There’s this picture of me and my dad. I’m about a zero years old. The mountains in the background are high enough to scrape the sky. Dad is young. Dad is wearing Kurdish clothes. Dad is lifting me far above the ground.
Dad fled from east Kurdistan. Mom was imprisoned by the Iranian regime, while she was carrying me. I was not even born yet, when they had planned to execute us. I was not even born, when I became a refugee.
Mom went to Baghdad, then to France, where she could hold me in her arms, while dad was somewhere else lobbying for the Kurdish cause. And this picture, of my dad and me must have been taken when we just got back to Kurdistan, the south that is. So dad is lifting me high into the sky. So proud of his little girl breathing in the mountain breeze. And I can see myself smile. The moment is perfect. The picture is perfect. This, is when I fell in love with Kurdistan.
Sometimes we forget what it feels like, to be ripped from your roots. To be detached from what could have been home. My generation, our concept of Kurdistan existed of nothing more than bleaching photographs our parents kept. Scratchy tapes of Shivan Perwer, who they would invite to every Newroz celebration. I drew the flag of Kurdistan. I drew the mountains that I could not remember. We sang the anthem, of which I didn’t understand the words. We had a long distance relationship with the homeland, that had been torn, that had been wounded, that had been crying in modest quietness. Like a mother, hiding her grief to shield her brood.
Although I grew up in Europe, and it provided me with everything, I felt incomplete. I have been everywhere, and back. But no place could fulfill me. I had to see the mountains that I drew. And when the flag of Kurdistan was raised proud, higher than my father could ever tilt me, there was only one solution left to mellow my melancholia. I had to move to Kurdistan. The soil I knew from that photo with my dad.
Yes, it’s not easy being a girl on your own. It’s not easy to deal with the dishonesty. It’s not easy to deal with a society, which you want to be yours, but that you haven’t been brought up in. It’s not easy, not at all. But somehow it makes sense to be here.
The songs of Shivan sound so super special when on the road to Slemani. The progress all around me, the roads, the houses, the hospitals, the schools, the malls. We can criticize them all, but when we do, we should remember. All we do in this little piece of Kurdistan, is clean up the mess of years of war. And the longer I am here, to more wounds reveal themselves.
And then there’s these magical moments of hope. Like the Kurdistan Careers Conference. It was an honor to be part of a committee that shares the love for our roots. Many of us recently moved back. And though as persons we are all so different, this crazy crush on Kurdistan, is what brings us together. Whenever days here get hard, and trouble tends to tear you apart, we’ll have things like the conference to look upon to remind us that things will change for the better.
The Kurdistan Careers Conference was not only a bridge between jobseekers and companies. It was also a bridge between locals, and returnees. I hope we showed we’re here to stay, and just because we weren’t here when war burned holes into hearts, that doesn’t mean our lives were easy.
We gave up one life, to live the other. I’ve come back to where I’d left daddy’s little girl. I know she left in tears, scared to stay, sad to go. I feel like now I have the chance to fill the emptiness she had to grow up with, far and abroad. Because she’s home again. And that home, this petit part of the native soil, is a safe have now.