I always enjoy talking to people to understand how their minds tick and what their desires are. I aim not to ask people questions but just have a conversation, where we both share a time of cleansing our minds of thoughts that bother us. These are the moments which you really start to understand the goals and ambitions of men.
It has been 2 weeks since i landed back in Hawler, this time I came back for a longer stay then my usual month or two. I came back to fully participate in the Kurdish society, and share their everyday life.
Now let me make it clear that unfortunately for me who has had plans to go to North Kurdistan for a long time, I can only share my experience in South Kurdistan. I have visited West and east Kurdistan in the past but I was a child and many things have changed since then.
Like I said i love sharing a conversation with the locals. I’m a Kurd myself but I don’t find it fair to call myself a local just yet because i have lived abroad for a long time. The experiences and hardship of surviving has been much different for them.
The following stories are not connected as they are presented individually. These stories came from conversations, they were not interviewed nor asked questions.
First conversation which I found interesting was at a cafe on the road between Kerkuk and Sulaimani. The cafe owner; a large man that was rocking a moustache greets us in a very polite manner. While he sees me having my camera in my hands and looking very pale without my beard, he asks me if I had returned from abroad, I said yes to which he replied ‘why have you come back to this hell?’ We talked for about twenty minutes together, as he didn’t really get that many costumers and I wasn’t in much of a hurry.
Now he may have asked why I had come back to this hellish place, he was very proud of being a Kurd and was ready to serve his country if necessary in this difficult time. Usually, in every Kurdish conversation there is always the talk of politics, but not this one — he had left the idea of following a political party. He was a very proud man, talking about how his family survived the 80’s and early 90’s without actually having a single possession and now owning his own business. His business isn’t a goldmine and probably wouldn’t get rich out of it but he had enough money to support his family and send his children to school. An accomplishment for him to be proud of, and so he was.
While there is a state of confusion of what the future beholds in this country, people don’t stop actually planning for the future, especially school wise. They repeatedly say, without school you have no future. While education is very important, they seem to focus too much on getting their paper than actually do what they know best.
A couple of days ago I went to renew my ID card, there I meet a wonderful grey haired lady, her jokes seasoned over the years she had been alive but her wrinkles and even her smile showed many painful events in her past. When the jokes ended and she started to share stories of the past randomly — the room cleared of any noise. I found some courage to ask her of what kind of life she endured. The stories poured down on her soul as she was waiting to talk about them for quite some time. Born at the end of the 30’s in a village nearby she talked about how she wed to a man at the age of 16 or 17, vaguely remembered memories.
Her life in her own words, meant nothing. Other than caring for her children she had done nothing significant because she had no education and her husband was a farmer. Living off the land and trying to survive the best they could, they had their ups and down. Times they wished they didn’t want to be Kurds because of the misfortunes that had grimed their lives. She simply told her story as if there was no minute to waste. Her husband died of cancer and she lost an eye working. She raised 5 children with nothing and had to suffer the loss of her son in the 80’s to the Ba’ath party. Soon thereafter she got back to her jokes and said that her life has already been done and she now just enjoyed her time with her grandkids who were really good to her.
When you just try to have a conversation with someone, they share all kinds of things. They have so much to talk about here, that they let it all pour down in front of you. They might feel ashamed to talk about really personal stuff, but when you really get into it, they tell you all their thoughts. It’s refreshing and hoping that they release a lot of frustration within them.
I have been on the road quiet a lot in the past recent days, the reason is for me is to get to know the different classes of people. The rich, the poor and the ones that are in really bad conditions.
On my way to Makhmour to get some chickens at the request of my mother, I stayed there longer than planned. Talking to the sellers and trying to get a conversation going wasn’t that hard. First thing they brought up was how the Arabs had betrayed them in Mahkmour and tried to take their possessions. Of course I’d rather not get into politics and ethnic issues, it is still hard to avoid them, a society filled with negative energy at times.
Next subject was one I really didn’t expect. One of the guy’s had some issues with their neighbours, because they were laughing and talking about him in the neighbourhood as the man who does the dishes and what’s referred to as a ‘woman’s work’ in the house. The man’s reply was ‘I would help my wife and children with everything, I’m a man but that shouldn’t mean I can’t help around in the house’. Many more of the men who were talking actually admitted of doing ‘woman’s work’ in the house. Although they recognized those chores as a female’s responsibility, it’s still progress within this community.
Hearing people’s stories is like a therapy session of understanding that your own life isn’t that bad. That we take for granted the things we enjoy every day. I wish to learn from people here and try to share their stories so that the readers might find some courage to push forward.
More to come.
I’ll be sharing people’s stories and Kurdish daily life on Instagram: @Pishtgir