I am a Kurdish woman from southern Kurdistan (northern Iraq). I grew up in war and in violence and genocide. I was born in a place and a time where bombs fell too easy and people’s lives had no value. My earliest memories are of my family escaping Saddam’s bombs and playing in caves with my brother and cousins, in hiding – and watching with a small child’s wonder as the bright lights fell before the ground shook. And I remember being a small child and my parents wrapping water soaked scarves around my face as the chemical weapons fell on the town (Halabja) that we had just left an hour before. I will forever remember my father’s voice and how he looked as he told us that chemical weapons were being used. I was small, but I understood death.
I grew up in Iran, where I learned all about why the Kurds were different, and what it is to live as a minority. And I learned that justice did not apply to some people. I remember being 6 and shaking with the rage and the injustice of it all. And, I found out from an early age that even oppressed people found ways of oppressing those less privileged, such as women or children. I learned that education was my only weapon and my only escape from a life filled with poverty and long hours of hunger and fear. But an education which was barred and denied because of my ethnicity (And still my father told me to hope for the day in which I could be free to learn as I wished. “Study! Study! And learn! Live a life of wonder with books”, he said. It was a candle that burned many years later and never burned as bright as the moment I received my Ph.D.)
We arrived in Australia where I learned that being a migrant, refugee girl was the hardest thing a person could be- stuck between the borders of my oppressed community’s desire to hold on to our culture and the life I was barred from in the privileged Australian lifestyle. How I wished I could have been those blond girls with sun kissed skins and stroked hair! A life I could glimpse always, but never participate in because of the whispered words of women about the chastity of each other’s daughters. I learned to hold my power in and wait for the day that freedom would come- now not just as a Kurd, but as a woman. It was a long wait, and one I thought would kill me many times over because of scared earned, and scars unhealed. And yet I survived. It was my proudest moment- a moment which I commemorated with a Phoenix tattoo as a reminder that no matter how many fires that come my way, I always survived and rose from the ashes, shaken but unbroken.
Fast forward a few years and here I am, sitting in front of a computer and another sleepless night watching my people burn, my heart beating rapidly with fear and pain for my community as it faces another genocide in another part of Kurdistan- reminding me of days spent in refugee camps, in fear and facing the unknown – and hoping that if I share just one more article, that if I just make another tweet or another Facebook post then one more person could be converted into standing with solidarity with the long oppressed Kurds and the heroic revolution that is burning bright in Kobane- like a beacon of hope for humanity, bringing those who still believe in human rights, and minority rights and women’s rights, home. And even though I am mentally and physically exhausted, I feel an unshakable sense of pride and love and wonder for my people (and for humanity), and their perseverance to survive against so many odds- even as the bombs falling around Kobane still burn. And I remember why I survived wars and bombs and oppression and hunger- it is because the blood of so many revolutionary Kurdish women also runs through my veins! And all I have to do is look at the lines on my mother’s face and know what a survivor looks like; And I KNOW I was meant to survive even before I was born.
I am a simple Kurdish girl from a small, poor village in southern Kurdistan. But I have so many revolutions burning in my heart, and one day I will realize them all! because my greatest love will always be, and has always been, to leave this world just a little better than what I entered it- another precious candle passed on from father to daughter, a light now burning brighter by the moment! and because every moment of suffering, of hunger, of fear, of witnessing so much pain, of darkness, of knowing you were lesser for being a minority, or a woman, is forever imprinted in my mind and I think “THIS MUST END!”- and the tools of my trade is the education I was so incredibly privileged enough to receive- a sense of destiny fulfilled and waiting to be realized. And I will work, forever and a day, to use this tool to carve a gaping hole, slowly and surely, in the walls of oppression and misogyny and racism to free as many women, little girls and oppressed people and take as many people with me in this journey towards freedom and dignity- and even though, however small my efforts may be in the long term, I will at least die knowing I tried.
To the women, to the oppressed, to the silent I say: SPEAK! Speak and tell your story, even if you are your only audience. Let your love and passion and your story burn brighter than your pain and your oppression! Speak and never be silent! Because there is NO fire that can ever hold back your beautiful, surviving, soaring spirit!