Happy New Year Kurdistan 1.1.2006

Happy New Year Kurdistan 1.1.2006

By: Kameel Ahmady

I covered and written on war in Iraq for some two years on I am on my way to visit south Kurdistan and Iraq. This time not purely for fieldwork but to present papers to Kurdistani universities as well as to Baghdad to talk about diaspora communities and examine how the identity changes when they migrate to new locales.

Next to me as I write there are two young Iraqi Kurds, who seem very happy and excited that they are about to see their families after three years of distance and separation. Hiwa from Dohuk mistook me for a northern Kurd from Turkey by my Kurmanji and he was keep talking about PKK. He told me of what he remembered when the Saddam army chased him and his family across the border to North Kurdistan (Turkey).

Our small plane landed in Diyarbakir airport and I left them but not before we exchanged telephone numbers and I promised them a visit in weeks to come.

Meeting two friends who were waiting for me we head for Diyarbakir’s town centre; I have been to north Kurdistan many times before so I didn’t plan to go sight-seeing. Getting near the centre you can’t miss huge red sign reading: I am so happy being a Turk – what Ataturk said and is now immortalised in almost any town in Turkey’s Kurdistan.

Chi xana, the tea house near the Kurdish Cultural Centre which I frequent whenever I am in Diyarbakir, is thick with smoke and full of young men and women debating or engrossed in their mobile phones. My next stop was Dijla University, where I hoped to present a paper on identity and its changes in the diaspora; however, apparently after reading my abstract the university officials told me they can’t allow me to present at their university, as it was politically sensitive topic and I had to bring official permission from the Ministry of Education in Ankara.

I left Diyarbakir for Mardin, near the Syrian border, thinking all the while that there is a much longer road for Turkey to take in order to bring about real changes in how the government thinks about identity and their treatment of non-Turkish minorities to flourish in their sense of belonging and cultural identity.

Mardin is a beautiful, historic town built in the 13th century, its town centre and shops dominated by Arabic speakers who claim they come from Syria and Jazira town.

Walking through the bazaar and speaking to the locals almost everyone told me they are in fact either mixed raced Arab and Kurd, or their grandparents were Kurds from Jazira but after moving to Mardin now speak Arabic for trading purposes as well their native Kurdish and of course Turkish. The most interesting part was to observe that most children were talking in Arabic with their parents. In contrast, I had noticed in other towns in north Kurdistan Turkish was used as the primary language inside and outside the family.

I spent a day in a village near Kazimia Castle speaking to the Kurdish villagers who were all from the same clan, and were very keen to find out about Kurds of Iran after I told them that I am an Iranian Kurd. They were surprised when I said there are estimated 7 to 8 million Kurds lives in Iran and also a large Kurdish community who speaks the Kurmanji dialect.

They were full of questions such why we don’t hear much about the Iranian Kurds and wanting to know if we are treated the same as the Kurds in Turkey, and many more questions which I felt I wouldn’t be able to answer with any real sense of knowledge, being only one person with one set of experiences.

I was almost forced, by typically strong Kurdish hospitality, to stay for dinner by heval Boran, in his rather small houses which is shared with his family of 8 people.

His family were really trying to offer whatever they could to make me feel comfortable and the children didn’t leave my side for whole time I was there, and were keen to pose for my camera.

Silopi, like any other border town in the world, was chaotic, dirty, and its streets packed with lorries and oil tankers bringing oil from south Kurdistan into Turkey where it’s refined and turned to petrol to be returned to Iraq. I wasn’t allowed to walk through the border there, but had to hire a car to take me over; after some time waiting to do the paper work and many aggressive looks and questions from Turkish border guards at the last Turkish check point.

we dealt with an officer who appeared to be very annoyed with a truck driver, whose flag of Kurdistan and picture of Mala Mustafa Barzani, the founder of Kurdistan Democratic Party, was overlooking the Turkish flag and Ataturk’s portrait.

Dohuk, stronghold of the KDP, is traditionally known as the best policed town in Kurdistan. The people of Dohuk, who speak Kurmanji, have close economical and trade links with their follow Kurds to the north, in Turkey’s Kurdistan. Although I had been stopped for taking photographs and had my press card car fly-checked by the police in the city, I found the people of Dohuk very welcoming and friendly. At times I was mistaken for a Kurd from Turkey because my Kurmanji did not sound local.

Dohuk has recently seen fighting when, on the 07- 12 this year, four people were killed when members of a Kurdish Islamic party that is challenging the dominant Kurdish bloc in current Iraqi elections were attacked by mobs and young angry students. This event was still hot news when I was there, my hotelier told me that one senior official of the Kurdistan Islamic Union was among those killed when angry youths threw stones and set fire to party buildings in six towns. Kurdish regional president Masoud Barzani appeared on television and condemned the violence. Attacks also took place in Arbil, the Kurdistan capital, and Zakho near the Turkish border, as well as three other towns.

He also went on to say how the KDP and PUK fought a civil war in the 1990s, but that they have set aside rivalries, hoping to gain as much power as possible in Iraqi national politics through elections that have followed Saddam Hussein’s overthrow in 2003. He said “we must not give room for another civil war, it will only make Iran, Syria and especially Turkey happy”.

Dohuk University is built just outside the town on a massive piece of a land; signs of active construction work are still visible in parts of the campus. The university is divided between 5 schools; I visited art and langue as well as policy and economics, where I met some really interesting students with a variety of stories to tell. Some just came back from years of living in exile in Iran, where they fled when the Barzani tribe lost its armed struggle in Iraq and many were forced to migrate to Iran’s main cities in Karj, Tehran, Asfan and so on in 1970s; others were large groups of Syrian Kurds who had come specifically to study there, as well some from Turkeys Kurdistan and a few from Iran.

The university has a small language department; visiting one of the lessons I was asked to talk to the students about my work and respond to there questions in English. The most interesting part was that from a total of 47 students, 39 one them were female. When I asked the reason behind it most said because women are better in languages. I then asked them if this is how their society looks at gender, and they replied that they were told like this – that females are suited for certain careers and not for others. Still, it was heartening to see so many young women, the voice of a new generation in free Kurdistan, actively pursuing education which will give them the opportunities they have been denied up until now.

As a result of 1991 and the creation of the semi-independent Kurdistan, most of the teaching and text books are in Kurmanji written in Arabic fonts, which looked very interesting to me as my exposure to Kurmnaji is with the Latin alphabet. Shivan was my guide through the university, himself an MA history student. He told me how difficult it is to be accepted as an MA student as you would need to have 2 years of work expertise such as university work or teaching.

I arrived in Hawler (Arbil), which is considered Kurdistan’s capital city, after a proper check at the main check point where a very polite police officer welcomed me: Bakir bit to free Kurdistan. In town I noticed a large presence of armed forces, army offices and traffic police on the main streets; a taxi driver told me that Hawler nowadays is like a large army headquarters, most of which was KDP offices flying the yellow flags, and pictures of Mala Mustafa Barzani and current Kurdistan president Masud Barzani. People of Hewler have a reputation for being very friendly and welcoming, and taking pictures of the street life I was always greeted with respect and constantly offered drinks of tea.

Hawler castle is the most important land mark to the Kurdish capital; some few thousand live and work inside the surrounding walls. Some complained that the regional government wants them to leave as they want to transform the area into tourist attraction; it is also easy to observe the downside of development and ‘progress’, when many regular people do not get its benefits. Around the Galai is a famous hot spot for young people, mainly men, to walk around while eating corn seed and drinking fresh juice. Its lively atmosphere is one of social life and getting back to a feeling of normalcy after so much media attention in recent months.

Election posters still hang fresh almost every where, Kurdistan flags are apparent in every corner, and, tied with car radio aerials, even some bicycles are flying it! The two main Kurdish political parties choose to be one list to gain the maximum votes in 3 provinces in Kurdistani regions.

The next day, and before leaving Hawler, I went to Sallahadin University of Hawler, which was large and overcrowded.

Students, like those everywhere on campuses around the world, were walking slowly from one side of the university to another in groups 2 or 3, while cars cruised, observing the opposite sex. It was heartening to see such signs of universal adolescent behaviour. I met with Hawar, who I had previously arranged to meet to show me around. He too was waiting to be accepted as an MA student in history. He said you have two options, either you go to the university officials and they will tell you how good is their work and how much success they had or you simply go to the students and they will give 90 degrees opposite to what the officials told you, then he started telling how corrupt the universities are and how they are run by deans who only care about figures rather then real achievements.

He give me some examples of intellectuals who had come back from Europe with the aim of teaching at the university but who were turned down because they were considered a ‘threat’ to those have hang on to the posts. Hawar told me he thinks they as students deserve new, young and educated people to lead their universities.

In speaking to such students, I also learned that despite the images of modernity I witnessed, there is a long way to come in reforming systems in Kurdistan. Let us hope that the commitment and enthusiasm of such young people as Hawar will help to develop these changes.

To find out more I went to the Social Science department to speak to the dean and tutors and find out more about what they teach. Although I was given permission to sit in some of the classes, when I asked about how the university is doing and tried to find out about their plans and future projects, largely I had to agree with Hawar as I was told very briefly how great they are doing but not much about there future plans as they said they look great and will be running very soon.

Although I planned on visiting Kirkuk and Baghdad on my trip, I choose to go to Suleymaniyah in order to be in Hallabja to witness the sentencing of war criminals. We had to cross from kurdish town of Kirkuk, a city which is hotly contested by Kurds, Arabs and nowadays by Turkmen as well.

It has large oil fields whose flames were noticeable from kilometres way. Getting close to Suleymaniyah, when the driver and passenger find out there is no one from Hawler in the car, they start telling jokes about the Hawlerians. People in Suleymaniyah are famous for their subversive and sometimes black humour.

I chose to go to Hallabja to cover the story of how the European Court in Den Haague is about to recognize the Anfal as a genocide against the Kurdish people. My first stop is to see the Hallabja Memorial Centre, which was closed for refurbishment, (unfortunately, due to the historical timing), then I visited the town’s cemetery where most of the fifty thousand which were buried in mass graves are now buried. One of them as small as 3×4, is a grave to 1500 people.

Looking at this, and seeing uncounted numbers of white grave stones, I just couldn’t accept so many thousand people at the hands of the Iraqi regime and that Mr Franc Van Anraat was acquitted of genocide charges but was sentenced to 15 years in prison. The Dutch court found him guilty of complicity in war crimes for selling more than 1,000 tons of chemicals to the former Iraq government, used in gassing Kurds in Iraq also in Iran.

There was loud music and groups of men dancing in traditional Kurdish style outside Hallabja’s chemical support office, but then it was a very emotional and sad moment when the group of people gathered inside the office to watch the court hearing live on Kurdish TV. Talking to people on the street I was invited to meet some families who lost many members; the few survivors told how the chemical attacks happened.

Shokri, a woman in her 50s, lost 6 members of her family. She said: “Hallabja was hit by Saddam because the Iranian, army helped by PUK Kurdish peshmargas, took over the town and pushed Iraqi out of Hallabja”. She was crying, saying many people wouldn’t get killed if peshmerga forces had allowed people to leave the town. “I don’t know why they sealed around the town and didn’t give permission for us to leave before the bombing started”. Her story was reiterated by others who I met later.

Almost whoever I spoke with felt the Kurdish authorities and western powers used Hallabja for their political purposes and in particular USA, as one of their cases to justify war in Iraq.

The streets were dirty and apparently in need of a lot of work; water and sewage systems were in very bad shape and electricity was only available half the day and early evenings. These people, although now recognised as victims of the most profound human rights abuses, continue to suffer its consequences, ignored by the world.

Spending the night in a local home I got to know more from the family and their guests about Hallabja; how it has been forgotten. They told me terrible stories about when they were migrated to Iran and many died because of lack of medicine and proper shelter. I met up with a nearby town’s human rights worker who works in a branch of a human rights office set up by the PUK. He said something very interesting, although the way it was said was funny.

He told me because we are not independent and there is a lot of corruption within the system, and at times complaints would not go far as the accused use their party connection and the matter gets ‘dissolved’ by itself.

He said: “when we receive a complaint such as torture or unlawful imprisonments for member of the public we open a file and send through various channels to be examined and investigated – at the end the system will confront the individual and ask if he or she has been involved in torture. When it’s denied by the person the complaint will get back to us and we will close the file due to lack of evidence. But the sad thing is the member of the public who launched the complaint most of the time get terrorised even more as an act of revenge and get beating up even more why he or she complained in the first place”.

Leaving Hallabja to Pinjavin and Bash mage near to Iranian Kurdistan, passengers had told me how many towns and village was flattened to the ground by Saddam Hussein and how thousands from the locality were never seen after Anfal. Two men in their 50s were almost shouting that Saddam dare speak out at the court and how he has groups of lawyers. One of them was so angry, saying they should cut pieces by pieces from him and put salt in his injuries to make him feel the pain caused by how he killed 18200 Kurds in Anfal – 5000 in Hallabja and thousands from the Barzani family and Iraqi Shiits. “How Saddam and his circle have not yet been found guilty in the Iraqi court? Why and how the priority of the Iraqi court was given to the killing of over 100 Shiia and Sunni Arabs in the village of Dujel, not to the genocide of Kurds by the former Iraqi government?”, he wondered incredulously. He shook his head, saying that he just doesn’t understand.

I went to Bashmage to make a documentary about the mountain porters. I had previously shot a short film while I was in Iran in 2004, but wanted to do something more with the topic. Young men, mostly Iranian Kurds, every day smuggle litres of oil and petrol from Iran to Iraq, to a country who itself is one of the largest oil resources in the world. There is corruption at the border, the Iranian guards are taking money from people in the day light even while we were filming from distance. As far as the oil smuggling was concerned, there were large groups of porters who had carried two 20 litre tanks of oil in their backs, using more hidden spots and back hills to run through the border in order to escape arrest and court fine by the Iranian soldiers.

Sulaymaniyah has expanded so big that the nearby hills and villages are nowadays considered part of the town. In recent years many had left their villages and small towns nearby and settled in Sulaymaniya. Traditionally this town is known as heartland of intellectuals, and has seen many demonstrations and civil rights movements which contributed to some reforms. For two nights I was a guest of IWPR (Iraq war and peace Reporting), Iraq’s War and Peace Reporting Centre aiming to train journalists in the area as well as publishing almost daily reports about the situations in Iraq and Kurdistan.

My host Jessica had a lot to say about her experiences and her view about Kurdistan and Iraq. She said she is aware of the fact there are strong feelings of nationalism, which can be dangerous and may undermine the rights of other ethnic minorities if and when Kurdistan get its independence. She said: “I really like it here, people are really friendly and hospitable, I have many friends but there is not much social life for women outside family life and few other open air spaces”. She also said “everyone wants you to be 100% Kurdish”.

The next day I had a presentation at the Sulaymaniyah University to talk about Kurdish media and its impact on other parts of Kurdistan. My focus was on Kurdistan TV and Kurd Sat TV and some radio and newspapers. The university was so busy that you had to push your way in order to get through, the size of some of the classes was around 80 students. Students were very keen to find out the way media worked outside of Kurdistan and were fighting each other to get a time to put their questions forward.

Latter that day I agreed to give an hour live radio interview to radio NAWA considered one of the very few semi-independent media sources in Kurdistan, and originally set up by the help of the USA before the Iraq war. It is now funded by some NGO’s and the radio is very popular with people Programmes such as without censorship, gave people the opportunity to discuss matters never before said. Talking about how Kurdish media is independent and discussing the relationship between the two main satellite TV channels and KDP and PUK brought a large wave of telephone calls from listeners, agreeing and disagreeing with the topic. It made me really happy to see that a platform such as this radio is giving the voice to people of Kurdistan.

Hawlati is another example of free Kurdish media, so I went over to visit their office. I had written articles for Hawlati in the past ,Shawn told me more about the paper and its new management, I put an idea to them as in the days to come I will return to Hawler, the stronghold of KPD, accompanied by a Hawalti reporter, and will seek to see Dr Kamal Syied Quder who is sentenced to 30 years.

Taking a taxi inside the town my driver was a young man, who was very happy with life there. A few flags of Kurdistan inside his taxi and outside and many pictures of actresses and pop stars decorated the car. He said he is grateful to PUK and KDP for giving him such comfort. He said: “I am free to say whatever I like and do. My life is just perfect, I have a car, money and most nights I drink a quarter bottle of whisky with my friends”.

He looked at me and said: “The only thing missing is women, you can’t get this easily. I mean you can but you can’t be with them the way you should be, you know what I mean? I have a girl who I kissed a few times but no more, there is no place for such things, or at least not for us. I have to meet her in the dark near to her brother’s house when she can disappear for some time and meet me at that spot”.

Although later many university students told me its difficult to have open relationships, some boys told me these days you can do whatever you like. “Do it and just keep it quite”. Some of the girls were complaining how some boys use their mobile phones and take pictures of them and send to each other some time even with graphic some where they change the picture and make it look as something else. They said there has been one suicide over picture messaging when a picture of a young lady was sent around between young men, and later one the girl killed herself.

The violation of privacy which this represents is one thing, made worse in a situation where feelings of shame and secrecy hold influence. It was obvious that the experiences and freedom of young boys and girls was different with respect to this issue of relationships.
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The Kurdish Heritage Institute, has gathered a small but very influential group of intellectuals trying to bring about a rich and unique archive of books and music. It is run by Kak Mazaher Xalagi, himself a Kurdish singer from Iranian Kurdistan. He told me: “the opportunity of coalition forces and US gave to Kurdish people is unique and we need to use this opportunity to bring our long dreamed independent Kurdistan to reality and Kurds from all parts of Kurdistan should make contribution to this small but free part of Kurdistan in order to expanded this to other parts”.

I spent the night among a family of Kurdish of Jewish origin, whose son is my friend in London. The mother Haji Amina, told me about her family and how some of them, including her father, became Muslim while others didn’t and left Kurdistan for Israel. Her husband, also Haji, thanked God for being Muslim, and doesn’t agree with what is going on in Israel in respect of the Palestinians. Most of the night was passed by responding to their questions about Israel and Palestine, where I spent 2 weeks earlier this year.

Once again I am in Hawler, and it seems I have entered another country before mobile roaming service existed. My kurdistani mobile which is giving to me by a friend won’t work here as in Sulaymaniyah, where the network is called Asia Cell. This network is blocked from working in Arbil, and vice-versa, seemingly for political reasons. There is little cooperation between authorities on coordinating business plans. Hawler Mobile network called Korek Mobile also wont work in PUK area. This has become a national joke in Kurdistan.

Inside our 5 seat private taxi from Sulaymaniyah to Hawler there was debate about Kurdistan’s situation, the election and Dr Kamal’s arrest. Our driver was a funny man who just seemed to have no patience with other drivers on the road, he kept honking his horn and pushing through. He said: “if this guy Dr Kamal, or whoever his name is, did swear at him the way he did to Sarok (Masud Barzini) I would go to the airport and wait for him and with the hand gun I have at home I would shoot him dead, how can someone call me all this? No way”.

The other passenger was very hopeful about Kurdistan’s future, he was saying: “no matter how bad or corrupted the political parties are, they are still better than Saddam and Arab authorities. Yes we all see there problems but it will be sorted in time, we shouldn’t just blame the Kurdish government”. He said: “we have a lot of enemies, all our neighbours are waiting like hungry wolves to tear us apart, especially Iran and in particular Turkey, these days even Iraqi Arabs”.

I am determined to see Dr Kamal Syied Qudar, who has been kept in special detention for the past 2 months. Dr Kamal Sayid Qudar, an Austrian citizen and law expert has been sentenced to 30 years imprisonment by Arbil (Hawler) court. He published a number of articles in which he criticised the Barzani family and Kurdistan’s leader Masoud Barzani, also talking about the presence of Israelis and their future in Kurdistan. He also spoke about Sheikh Zana’s terror group, who killed a large number of people in the last few years before they were arrested by KDP.

Apart from his sisters and some relative he has not been visited by the press. I was the first independent visitor which was allowed to see him; I was expecting there would be no chance to see him and even advised not to go. I was informed by Hawalti newspaper that he has been kept at Hawler central police station. With me was Kak Faisal, a reporter from Hawalti newspaper, Kurdistan’s most successful paper. We went to the station and asked to see him, and I was surprised quickly I managed to visit Dr Kamal; I was not sure if it was my international press card or because I was living in UK and visiting Kurdistan, but the official told me there no restriction if himself agrees to see me.

They shortly came back to me saying he had agreed to meet me. I met him after he finished teaching English to his 32 new students. His captors and himself told me that he volunteered to teach English as he did not have much to do and its his duty to teach where ever he was.

Our minder never left the room even though we complained of his presence. I was not allowed to write notes but our guard jokingly said that I can remember them in my head and write them down later. The young minder apologised by saying he had been order to do so. Dr Kamal looked very upset and, as he said later, pissed off. He was talking constantly and had a lot to say especially about the way he was sentenced at the court.

He said: “the day I was taken to the court I was lied to by the authorities”. He was apparently told he was being giving pardon by the Kurdistan president Masoud Barzani and would be released that day. “I was taken to court were 3 judges were present. It was worse then Saddam’s era or even Hitler. I was given no time and opportunities to talk or defend myself or either to my solicitor who I didn’t know and who had never seen me before.

It was very quick, something around 10 minutes. The judge read out the charges and the next thing I realised I was sentenced to 30 years. Something like this has never happened to anyone except in the most undemocratic societies”.

“I want to go back to my academic life, this shouldn’t be the way any civil society deals with free and independent views and it breaks fundamental human rights” said Dr Kamal. “I am here because I have no connection within the authorities, because I criticised the system, I am vulnerable man from a poor family and also from a martyr’s family, if I was from a rich family or had special connection to the government officials I wouldn’t be here.

I am sorry for what I wrote about Barzani family, I have written 3 letters to Kak Masoud Barzani asking for forgiveness, one of them was even published on the internet, but what I said in my other articles about Israelis and their presence in Kurdistan is something everyone in the streets talks about it, why should I have to pay for it?”

Dr Kamal continued to explain what he said in his articles about Dr Gasamlo, KDPI (Kurdistan democratic party of Iran) leader who was gunned down by the Iranian authorities in Austria, and the abduction of Abdullah Ocalan in Kenya with the help of Israel’s Mosad and US’s CIA. “This is something the entire world is aware of”.

He expressed his concern about some of Kurdish media and groups using his cause and trying to take adventures his situation in order to criticise the Kurdistan regional government and in particular the KPD, led by Masoued Barzani.

At the end he said if he gained no success from his appeal and was kept in prison he will end his life and bring further shame to the Kurdish government. “I was used as a scapegoat, I still don’t know why I am here” I am political prisoner says Dr Kamal. Before I leave him he asks me if I can ask police officials if he can be allowed use of a telephone and computer in order to use the internet. Dr Kamal, an international law expert, has two Phds, and was in the process of pursuing his 3rd PHD in anthology.

I felt how trapped Dr Kamal is and how unfairly he has been sentenced. Later on that day I logged into one of the internet chat rooms where there is constant campaigning set up for the release of Dr Kamal, and has been kept alive for over two months. After telling the chartroom about my meeting, shockingly I was accused of being a spy for Parasten (KDP’s intelligence services) by the room administrator. In one way I understand their suspicion as others didn’t have such access to him and this matter has been closely watched by Kurdish people outside of Kurdistan.

The only thing I could do at that point was to ask the person who holds petitions to apologise. He said he will apologise only when I draw myself out this matter and do not proceed with publishing this news, and also not to give interviews to radio and press. Realising how sensitive the issues are I agree with myself to leave this matter untouched. It is apparent that some people do use this in order to voice their anger with the Kurdistan authorities, something that Dr Kamal himself said to me when I met him. On the other hand, I feel sorry for him that he has been heavily punished for something as a means to try to scare other writers and intellectuals about freedom of speech.

I have been to Lalash once before. It is our next stop to this pilgrim’s site for Yazidi Kurds, based in the heart of the mountains, a beautiful and natural place it is home to religious sites and prayer places for the Yezidi community, which attracts Yezidi Kurds from other parts of Kurdistan a few times a year. Setting off from the historical town of Amediye, which was build on top of a mountain, to meet Shik Tahssin Beg with my historian accompaniment and the film crew we all know that we will spend the new year in Lalash temple. Perhaps we will witness praying to start a new year.

My journey is to continue to Haji Omaran, where as a joint team with some film makers I will start shooting a documentary about border smuggling and the fact that the Iranian authorities are shooting young people engaged in this work dead on a weekly basis. Ancient, poor desperate people who are forced to find their daily living by carrying cigarettes for as little as 2$.

There was an angry scene and heated debate on most Turkish and Turkmen television last night about why Real Madrid agreed to open up training football school in Hawler. There was a very strong reaction from the Turkish authorities seeing Kurdistan’s success and forming its international image in many angles.

It was so funny to see what they showed as a reputed film clip about Hawler, old men drinking tea wearing Kurdish clothes and some women wearing very strict garments, and dirty streets. None of this was the image of Hawler and the life there that I had witnessed. Instead, it was carefully edited to focus only on negative points.

As 2006 begins I wish this year to be a year of prosperity and success for all parts of Kurdistan and in particular for this part which is nowadays considered by Kurds as the future hope for us as Kurds of other parts of Kurdistan to reach such international recognition. Although there is a long way for Kurdistan to reach international standards comparing with some parts of the world, what I saw in Kurdistan is a progressive start for a bright future.

The promise of an increasingly democratised middle east, with prosperous, happy, peaceful societies co-existing is a dream that can become a reality if we continue to work with the new resources we have before us. As this new year begins, I hope that we all work towards this goal, and to recognise the important point in history we find ourselves. I share my hope with you, and look forward to the challenges and opportunities ahead.

Kameel Ahmady

[email protected]

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