that I did really bad- but there’s a long story you surely wouldn’t want to read about.

**A friend who I wish you could meet. Sweet, kind, intelligent and with heart like no other!