The Official Soundtrack of Kurdish Independence

opinions

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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Kurdish Youth Festival – A Constructive Criticism

opinions

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

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.