This year on January 3-5, the fifth edition of the Kurdish Youth Festival was organized in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The Festival itself and its aim to bring together Kurdish youth from all over the world is a fantastic idea. The importance of not forgetting ones culture, celebrating its positive sides and building bridges between human beings are all valuable features that this festival brings with itself.
Further, it also embraces and highlights the value of tolerance among a divided nation’s youth, brings them together and connects them for a greater cause.
With that being said, it is also of importance and relevance to direct some constructive criticism towards the Festival. Note, the criticism is not formulated or sent in order to take anything away from the founders and committee members of the festival, quite the opposite; it is addressed towards a will to improve the Festival even more to the next coming years.
The areas where we believe the Festival can improve are summarized in three different but yet cohesive points.
APPEALING TO ACADEMIA
First, in order for the Festival to grow and hopefully form into a Festival where Kurdish academia can direct their focus towards, it would be of interest to think of ways on how one can attract Kurds with a passion for academics. If the Festival committee finds it of value, the Festival can improve in serving its aim by including academic workshops for Kurdish Master’s students and PhD candidates from all over the world. For example, this year’s essay question was very generally formulated and did not have any connection with Kurds or Kurdistan in any way.(“What is the best advice that you have ever received, and how have you implemented it in your life?”)
As the Kurdish nation is a nation with a great need of new thoughts and cutting-edge ideas, it is in our interest to create as many forums and incentives as possible for those who wish to contribute. By creating an opportunity and attracting students of various kinds and levels, a unique chance will be created to bring together the nation’s leading academic youth under one roof. One way of doing this is to call out for both Master’s and PhD essays, finished or in the making, to be presented at the Festival. The essays should, of course, be of direct relevance to Kurds or Kurdistan.
ADDING A POLITICAL DIMENSION
Secondly, the Festival has the potential to attract decision makers, Kurdish as well as foreign, which share an interest in understanding and participating in the discussions that Kurdish youth can bring to the table. By formulating half a dozen political topics, for example, which can be formulated in advance, future participants can and should be given the opportunity to write their views and comments in order to take part in workshops which address the different topics. The youth of a nation has always been an innovating force, and the Festival should encourage this further. Moreover, this type of initiative which naturally will attract various kinds of views and opinions is well in line with not only serving the Kurdish cause but to also function as a forum for tolerance and compromise.
INCLUDING AS MANY AS POSSIBLE
Last but not least, the Festival has great potential by not only restricting itself to the US. There are large and significant Kurdish diasporas in Europe, for example, which would benefit from being included in the spirit of the Festival. A fragmented Kurdish voice is a challenge to unity and can be detrimental to achieving common ground. By changing the place of venue from year to year, more Kurds, especially youths with strained financial situations, will have the opportunity to participate. A more democratic approach could also be to arrange two different events at the same time, one in the US and elsewhere. By using modern technology, one event can turn into an international forum. The Festival has a great chance of being an important platform for creativity and new approaches to old but yet important questions.
TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN
This criticism is directed at you, founders and committee members of the Kurdish Youth Festival. Not because we are not thankful for what you have built, quite the opposite: we find this format to be of an incredibly great potential. We hope that this will be appreciated and that it may initiate an open discussion, too.
Unfortunately, we haven’t had the privilege to participate at any of the Festivals. We have however, live-streamed a lot of hours and been in touch with participants who have been attendees and have expressed their similar concerns. Nevertheless, we both recognize that by not being a participant, that it may be unfair to criticize in the form that we do. However, until we will experience the Festival for ourselves, which we hope to do next year, we think that writing is a form of action.
We want to end our criticism with a sincere and warm Thank You to everyone who have made the Festival possible. We are impressed that a group of Kurdish youngsters have taken an initiative that should have been the responsibility of a newly established regional government. By saying that, we mean that the Kurdish Regional Government should be a much more willing, active and contributing sponsor for such events.
Thank you for reading,
Mardin Hêja Baban and Sham Jaff