The general elections have left the Iraqi political caste in a troubled and mutually suspicious state, since the neck and neck result secured by Iyad Allawi, the “secular” nationalist leader and Nuri al-Maliki, the Shiite out-going Prime Minister, do not readily enable the formation of a new government or a new Presidential Council, without concessions or haggling on one side or the other. Indeed, Allawi's list, al-Iraqiyyah, secured 25.87%, i.e. 91 seats, as against 25.76% for Maliki, or 89 seats. Moreover the list by led by Jaafari, another Shi'ite former Prime Minister, also won nearly 19%. Moreover it brings together Shiite public figures who have little sympathy for al-Maliki, like the supporters of Moqtada al-Sadr and the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution, (SCIR).
Between these politico-religious Arab blocks, the Kurds, hitherto united, could serve both as a moderating third or as "King Makers" as they have often been called. However it, the Kurdistan Alliance, which brings together the two principal Kurdish parties, the KDP and that PUK as well as other small left wing parties and both Moslems and Christians, now has to compromise with the votes of an opposition party, Goran, which won eight seats in the Iraqi Parliament (43 going to the Alliance of which 30 for the KDP and 13 for the PUK, and 6 for other small Kurdish parties). The Kurds must first to agree among themselves whether or not to support the re-election of Jalal Talabani to the Iraqi Presidency. However the Goran movement itself is born of a disagreement between senior leaders of the PUK and the present leadership of Jalal Talabani's party.
However, as can be seen, these new differences within the pro-Kurdish movement, while they could seriously harm it faced with a strong and united Iraqi government, in no way cancel their weight in Baghdad, seeing how far apart are the stands adopted by Allawi's list and that of Maliki's. Moreover the rest of the Shiites, like those of the SCIR or As-Sadr’s faithful followers, have no love for Maliki, who they accuse of wanting to monopolise power for personal ends, while having no even less sympathy for the Sunni nationalists, many of whom are former members of the Baath Party.
The Kurds, who also had moments of tension and disagreement with Maliki's government, cannot expect to do any better with the nationalist Arab bloc inside Iyad Allawi’s party. They have thus let it be known, by a number of statements, that Nuri al-Maliki could enjoy their support in the formation of a government, but not without solid concessions and concrete measures to achieve the main demands of the Kurdish Alliance. Nevertheless, at the beginning of April they were being courted both by the Shi'ite and Sunni Arabs, each hoping to bring them to their side. Thus Allawi twice went to the Kurdistan Region, while the Shi'ite Vice-President Adel Abdul-Mahdi, also visited Irbil and al-Maliki had meetings in Baghdad with Jalal Talabani.
However the Kurds, who had had their fingers burnt by the previous government's deceptions, this time are demanding concrete assurances and not vague promises, as was stressed by the present Kurdish Prime Minister Barham Salih: "We have to be very serious and careful regarding the commitments that we succeed in securing from any future government, whatever it may be. Iraq can not allow itself four more years of political stagnation."
In the ranks of Massud Barzani’s KDP the same tune can be heard thus Fadhil Mirani, Secretary of the KDP Political Committee said: "During previous alliances, the Kurds committed the mistake of making agreements without signing any documents" and confirmed "This time we will not make the same mistake".
A major demand of the Kurds is a referendum, provided for in article 140 of the Iraqi Constitution which could decide whether or not Kirkuk returns to the Kurdish Region. However the results of this election, in which Kurdish votes were divided between three making the Kurdistan Alliance’s score equal to that of Allawi's party, makes more difficult the application of Article 140 since the Sunni Arabs are fiercely opposed to it.
The Kurds also demand that the Peshmergas, the Kurdish defence Army, should be more generously financed by Baghdad as a component of the Iraqi National Army, and be paid and equipped on an equal footing with other troops.
Finally there are disagreements over the contracts made between the Kurdish government and foreign oil companies over the exploitation and development Kurdistan’s oil resources, which have not helped relations between Baghdad and Irbil. The Central Government is demanding full control of all these agreements whereas the Kurdish government, while ready to concede the total revenue obtained from these hydrocarbon contracts to the Federal Government against payment of 17% of the Iraqi budget, does not intend to allow the Region’s fuel policy to be controlled by the Arabs.
In any case it appears increasingly probable that whatever coalition eventually takes office in Iraq, the Kurds will be part of it and indeed a mixed government composed of both Sunni and Shi'ite Arabs is envisaged even though the durability and viability of such a team at the head of Iraq are highly questionable. Thus Massud Barzani declared, in a television interview on 4 April, that in his view the four main victors of these elections should be represented in the government because of the danger that marginalised movements might indulge in undermining and blocking tactics.
Another issue that is disturbing Iraqi politics is the future of the Iraqi Presidency. The outgoing President, Jalal Talibani, is supported by the Kurdistan Alliance. However there are doubts about the stand of the Goran party, which does not intend to support him without some concessions on differences regarding internal Kurdish politics. Thus one of its representatives Shoresh Haji, hastened to declare that his party would only support Talabani's Presidency "in principle" on condition that the Alliance and especially the PUK, which politically controls the Province of Suleimaniyah, ceases its "persecutions" of the opposition.
Unlike the 2005 elections, this time the Iraqi President does not have the support of all the country's political blocks. At that time, differences between Shi'ites and Sunnis had led the Iraqi Arabs to prefer a “neutral” Kurdish President. The first attack came from within the Presidential Council itself in the person of the present Sunni Vice President, Tariq Hashemi, who had already drawn attention to himself by including people suspected of being Baathists on his list. This accusation is far from being extinguished since the Sunni Arab has declared that "Iraqi is an Arab country and it is legitimate that an Arab be the next President". Tariq Hashemi explained that this is would have considerable importance in relations between Iraq and the other countries of the Arab League. The statement immediately was attacked by Massud Barzani who condemned these remarks as aiming at "sectarian conflict". This clumsy remark, was also the subject of sarcastic remarks from the Al-Arabiyyah Iraqi television service’s Director-General, Abdul Rahman al-Rashid, who said outright that the Vice President's remark was "detestable" and "racist", moreover stressing that no other country could dictate Iraq its choices in matters of government. Tariq al-Hashimi later tried to justify himself by stating that he only wanted to say that an Arab also had the right to be present.
In any case the two main Shi'ite coalitions have both expressed their support for Jalal Talabani's candidature to the Iraqi Presidency, which seems to provide a substantial majority for his re-election for a new term of office.
There is no let-up in Iran in the sentencing and execution of prisoners, particularly in the Kurdish community, and this with complete disregard to age or sex. Thus on 2 April the mother of a family and her two children, aged respectively 19 and 20, was sentenced to death by the Mahabad Court that considered the family "endangered the security of Iran".
According to Amnesty International, which is expecting a wave of executions, these sentences and the way they are applied, are completely disproportionate to the charges against the accused, are, in fact, signals being sent to the population of Kurdistan and its activists that the Iranian regime will show zero tolerance to any emancipation movements by the Kurds. This systematic persecution is confirmed by Human Rights Watch, which recently published a report in which it also notes that very heavy repression is being exerted against all the minorities in Iran and practically the Kurds, to which is added many forms of discrimination, both religious and cultural.
Thus only in the winter of 2009, the NGOs recorded nearly 181 cases of clear violations of Human Rights in the province of Kurdistan: threats, arrests, long-term detentions, cases of torture and suspicious deaths of detainees, irregular trials and heavy sentences going as far as capital punishment. Thus on 6 January last, Fasih Yasamani, a Kurdish political prisoner, was executed on the basis of a death sentence passed during a trial which only lasted a few minutes . In addition, three other detainees died in the course of their imprisonment, before they were even brought to trial.
Surveillance and repression are also, evidently, carried out in the universities — in this case with full co-operation between the university and legal authorities. Still during last winter, 110 Kurdish students were summoned by disciplinary commissions, 22 of them being sent down, either temporarily or permanently, for "political offences". Finally 37 of these students were charged and detained by the security forces.
In all, 143 people were detained, some of whom have been tried, and 29 sentences have been passed going from 22 months to 6 years imprisonment.
Finally 17 Kurdish political prisoners who have been condemned are still in Death Row awaiting execution. The severity of these sentences is not limited to cases of political rebellion or the guerrilla action. They also cover journalists and peaceful human rights or feminist activists. According to the Kurdish paper Rudaw, practicing journalism in Iranian Kurdistan be compared to “walking on a minefield". Many of those cooperating with the press are arrested publication of papers are banned
According to Reporters sans Frontières’ classification Iran is now one of the worst countries for freedom of the press and safety of journalists, having fallen from 166th place to 172nd this year, since Ahmmadinjad’s re-election to the Presidency, making the whole country "a prison for journalists".
According to Rudaw, over 350 journalists have been dismissed from their editorial jobs, more than 100 arrested and 25 daily and weekly publications banned. About 60 press officials have been interrogated and subjected to investigation. The bulk of Kurdish journalists have fled abroad. Ten Kurdish journalists still in Iran are in detention including Adnan Hassanpour, Hiwa Butimar, Muhammad Sadiq Kabudwand, Mukhtar Zarhi, Abbas Jalilian, Ali Muhammad Islampour. At the moment there is no not a single independent Kurdish newspaper or magazine that has not been banned: Ashtî, Rojhelat, Hawar, Peyamî Kurdistan, Peyam Mardam, Rasan, Jiwar, Nadai Jamiha, Nadai Danishdjo, Khatun, Zilan and yet others have ceased officially to appear.
The UK office of Amnesty International published a report this month on violence inflicted on the civilian population in Iraq, entitled “Civilians under fire". It dealt primarily with Iraq but with sections on the Kurdistan Region, as a separate study.
In a macabre survey of the violence suffered by the Iraqi civilian population as a whole, it thus specified that the "semi-autonomous region" of Kurdistan, that is to say the provinces of Duhok Irbil and Suleimaniyah, has been much less hit by violence than the rest of the country". This is because "the authorities have taken positive measures to fight violence against women, even if this struggle needs to be pursued by stronger measures". On the other hand, as in the rest of Iraq, the two parties in power are accused of aggression against journalists and opposition activists.
Violence against women in Kurdistan is, in fact, carried out by families who also attack it the associations and all those who defend the women. Amnesty reports evidence given by a Kurdish woman lawyer reports death threats she received on her mobile telephone, in 2008 from the parents of one of her clients, who had been ill treated by her husband during divorce proceedings. A hostel in Suleimaniyah, where women can find shelter, was attacked on 11 May 2008 by armed men, suspected of being the parents of a fugitive sheltered there, who was seriously injured by shots in an adjoining building. The Kurdish authorities arrested several members of this family, but were obliged to release them in the absence of sufficient proof — to date none of the authors of the attack had been identified.
The report also raises in the case of Aziz Kurdistan a Kurdish woman from the village of Kolkarash near Irbil, who disappeared in May 2008. In February of that year, she had fled with a young man with whom she was in love. These "consenting kidnappings" are an old tradition in Kurdistan, that allows young people to get married against the wishes of their families, provided they're not caught in the meantime. On the other hand, this practice is punishable by imprisonment under Kurdish law. In such a case, the culprits serve a prison sentence, which in fact is a means whereby the Kurdish authorities protect them from the vengeance of their families, giving them time for calm down. At the end of February, the young woman had been able to return home after her parents had promised the authorities to ensure her safety. However in May 2008, Kurdistan Aziz disappeared. The young girl's father declared to the local police that his nephew had phoned him admitting the murder. To this day it would appear that the murderer is still free. However this case shows limitations on authorities’ margin of manoeuvre in family affairs.
Since 2002, the Kurdistan regional government has withdrawn the clause "honourable motive" in cases of honour crimes, which existed in Iraqi law from Baathist times. Today women threatened can seek refuge in welfare centres organised by NGOs or the state -- which is not the case in the rest of Iraq, where only NGOs provide this facility. Even though this does not totally protect them from family reprisals.
In the majority of cases, the hostels staff, police officers, and community leaders, are involved in negotiations with the families, who must in commit themselves in writing not to use violence against the women or girls who accept a return to their families. However Amnesty International points out that these agreements are can be broken and women are still being killed or wounded.
The amendments to articles 128, removing the "honourable motives" from honour crimes perpetrated against women does not yet cover homosexuals. Thus, on 24 October 2005, the Kurdistan appeal Court confirmed the sentence of one year's imprisonment on the man from Koya who had confessed to the murder of his brother, a homosexual. The court had considered that the wish to "put an end to the shame that the victim brought on his family by deprived conduct and engaging in prostitution" could be considered an "honourable motive" for the murder.
Reporters sans Frontières has relayed a number of complaints by journalists in Kurdistan, especially during the electoral period, alleging pressures threats and attacks. Akar Fars and Rizgar Muhsin, both journalists on Yekgirti TV (an Islamic opposition party channel) while campaigning for the Islamic Union of Kurdistan, were both beaten by armed men who wanted to prevent them filming a polling station in Irbil on 7 March the day of the elections.
Other Kurdish journalists were threatened or attacked for having written articles criticising the two parties in power — the KDP and the PUK.
Sabah 'Ali Qaraman, aged 28 years, thus escaped an attempt at kidnapping on 19 January last at Kifri (Suleimaniyah). It seems that his criticisms of the regional officials had displeased them, in any case the victim states that he had recognised one of the three men in a jeep parked in front of his house. This was a former official of the PUK, against whom he had complained officially. To date the latter has not been bothered by the police.
Nabaz Goran, 32 years a journalist on the magazine Jihan, was attacked near his office on 29 October 2009 by 3 men in the Iskan district of Irbil. The men, who he accused of being linked to the KDP, after asking him his name, hit him on the head with a metal object.
A more serious case, since it is a matter of murder, took place in Kirkuk. Souran Mama Hama, 23 years old, who was working for the magazine Levin, was shot outside his parents home on 21 July 2008, by men in a car dressed in civilian clothes. Sauron had frequently criticised the corruption and nepotism of the KDP and the PUK and had received death threats several days before his assassination.
Several Goran party activists have complained of attacks some of which involved death. In December 2009, five of this party's activists were shot and killed by “persons unknown”. Thus Raouf Qadir Zaryani was shot down before his home on 25 December 2009 in Halabja Taze, Suleimaniyah province, by persons unknown travelling in a vehicle. . Sarda Qadir, a businessman and Goran party candidate, for 2010, was wounded in his home at Iskan, on 4 December 2009 by a shot fired through the window. He pointed out to Amnesty's reporters that he had never received any threats but that some weeks prior to the attack he had been followed and in his view this attack was politically motivated.
Dara Tewfik, an officer, reported to amnesty that he had been attacked and struck with an iron triangle in front of his home, on 7 October 2009. He had been unable to see his attackers, but recognised that one of them spoke with a local accent. He had never received any threats, but thinks that the attack was due to his breaking win the PUK and his support of Goran.
The election campaign has accentuated pressures against the opposition and, especially, by the PUK against its dissenting members who had gone over to Goran, as can be seen above, and to some extent against the Islamic Union of Kurdistan, whose offices were attacked by armed “persons unknown” in Suleimaniyah on 14 February, while on the 18th several of its members were arrested in Duhok.
The Kurdistan Region has been spared the acts of violence against religious and ethnic minorities current elsewhere.
The section on territorial conflicts begins by recalling the origins of the problem, namely the expulsion by the Iraqi authorities of Kurds from Kirkuk together with members of other minorities, so as to replace them by Arab settlers brought from the centre and south of Iraq. The report also recalls that during the Anfal campaign in at the end of the 80s, tens of thousands of Kurdish civilians were the victims of a "disappearances", persecutions, and bombardment by chemical weapons. One of the consequences of this was a very great number of refugees and displaced persons, principally Kurds, who fled or were expelled from Kirkuk and other territories claimed by the KRG all through the 1990s.
The bulk of these refugees have not yet been able to return to their original homes.
The Iraqi Constitution, approved by referendum in 2005, makes provision for a return of the Arab settlers to their original region with suitable compensation, and a referendum on all the disputed regions, to enable them to choose whether or not to be attached to the Kurdistan region.
Amnesty highlights this and the uncertain and unstable political situation as a source of violence and tension there and points out, as does Human Rghts Watch, that the non-Kurdish and non-Arab minorities are caught, sandwiched in a trial of strength between Baghdad and Irbil. This also results in internal divisions within these communities, with camps and parties having opposed preferences regarding their "protectors". Thus the Kurdish authorities have set up a system of self-defence for these minorities by forming village militia, principally Christian, but also Yezidi and Shabak, so as to protect them against attacks by Islamists or Arab Nationalists. Some public figures among these minorities, who are opposed to the KRG, accuse the Kurds of seizing the disputed territories by means of these local militia and the threats and ill-treatment dealt out by the Peshmergas, especially during the election period. Thus Murad Kashti al-Asi, a Yezidi from the Sinjar, whose party is opposed to the pro-Kurdish one, has been frequently detained, threatened and ill-treated. The most recent incarceration was in November 2008, which seemingly coincides with the period of the provincial elections.
The Iraqi authorities have not been idle either — in October 2008 the Kurds in Qaratepe were subjected to a raid and threats from the Security Forces.
Finally the report mentions the fact that the Kurdish Constitution, passed in 2009, now describes the claimed territories as forming part of Kurdistan.
As the film “MIN DIT” has just been released in Turkey, its Kurdish film director Miraz Bezar was interviewed by the newspaper Zaman. He explained that he had wanted, through this film, to tackle the Kurdish question in Turkey "without hesitations nor censorship" even at the risk of hampering his career as a film maker with a political subject that could offend non-Kurdish public opinion in Turkey:
"If I was solely concerned by business or making a career, like some of my colleagues, I would have tried to find myself a place in the market by shooting other films. But there are certain problems that strike me, from a film director’s point o view. This film was made possible by an approach to the Kurdish question without hesitations or censorship. That is why this film had to be in Kurdish. Because the language people speak where it was filmed is Kurdish. Today the film can be shown with subtitles, like an American film. If a film in the Kurdish language can take part in a national film competition in Antalya, this means that we were right. This may also open the way for young film directors from Diyarbekir who have a future in this sector. Now Kurdish families from Iran want their children to become film directors and not doctors or engineers, because the film industry is a great opportunity for Kurds to express themselves abroad.
In Turkey I went to school until I was nine years old. When I left for Germany, my childhood was completely turned upside down. I tried to learn Kurdish because it had been forbidden in Turkey. Living the life of an immigrant after the 70s and during the period of the coup d'état in Turkey was difficult but if you came from a Kurdish family that was politically committed you were close to the problems that the whole of Turkey was facing. For example how many years have gone by before people even started to talk about the JITEM? For me, the JITEM was a problem that dated back 1995 and 1996. In fact, they should have started to be concerned about this problem after the accident at Susurluk but that never happened. If I had remained in Germany to make this film it would have had a completely external point of view. Thus I had to leave and deal with something other than what we all know or have learnt on paper"
Questioned about the title of his film, “I saw" in Kurdish, the director answered that the view point was first of all his own, "the painful view point of a Kurd", and also that of children, with a simple view of what they are experiencing, while at the same time trying to move a public a priori reticent or hostile.
"Generations come and go but this question has not been resolved and has been passed on as a heritage. The film's main message is to ask what we are leaving to future generations. I invested five years in this film, yet and I am astounded that some people say that I have done this just for propaganda. What person, with any sort of conscience, can accept the fact that, today, three thousand children are in prison? Indeed, politicians in Turkey do not, unfortunately, have the same comments to make about these children as they do about Palestinian children who throw stones. "Those who throw stones today will be found with arms in their hands tomorrow", they say. Consequently they must not be allowed to throw stones. You will not change their world by putting them in prison. This is really rather like saying "I will hit you on the head until you learn your lessons". What you should really do is to open your arms to them and integrate them. Otherwise these children will feel that they are all alone. 90% of the children in Diyarbekir have such experiences. We are thus creating a mass of people who do not know how to express themselves except by violence.
I think that if we tell this story through the eyes of children, people living in Western Turkey and who know nothing about these incidents could more easily feel some empathy. We live together in this country. Nevertheless, people have been paid with our taxes to kill other people in our name. And they were not even obliged to account for their actions. Frankly, I think that everyone in Turkey is as a victim, and not just the Kurds. The multicultural way of living that I experienced in Kreuzberg, in Berlin, could also be experienced in this country, but this is refused to people. Certain ideologies, dogmas, fears, have been made up. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent on this war instead of being used for building schools, for science or the development of the country. We must ask ourselves firstly why this war was waged. Those who take certain decisions in our name, those who say that we are all brothers and sisters, adopt policies lacking any brotherhood, Those who have carried them out, must be questioned today. I have drawn the JITEM and those unsolved murders in my film in order that these wounds be healed and that people should be able to say aloud what they had been victims of, so as finally to be cured of their trauma. I hope that one day we should be able to talk about traumas caused in this way by soldiers. Really we must answer these questions with our consciousness".
In the film's story, the mother of two children communicates with them about the tragedy which is befalling them by means of a fairy story.
Miraz Bezar reveals that the general tone of his film was inspired by Grimm's fairy, Hansel and Gretel, in which “children are left alone in the woods or in our vast world", as well as by a Kurdish story in which the villagers do not kill a wolf that has caused havoc to their herds but instead tie a bell round his neck. "As a film director, I wanted to present a means of restraining violence and prevented it being perpetuated. We see that violence only nourishes more violence. This, indeed, also applies to those who throw stones. This means that it is possible to develop an alternative method for responding to violence. Regarding the characters in the film, critics have said that the Kurds are all entirely nice and Turks entirely nasty. Turkey is experiencing a first experiment. When someone speaks Turkish in a Kurdish language film that this does not mean that that he is Turkish. I'm talking to you in Turkish, although I am a Kurd. We see things the way we want to see them."
A pall was cast over the film's release in Turkey, however, by the death in the same month of Evrim Alatas, the joint script-writer, succumbed to a cancer of the lungs. A Kurd and an Alevi, Evrim Alatas was also a journalist. She began in 1994 on the daily paper Yeni Politika. She subsequently worked for several dailies: Evrensel, Birgun, Radikal Iki, a supplement to the daily Radikal, as well as Demokrasi and Ozgur Bakis, both as a reporter and an editorial writer. She was also the author of many short stories.
Four poems by the Kurdish poetess Choman Hardy have been selected by two British examination bodies for the curriculum of the General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE), an exam that marks the successful conclusion of secondary education in Great Britain for young people at between 15 and 16 years of age. Pupils in the United Kingdom and Wales will now have to study "At the border 1979", which is in the curriculum of the Assessment and Qualifications Alliance (AQA) while the Edexcel will make its pupils study in "Invasion", "My Country’s Penelopes" and "My Mother's Cooking".
Thus Choman Hardy’s texts have now taken place in English literature alongside those of classical English writers and poets such as William Shakespeare, Wilfred Owen, W.H. Auden, William Blake, William Wordsworth, Dylan Thomas, Emily Brontë, Thomas Hardy, Ted Hughes, D.H. Lawrence, W.B. Yeats, as well as contemporary writers like Carol Ann Duffy, Gillian Clarke, Simon Armitage and Seamus Heaney (1995 Nobel literature prize).
Choman Hardy, poetess, translator and painter, was born in 1974 in Suleimaniyah, in Iraqi Kurdistan. A year later her family had to flee to Iran, after the collapse of the Kurdish revolt, before returning to their country in 1979, following a general amnesty. In 1988, however, she and her family had to flee again from the Anfal campaign and emigrated to the United Kingdom in 1993. Choman Hardy first studied psychology and philosophy at Oxford and at University College London. She took a Ph.D. at Kent University, taking “The consequences of forced immigration on Kurdish women of Iraq and Iran” as is the subject of her thesis.
Writing in both Kurdish and English, Choman Hardy has published three collections of poems in her mother tongue and one collection in English, Life for us, that came out in 2004. She was, for a time, chairman of the Association of Writers in Exile and has organised several writers' workshops for the British Council, as well as in Belgium, the Czech Republic and India. She has also exhibited her paintings, in particular in June 2007 at the Hawth Art Centre of in Sussex. She is at present carrying out postdoctoral research at Uppsala University in Sweden, in the Department Studying the Shoah Genocide and is due to bring out a work entitled "Gendered experiences of genocide: Anfal survivors in Iraqi Kurdistan".
Questioned by the Kurdish Media site, Choman Hardy said she was very proud to be placed among the great poets and authors of English tradition: "I have only been writing in English for the last 10 years and it is a great honour to be thus introduced into the English tradition. Moreover, since my poems deal with the Kurdish problem, I hope that students will thus tackle aspects of Kurdish history through reading them. "At the border", for example, speaks of the moment when, in 1979 at the age of five years, I crossed the Iranian border to return to Iraqi Kurdistan. It was then that I realised how much all I had been told about Iraqi Kurdistan was wrong. The poem "My country's Penelope's" talks about the widows of the Anfal campaign who have been waiting for the return of their disappeared husbands ever since the fall of the Baathist regime in 2003.”
At the border, 1979
By Choman Hardi
“It is your last check-in point in this country!”
We grabbed a drink-
soon everything would taste different.
The land under our feet continued
divided by a thick iron chain.
My sister put her leg across it.
“Look over here,” she said to us,
“my right leg is in this country
and my left leg in the other”.
The border guards told her off.
My mother informed me: We are going home.
She said that the roads are much cleaner
the landscape is more beautiful
and people are much kinder.
Dozens of families waited in the rain.
“I can inhale home,” somebody said.
Now our mothers were crying.
I was five years old standing by the check-in point
comparing both sides of the border.
The autumn soil continued on the other side
with the same colour, the same texture.
It rained on both sides of the chain.
We waited while our papers were checked,
our faces thoroughly inspected.
Then the chain was removed to let us through.
A man bent down and kissed his muddy homeland.
The same chain of mountains encompassed all of us.