Kurdistan, a Forgotten Nation of 40 Million People: Kamal Chomani
Guest Post by KAMAL CHOMANI
It has been for about 13 months I am living in Bangalore, India. I am here to study masters. India to me, as it is, is incredible. I feel as if I am at home. People here are friendly. My teachers and colleagues are just great. I have to confess that for a student that is his first time to leave his home for such a long time, certainly, will face many difficulties, but no difficulties have hurt me as much as a question of Indian people ‘where are you from?’
I am from Iraq, but Iraq is not my country. I cannot speak Arabic which is the official language the country. Luckily three more Iraqi people are with me who have helped me to manage my Arabic. My culture is different from Arabs. I don’t want to look like a nationalist, because I am telling the truth. I am a Kurd! My mother tongue is Kurdish. My homeland is Kurdistan.
So, who are the Kurds?
Kurds are the original inhabitants of Middle East. They are the biggest stateless nation around the world that they are still struggling for freedom and independence. They have been forgotten by the world.
Yes, Kurds are a forgotten nation of 40 million populations. In India, few people know who Kurds are. I am really surprised when some Indians ‘love’ Saddam Hussein, the former Iraqi president. Saddam has killed more than 300,000 Kurds. He used poisoned gas against Kurds and killed 5000 Kurds in only one hour in Halabja, which is known as Hiroshima and Nagasaki’s sister! He mass murdered more than 182,000 Kurds in Anfal (Genocide) operations. The Anfal case is going to be an international case. Sweden Parliament has just decided to recognize it as a genocide act against humanity. In UK, Kurdish people have started a huge campaign to make pressures on UK parliament to recognize as Genocide. Kurdistan is the land of more than 40 million Kurds which was divided in 1514 for the first time between the Turks and the Persians in the Battle of Caldiran. In the aftermath of the First World War, Kurds were promised independence in the Treaty of Sevres (10 August 1920). But later, in the Treaty of Lausanne (24 July 1923), they were deprived in their natural, political, human and national rights.
Now, Kurdistan is divided into four neighboring countries in the heart of Middle East. The biggest part of Kurdistan (Northern Part) is under the occupation of Turkey, the smallest (Western Part) is under the occupation of Syria, Eastern part is under the occupation of Iran and the Southern Part has got freedom which is a part of Federal Republic of Iraq.
For the first time, Kurdistan announced a short-period independence in Mahabad (January 22, 1946), a city in Eastern Kurdistan in Iran which ultimately collapsed under repression by the Shah regime. The president of the Republic of Kurdistan, Qazi Muahammad was executed along with massacre of hundreds of other Kurds (March 31, 1947).
After Kamal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey, came to power in the post First World War in Turkey, Kurdistan was promised a kind of federation within Turkey, but soon Ataturk started killing Kurds. Kurdish people struggled against the new Republic of Turkey, but they were defeated by using the harshest modern technology of arms. The dictatorship of Turkey has been using all kinds of oppression against Kurds. Till the beginning of 1990s, even speaking Kurdish language had been banned. Now, over 20 million Kurds are living in Turkey, but they don’t have any human rights. Kurdish is still not a recognized language.
In Turkey, Abdullah Ocalan, the legendary Kurdish leader who is now in prison (arrested in February 15, 1999 in an international conspiracy by Turkish Intelligence Establishment, American CIA and Israeli Mossad), started a revolution under the name of Kurdistan Workers Party, PKK, an armed force founded in 1978, which started armed struggle in 1984. The freedom fighters are now in the mountains struggling for the rights of Kurdish people.
In Southern Kurdistan (Iraq’s part), the scene is a bit different, though Kurds have got freedom, but they have faced all kinds of atrocities under the hands of former Saddam Hussein regime. Kurds struggled against the invasion of British but they were defeated during the First World War.
Kurds struggled for their rights till they got Self-Autonomy in March 11, 1970 but soon Saddam Hussein, the then Iraqi president, withdrew his agreement with Kurds. Again the revolution of Kurdish people started. In the peak of Kurdish revolution in Iraq, Saddam Hussein used chemical poisoned gas against Kurds in March 16, 1988 in which about 5000 innocent men, women and children were killed. And then, the Anfal (Mass Murder) operations started by Saddam Hussein in which 182,000 Kurds were mass murdered by the former regime.
In March 5, 1991, Kurds struck against Saddam Hussein in what is known as the March Uprising in which they were able to liberate Kurdistan under the invasion of Iraq. But soon, Saddam sent forces to crackdown the uprising, but people of Kurdistan left the cities to the neighboring countries in a mass departure in which thousands were died because of cold, and hunger.
In Syria, still 200,000 Kurds do not have identity to be known as Syrian citizens. The revolution has started. Bashar Asad regime, the president of Syria, has killed more than 10,000 innocent people so far. Syrian opposition parties have held some conferences in Turkey, Tunisia and Europe to discuss about the post-regime. Kurds have been promised of a kind of self-governing after the fall of the regime. Now, Kurds have liberated some cities, but still it takes time.
During Saddam Hussein’s massacres against Kurds, people had no chance to leave their cities and villages. The thugs of the regime were going to the villages in the middle of night. They would take all the men and women and children.
The regimes thugs and soldiers were coming into the cities with lorries and military trucks. They would not differentiate between any. Basically, for them, it was only important to take Kurds and pick them up on the back of trucks to the lands of Southern Iraq to bury them while they were alive.
My uncle was a Kurdish freedom fighter. He was moving from mountain to mountain and place to place to attack the regime’s outposts. My father was living in his hometown which is in the border between Iraq and Iran in the north. He had no chance to leave the city, because he possessed family including five children. When the Kurdish revolution was ended in 1974, my father and thousands of Kurdish people fled to Iran. My uncle was martyred in 1982 but my father had not the right to mourn and manage a funeral for him, nor had he the right to gather with his family to receive other people whom they wanted to express their condolence.
When Saddam Hussein arrested 8 thousand Kurds in Erbil province from Barzan tribe, they were sleeping in their homes. They were not aware of the plot. Suddenly there were caught and found themselves in the deserts of Iraq to be mass murdered.
Those who wanted to struggle to escape from massacres, left the cities and joined the freedom movement on Kurdistan mountains. In Iraq, Kurdistan region is more a mountains area. The highest peak in Iraq is in Kurdistan. That’s why Kurds have a well-known saying “Only mountains are our friends.” To be honest, mountains are the main reason that Kurds still do exist!
The abovementioned are only few fact files in the Kurdish history which I want all Indians to know. I approach Indians in this article because I am here and it hurts me to see that they don’t know about Kurds!
What links Kurds and Indians?
There are some connections between Kurds and Indians. Perhaps there are older connections. There are many words in common between Kurdish language and Hindi. I think, this is the main reason Kurds love Indian movies, culture and films.
Recently, a very close friend of mine, called me that I had to send him back a beautiful Indian Sari for his fiancée. I went to the market and bought two kinds of Indian clothes. She wore them in the most famous Kurdish festival, Newroz. I later realized she has been influenced by Indian movies and film stars.
When I was a young boy, my cousin had a video. He used to invite us every night for an Indian film. He had all kinds of Indian films. I still remember those days when we used to gather calmly to watch an Indian film. Now, Bollywood films are widely watched in Kurdistan. Some Indian TVs are available in Kurdistan that people watch, apart from that, in the film stores, anyone can find Indian movies.
I was recently met a Kurdish student here in Bangalore who studies pharmacy. I was really amazed by the huge information he has about Bollywood stars. Later, another friend told me that student even can speak some Hindi and his love to India is the reason he has come to India to study.
Nowadays, India is a destination for Kurdish students to study masters and bachelor degrees. Kurdish students can be estimated as more than 500 students. Such students are spread all over India. The cities that Kurds are studying in are Pune, Bangalore, Delhi, AurangAbad, Allah Abad, and Heyderabad. In Bangalore, Kurdish students are about 80 in number.
Kurdish people love Indians. Indian films are widely watched in Kurdistan. I was told that one of my neighbors in my hometown can speak Hindi now since she has been addicted to Indian movies. I have heard some stories of people who can speak Hindi. Whenever any friend from Kurdistan calls me, or chats with me, his or her first greetings is for Amitabh Bachchan, or Aishwarya. If you look at Kurdish facebook users’ accounts, you will see tens of Kurdish youths have put Mahatma Gandhiji’s photo as their profile pictures. Gandhiji’s quotes are translated into Kurdish and you will see them in the youths’ status updates on their facebook or twitter accounts. Apart from that, tens of Indians are working in Kurdistan now. So, there’s a love of Kurdish people for India, and Indians. In response, we want love from your side for Kurds and Kurdistan, a forgotten nation. India has started investing in oil field in Kurdistan Region of Iraq. It is a good step to invigorate our friendship. Media should play its role. Hopefully in the coming years, we will have a better relations.
Kamal Chomani is a Kurdish journalist currently studying Masters in English Literature in India. He can be reached at: email@example.com