A book fair was underway while I was in Diyarbakir. At the first stand I visited, wedged between Turkish translations of War and Peace and For Whom the Bell Tolls, I found a selection of books with titles like History of Kurdistan and Turkey's Kurdish Problem. No such books could possibly have been sold here during the 1990s, when the very word "Kurdistan" was taboo and the term "Kurdish problem" was taken to refer to an illegal form of separatism.
"Before, we were afraid to speak out," a Kurdish writer named Lutfi Baski told me at the fair. "The government was insisting that there were no Kurds, that there was no Kurdish language or culture. They arrested us and closed our organizations. Now, so much has changed, especially in the last few months. Our problems haven't been solved, not at all, but at least we can talk about them honestly. It's a huge difference."
Later that day, I walked past city hall and saw a large banner advertising a conference that was being held inside. Its subject was "The European Union Accession Process and the Kurdish Problem." When I walked into the packed hall, a local politician was delivering a passionate harangue.
"For so many years, the Turkish state called us criminals, saying that it was not possible to have dialogue with us and that we had to be crushed," he told the rapt crowd. "This is the repeated tragedy that created the Kurdish problem. The only reason Kurds were forced to begin armed struggle was the way the Turkish state has treated Kurds at every stage in the history of this country."
These would have been highly dangerous words a couple of years ago. Even now, police agents monitor and videotape conferences like this one. Their presence, however, did nothing to intimidate the speakers in Diyarbakir. "They watch us just like before, but they can't do anything to us anymore," one man told me. "This is a democracy now. We're becoming European. The state can't touch us."
I have been relatively blessed in being born in America, I have grown up in a world where I can state my own opinion without fear of reprisal...in fact, until I left the country and saw how others lived, I didn't even know that others could be persecuted for their thoughts and beliefs.I now know better.
In my dealings with the issue of Kurdistan and the Kurdish blogger friends that I have been so fortuate to make, I have realized the extreme importance of the individual voice and ensuring that voice is protected.I believe that there are many many other Kurdish voices just waiting to break out and say what they have been so desperately wanting to say to the world. I also believe that many of those voices remain silent because they are afraid that they will not be protected if they speak out. Rest assured, you are part of a larger community, a larger family, who wants to ensure your welfare. There are many guides out there that can help you learn how to blog anonymously and safely. The best guide out there by far is the Handbook for Bloggers and Cyber-Dissidents from Reporters without Borders. There are many Anonymous Blogging Guide sites out there to use as a resourse, as well as the Committee to Protect Bloggers. These guides are also translated into multiple languages to aid you as well.
And for some work that should be in the news....The wonderful job Roj Bash! and From Holland to Kurdistan have been doing in bringing some of the personal stories of Kurds voting in the Iraqi elections in Europe. Hiwa Hopes and Kurdo's World have also had some excellent election coverage.
CHAI KURDI (KURDISH TEA)
1 tb India tea leaves
1 Cinnamon stick, 4"
2 c -water, boiling
The Kurds like this sweet, aromatic tea. The cubes of sugar are dissolved in the mouth as the tea is drunk,the sweeter the better.
Put the tea and cinnamon in a tea pot and pour in the boiling water. Allow to steep for 5 minutes. Serve hot with sugar cubes. Serves 4.
From: "Sephardic Cooking" by Copeland Mark -- 600 Recipes Created in Exotic Sephardic Kitchens from Morocco to India -- Copyright 1992 Published by Donald I. Fine,Inc., New York, N.Y.
We should've pushed for an independent Kurdistan, and I wonder if it's still not too late. I guess so because of the constitution. Perhaps certain persons in Iraq would not have liked it, but it would've been in the best US interests. I do not believe the insurgents would've attacked Kurdistan. It does not make any sense. Also, the Kurds would've been more willing to allow the establishment of a US base and maybe even to share in the oil revenue. I guess we'll never know for sure, but I think it would've helped stabilize Iraq. It would've been one less faction to worry about when drawing up the Iraqi Constitution and during elections in general. Heck, we might've even been able to set up a government more to our tastes in Kurdistan.