Visiting Southern Kurdistan Makes 730 a Reasonable
Dr. Artin Dec. 05 2005 - Kurdish American Education Society
Dr. Artin is a member of Kurdish American Education Society; however, his views are not reflecting the views of all members.
It is expected for one to not have a sense of belonging to a home, when the home denies one's freedom, security, and identity. I had not felt the importance of identity and belonging until I had the joy of seeing Kurdistan Airline's logo on my airplane
ticket. Although the flight form Frankfurt to Arbil was operated by Hamburg International, speaking in Kurdish with the travel agent at the counter of
Frankfurt airport was enough to give me a sense that I was heading home. The joy of my sense of belonging peaked right after arrival, when I had an urge to show my respect for the achievements in Southern Kurdistan by kissing the ground of the airport in Arbil.
Despite having few computers at the entry of the small airport, security procedures had to be documented manually, causing about a two hour waiting period to pass through customs. The organizers of the trip, had been aware of our spoiled lifestyle and had arranged accommodations at Sheraton in Arbil, a very secure and modern hotel, much different that the ruins of the historical Castle of Hawler, which had become a residential slum for the disadvantaged. A half a day taxi tour was sufficient to go around the cities such as Arbil or Slemany to a get a sense what these cities had to offer to a new comer: not only the people on the street, bazaar, and offices were speaking, reading, and writing in Kurdish, but the graffiti and signs of the businesses were in the language of the inhabitants, something that is only a dream in other countries where Kurds reside. Despite the ruins, unclean streets, and heavy traffic, evidence of freedom and tolerance was obvious not only by presence of veiled and emancipated women in public life but
also by offices of left and right political organizations living peacefully side by side. Nothing was more refreshing than seeing schoolchildren participating in cleaning up the street during their environment classes. In contrary to some of the western parliaments, a visit to the Kurdish parliament was only possible after a heavy security and background check. Calm and gentle welcomes as well as thoughtful and considerate talks of the head of parliament and some of the representatives and ministers about various views on current and future developments during our visit, was indicative of complexity of challenges that politicians face there.
While in the west we might criticize politicians for ignoring people's secondary needs such as clean air, upgraded recreational facilities, and low interest rates and gas prices, the challenges of politicians in Kurdistan include the primary needs of the people such as housing, health, and education, as well as overcoming the fear of what their aggressive neighbors would do to them, if the West leaves them alone again. Another group of people who have a challenging dilemma are some dedicated university professors and students, who are limited by financial resources as well as by pressures form main stream political organizations, who expect them to be party loyalists in order to make any progress. Recovery and prosperity is still another challenge in Kurdistan. Considering the traumas that cities like Halabja have experienced during the reign of dictators, one would expect that such cities be given special attention. Although there is a beautiful monument dedicated to the lost lives and sacrifices of the remaining inhabitants in the chemically bombed city, much needs to be done, in order for her to be called recovered.
Despite the challenges the authorities and common people face, our delegate felt welcomed, at home, and appreciated for our visit and for the points that we raised during our conferences at Saladin University and University of Sulaimani. It seemed that they hope we contribute to the realization of their ultimate dreams, which they still can not verbalize themselves. It is easy for us, in the security of our home in the west, to criticize them for not moving ahead with declaring independence. The counter argument is: what other developed countries have achieved in decades if not in centuries of freedom needs still many months if not years to be achieved in Southern Kurdistan. Prosperity, justice, and progress are only possible when people are free to make choices.
Even if we might not agree with some of the political moves, the Southern Kurdistani people deserve appreciation for creating a democratic home where all Kurds and even other free minded Middle Easterners, feel a sense of belonging. For now let's wish them the best and allow them to be free and make choices in the context of what is available to them, elections and referendums. With this in mind, I am not aware of any better option for December 15, 2005 but voting 730.