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Home arrow Kurdish Region arrow A personal note (because the personal is always political) on the Sep. 25th Kurdistan Referendum
A personal note (because the personal is always political) on the Sep. 25th Kurdistan Referendum چاپ ارسال به دوست
vokradio, Los Angeles, California, USA, Cklara Moradian   

A personal note (because the personal is always political) on the September 25th Kurdistan Referendum

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Cklara Moradian

September 21,2017

Los Angeles,

 

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   Like almost every Kurd I know, I begin each day with Google Alerts: "Kurds," "Kurdistan," "Kurdish," "Rojava," "Rojhelat," "Northern Iraq," "Southeast Turkey," "PKK," "PDKI," "Komala," "Peshmarga" etc. The day starts out with a series of losses, a series of frustrations, a series of questions. What is the world saying about the "Kurdish Question today?" It's always a demoralizing start, on a personal and grand systemic level. It's epistemic gaslighting. My experience as a person is rarely reflected or accurately portrayed. I'm perpetually seeking validation. As if our existence will somehow be cemented, a little "more real," if a major newspaper mentions us beyond the old tired headlines about "being brave good fighters" and fetishized images of a female brigade fighting ISIS.

Lately, I too have been immersed in the upcoming referendum, watching in anticipation, reading EVERYTHING with conflicting feelings. By now, everything that needs to be said about the referendum has been said, by someone. Some "think tank" or another, some white journalist, some "Middle East expert" has said their piece, on all sides. People, mainly our neighbors, oppressors and colonizers, are spilling words of hatred faster than they can catch their breaths. Those who have always been silent on our pains (the security council) have now spoken in opposition. The White House has spoken. Some would argue that the very fact that the whole "international community" is "advising" us not to go ahead with this referendum should be reason enough to turn back. But when has freedom been handed to us? What has the international community done for us lately? They loved us when we were at their disposal in proxy wars, but now chastise us as if we are children. They cannot agree on anything else. Note how our neighbors are at each other's throats at almost all other times, except when it comes to the Kurds. No, there is no turning back.

Are my Kurdish friends (and those naming their babies Trump) surprised by the strong hostile opposition this administration has shown to the idea of Kurdish independence? Do you feel used after years of "fighting for the world?" There is also the untasteful fact that the people showing us public support are an unholy bunch (enter "Bibi" Netanyahu). There is the question of whether we have done enough nation building to carry through? Are we unified enough to do the work now that the time has come?

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I'm going to leave the politics to others. An entire generation of my peers studied Political Science, Law, Conflict Resolution, History, Middle East Studies etc. An entire generation of Kurds, many of whom are much more skilled and fluent in diplomacy, have dedicated themselves to the Kurdish cause. Many from diaspora returned. Many bright young minds in homeland are doing brilliant work. I trust that they will have more intelligent things to say about the actual politics of it all than I would. Instead, I want to share a personal note on the referendum. My personal note may amount to very little, which is alright with me.

I am a Kurd who can't even vote in this referendum because I was born on the other side of the border in Rojhelati Kurdistan. That in itself is a tragedy. To even begin to unpack what this feels like is an unsurmountable task (e.g. too long of an essay for facebook). Needless to say, the issue occupies my every waking hour. The feelings are even more complicated, because as a diaspora Kurd, I am so many steps removed from the reality of what happens the day after the referendum. I am sitting with deep diasporic blues. It never gets easier. It feels heavy. So much so that I have wondered if saying nothing at all would be wiser. Salman Rushdi, speaking about Indian writers in Diaspora talking about politics back home, writes: "are we just dilettantes in such affairs, because we are not involved in their day-to-day unfolding, because by speaking out we take no risks, because our personal safety is not threatened? What right do we have to speak at all?" But we do risk. We are tied, in tangible and intangible ways, to our homeland.

One of my earliest memories as a person in this world is an experience of voicelessness and humiliation. It is such a common experience for minority kids that sometimes when I remember it the gravity of it escapes me. Retelling it feels petty even, but I know that it is central to my identity development and understanding of the world. It also helps inform the trajectory of my life, my work, my chosen profession.

In this memory, I am maybe just 5 years old. It's my first day of preschool and I am dressed in my best. I am a social child and excited to blend in. I'd like to tell the story with details. I'd like to paint a picture of what the carpets looked like and what the air smelled like. But the truth is that I don't have much of a memory of that day other than this small impactful slice, this tiny life altering fragment. At some point, I really had to use the bathroom. It was naptime so we had to ask for permission to leave our bedding, laid out neatly on the floor. I walked up to my teacher, tapped her gently, and told her in the only language I knew how that I had to go. She didn't respond. She didn't even look at me. I repeated my request, this time pleading with her. She did not respond. I know she saw me. I know she understood exactly what I needed. But she continued to ignore me. She then very sternly stared at me and said "Be Farsi Begoo (Say it in Farsi)." This was state policy. I had to speak Farsi. I understood her. I also knew that she looked down on me. Those things were very clear, even then, to my 5 year old self. The rest is blurry. I am left with the first real taste of humiliation. With the feeling of helplessness. With the lesson. There would be many others. I would go on to stay in that class. This same teacher denied me water until I learned to ask in Farsi instead of speak in my mother tongue. I learned very quickly. Years later, when I have told this story to my Iranian friends, to illustrate what it was like to grow up in occupied land, the invalidation continued. They have been defensive at best. In their well-meaning ways, they have claimed me as "their own," cast this teacher as a villain with personal grudges rather than demonstrative of larger institutional oppression. Of course, these friends have needed to tell me that Kurds in Turkey and Iraq have been treated worse (completely oblivious to their own microaggressions).

Let me be clear, personal injuries like this are benign in comparison to the long litany of woes we have experienced as a people. We are survivors of genocide, of displacement, alienation.

Research (and there is plenty of it now See: https://newrepublic.com/…/trauma-genetic-scientists-say-par…https://ww2.kqed.org/…/just-like-my-mother-how-we-inherit-…/)

shows us that we pass down trauma from generation to generation. We carry our parent's lacerations. There is collective communal grief that does not leave our bodies. It shows up in insidious ways.

Those who criticize us for not being unified, for bickering amongst ourselves, for not being able to create the institutions and foundations of a nation before seeking independence are also quick to deny us our history, deny us the simple right to retell our stories of injustice. I am tired of always having to be a teacher to others, to always be told I am something other than what I am. I am tired of being distracted from my art, from my work, from joy because I have needed to prove that I exist. Those who occupy different coordinates of power and privilege don't realize the deep terrifying wounds that such invalidation leaves on our personhood.

The point is this: this referendum may turn out to be a geopolitical catalyst. It may be a strategic mistake. It may be a political mess. But on a symbolic level, it is one of the most defining, most resilient acts of self-determination and empowerment. We have the capacity for self-rule. We are not puppets. We have an independent will. And we now exert it to say "No More." For me, watching from here, it is healing. Soothing to my soul. I am grateful for it. I have waited my entire life for it.

Politically, I am deeply suspicious of the idea that nation state model is the solution for humanity. Independence will come with responsibility. If history of statehood has taught us anything, it is that "The State" is built on genocide and marginalization of those most vulnerable in society. It is of course never enough to be another failed state just to say we have a country. On a grand scheme, I (like many of my radical forward-thinking friends) wish we lived in a different kind of a world. I too hope for/ and seek an alternative to the status quo. I do not romanticize the KRG. I am deeply concerned with the nepotism that is rampant and the disenfranchisement of ordinary people in the region. That being said, I want a divorce from this ill-conceived arranged marriage. Kurds don't have to be part of the established states just because colonialism said so. I hope for an awakening in Rojhelat so that one day I too can say "YES" in such a referendum.

Ape Musa once said: "If my mother tongue is shaking the foundations of your state, it probably means that you built your state on my land." I want my identity, my history, my culture acknowledged. I want reparations. I want to tell my children that their homeland is more than an imaginary place in imaginary tales. There is so much frenzy and manic energy being expended on stopping this referendum. My people, like yours, deserve to live with dignity, with all of our intersecting identities respected and valued. I don't know what kind of state Kurdistan will be. I do hope that we build an inclusive one that is based on collective liberation and collective access. I am perhaps naïve and a romantic in my desires but it is a Kurdistan I hope to be part of building. I do hope that we challenge ourselves to do better than another militarized nation state. It is one I hope to see in my lifetime. My parents have been beaten for it. My family's blood has been spilled for it.

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