The Official Soundtrack of Kurdish Independence

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It looks like we’re about to have a new state on this planet soon – an independent Kurdistan. It’s not going to happen in a couple of days, but it could happen quicker than you think.

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The Iraqi Ship is sinking. Cartoon by The Economist.

Now Iraq, as a state, is falling apart already. What is known as ISIS (they have now changed their name to IS for ‘Islamic State’), has taken over a significant portion of Sunni Iraq. In the meantime, Iraqi flags are no longer flying in the northern Kurdish part of the soon-to-be-excountry. The Kurds who have had a semi-autonomous region to begin with want a referendum soon.

With Turkey in favor of Kurdish independence (which was pretty unlikely for a very long time), Israel and the US will follow giving support, too. By the look and smell of it, Kurdistan will be a reality, sooner than we all expected.
As a Kurd myself, I am extremely thrilled about these new happenings. To think that the world is now collectively debating Kurdish sovereignty, this was on top of most Kurd’s wish lists for too many Christmases.

Speaking of lists…

Watching and reading the news lately for me feels like a Thriller, a dramedy (drama coupled with comedy) and sometimes a romance, too. If I were to make a movie out of what’s been happening, to explain to you clearly, Westerner, what really is happening, this is the track list of the official soundtrack of Kurdish Independence. I put it into a Spotify list for you to subscribe to it.

Let me justify my selection by commenting on the tracklist:

(Hint: I took lyrics that fit and put them in Italic or in direct speech)

1) Destiny’s Child – Bills, Bills, Bills: Kurdistan realized, it needs someone to help it out, instead of a scrub like Maliki, who don’t know what a man’s about.

2) Frank Ocean – Bad Religion: ISIS came, wanted to convince the Kurds, they’re the better custodians of the Kurdish land: “Allahu Akbar”. Kurdistan said: “Don’t curse me.”

3) Disclosure – When a Fire Starts to Burn: Kurds know how to play this game because “when a fire starts to burn, right, and it starts to spread, she gon’ bring that attitude home”. They know, they have to be quick now.

4) Jazmine Sullivan – 10 Seconds: So, the Kurds started to really become determined and angry at what was happening all of a sudden. It was enough. Enough was enough. “You really should look for an exit, ’cause you’re running out of time. You know that I can get crazy. When I go off, ain’t nobody to tame me”, Barzani told to Maliki.

5) Eamon – F**k it: Barzani continues, “F**k what I said, it don’t mean shit now. F**k the presents, might as well throw ’em out.”

6) Medina – Lonely: “I guess I have to admit, I was afraid to end up lonely”, he says and wishes for him to feel lonely from now on.

7) David Guetta – Love is Gone: It really is gone. Nobody can’t “deny that simple truth” now.

8) Gotye feat. Kimbra – Somebody That I used to Know: The whole world is now remembering how it was like when Iraq was still together. A real couple. Political commenters were kind of addicted to a “certain kind of sadness”. With the recent numbers of death due to terrorist attacks in Iraq, everybody’s kind of “glad that it is over”.

9) Puff Daddy feat. Rick Ross & French Montana – Big Homie: They’re all glad because Kurdistan is kind of a ‘big homie’. You can go to any hood, everyone now knows about Kurdistan because they be calling all the shots.

10) Kanye West – Stronger: Kurdistan knows it really is stronger. After all what’s happened, all the political oppression, they can’t wait for this referendum to happen soon enough. Everyone’s chanting: “I need you to hurry up now, ’cause I can’t wait much longer.”

11) Miley Cyrus – We Can’t Stop: Because then, they can do whatever they want with the oil money they sit on. “This is our house, this is our rules and we can’t stop”, Barzani reassures.

12) Christina Aguilera – Fighter: Really, ISIS, Kurds are thankful for the opportunity you gave them. After all what you pulled them through, you think the Peshmergas would despise you, but in the end, you made Kurds so much stronger, you made them work a little bit harder and a little bit faster in pursuing independence.

13) Nas – I Can: “I know I can be what I wanna be if I work hard at it, I’ll be where I wanna be”, this mantra has almost been forgotten in the Kurdish political arena. All these years, they’ve been trying to move towards independence but unfortunately efforts didn’t result in successes. Now, things look different and Nas was right after all.

14) Valerie June – Wanna Be On Your Mind: Now, Kurdistan wants to be independent, be its own state. And to the international community it sings: “Wanna be on your mind, stay there all the time, you can call my name!” And the name is Kurdistan.

Here is the complete Spotify list, enjoy!

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I want my opinions back, technological progress!

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Alright, so we have Internet. It’s really awesome and I am really grateful. But Cheryl Cole was wiser than me. In the opening lines of her song ‘Fight for this love‘, she says “too much of anything can make you sick. Even the good can be a curse.” I should have listened. Hell, we all should have listened.

This was 2009 and five years ago, while Cheryl was singing this live on stage somewhere, I was somewhere happily stuck in the nowhere land of the Internet. 19 at the time, curious as a cat, I was thrilled to be online. I tried out every forum, regularly changed my music taste and watched every film noir movie I could get my hands on. Why? Because it was all for free and everything was there, all the freaking time.

Facebook hadn’t really kicked off in Germany back then. We – or better they – were all still stuck with StudiVZ and other platforms. (Germans used ICQ instead of MSN, too.) The internet enthusiast that I was, I was already using what the rest of the world was using.

I got my news from news sites, my music from YouTube or torrents – I was sharing news personally which means that I was forced to really read and digest the news articles I was referring to, so I could actually talk about it if anyone had further questions. (Quality control!) I shared music by burning them on CDs or USB sticks which means I was forced to really filter and select only those which I thought were the best of the best of the best. (Quality control!)

There are so many other things that are now different. But that’s ok. It really is. The thing is, I think my brain might be a little overwhelmed. My life, especially my thought processes were slow, five years ago and I miss being slow. It felt way more efficient than it does right now. Right now feels fast-paced, unorganized and not at all focused.

Okay, yes, you might say that I was also 19, young and likely stupid, but I remember so much more of what I read and listened to from my youth than I remember from two or three years ago.

I am sure I am not the only one. We, Internet fans, absorb so much of this world, you can’t help but feel overwhelmed and in a strange way, powerless.

I want to take control of this happening. Any suggestions?

Comments will save my life.

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Featured image shows Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress. Steeped in both nostalgia and futurism, the attraction’s premise is an exploration of the joys of living through the advent of electricity and other technological advances during the 20th century via a “typical” American family.

Two kids, different childhoods

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Let’s move inbetween parallel universes and imagine two kids and two childhoods. Let’s call them Mateo and Hala. Both have been reported about in the media in the last two weeks – for different reasons. Mateo strikes more search results, Hala isn’t that good in getting noticed on the world wide web.

Linda honey

Google search results for Mateo

This is Mateo. He is 3 years old, lives with his parents. He is terribly sweet and he likes terribly sweet things – cupcakes to be exact. He has run out of cupcakes to eat. Here he is trying to persuade his mommy, I’m sorry, Linda to make him happy again. Over 5 million people watch him begging for happiness and food security. Ellen Degeneres is one of them. Ellen is ultimately Mateo’s angel and gives him a happy ending. One month later, at The Ellen Show, Ellen wheels out a superhero-festooned trolley loaded with the longed-for cupcakes. For mommy, uhm Linda, there was a well-deserved spa voucher and a cheque for $10,000 for the family. 2 million people are witnessing this. Mateo’s cupcake quest is told in 9 minutes and 26 seconds on the internet.

This is Hala. She is a bit older than Mateo, lives with her 5 siblings in a tent in Lebanon. She is incredibly cute and incredibly strong. Her pHalaarents died, not too long ago. A famous Hollywood actress visits her. Hala tells her that the house fell down on her mom as bombs dropped from the sky into her hometown in Syria. She talks about their big, beautiful green garden where they would play and wait for Mommy to prepare food. Her brother talks about pyjamas. Her older brother doesn’t talk much anymore. He is busy trying to forget about his mom’s death. Hala takes care of all of them. Fortunately, her brothers help her. They collect and sell trash. They say, “it is not fair that we have to live like this.” Hala’s story is told in 7 minutes and 9 seconds on the internet. Not many witness her story.

Both are kids. Both have childhoods.

From The Archives: Girls in Riyadh, 1935

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Saudi Aramco, officially the Saudi Arabian Oil Co., is the world’s most valuable company – and a Saudi Arabian national petroleum and natural gas company, founded in 1933, based in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia.

The origins of Saudi Aramco lie in the oil shortages of World War I and the exclusion of American companies from Mesopotamia by the San Remo Petroleum Agreement of 1920 (this is where  France was given a 25% share of Iraqi oil – but that’s another story). The US Republican administration back then, during the times of President Hoover, had popular support for an ‘Open Door’ policy, he himself initiated as secretary of commerce in 1921. Standard Oil of California (SoCal) was among those US companies actively seeking new sources of oil from abroad. This is a photo from the archives of Saudi Aramco in 1935 that I found from this tweet.

 

 

Explaining Kurdish Songs: Naser Rezazî’s “Newroz”

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Around 400 million people are celebrating New Year’s Eve right now. Yes, right now. Mardin Baban knows why.

Happy new year! Or ‘Newroztan Pîroz’ in Kurdish. You might think it is a bit odd that I wish you a Happy New Year in the middle of March, but it’s not. I’m going to tell you why I do.

Newroz is celebrated by around 400 million people around the world today, and the name means “A new day”. It refers to the celebration of the Kurdish, Iranian and Afghan New Year. The reason why it is celebrated today is due to it being linked to the Northward equinox, i.e. when the sun crosses the celestial equator and heading northward, or in other more common terms, when the day becomes as long as the night. It is a celebration of light, welcoming spring and celebrating the end of winter. Fire has a central role in the celebrations, descending from the pre-Islamic religion of Zoroastrianism, where fire was worshipped. People gather around a big fire, dancing around it, giving the fire all the sorrow and grief that has been collected over the year, and also receiving its strength and warmth back.

Back to the roots

There is a lot to be told about Newroz, why and how it is celebrated. I’d like to do that by sharing one of my favorite Kurdish songs – a song that is played on this day that has a special place in most Kurds’ hearts.

Before doing that though, I’m going to share a bit about the Kurdish mythology surrounding the celebrations. I would also like to stress that the reason why I haven’t included Persian or other nations mythology surrounding this day is due to limitation of space.  Newroz has poetic and historical roots in Kurdish mythology. The mythological story has played an important part in shaping the Kurdish relation to Newroz.

Written in a Kurdish opus by Sharaf Khan Bidlisî in 1597, the story entails one central figure, namely “Kawa the blacksmith”. Kawa was an ordinary hard-working man living in ancient Iran (Persia) that later became a revolutionary legend tired of the tyrant Zahak’s oppression. Zahak ruled ancient Iran with great evil for a thousand years – with serpents growing from his shoulders needing be fed by the brains of two sacrificed males each and every day. Kawa, having lost six of his sons to Zahak, became the natural leader of an uprising that finally put an end to the evil rule of Zahak. It is said that Kawa and the rebellions were ancestors to the Kurds today, thus giving Kawa a special place among Kurds for being the first rebellion to fight for Kurdish freedom. This is, of course, mainly if not all together fictional. However, it has shaped the romantic portrayal of Kurdish nationalism that still plays an important part in Kurdish folklore.

A melody of tradition

The songs which lyrics you can read below are a translation from Kurdish to English. The lyrics of the song were written by one of the most famous Kurdish poets of all times, Pîremêrd, in 1948. This version of the song is performed by a living legend among Kurds, Naser Rezazî, although the most known version of the song is performed by another, unfortunately not living, legend, Hassan Zîrek.  I chose to show you this video because it visualizes how Kurds traditionally celebrate Newroz.

The New Year’s day is today. Newroz is back.
An ancient Kurdish festival, with joy and verdure.
For many years, the flower of our hopes was downtrodden
The fresh rose of spring was the blood of the youth.
It was that red colour on the high horizon of Kurd
Which was carrying the happy tidings of dawn to remote and near nations.
It was Newroz which imbued the hearts with such a fire
That made the youth receive death with devoted love
Hooray! The sun is shining from the high mountains of homeland.
It is the blood of our martyrs which the horizon reflects.
It has never happened in the history of any nation
To have the breasts of girls as shields against bullets
Nay. It is not worth crying and mourning for the martyrs of homeland
They die not. They live on in the heart of the nation.

– Pîremêrd 1948

A political message

As you see, the lyrics have quite a strong political undertone. The reason for this is clear. Newroz, although it is mainly a cultural occasion, shared among many different nations, is without a doubt a celebration with political and nationalistic undertones within the Kurdish context. Even the mythological part of the celebrations are in the Kurdish context very much formulated in order to capture and evoke nationalistic feelings, feelings that shall be directed towards fighting any oppression of the Kurdish nation. Due to the oppression and division of the Kurdish nation after World War 1, Newroz has become the day where Kurds from all four parts of Kurdistan unite to express their unity and wish for freedom.

The lyrics are a tribute to not only the Kurdish nature, but above all a tribute to the young men and women that have sacrificed their lives in order to bring about a Kurdish spring. The metaphorical elements are right there, Newroz being the day where spring pushes away the cold grip of winter in the same way that Kurds shall push away those who have oppressed them. It is a song about the hope to see something new, a brighter tomorrow; leaving the hardships and grief behind in order to witness a Kurdish nation arise.

If one takes a brief look at Kurdish history and the present situation of millions of Kurds, one will hopefully be sympathetic towards why the message of Newroz, as portrayed in this song, has such political undertones.

Btw,

Don’t miss to read about the Newroz celebrations in the city of Amêd (or Diyarbakir) tomorrow in Northern Kurdistan (Turkey). Millions of people will gather around together and celebrate Newroz, a tradition that was strictly forbidden in Turkey just a couple of years ago.

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Did you find this interesting? Hêja explained another Kurdish song: Omer Dizeyî’s “Xewn le xewda”.

Let’s Listen To Abdel Halim Hafez & Jay Z At The Same Time

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Among the most popular Arab singers of all time (maybe even to be included into the club of the Great Four of Arabic music), Abdel Halim Hafez was and still very much is an icon. That kind of ‘icon’ whose songs influence revolutions, like the 2011 Egyptian revolution – 35 years after his death.

His early life and music career could have been that of a Edith Piaf – only he was an orphan living in extremely poor Cairo, and not Paris.

Abdel Halim Hafez, 1929 – 1977

Like Piaf, Hafez was rejected for his style of singing in the early days of his career but moved on to become enjoyed by all generations. Unlike the French icon, the ‘King of Arabic Music’ never or rarely recorded a studio album, always performing in sold-out arenas and stadiums; sometimes with him playing many different instruments as well.

You have heard him – not just on your trip to any part of the Middle East. You wonder when? Whenever you listen to Jay Z’s ‘Big Pimpin’, know that producer Timbaland used two complete bars from Hafez’ song ‘Khosara’. (In fact, Jay Z is currently facing legal drama over this.) Listen below.

You know I, thug em, fuck em, love em, leave em. Cause I don’t fucking need em“: The ode to the ‘pimping’ lifestyle, meaning sex with girls without becoming emotionally attached to them – I’m quoting rap genius – Jay Z’s ‘Big Pimpin’ is not unfamiliar to your ears.

Hafez used the same melody decades earlier. I translated (and summed up) the lyrics for you. Let’s see what meaning he gave to the song as opposed to his admirer. Listen below.

What a loss, what a loss
Your separation, oh neighbour
My eyes are weeping for you with bitterness
What a loss
Every day I’ve been searching for you
Only to find out that I see life through you
My eyes are sleepless
My tears are bewildered
What a loss, what a shame

We forgive Jay Z though. Jay has reportedly expressed embarrassment for and disclaimed the song’s subject in years since: “I can’t believe I said that, and kept saying it. What kind of animal would say this sort of thing?” Hafez certainly wouldn’t.

How HellyLuv Risked It All

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HellyLuv and her music video ‘Risk it all’ went viral in the Middle East. Ranja Faraj takes a closer look at it and explains what it means to be a female risktaker.

Before I start this article, I would like to address that I am for the happiness and freedom of all. This video I am using is perfect to bring a very interesting discourse forward. I believe music is subjective and I am not criticizing this particular song sonically or attacking the singer, HellyLuv. I am merely using the reaction this video caused as well as what this video represents in terms of the apparent progression of the Kurdish population.

Let’s Start

It is not a huge surprise that this song was musically designed to be commercially successful and contemporary. It does sound nice and it’s current exposure shows that there are likers and dislikers out there. Firstly, I want to magnify the issue of why some like it and some do not.

The Good, The Bad And The Passionate

Those who like the song, support what it represents and see it as a great platform to push Kurdistan forward have genuine reasons, though to what extent? On the other side you have people who dislike the song, see it as regressive for Kurds or even tarnishing and those who see it as a mere copycat of Western culture and the loss of our own. Both are right.

The reason why is because, here, we see a cross section of society, the immigrant in another country. A society living within someone living in a different society. The one who can feel at home in two places but is not perceived to be. The natural instinct would be to bring the two together because that is what one knows, what is embellished in their identity. So when HellyLuv, and many others, use a passion as a platform for their heritage you get a huge array of consequences, both good and bad.

I love culture and it is the differing cultures that makes one appreciate and distinguish one another. So, with the large generation of multi-culture kids, you face a fusion of culture already. Is this progression for society or is the preservation of each culture progression? Do we form a culture together and follow the dominating popular West in order to progress? Does it matter what culture we have as long as we do have culture?

The Wild Wild West

Another perspective is how the elite in South Kurdistan are encouraging foreign investment and with this you get foreign influence evidently and foreign products and demand for foreign goods increase with it and so on. Now, you would expect the younger generation in Kurdistan to desire Western culture when it is their investment which has seen the prosperity rise. So, what is wrong with HellyLuv playing to a strength she has and using it to unify an untapped generation that listen to the music that she makes? The elders in Kurdistan want money and with it came the culture. It seems that their hypocrisy denies their right to complain.

I am trying to figure out whether being three steps behind the West is better or worse. South Kurdistan are outsourcing resources and the West are outsourcing their culture. Who is winning and who is losing?

Are You Ready For This Jelly?

What about the Beyoncé Effect? There has been an increase of using women as empowering figures in the realm of the music industry. Your assumption may be why would that be relevant, let alone detrimental.

Look at it like this, the emphasis on independent women and fierceness and such for women exists and is marketed well and proven commercially successful. Now, when have you heard a song about an independent man who has to sing about issues to empower himself? It is a double standard. The reason why is because it’s marketable and you can create fandom. If a female wants to become successful right now, it has to target a following. So, when a female artist wants to achieve commercial success, they will target areas they can create a strong affinity with: females and issues of equality. It sounds very callous but it has become that and it is being recycled.

HellyLuv of Arabia

“A woman poses with two lions and a tight dress in a music video and suddenly women are equal.” No.

That is not the case and what is unfair to HellyLuv is how much responsibility has been put on her shoulders. She is doing what she loves yet there are people turning it into an international forum for the progression of the Kurdish population. Then there are people with vulgar comments from small villages consisting of 9 men to 1 women to 13 donkeys. Then there are death threats from self-righteous religious extremists. Then there are remarks from the ever so kind and thoughtful Kurdish women. There is a huge array of perspectives and arguments but let’s flip it on its head:

It’s a White Woman’s World

If an ordinary white woman sung this song, would there be this much outroar? If a white woman is free from any restrictions and implications when she wants to make music, why is HellyLuv different?

You can look at HellyLuv and see Arabification or you can snicker and gossip about HellyLuv trying to mimic MIA, Beyoncé, Shakira or Nicole Scherzinger. The parade of Kurdish flags in the video may show nationalism and pride, good or bad however you want to view it. Essentially, she is a bad person because she did what she did. That is the general view I have come across and it sickens me. HellyLuv will inspire a generation because she is a first.

Who Run The World? Girls?

What if a Kurdish man sung this song?

There would be no remarks that breach the wall of either “oh, he is trying to innovate Kurdish pop” or “he has sold his soul to the west”. Look at Darin, Swedish Pop Idol star, who was the first mediocre Western singer who had a Kurdish background. Darin was praised and idolised publicly. In similar circumstances, HellyLuv is in the crossfire of all kinds of judgement. Now, it simply cannot be because she is a woman… well no, maybe it is. All I can be certain of is that HellyLuv brought this up, unknowingly I assume, and now that it is recognised in a medium we can all see and discuss, there will be a push forward in this discourse.

Please, I want to hear your thoughts.

Kurdish Youth Festival – A Constructive Criticism

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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.

OUR INTENTION

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.

OUR PROPOSALS

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.

OUR APPRECIATION

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

Hobby: Critical Thinking

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More than a month ago, I created a Facebook page called “Dinge, die ein Politikstudent nicht sagt” (>3 500 fans), following the example of its successful English Version “Things Politics students don’t say” (>6 000 fans).

Among the most successful posts have been following posts:

The money is in studying Politics, you end up poor if you do Economics.

I have finally found a simple definition of politics that everyone can agree on!

or my favourite

My parents were so happy when I studied this instead of law.

As it is with all things, they’re funniest when they’re true. To anyone who has just finished his A-Levels, look for these pages on Facebook, relevant to your desired program. They will tell you more about your next three years in college studying – let’s say – politics than any student counselor.

When I first started studying Politics back in 2009, Facebook was not as popular in Germany as it is today. As there was nobody to truly tell me how it would be like to study what I had always had an interest in, I was left with my intuition, people’s opinions and experiences about studying Politics and my parents’ disapproval.

I dived in naively, not knowing the relatively unstable job market for political scientists-to-be. While it is true that most political scientists find Jobs within federal governments, think tanks, nonprofit organizations, colleges and universities, political lobbying groups, and labor organizations. Now, three years later, I cannot stress enough that getting a job is highly dependent on one’s own efforts and luck to become a good job candidate.

I now understood why my parents were not particularly keen on seeing me sign up for three, and most likely, five years of studying Political Science.

But 2011 changed everything.

In 2011 within just a few months, “pretty stable” regimes collapsed, Japan’s nuclear catastrophe irreversibly changed Germany’s energy policy and Denmark returned to its infamous border controls. Nothing seemed safe, everything was unpredictable. Questions were asked, answers were needed. The more complex the news, the more necessary became those who could explain them: political scientists turned into overnight celebrities. What they were taught are what they can do best: organize chaos, explain mysteries, foresee hindrance. Explain the world.

Luckily, my parents now, too, understand.

Poison Penmanship and Politics: Twitter and The Armchair Activist

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The ever growing number of online freedom fighters has been an issue since the advent of the notorious Kony campaign by Invisible Children. At first impression, you must be wondering why it would even be an issue. Why would the increase in conscious citizens using Twitter to tackle real world issues be an issue? Romance.

Freedom fighting has often been romanticised as something heroic and courageous, filled with grit and bloodshed, something noble. The camaraderie, the union of men and women bound by oppression and fighting for a single ideal, freedom. Now this may be a cinematic description of what the Syrian rebels or PKK soldiers may be doing but nonetheless it paints a picture that does not exist. Now I do not doubt nor am I talking ill of those around the world in these political positions – however the fusion of the Internet and the romance of anti-establishment has created a new battleground for these online Guevara-influenced guerillas.

Social media was at the forefront of the Arab Spring and the ones I speak of bear no resemblance to them. I am talking about those who tweet excerpts of The 48 Laws of Power, nationalistic views and the odd picture of Karl Marx or Fidel Castro smoking a cigar with an abstract comment like “the ashes fall like my comrades in battle”. For the readers who get the impression I am a right wing nut with a disdain for anything red or left – no, I am quite the opposite. I was born and bred in London to Kurdish refugee parents. I’ve been submerged in politics, completely out of my control, since I can remember. Now rather than parade what I believe in and what I have learnt, the point I am making is that these armchair activists take themselves too seriously and honestly believe they are waging a necessary war via the Internet.

One click of a hashtag on Twitter and you are sent into a warzone of regurgitated facts and angry polemicists seemingly trying to build a nation with 140 characters. The romance of it attracts the superficial ones. Some do like being oppressed, most may not know it but they are driven by it, they like fighting for a cause and without it, feel redundant. So what do they do? They fight fire with fire. An endless war that they initially tried to end by taking up arms online and as a result they unknowingly become a victim of their own circumstance. The oppressed and oppressors are no different in this case, just two sides of the same coin. For people who are supposed to believe in the welfare of mankind and basic human rights, they are very quick to incite violence on their oppressors or those who disagree with them.

Now I get the same response over and over: “They’re raising awareness, it counts for something”. Yes it does but where does awareness end and action begin? The internet is a great tool and a great tool must be utilised, it is not intended to just add ease. It is easy to tweet a 140 character war cry from your armchair. However, I am not suggesting you get the next flight to Tibet and spearhead an independence movement. My intention is for you to be critical of superficial tendencies that get in the way of something so integral as peace and safety for your neighbour.

There is an undeniable romantic appeal towards freedom fighters and anti-establishment. As a result, people become so concerned with the supposed flashy and glamourous life of a guerilla. They do not act like thinkers and builders on Twitter. They act like the very same soldiers they “fight” against. Thus the internet is another battlefield and everyone is equipped with weapons ranging from Twitter to Facebook. People need to understand that the revolution will not be Youtube-d. Actually, it already has.