Our heart shrivelled because we forgot Roboski

On Dec. 28, 2011, late at night, the Turkish warplanes bombed a group of Kurdish villagers, who had gone across the border into Iraq to load packages with cigarettes and tea and barrels with petrol on their mules. They were about to enter the Turkish territory again when the bombing started. Not much later, 34 traders, 19 of whom were underaged boys, were dead. One of the victims was 34-year-old Osman Kaplan, married to Pakize and father of five children. All I ever saw of Osman was a photo of him while working in a small garden where the family grew some vegetables. Spade in his hands, looking up into the camera.

Continue reading at Ahval.

Kurdish singers follow in the footsteps of dengbej-singing ancestors

When you grow up with dengbej, as is the case with all Kurds who were born and raised on their ancestral lands, it will be part of you for the rest of your life. For Kurdish singers, that is even more the case.

Acclaimed Kurdish singers Şivan Perwer and Mem Ararat talked to Ahval about the influence the old Kurdish story-telling tradition has had on their art. Even when life took them far from where their cradle stood, it is the dengbej tradition that they continued to build on.

Continue reading at Ahval!

New book! Hope became a dream – Press freedom in Iraq

Iraq is consistently doing bad in all lists about press freedom. Journalists are kidnapped and murdered, there are taboo topics no reporter can publish about and the sectarianism of Iraqi politics, which is closely entwined with the country’s media, makes it close to impossible to work independently. The situation in the Kurdistan Region, in the north of Iraq, is not fundamentally different. This booklet, published in December 2019, offers interviews with journalists and lawyers and with the wife and brother of a Kurdish journalist who was killed because of his stories about corruption, gives insight in the historical backgrounds of the media in Iraq – it wasn’t always this bad! – and examens the laws that urgently need change.

The full PDF of my booklet about press freedom in Iraq is now available online, without paywall! Click the link on this page!

Kurdish storytelling tradition takes first steps on long road to UNESCO recognition

As one of the oldest cultural expressions in Mesopotamia, dengbej should be added to the UNESCO list of intangible cultural heritage. This is according to opera singer Pervin Chakar, who has started a petition to gather support for and raise awareness about the importance of dengbej, an ancient Kurdish storytelling tradition. Chakar, who is originally Kurdish, lives in Germany and performs all over Europe, told Fanack, “Collecting signatures is only part of the campaign. I want to cooperate with music and cultural institutes to make this happen.”

Continue reading at Fanack!

Kurds unable to unite against Turkey’s aggression

Turkish products sold in Iraqi Kurdistan can be recognized by a barcode starting with the numbers 868 or 869. These make it easier for Kurds to boycott Turkish products in protest against Turkey’s invasion of north-eastern Syria on 9 October 2019. Or does it? It may also confront them with their high level of dependence on Turkey, making it close to impossible to implement such a boycott. And what can the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), which depends politically on Ankara’s support, do to defend the Kurds in Syria?

The implications of the invasion by the Turkish army, in cooperation with assorted jihadist groups, are potentially huge for the KRG. Together with the Iraqi government, it has stepped up its border security to prevent a possible influx of members of the Islamic State (IS). The resurgence of the group, which was pushed from its last pocket of territory earlier this year by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), was also the topic of the first statement that the KRG made after American President Donald Trump announced that the United States was withdrawing its remaining troops from Syria. By now, hundreds, if not more than a thousand, IS members have escaped from prisons and camps that were guarded by the SDF until the invasion. Women (and children) escaped from Ain Issa refugee and internment camp, which was ransacked by Turkey-backed groups, while men ran away from prisons.

ontinue reading at Fanack!

‘The Kurds of Northern Syria’ – A primer on Kurdish identity and representation

International actors were both a benefit and a detriment to the Kurdish struggle for representation, Wladimir van Wilgenburg and Harriet Allsopp write in their book “The Kurds of Northern Syria, Governance, Diversity and Conflicts’’. The authors sketch the picture of how Turkey was a detriment to Kurdish representation and why the Turkish army invaded Syria to obstruct the Kurds both in the summer of 2016 and in early 2018. Of course, the current and possibly final attack on the lands east of the Euphrates isn’t in the book, but after reading “The Kurds of Northern Syria’’, you understand the current crazy news cycle.

Continue reading at Ahval!

Selahattin Demirtaş: release order upon release order, but still in jail

Legally speaking, Selahattin Demirtaş should have been freed from prison three times already. Also legally speaking, he shouldn’t have been jailed in the first place.

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) said so and a Turkish court said so. Despite that, the former co-leader of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) is not a free man. Meanwhile, on Sept. 18, the ECHR will look at the case again. Demirtaş’s team of lawyers have high expectations for the hearing.

Continue reading on Ahval!

Are you close to vomiting?

‘The Act of Killing’ is by far the most overwhelming film I have ever seen. It was recommended to me by the lecturers in my International Journalism Master’s as an example of a documentary film in which the unexpected form, re-enactment, is exceptionally well chosen. It is, but the film hit me mostly because of its content. All the violence was re-enacted, but revealed a shocking truth.

Continue reading on my Patreon page!

Syrian photographer documents destruction by walking tightrope

His absolute independence is what saved him in all the years that he stayed in Raqqa, the Syrian city where photographer Aboud Hamam was born and raised and that he refused to leave, even during the years that Isis was in charge. Under the current rule, he finally let go of his pseudonym for years, Nur Firat. “I miss Nur Firat sometimes,” Hamam said during a recent interview in Raqqa. “He achieved a lot.”

Keep reading at Index on Censorship!