I am not Free – Ez Ne Azad’im

Azadî, Freedom (in Kurdish), is a word I hear very often. Kurds have been relentlessly demanding their freedom and liberty for centuries; these two demands have always been the blueprint of the Kurdish question. Kurdistan in its four different regions: Bakur, Rojava, Başur and Rojhelat, has been asking for its independence from the ruthless, but historically discrete, occupiers.

Today Rojava and Başur seem closer than ever to getting their independence; after all, they are in charge of their own land; governing it and making major decisions. Peşmerge are keeping order in the south while YPG and YPJ are bravely protecting the west. However, for Bakur and Rojhelat the situation is slightly different; their independence from the occupiers seems to be a mirage at the end of the horizon – embedded, in the heart of the struggle, there lies beautiful notions of hope, but reality often proves to be of a frustrating kind indeed.

While we should be more than happy celebrating the independence of one Kurdish region or all four, we should not allow ourselves to be fooled; freedom is yet so distant. Contrary to common belief, freedom is not reduced to getting rid of foreign occupation alone. Freedom is the right and the capacity of the people to determine their own actions; in this part of the world, it’s the one forbidden nectar of life which we ever desire. It is the essence and meaning of life. Freedom is indivisible. We cannot revolt against foreign occupation and stay silent about local issues and lack of awareness.

To our dismay, this kind of freedom is not tangible enough for people to wish upon. We cannot revolt against foreign occupation while keeping silent about issues central to our freedom. We cannot allow first world countries to exploit our resources. I recall a Kurdish woman saying: “History taught us not to fight the wars of others.” In fact, she is completely right but war isn’t only about holding weapons; it is also about those whom we collaborate with. For example, selling oil to a country that is denying a group of people their rights to be free makes us part of the war and puts us on the oppressor’s side.

Those words may cut like daggers but we should be honest with ourselves as we deal with other issues at hand. Our people are oppressed and they exhibit to notions of readiness to free themselves from these silent, or maybe not-so-silent, chains. Being free implies certain responsibilities; it forces us to be more open-minded and accepting, it forces us to respect the opinions’ of others in our surrounding environment. We, most importantly, need to rid ourselves of the engraved mindless taboos of our society.

Although the YPJ have shown how females are playing an important role in the society, the reality especially in the rural areas is notably different. Our culture, quite frankly, is a sexist one. Females are victimized; in many cases they have to settle for arranged marriages, their opinions of their future husbands do not matter at all in most cases, and they are viewed as an important part of the family’s honor. However, if they are sexually harassed they’re pictured as “guilty” instead of “victims” of a man’s animalistic acts. Domestic violence is frequent and it sadly seems to be a norm in certain places. Both in Kurmanci and Sorani, Kurds can’t verbally express the action of two people having sex, we simply go around the bush and say, “they are in bed together”. We fail to express certain things because we fear them. The existence of such fear makes our freedom nonexistent. Slavery was abolished many years ago, but women replaced them in a way as they are perceived as free labor; carrying on tasks that men refuse to do. In addition to that, the children she gives birth to get the family name of her husband which makes them parts of their fathers’ belongings, a mere object. In the Woman’s revolution, the writer, Abdullah Öcalan, clearly states that the freedom of Kurdistan will not exist without the freedom of its women.

Another issue at hand that we choose to ignore is the lack of accepting the ‘others’ in our society. Today, we hear about Kurdish and Assyrian collaboration. We hear about Arabs in Rojava getting along with their Kurdish brothers. Today we also hear about Christians, Yezidis and Muslims living together… and this brings forward brilliant sentiments of coexistent. Nevertheless, the brilliance ceases to exist when Kurdish families threaten their children so they refrain from marrying those they love if they have different ethnicities. The brilliance ceases to exist when Kurdish families water roots of hatred towards different religions of the Kurdish society: Jews, Christians, Alevis, Yezidis, Zoroastrians, Druze and Yazdanis. A Yazidi-Muslim marriage is a rarity and very often it ends with a member of the two families getting killed.

We respect the Assyrians yet we choose to keep our distance. Aren’t we all humans? Aren’t we all people of the same land? All religions preach love and cooperation, but we find that the hate and the fear directed towards others in the same society are our worse embodiments of tyrants. If two people choose to be with each other why should we prevent them based on their ‘ethnicity’? Why should we punish them based on the arbitrariness that blindly selects the families we are born into and the religious backgrounds painted on our walls? It can also get worse; some families urge their children to limit their relations to their own tribes since the others are less honorable.

Freedom comes from within, and then it spreads. Those very same people who admirably rose against foreign oppressors shall not be silent about local taboos. Reaching freedom is never without raising awareness and advocating responsible behavior. We need to be ‘more open’ and that does not mean ‘more westernized’. There is a significant difference between the two, and we should be proud to have descended from the Middle East and for that reason, some cultural practices need to be preserved while others need to be adjusted or totally eliminated. This post wasn’t intended to put our hopes down as a free nation but it, very hopefully, aims at encouraging the improvement of behavior and putting an end to the many menaces we perceive as undivided parts of our religious culture while in fact the only reflection they exhibit is civilization’s 5000 year history of “cultural rape.”