children we heard the sound of gunfire more than any other
noise. The ugliest regime smothered the best and most
beautiful years of our lives. The date of our birth is like
a riddle which needs careful solving.
This is because, in the past, the
Registry Office recorded each child’s date of birth to be 1
July. They used to say that this date is good for school
The vicious upbringing which carried
a ruler and battered our small hands and fingers was pure
ignorance of the childhood world. When the mind cannot rule
and carry out its orders then force will lead the way. The
nation which does not take the education of its children
seriously will remain in the margins of history.
The artist is born with his art.
There is not particular moment when a person becomes an
artist but there is a moment when expression reaches a stage
of maturity it can express itself through the arts. I was
really young when, for the first time, I made a musical
instrument out of wood and surgical thread. Even though it
looked like everything but a musical instrument I named it a
guitar. Its sound was terrible but in my phantasies it had
the best sound.
We should only count those years as
part of our lives when we have felt love. The rest are just
years of running after life or from life. There is no
country like ours where so many negotiations have taken
place yet there has always been war. We have always been the
victims of the various authorities’ negotiations with each
other. I remember those few days, during one of these
negotiations, when people were holding hands and dancing and
the planes were throwing sweets down. From our innocent
childhood’s vision we were very happy because the adults
were happy. We thought the planes were ours. Suddenly the
sound of music stopped. Weeping and black dress entered our
houses. My uncle, the one who gave me my first present, was
martyred. His present was a small plastic toy which gave me
In those years the majority of the
games that children played involved stone. This is why stone
has an important place in our memories. Stone was our best
friend. Until 1982 we threw all of our stones at the Baath
government and we screamed ‘Down with the regime’.
Since the borders were drawn,
dividing Kurdistan, the hearts of all our newborn children
have been divided in four and four oppressors are waiting
for them as a present. Instead of protecting their citizens,
the various governments which came to power one after the
other, have all been murderers. Death knocked on very door.
Everything was forbidden. There was no heart left without
anxiety. There was no house left without a hiding shelter.
Homeland had become a prison for the nation. No one lived
their own age. Children thought like the adults. The young
like the old, the old were thinking of death.
The TV screens showed one of two
things: the burnt and mutilated bodies in the battlefields
or images of the laughing dictator when there was hardly a
smile left in any part of this wounded and deserted country.
The villages were beheaded one by one and the cities were
queuing for death.
Before the eyes of the world, they
were wiping us out from the map but no conscience stirred.
Before the eyes of the world, we were Anfalised but no
whisper arose from anywhere. The mountains’ voices were
choked by the desert-sand without being heard by any ear.
There was nothing left but the sound of the overlooked
radio. That too sounded far and hushed.
It was very difficult to do art in a
place where aesthetics was killed. It was really difficult
to find happiness in a place drowned in bad news. On top of
the political problems and complexities, barriers were
created in the path of making art. Despite all of that,
every new generation takes a new step in changing and
shaping its own era.
It is very strange that although, as
a nation, not accepting each other has harmed us the most
throughout history, this obstacle still stands in every
place and every field. This reports lack of self-assurance
and security. Confident people are not scared by the
existence of others. They accept others with a friendly and
We did not do art only for art’s
stake. We did not sing just for the sake of singing. Our
voice was a message to break the silence. At that dark era
we were certain that there will be a day when the sun of
freedom will rise.
Suddenly, one morning, we felt that
the sun was more beautiful than any other morning. Within
all that silence and stillness we heard sound. The wind
dared to blow. For the first time dew shone openly. The day
before all the trees had been in the death throws but that
morning they suddenly all germinated once again. It had been
a long time since the poisonous smell of apple had chased
all the birds away but that morning, in 1991, they were
returning in flocks.
overlooked sound of the radio kept gaining strength. Each
moment it broadcast better news.
That morning was like the
moment of the lovers meeting. Every passenger you met
carried their lives on their hands and wanted to sacrifice
it to homeland. It was the first time when the sound of
gunfire was better than the sound of music. It was the first
time when the smell of smoke promised happiness. It was the
first time in history when we were all gathered under the
We had heard about freedom
and we had read about it. We had been in love with it for so
long and it was the first time when we could smell it so
close. Like waiting lovers we were finally meeting the
beloved. It is very difficult for the pen to describe that
moment of embracing.
It is difficult for the
tongue to become the storyteller that speaks of that love
and burning as it was. It is really difficult for the eye to
turn all those images into a description. Freedom is an
emotion which is only understood and appreciated by the
soul. Every person is born once but we were all reborn on
the day of the uprising, on 7 March 1991.
Before too long, just after a few
days, the mass exodus started. Once again we were displaced
from our homes. We were so intoxicated with freedom that the
mass exodus, with all its tragedies, seemed like a picnic to
us. Despite its dreadfulness it seemed like a big happy
moment. A whole nation was walking together and with every
step we saw the remains of the lovers’ meetings places who
were still embracing under the desert sand. There is no
place in the world where so many groups of people have been
mass graved. We kept walking and seeing the dry lips of the
strangled springs. We kept walking and the wind and rain
kept turning the burnt pages of history for us. Our eyes
wept, our hearts wept but our hearts remained calm. For the
first time in our lives we were freely walking through our
homeland. However, if freedom is not utilized in the right
way it can harm. Once again the gunfire of celebration
suddenly stopped and the gunfire of death restarted, once
again the flue of lack of tolerance spread. This illness
became so widespread that it entered every house. Even those
who did not suffer seriously were mildly affected. First it
was a media war then came the hot war. The language of
understanding disappeared and the world was divided by two
colours. All the pillars that carried our social life fell.
No beauty was left untouched. There
was no road left without a wake and a black flag of
mourning. There was no love which did not change to hatred.
That fire burnt the heart of homeland and displaced
generations. It changed life to an endless exodus. When a
boat sank in any lake in this world it immediately drenched
in black a few mothers in this homeland.
Many things seem alike in this world
but exile is like nothing else. If someone has not
experienced exile they cannot understand that feeling. Worst
of all, suddenly you realize that only your body has
immigrated and your soul has not followed you, it has
remained in your homeland. This is the beginning of a pain
which originates from this division between the soul and the
body and it never ends.
Despite all the sorrow and tears,
homeland is always your beloved. The further away she is,
the closer you feel to her. When you are physically absent
from her you are more than ever present. No matter how she
is you always see her as beautiful. Even when you forget
yourself you always remember her.
Sulaimanyh city of
Kurdistan on 1965.
Translated by Dr. Choman Hardi