Friday, March 16, 2012

Ribbons for Halabja

One ribbon for Halabja, one of my dreams tied with it.....

To the dearest, most loyal blog reader in the world....
Tonight, I am sitting on my bed; away from family, relatives, and friends, far from everything, and certainly very far away from Halabja.
24 years ago, little children went to sleep tonight, they did not know that tomorrow when they wake up around 11 am the first breath of oxygen they inhaled would kill them right away. Tonight, I sleep on the eve of March 15 feeling depressed, almost suffocating.
The Halabja massacre took place a year before my birth. My father always told me that 35 young girls with the name of Sazan died in the chemical attacks of Halabja. A year later, when I was born, when dad held for the first time a tiny baby girl he says he remembered the 35 little ones who had lost their lives. He named me Sazan and dreamed for me to regain the lost rights of those 35 young girls.
Tonight, in preparation for tomorrow's commemoration I am cutting ribbons. Making sure each is equal size to the other, turning one end onto the other and then pinning the center. I worked on these for few hours, making the most number I possibly could to give out at our little ceremony and to anyone else I see at university.
With each clip of the scissors going through the thin, silky, black ribbon it is like a stab in me. I feel guilt. What have I done for Halabja? What have I contributed in the rebuilding, in healing of wounds, in lending a hand, in making children smile? I still haven't lived my father's dream in giving back to the 35 girls who I was named after.
I remember a visit to Halabja once with our university friends. Kak Harman, originally from Halabja led this trip, he took us to his family home. In the yard we sat down in a circle around his elderly father. He told his story, it was as if it happened the day before, he could see the details as he spoke. My colleague was lucky to live, but many of his relatives and friends were martyred. I recall looking at my colleague's father as he spoke, an elderly man as strong and as resilient as him had tearful eyes.
Halabja, I realize is the weakness of every Kurd. No man is strong enough to talk about it without tears; no mother can speak of Halabja without her chin mumbling before her head falls into the palm of her hands as she begins to cry.
You may wonder how this affects me. A Kurdish girl on the other side of the world chasing my dreams, Halabja I feel is my family. Those who left are my brothers and sisters, uncles and aunts. I am living my life today, but they paid the high price. Martyrs whose soul I pray for. But there is ghost over me, every year this time I am reminded that I have done nothing.
We all owe something to Halabja. We all have the obligation to contribute, to pay back in the many ways that we can. It is our duty to stand up, talk, shout and take action to bring the life to Halabja and its people, the life and future that it deserves.
With each ribbon I cut, I have a dream. A dream for the best schools to educate children in Halabja, a dream for the government to support local production, a dream for the new generation born with physical defects as a result of the attacks to undergo surgery for free, a dream for every father in Halabja to sleep without worrying for the future of his children and as I pin the last ribbon for tomorrow, I dream that one day I can feel the souls of those 35 girls proud of me, and of all Kurdish girls who lived after them. For me, right now, cutting black ribbons seems like I am only fooling myself. Though I know if by tomorrow one new person knows about the massacre of Halabja it means something grand.

Friday, March 9, 2012

My words on International Women's Day 2012

Dearest, most loyal reader...

The girls and I at the end of one of the sessions

Do you remember how once, late at night I couldn't sleep, so I wrote "It is my time" and less than two months later I wrote "My dream is for their dreams"  I wrote of how the idea came to me to undertake small group discussions and workshops for young girls in underprivilged areas in the city I was living in. Up to today, no matter what I do, and no matter what happens, deep down inside those days are probably the rare occasions in my life that I have felt "Yes! I have achieved something." After every four hour session with each of the girls I felt a change, four hours went a long way in the life of these girls. I felt loved among them, and it was difficult waving goodbye for the few girls who always remained behind and never left, until I left first. After a while I got close to these young woman, a connection was formed, I understood them more than anyone, as they found it easy to open up to me and express themselves. Either because I gave them the chance, or they could relate to me.

The girls in their group work mission
 I still remember when I asked the girls about their plans after school, one of the girls didn't look forward to completing her studies because she was going to get married immediately after. It was family arranged for her to marry a relative as soon as she finished her school.

I still remember the girl who said she wanted to be a police woman, but her family refused.

I still recall in my mind when the girls had a discussion among themselves and said they wished to just go out with few friends somewhere-- without their mothers' company.

This was one of the more serious sessions, where as a group we would listen to each other and provide possible solutions. The girls expressed their thoughts, experiences and emotions to me in many unbelievable ways. (Left is me, trying to take in what I was hearing. I know what it was.)
As I was packing my papers to the car, I still remember one of the girls who wouldn't disappear from my eye sight, it was clear she wanted to speak to me away from everyone else. I gave her the chance to by the car, she didn't hesitate to share with me a major dilemma in her life. "Please tell me what to do" still echoes in my ears. Before we managed to solve the matter a teacher came and told her off for 'bothering' me. Which I found ridiculous because I was there for those girls anyway.

I remember very well for weeks on my desk at work I had the hand written words of these girls who wrote on a piece of paper that "Bale" (yes) "I am circumcizes" they had undergone Female Genital Mutilation when they were young. How I wished to make a session for the girls just to discuss this matter, but at the time the situation didn't help at all.

This is probably the extreme end of the young girls we have in Kurdistan. I purposely chose to visit the most underprivileged areas in the city of Erbil. There is no doubt that right now, girls as such as a minority when compared to the bigger picture. However, it is the voices of these young woman I want to make heard. I want their opinions, way of life and thoughts to be shown to the bigger Kurdistan, so that we can help to build better lifes for them.

I enjoy working with such girls the most. I enjoy working in these circumstances more than anyother. It was these times I loved most, more than going to conferences and meetings. However, with this experience, I could sit around a table and say A LOT. But as much as I say, I have to wait a long time till I see a change. However, in my little sessions in an old, small room somewhere in an ancient girls' school in a unfortunate area of Erbil all it takes is four hours to see a little change that goes a long way.... I like to see results. Immediately.

One day with young girls on an old library floor, and another with elder women in a fancy hotel conference room. I realize in Kurdistan you need to balance the two in order to make a change. Work with the ordinary people but have a voice among the decision makers. (Me on the right in a conference undertaken by Kvinna Til Kvinna)

I am excited to return back home, and once again begin this initiative, this time my friends Bewar and Ashna will be by my side, and as usual START will support. START has always welcomed my ideas, supported me and helped when I was stuck.

Finally, before I sign off, I can't let this special day pass without congratulating Pura Gulizard, only God knows how much I miss this friend of mine who lives in the elderly people's home in Erbil.

I swear I tried fixing the pictures, it didn't work. Anyhow, turn your computers around, this is Pura Gulizard. Someone who always manages to make me smile... and cry at the same time.