Saturday, December 13, 2014
Info on Kurds
Who are the Kurds?The Kurds have often been described as the largest ethnic group in the world without their own state, numbering somewhere between 25 to 35 million in population. They mostly live in a region often referred to as Kurdistan, which stretches across the borders of Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Turkey. The largest population of Kurds live within the borders of modern-day Turkey numbering an estimated 15 million people, followed by Iran, Iraq, and Syria. They are the fourth largest ethnic group in the Middle East after the Arabs, Persians and Turks.
The Kurds have been the victims of subjugation by neighboring peoples for most of their history. In the four main present-day countries in which they live, Kurds have fell victim to various discriminatory policies of oppression. They have been subject to some of the worst atrocities of mankind including ethnic cleansing and mass graves, genocide, chemical attacks and other bombings, the ban of their language and culture, displacements, the destructions of their lands, homes and properties, restrictions on social, political, and economical rights, and the burdens of poverty. The Kurds have attempted to set up their own nation-state several times throughout the 20th century but their efforts have been short of success every time.
Following World War I and the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, the Allied powers drafted the Treaty of Sèvres to solidify the partitioning of the empire and to create nation-states throughout the region. The treaty contained provisions requiring Turkey to grant sovereignty to Arab Asia and North Africa, an independent Armenia, an autonomous Kurdistan, and Greek control over the Aegean islands commanding the Dardanelles. As a result of disagreements between the Allies, as well as a strong nationalist Turkish movement that opposed several of the required provisions, the Treaty of Sèvres was annulled and eventually replaced by the Treaty of Lausanne. This new treaty excluded any mention of the Kurds’ right to self-determination among other items.
The 20th Century has been a century of a multitude of hardships for the Kurdish people living in their indigenous regions. In Turkey, Kurds have suffered cultural discrimination at the hands of the Turkish government. The Turkish government refused to recognize the Kurdish population for most of the 20th Century since the founding of the Turkish Republic, and instead referred to its citizens of Kurdish descent as “mountain Turks”. Until the late 1990s, the Kurds were unable to speak their own language publicly and there are still restrictions defined in the Turkish constitution restricting use of the language in public and political institutions. Today, while cultural rights are still mostly withheld, a seemingly unending economic problem exists in the Kurdish southeastern region of Turkey with unemployment levels reaching as high as 70%. A prime contributor to this problem may be the millions that have been displaced as a result of the ongoing conflict between Kurdish rebels and the Turkish military. In the late 20th century, as many as 4000 villages were destroyed by the Turkish military – according to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre – causing over 3 million to be displaced with no government compensation.
In Iran, Kurds have also suffered economic hardships. The region in which the Kurds live has been described as among the poorest and least development regions in all of Iran. Kurds in Iran successfully established a semi-independent state with Soviet backing in the mid-20th century. However, the “republic” fell within a year and its leaders executed when the Soviet Union withdrew its forces from Iran. During the decades that followed, the monarchy put several limits on the social and cultural activities of the Kurds in Iran. Following the Islamic Revolution, the newly established theocratic regime suppressed the existing Kurdish movements and executed several Kurdish leaders in the following years. In the early 21st century, Amnesty International released a report stating that Kurds were the most targeted ethnic group in Iran, noting that the majority of executions per year are carried out against the Kurds. Many Kurds who have been arrested and executed over the years have been political prisoners and human rights abuses continue to today.
In Syria, the fate of the Kurds has not been very different than that of Kurds in the other indigenous regions. The Syrian Ba’athist regime has essentially outlawed the Kurdish identity in Syria by refusing to grant at least 20 percent of the Kurdish population their citizenship. As a result, many Kurds are unable to gain access to the most basic public services enjoyed by the rest of the population in Syria. Furthermore, they do not have the option of leaving Syria because they lack any internationally-recognized documents. Human rights organizations continue to report on the ongoing abuses against the Kurdish population at large by the Syrian government.
In Iraq, Kurds suffered the tragedy of genocide at the hands of Saddam Hussein’s Ba’athist regime. At the beginning of the 1980s, it was reported that Saddam Hussein had particularly targeted Kurdish tribesmen who were opposed to his regime’s discriminatory policies against the Kurds. In one instance, 8,000 members of the Kurdish Barzani tribe were targeted and killed by the regime. Throughout the 1980s, Saddam Hussein’s regime carried out a genocidal campaign called “Anfal”, which included chemical weapons use, abductions, transfers and internal displacements, identifications and executions. According to official numbers, an approximate 180,000 Kurds were killed. The most infamous attack against the Kurds during this period was the chemical bombing of the city of Halabja in which 5,000 people (mostly women and children) were killed instantly and thousands more suffered long-term effects. Saddam Hussein’s regime destroyed at least 4,000 villages during the Anfal campaign. Mass graves continued to be unearthed in Iraq in the early 21st century decades after the campaign had been launched in the 1980s.
Today, the Kurds control three provinces in Iraq in which the majority are of Kurdish descent. In the 1990s, most of the region was protected by the no-fly-zones established by the U.S., U.K., and France following the first gulf war, and the Kurds practiced self-rule throughout this period. In 2003, Kurds allied with the international coalition and helped overthrow Saddam Hussein’s regime. Since then, Kurdish leaders and politicians have opted for a more international role, building political and economic or business ties with foreign nations. The new Iraqi constitution recognizes the Kurdistan region in Iraq as an official federal entity or state. The Kurds have established a government called the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) that governs the region. The issues remaining at large for Kurds in Iraq is continued protection under the Iraqi constitution as a minority, and the status of the Kirkuk and Nineveh Provinces in which a large number of Kurds reside but are currently outside control and security of the KRG. Considerable pressure remains on the Kurds in Iraq as they negotiate with Baghdad, and are forced to deal with the concurrent and delicate relations with Turkey and Iran.
The amount of suffering that is experienced by the Kurdish population is extremely traumatizing and psychologically offsetting.
When people encounter severe trauma, it is normal for the feeling of "anger" to erupt like a volcano. Anger is one of the easiest feeling for a human being to identify with due to other feelings not being exercised. For instance, if someone is encountering daily suffering and sadness, they have repressed their feeling to be happy.
The anger is completely a normal reaction to such threats to ones religious and ethnic identification. The oppression they encounter is highly threatening to their identity and their ability to live life in a healthy manner. But what if these people are just not allowing themselves to be happy. How long can you hold on to anger without forgiveness? At what point do you say, "I deserve to be happy." The Kurdish population does have strong relations with family and this allow them to endure these difficult struggles, but that anger still lies within the self. It's all they know to be angry and hateful towards what happened to them and the discrimination that still continues.
This mainly applies to those who are currently living in the Southeastern region of Turkey. They don't have the freedom they deserve and they live in anger with the current political and social situation. It's not fair for these people to live like this, but this is the reality of their region. It's best to try and live happily within your own family and self. Living in anger is not a solution to any violence.
Wednesday, July 18, 2012
Heading back to Istanbul, I had planned to meet him. I had the whole Bollywood moment planned out in my head all week. I told the girls and they were very excited for me. I planned out my outfit and had my running and diet all on track. I was looking forward to it until that day...
The day I left was the last day of school and things were a bit rushed. I had just made the bus leaving at 5:30, which was scheduled to arrive in Istanbul at 9:30pm when he would pick me up. The metro bus(the worst bus in Turkey) arrived four hours later and I had switched buses three different times in Istanbul.
If I told an average, normal Turkish guy that I had been on three buses and I was confused on where I was going next, the average Turkish guy would tell me "Stay where you are, I am coming."
Mr. Bigg tells me to just take the bus after it was already 11:45 and the bus would take another hour or so to get there. Keep in mind I have not seen him in almost two years..Does anyone see a problem with this? I do.
Instead of being excited to see him, I was feeling disappointed and annoyed with the whole bus situation. He was waiting at the final station and after being walked around the station to the wrong bus and then back- I just called him and told him to not wait for me and said, "Go home."
I said it pretty rudely too, which did not make anything better. Being a stubborn man/boy, he hung up the phone on me.
These guys from the metro bus company offered to give me a ride to the bus station, but I had decided to just go to my friends house that was nearby. Driving in the car with these annoying guys asking dumb questions, it hit me like a ton of bricks "What did I just do?"
"Wait, wait turn around go to Alibeykoy." Pris
"Um we are on our way to Ayazaya and it is too late to turn around."
"Turn around." Pris
"We can drop you off near the metro and you can take a bus."
"Stop driving in the wrong direction, turn around." Pris
"We can not turn around on this highway."
"Okay just drop me off near the bus over there." Pris
"But we are in the middle of the highway."
"Just stop the car." Pris
Priscilla gets out of the car at 1am and goes off with her backpack into the street. She meets a nice couple who helps her get a dolmush to Alibeykoy. It looks like Priscilla is his last and only customer. Being extra nice, she makes friends and he says he will take her to Taxsim-Beyoglu.
I sit in Taxsim texting him from a strangers phone and get no response. It is raining, my cute outfit is getting all dirty, and I am sitting in the middle of Taxsim looking hopeless. These nice boys sit with me as they feel bad and do not want to leave me. I end up staying with a stranger-yes a stranger who happened to be a very nice guy-I call him my Mr. Mercedes who came to my rescue. He picked me up at the bus stop where I just sat waiting for a bus that never came.
I stayed with him in his home and he was a perfect gentlemen and he is now a good friend of mine.
Hitchiking turned into friendship=)
As for Mr. Bigg, he did not ever respond and he did not respond to anything I wrote for one whole month-stubborn, stubborn man- Arab-like yes.
Tuesday, July 17, 2012
Leaving Bursa was very tough because I had to leave two girls I loved very much- Angie and Sana. These two girls were both English teachers that I became very close with overtime. Sana was my roommate and we sat up talking all night about boys, our life, religion, and family-real, honest, insightful conversations that I appreciated so much. We would come home and have our tea time. She enjoys her English Breakfast tea I enjoy my herbal tea=)
Angie was my "team teacher." We both taught the same students so we created our curriculum together. We worked hard making creative activities, utilizing all her teaching supplies(she came super prepared),and we were so enthusiastic about our students learning and improvement.
Traveling around, I have been lacking that quality girl time gossiping and just being girls. It was so refreshing and totally unexpected to connect so well with two people at the same time. I just adore them and am thankful to have them in my life=)
Love you girls!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Pictures from Wikipedia.
Bursa is quite charming with lots of beautiful mountains, view points, cafes, restaurants, and historical buildings. My girlfriend and two new friends of ours drove to Mudanya, which was quite scenic driving along the coast. We past many olive trees, enjoyed chai, fish, and munching on sunflower seeds. Priscilla tried to learn how to open a sunflower seed with her tooth,but kept failing again and again ha.
While I did not run around the all the museums and all historical sights, I just kept things simple in Bursa. I visited the mosques, tombs, castle, and some great historical areas turned into shops and art galleries. I met the most lovely artist in town and we talked and talked via google translate.
I only went out at night a few times to cafes, while my girls and other teachers were going out every night. Bursa-great little city would not mind revisiting it one day=)
Naturally, teachers have their favorite students and mine were basically all the boys in my class. There were the most adorable set of twins(handsome and very smart). One can not help, but wonder what these boys will become when they get older. Asim and Atif were my also my two favorite boys. Atif was always enthusiastic and dramatic when trying to explain something in English only as no turkish is allowed in the classroom. And of course, there was my adorable chunk of love Sahim. He was overweight with black square glasses and he was very shy, but always very polite. He would always smile big and offer me some of his chocolate wafers-priceless.
My other class was not as great as my first class, but they respected me, which resulted in great lessons, enthusiasm, and participation. The girls were chatty and not as enthusiastic as the boys, but it is all good. The last day of class we were playing games, eating marshmallows, and dancing to the party rock anthem(boy that video is addicting). I still do not know how to fully do the dance. My team teacher, Angie, picked it up faster than me ha!
The principal, Mr. Fahie, was always so kind and had the cutest mannerisms. He would always squint and be walking around the school looking confused, but he knew what he was doing. He took us to the Whirling Dervishes dance one night as a school outing. We also went on a picnic with the students and took them to a lake for fishing.
I just loved, loved this school and this whole experience. It was very little money, but it was such a pleasure. When you have such a nice experience, money is the last thing that matters-really. I got caught up with my running, met wonderful new friends, explored Bursa, loved my students, loved the school, the Saturday bazaars, bonding with my roommates, long lunches, and cafe stops snacking on honey dew and chai. It was wonderful...