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Ethnic

The problem with the Kurds
They are trusting to their own ruin

December 4, 2003
The Iranian

My first experience with a "real" Kurd (not the cousin of someone's wife that used to live in Kermanshah once, or the new bride of so and so that is 1/8th Kurd, etc.) was a few short months after the fall of Shah's regime. One of our neighbors had been amongst the thousands of people who took part in looting of Shah's army bases.

This was not an act of larceny or senseless vandalism. The two days that ended the reign of Monarchy in Tehran were filled with street battles as certain bases and officers disobeying their superior's orders and were defending their barracks with every bullet they had available.

As the other bases fell to people's incursion, many were arming themselves to either join battles in other parts of the city or to stash them away, expecting a retaliation of sort to follow any possible change of government. Perhaps remembering what had happened 3 decades ago and the first time they got rid of their monarch under the leadership of Dr. Mossadegh.

This neighbor of ours had kept what he had taken, despite the calls by the new government to turn the weapons in within days of announcing a new government. One day while we were just being kids, playing outdoors, raising some havoc of one kind or another, his son bragged that tonight "the Kurds" are coming to take their guns. I could not prevent my nosey self to stay clear of that and on that night, I used all the trick a 12 year old can think of to get an invitation to their house and be present at this historic exchange.

Shortly after a late supper that evening, the father allowed an old light-colored Paykan into their covered garage and out walked this guy in a full traditional Kurdish outfit. He was a towering man of about 40, with a sun darkened skin, a big moustache and looked as if he could take on 5 wrestlers at once. Kak Abdullah was the first Kurd I had met.

Within a few short minutes and after swiftly downing the mandatory tea served to every guest entering an Iranian household, some money exchanged hands and Kak Abdullah picked up the small arsenal hidden under a bed in my friend's room, opened the trunk of his car and put the G3, M1 and MP5, plus an army sleeping bag full of ammunition and grenades besides other weapons already in there and pulled the car out.

As he drove away, I followed him through the rooftops, climbing from one to another and watched when he stopped at the main intersection and picked up a passenger, a younger man dressed in what can be described as a peasant's outfit and then they both drove off. The passenger had obviously acted as the lookout, while this entire transaction was taking place.

Over the next few months after that, an all out war broke out within the Kurdish provinces of Iran. The main Kurdish political entity; Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan (PDKI), that was advocating politics of self-rule and autonomy within the borders of Iran, had been joined by other forces in the region in taking control of the cities and villages across the land.

The new regime saw this as a challenge to its authority and despite attempts by several political figures of the time to mediate the situation in a democratic and non-violent way, Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa, opening the doors to a massive operation to take back control of the region for the central government.

Thousands were slaughtered during this time and years later, I still hear stories such as the way artillery and tank brigades took control of the hills surrounding the city of Mahabd and started shelling the city and its civilian population at random for days at a time. Many families still have their dead buried in their own backyards as they could not leave their houses for a long time.

----

Fast forward to earlier this year. A few days before the invasion of Iraq I reconnected with an old Kurd friend. We had always had a close understanding of one another, the type you don't need to explain yourself to for mutual understanding. We had attended many events together before and organized even more. We linked and bonded through his party; the PDKI, my party; the NDP, and together through Socialist International.

He was cautious yet cheerful and very light-hearted. I wanted to warn him of the road ahead, of the way they will be abandoned and used again, the destination this path was leading to, where nothing resembled where they wanted to go.

But it was too late. He said I was not being sensible to think differently; Zalmay Khalilzad himself had invited them to a meeting in Turkey to reinforce their commitments and to ensure that the Kurds will not be used again. This time was going to be different. The Kurds will be running the show, they were told. Their demands will be front and center.

A few days later, the bombs started to fall.

-----

Fast forward to last Thursday evening. My mobile phone rings, it's him. I can't talk, being in the middle of something else. I ask if I can call him back, he says not yet but he only needs 30 seconds. I listen as his voice is crumbling. He says you were right. I take no joy in hearing that. He says he has had enough.

He had doubted things when Turkish troops were invited to guard their land but when "they" had asked Talabani to go meet Ayatollah Sistani and negotiate his approval, he knew this was not their show anymore. They are instruments of the occupiers now, officially. He just wanted to say I was right and he'll call as soon as he reaches Europe.

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If there's such a thing as reincarnation, I must've been a Kurd in my past life. How could you not respect and admire the people who have survived some of the most vicious attacks by enemies from near and far for a big part of modern history, yet have managed to maintain their dignity, their unique sense of culture and arts, their wonderful customs and language, and their distinctive outlook on life?

A smile is never that far from the lips of a Kurd when meeting a stranger, and neither is a song when happy or a scream when facing injustice. Kurds personify what every human being strives to be; strong, sensitive, responsible and sincere. This also is their main problem.

From my experience, Kurds can't fathom that others are not like Kurds. They are sincere to a fault, candid to an end, trusting to their own ruin. They believed Ambassador Zalmay as they believed many before him. They don't know how not to.
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