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Monday, September 20, 2004 

Hello everyone, I'm Delal and a new contributor. I should say outright that I am not a Kurd, but I am in my heart. In 1999, I began living and working during the Summers in Amed (Diyarbakir in Southeast Turkey or Turkish Kurdistan depending on your preference) as an archeaologist. All of our workmen were Kurdish, and in trying to know them better is how I became involved in things Kurdish. When I returned back to the states I started doing volunteer activist work with The American-Kurdish Information Network (AKIN) , I spent a total of 3 weeks at the "Cell of Atonement" a replica of a Turkish jail cell that was erected in front of the Turkish Ambassador's home in Washington, DC. The "cell" was protesting Turkey's treatment of Kurds, especially their political prisoners such as Leyla Zana and friends. Delal is the name that the Kurdish community here gave me, and I proudly use it. That's enough about me.

Now on to something slightly more interesting, I attended a Kurdish Human Rights and Statelessness conference in San Francisco earlier this month. The below comments on the conference are from the original post on my personal blog.

"First things first, the Kurdish conference. Now I am not going to detail every speaker, but give you general impressions and comments. The Institute that held the conference is planning on making the conference proceedings available to the public, so check their site for updates. Also, on Kurdmedia, there is a nice write-up on the conference that I definitely have some comments on, so read the article first so you know what I am talking about. If you read the article, it makes it sound as if it was a wonderful conference and a lot of issues were, in a way, resolved. Far from it. There were 3 definite points of view that came out: the west, Turkish-Kurdistan, and Iraqi-Kurdistan. All of the American panelists made the point that the west really can not be trusted and that the Kurdish movement is dependent on the Kurds themselves making the difference, the Kurds doing the work, and not getting the free ride that they hope to get from keeping alliances such as the United States. The Turkish-Kurds were of the mind-set that alliances like the US couldn't be trusted, and that Iraqi-Kurdistan was absolutely wonderful and they were looking to them to pave the way for future Kurdish freedom. And the Iraqi-Kurds were adament that alliances like the United States were vital to their survival. I consider myself "seasoned" in Kurdish politics-especially in relation to Turkey. This conference just barely touched on some rather explosive issues, and didn't delve in further. Now seeing that this was the first conference of its kind-or at least that is what I keep hearing--you would think that we could get past the basics and move to the meat of the issue. But we didn't.
My own personal opinion is that the Kurds need to depend on themselves, and themselves alone. Alliances are fine and dandy, but there is such a long history of getting burned. How many times does one have to burn their hand on the stove before they realize that they shouldn't do that. This also brings me back to the analogy from the movie Marooned in Iraq that I mentioned in a post from July. To me the Kurds are the guy that was making a lot of money on the war, who then gets robbed and sits in the snow in his undershirt bewailing his plight. When help is offered to him in the form of a coat he turns it down because some one is coming with a mule. And when the people leave him he wails and ripps his shirt. What the hell is that? You are cold and freezing, someone offers you a coat, and you turn it down? What good is the mule going to do you, take you to a coat? Why not walk? An American would have taken the coat (but probably would have gone off in search of one, before the help was offered) and gone down the hill and gotten the mule himself. It is all about missed oppurtunities.
The article also mentions the "cultural" education that the conference attendees got. Bull. There was 5 minutes of live music and an hour's worth of dancing, but those who were supposed to be teaching others to dance, kept insisting on complex steps that look really cool, but no one can learn. So you had one or two good people and a whole mess of others falling over each other. If you knew the steps you really couldn't enjoy it. Why couldn't they just focus on the 3-step simple village dances. Forget pretty, it is the dance that is important. There is a certain feeling of elation when your heart, your feet, and the beat of the song move in time. That is what makes Kurdish culture so wonderful, and the attendees of this conference were completely denied that.
The film festival was great even with me being sick in the middle of them and missing 2 films. I also got the oppurtunity to meet other students who were trying to work in masters and phd programs in Kurdish studies. Since there is no standardized programs, it is extremely difficult to accomplish anything in the field. And that is a true crime. The conference talked about politics and reminding everyone that the culture is under fire. My question is...why is no one trying to save the culture? Where are the projects to document Kurdish folklore and traditions, songs and literature? There should be a project working side by side with the political movement to document and perserve Kurdish culture.
Now on to the friends that I made, which is really what made the conference wonderful: The contacts made. Besides buddying up with Robert Olson and Micheal Gunter, I also made friends with Kerim Yildiz, founder of the Kurdish Human Rights Project who is a completely "smashing bloke"! If you want to read his statement for the conference you can find it here.
Kani's (Kani Xulam is the executive director of AKIN) speech was typical pull-at-your-heartstrings stuff, see it here. "

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