As I familiarize myself with everyday life in South Kurdistan, I come across a lot of people that wants their story to be told.
It is true that most people keep busy by keeping track of politics and the situations that are happening to their surroundings, but most feel powerless even to a point that they would rather not tell their own opinion about the people in charge.
Many would rather have the old way back, to which they find comfort and a sense of being themselves. There’s a cross road of generations now in South Kurdistan and the generations themselves don’t see eye to eye either.
In Slemani, I had the pleasure of chit-chatting with a cab driver who had lived in Norway for a long time. He came back in 2004 in the wake of the economic boom that expanded almost every business in South Kurdistan. Hearing his story of building up a business of importing luxury cars which he made a lot of money off, you wonder why he is driving me to the bazar for just 5 thousand dinars ( Aprox $5 )
Things aren’t as simple as people might think, he explained that he was robbed of everything he had made. Not a robbery involving a break in but a robbery of all that he is. He said most people who are fortunate of coming up with an amazing idea for a business are usually contacted by someone from higher up and they would want their share of their “territory”. I won’t write up any names.
The current situation might differ from his reality that passed years ago, but there is still a struggle of the common people to find a release of “freedom” from the current system. I have heard a lot of stories common to this, so I find it hard to accept that many people find themselves powerless. But for me now is to share their stories.
I love old Kurdish music, melodies and words that speak of fiercely passion and love of a country . So when I pass this three elderly man at the corner Hanar(1) stand playing music on the stereo, I couldn’t stop myself of asking who it was they were playing. One of them surprisingly looks at me and says “Mamosta (2) Salah Dawda, xwa rahmaty beka(3)”. After that they found their subject and kept talking about the singer. Discussion of how poorly he died and that he deserved so much more. One of them originally from Kirkuk said he had meet him many times before his passing in Kirkuk, from which Salah Dawda is also from.
After a couple of minutes of talking about the music that was been played, I quickly asked of if they knew each other. The man with the Hanar stand responded; No, but we have been listing to this music for a good 30 minutes. He continued saying that he plays a lot of music and people love coming to his stand to just eat a Hanar and drown in a bit of melody and poetry. The others jumped in telling that many of the new age have forgotten this wonderful singers and listen to English music which most don’t even understand what they are saying.
They continued telling me that they grow up with this music and they found comfort in them in bad times in their past. For them it wasn’t just a wonderful melody combined with a soft voice that spoke of lost love, but it came with youthfully enjoyed memories. To them it was a trip back to the old days, where people lived a much simpler life and less socially isolated from each other by differences they created over time. They spoke of when they gathered with friends and took trips with nothing but music to spend days in the mountains telling stories and discovering life, now they said their sons worry about which car and phones they own, with a smile of course.
True that the next generation has changed, but I guess it happens over time. The Kurd’s however lived a long life of being connected to each other, where they followed their tradition above anything. Now this like any other “modern” nation it seems to change and a different society seems to form. A society that finds the tradition of their fathers generation as heritage, but luckily there are many like those three nice gentleman’s who still follow those heritages.
I walked down the bazar streets of Slemani and from looking at peoples faces i found the most inspiring stories; there was one that I really wanted to chat with. A young man with a smile and jokes sitting on the sidewalk polishing shoes. There wasn’t an opportunity to really converse with him as he was talking to his mates and customers, so I stuck around and listened a bit. His jokes were seasoned and he was a talker, which his customers rather enjoyed.
Talking about how this job made him so much money that he took trips to Europe and saw people polishing shoes with all kind of cream that could change the colour of your shoes in an instant. To be honest I don’t know if such a polish cream actually exists but I sure believed it then. As he was busy and some customers asked if he makes enough money now, he answered with a no and that he has another job which combined with this one he get enough to get by, but no trips to Europe anymore.
It was a shame I couldn’t ask him some questions buts I shall find him on my next trip. They say that people hide a lot of pain underneith the jokes they make, I would want to know his story.
Like I said on peoples faces you can tell that their is a story to be told, of course some are grumpy looking by nature and others are happy even in the most negative of times. There is always a story to be told, stories of a people who endured so much, there sure are stories that warms the heart, or makes it drown in a pool of sadness.
I hope these little stories mean something for you reader, I try to keep it as simple as possible. For some of the people I talk to, I wished I could stay with them and write a book about their adventures, but for now I will write about the little tales of every Kurd I meet.
Please try to share the stories of these people, everybody deserves to be heard, even if many don’t find it interesting.
To be continued…
1 – Pomegranate
2 – Teacher, used out of respect and appreciation of his talent.
3 – God bless his soul.