Thursday, April 23, 2015

Dear world, I request a leave.

The doctor instructed I rest. 

And for a good five weeks I spent my days half asleep on the sofa, sitting in the garden and in between having needles drain out the slight bit of blood I have in my little body. I was on sick leave. This, my dear reader, made me realize we all need a leave, not from work, but from the world. 
Photo: Pennlive

I was on leave not just at work, but leave from Twitter tweets, from Instagram pictures, Facebook feeds, leave from shopping, and ladies and gentleman, sick leave from the world’s news. 

Hibernating has taught me quite a bit. 

So many of our illness come from stress, and something us Kurds call ‘kham’ (the definition I can think of here is grief). My people happen to know Mr. Kham a little too well as life hasn't always been rosy for our people.

I learned ignorance is bliss. Before this sick leave for nights on end I had nightmares of pictures I saw, families I witnessed mourning the loss of their loved ones and children crying. The harsh reality of our world haunted me in my sleep. Then again, in real life we can’t live in blindness, nor can we stay silent against the atrocities we see.

Mentally I felt so much at peace not knowing much. I remember at one point a dear one switched off the Wifi at home when the owner of my favourite teashop in Erbil died. Just so I could sleep that night without finding out. 

I spent hours on end sitting, observing the birds in my father’s garden. He would tell me about their different personalities while I watched how they ate, how they interact with one another and heard their tweeting. My friend, I heard the tweeting of real birds that flap their wings and fly, not the twitter feed tweeting on my phone.

As much as I was pushing people away- literally! There were individuals who would drop off a plate of dolma, or come by and sit with me in the garden when I couldn’t move a single muscle. I would find surprises behind our entrance door, letters and lots of miss calls (let’s just ignore the fact that more than half were work related!). I was reminded once again the close people in our life matter.

During my 'sick' days a friend, J.J. on holiday, who was thinking of me. Little things make a huge difference. 

It doesn’t make a difference how many Twitter followers you have, how many Facebook likes you get, or how many people double tap your Instagram picture. You can have four hundred Facebook friends, but when you have no one to ask how you're doing when you are down and unwell then what’s the use?!

I am back now. No longer on leave. But I carry the lessons with me. 
  • When with people, the phone should be not seen, not heard. 
  • When at home put the Wifi on, use the internet when needed then turn it back off. The continuous notifications give a sense that it’s the end of the world if one doesn’t see the new comment made.
  • Stock up on new books and board games to enjoy. Once there is less internet in your life you realize that 24 hours is actually a lot of time (that is, if you don’t have an 8-5 job).
  •  Follow the news. But not every minute of every day. You could, and you would love to, but a morning and an evening read suffices.
  • Make a solid effort to appreciate and notice the little things- like the new plant in the garden or the flower that has just flourished.  
  • Finally, our body is the most precious machine. The mind and soul above all; look after them well. Don’t take your good health for granted. 
Enjoying pomegranate with none other than my baaba

Writing all this makes me wonder: Wouldn't it be great if we were all able to take a leave from the world every now and then? I feel so many people in Kurdistan need a leave. They need to live stress free days without Kham, days without fearing their or their children's future, days without hearing news that shatters their heart. The people of my land deserve to be happy.

My heart goes out to all the families suffering in Kurdistan right now, in particular those who have lost their loved ones on the front lines to keep our land safe. I feel your pain.

I don’t know how long I will last, but for the time being, I feel much lighter, happier and above all, healthier.

Meanwhile, blogging is back on my 'to do' list, and I have some amazing people, places and things to tell you about, so please drop by (with your cup of chai) when you can.

Lots of love
From my nest in Kurdistan 


O' so cozy O'ccaffe!

Loyal readers,
Ask anyone these days and we are all somehow stressed, tired, over thinking and just… had enough! If you are an expat here or someone who wants to relax in a place with a lot of western atmosphere, yet classic and cozy I think I’ve managed to find you something that you will like (thank me later, it’s ok). A chitchat? Something nice to eat? Perhaps even a casual work meeting or.. you know, just somwehere for you and your laptop? Look no further than O’ccaffe.
O’ccaffee – Erbil, Ankawa Photo: Their Facebook page! :)

I looooooved the lighting here. It is perfect. It doesn’t blind you. They have lamps! Lamps people, lamps. What a world of difference a small bookshelf and some lamps make to any cafe, and guess what? O’ccaffe has both!
Feels like your own living room
The food is beautifully presented and arrives with a blink of an eye. I was still admiring the decor, and before I knew arrived the mouth-watering large pizza (I love the thin crust, it was too good to be true) and an amazingggg salad! Oh so fresh!

A very poor attempt of taking an artistic photograph of a plate. The message is: It was yummy yum-yum! Photo: Yours truly :)
You know why I really fell in love? Because there is absolutely no need to fake cough a billion times till the person behind you understands not to blow his cigarette smoke into your lungs, nor do you have to be self consious if you visit alone with a notebook, pen and a laptop. Drop by, and let me know what you think.


Here is the O’ccaffe Erbil, Ankawa phone number: 0750 395 6485  and Facebook page I think for a larger group you need to call and make a reservation.

This post is not an advertisement. I (and, of course, Mr. Husband) just happen to like it there and thought I would share my latest find with you loyal readers.

Lots of love from
My Nest in Kurdistan

Young Women of Kurdistan - The change maker series, part II

February 15, 2015 by mandalawi

I am sitting with this wonderful young Kurdish woman somewhere that I would have never found if it wasn’t for her. I am not surprised this is where she comes to hang out. It reflects a lot about her personality. After all, only people who know the real meaning of life will come here (hang in there, more about where we are at a later post) the point is, I am sitting on the floor, face to face, with one of those Kurdish girls who has turned all her challenges and sorrows in life into positive energy to change the life of others. Her name? Saza. Yes, I have picked up one extra letter from her name, and if I had 1% of her inner soul beauty than I consider myself lucky.

great girls of Kurdistan
Saza Muhamad

Name: Saza Muhammad
Age: 28 years old
Education: Political Science graduate, Salahaddin University
Profession: Journalist (I must add here, Saza is also a full time volunteer)
This is the girl who cleaned groceries while holding the book with her feet as she studied. The girl who lost her mother at a time in her life when she needed her most, the girl who cares about her society, her people, the one who wants to leave this world knowing she left something for others.


There are girls in my life who in the presence I feel I am learning, even from their silence. I learn from every move and every word they say. They are like walking teachers. Life time teachers. Saza is top ranked in this list. This young Kurdistani girl makes you feel safe, in her presence you feel there are perfect beings in this world who only want to do good in their life.

The type who doesn’t compare herself to anyone else but works to make herself a better person, and achieve her own goals; Saza makes me believe a woman has a purpose to live. The commitment, love and time she gives her family is just as grand as what she puts into her friendship and work with vulnerable people.

I have seen this girl mix with orphan children. I feel she is a mother to them all, she feels she is responsible to the children’s happiness, their wellbeing.  If I had a little of Saza’s heart, if I could only take in everything I learn from her everytime I see her, I am grateful. She was one of the active people in the donations campaign to Hujam Surchi in Erbil and many other voluntary events that restulted in massive success.

Mandalawi: Saza, tell me about you.
Saza: She begins with a smile that tells me “where do I began”
For two years I volunteered with Dilvia, I worked most on the Dream projects. My mother, god bless her soul, may she rest in peace, was unwell for many years of her life before she left but she continued to help people till her last breath. When I was 18, in my first year of university she died. I lost my emotional support… In a family of nine she was the closest to me. I never ate a single meal if she wasn’t sitting next to me. The person I wanted most in my life left me. I began visiting the orphanage, the elderly people’s home, you can say I continued life by keeping my mother’s soul alive. I began sharing a never ending love with vulnerable people in our community, a type of love that came with a lot of responsibility.

Saza campaign
Saza Muhamad during the donations campaign for Martyr Hujam Surchi

Mandalawi: What do you live for?
Saza: Helping people. Being part of people’s lives. Whoever needs help, young or old. I am the happiest when I am part of people’s or see their smile. Sometimes I walk in the street I don’t know anyone, but I start a conversation, if they smile, I feel really happy. In my writing I try to focus a lot on people’s lives and their personal stories.

Saza & Pura Parwin
Saza introduced me to Pura Parwin. More on her in a different post. I promise

Mandalawi: Challenges? I ask and sigh, because I wonder how she will answer this question, knowing that Saza’s story is not an easy one.

Saza: I believe in one thing, whenever you are different, or want to do something different then you automatically face challenges. This is normal. I have come to accept this reality. If I sat down, didn’t move, of course I  wouldn’t be confronted with such challenges in my life. My sisters who are much humbler than I am don’t expereince these difficult encounters. I am the odd one out (laughs). The crazy one.

Mandalawi’s note: I notice in Kurdish households in particular the traditional ones the ‘crazy’ in the family is the change maker, the outcast, the black sheep. The one who has to fight and argue to prove it is worth doing what she does.


Mandalawi: Take me through a day in your life
Saza: I always write three most important things for the day to do, work related or not. But I always have three dot points hand written. A day doesn’t go pass with a dose of news from all around the world, I work on a newspaper website so that’s part of my job. I have a training once a week which I do, I am learning a lot from that, and of course I do housework with my stepmother. Even before my mother passed away I took on the role in the house because she wasn’t well. Shopping is also on me! (She smiles. God I love this girl’s smile)


Mandalawi: Your dreams in life?
Saza: Laughing* “I have made a list of 100 dreams, how do you want me to choose only 3?
We begin talking and our conversation takes many turns, that I stop asking the questions I had prepared. Saza tells me about how we must work so that dreams don’t just remain a dream. She tells me about books she reads, her relationship with her 17 nieces and nephews and we go back to her ultimate wish to do a masters degree in Kurdistan, but when door after door closes she knows very well the only solution is a trip to the UK. When and how, she doesn’t know just yet, but she knows the traditional girl from Qaladze will travel on a plane and pursue her postgraduate studies only to fly back to her nest and complete a lifetime journey she has already began. A journey where people need her in their lives.


I love going somewhere to see Saza come in with a wide dressed elegently in her simple Jli Kurdi (Kurdish traditional clothes). I love how traditional yet simple, beautiful, educated and down to earth Saza can be. Saza is the girl who you look at and want your sister, daughter, and everyone else around you to have a little of her. She is the girl who you are proud to introduce to anyone you know, you are proud to introduce her as a Kurdish girl. I know one day this young girl in her one ways will make huge changes in Kurdistan’s society. She is alredy making that difference. She is a beacon of hope.

Follow Saza on Twitter right here. I am in the process of persuading Saza to open her own blog, and once she does, you can be part of her journey.

lots of love from
My Nest in Kurdistan

Valentines Day in Kurdistan - Forget the red rose!

Oh yes! That time of year. My dearest most loved loyal blog reader(s), it only took a walk through Family Mall and a drive in Ankawa earlier this week to realize the red-Valentine fever is here too! Women’s clothing shops have all their red dresses on the mannequins, shops with stationery supplies have the entire red theme going on (I have a picture to prove) And Family Mall for example has their usual Valentine’s Day love seat for couples to take pictures on.

Valentines in Kurdistan
Kurdish woman making her lover’s gift, the Kurdistani way. Photo: Safin Hamed/AFP/Getty Images, taken from here
I will keep my ramblings and arguments of Valentine’s Day to myself this time. However, in times of war, conflict, hatred and in a world of killing I welcome any gesture of love and will not stand or speak against it. In my part of the world some people don’t even know Valentines Day exists, others plan their wedding dates on this day. Some celebrate it not knowing  the story behind it’s existence, and there are others who find it shameful to wear red on February 14th suggesting that it’s screaming out loud and clear: “People! I AM  IN LOVE!” Hence, mixed thoughts on this issue.
valentines in Kurdistan
In Kurdistan, red apple with cloves, symbolizing love Photo: Safin Hamed, taken from this article

Society in general hasn’t made up its mind yet to accept or refute. I would love to celebrate a day of love if the occasion commemorated some of the biggest lovers/ love stories in Kurdish literature. I’d feel like I own the occasion more. Or instead of chocolates, red roses and teddy bears we can give the traditional sewi mekhik, the apple with cloves? There is so much Kurdish culture we can use, but unfortunately it doesn’t have as much publicity or propaganda as those of the west, and hence, we opt to forget our culture and just… go with the teddy, red rose and the chocolates. Do I make sense? No? Any-howwww.

My never ending love for Nergis flowers fresh from the mountains of Kurdistan. Spring has come early!
Celebrate love my dearest. Celebrate it today, tomorrow, every February 14th and every other day of the year too! In the meantime this week I felt March has arrived early and the sight of the Nergis (narcissus) has taken my heart away! If you’re celebrating… how about some Nergis flowers to your love instead of the typical red rose? Let’s add a bit of Kurdish-ness to the day!
Valentines in Kurdistan
Made with love in Kurdistan Photo: Safin Hamed

Love you always
From My Nest in Kurdistan

The preservation of a red apple with cloves is a Kurdish tradition symbolizing Adam and Eve’s relation with the apple, representing love and prosperity”
Read more:

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Young women of Kurdistan- The change maker series: Part I

Loyal blog readers,

I am on a mission. Of all the great and wonderful and amazing and just… super great people that cross my everyday life I will post an eight week series. One Kurdistani girl a week on the blog. I want to introduce you to these remarkable young women who are full of energy, inpiration and are sources of hope.
I couldn’t resist but open the series with none other than….

She resembles hope, strength, coexistance, love and team work.

Name: Shan Kameran Bakir
Profession: Dentist, but that’s just a different story. Founder and General Manager of Dilvia NGO
Age: 25

We met last year (gosh! If I put it that way it sounds like such a long time ago. You know, 2014) I saw her doing a presentation, and admired her right then and there. Fast forward a few months I found myself in the hottest summer mornings, in my tracksuits at her house, 8 am. I must add it was Ramadan.

Beware her smile is contagious.

 My purpose was to join in the Ramadan Basket project she and her team of volunteers had. The point is, I woke her up from sleep, a little too early (I had my excuses) for our pre arranged meeting. She sat me in her family’s living room. I wish I recorded our conversation. The woman I was sitting next to was the purest being in the world. I asked, she answered. I asked, she answered. No, not an interrogation. But one of those meetings where you feel Oprah (no, I wasn’t Oprah. Though I wouldn't mind hehe) is talking to the most inspiring woman on the planet. A smooth conversation from culture, to politics, to her challenges, to family… It was that Ramadan morning I knew I have met someone in my life that will one day change the world. That is, if she hadn’t already done so.
At the clinic thinking of her ‘other life’ that definitely
doesn’t include teeth. Don’t call her “Dr.” she doesn’t like it. Simple.
 Sitting in her family’s living room, observing a wall of pictures, memories, siblings’ graduation, proud parents, I knew this living room is filled with love, a comfortable nest. The girl sitting in front of me has gone through the most extreme circumstances in life, and in front of her I feel I have accomplished nothing in this world to better anyone’s life. She is a girl who can relate to all, a simple hard-working family who have extraordinary heart have raised an angel. Every since that meeting, everytime I met Shan I have had the same feeling.

 She is the girl who never stops smiling, the one with the colourful hijab, the most down to earth being I have come across. Shan is the one who is always listening to others, but when she speaks you want to just sit and observe her passion in every word she says. The type whose eyes say a million words, and when she is happy or excited they give a diamond-like shine that is so pure… and full of hope. She is those girls that you miss to see if weeks pass without meeting her, the one who literally loves life and cares more about people than anything. Shan is the bubbly personality, the one who can empathize with all, the loyal friend, the older sister, and, in my opinion, the change maker. If these aren’t good enough reasons for you to get to know her more, then I don’t know what is.

Her family home is a hub for all friends and volunteers
I asked her some questions (she wrote the responses) so are you ready? Get your tea (coffee, juice, milk or your bag of junk food) and enjoy a casual conversation with Shan, right here, on the blog.

Mandalawi: Let’s start broad, how would you introduce yourself? What do you do?

Shan: I’m just another person in this world who didn’t accept to surrender to the bad and negative influence we grow up with in our society… I just believed that I can make a difference with my own simple effort… then I got surprised by all the people who wanted to help as well… when I decided to dedicate my time in serving others… that is actually when I start living…
what I do? I’ve graduated to be a Dentist! Although I never found myself in this job… so I started to follow my passion in helping others and now I’m the founder and general manager of Dilvia charity organization…and I’m working on developing this volunteer work into my all-day Job so I can get access and dedication on helping more people
Everything Shan does she does it with a huge group of volunteers

 (Sazo, If I sound cheezy please help) [No Shan, not cheeeeezy at all, and I will keep every word you write. Hehe]..

Mandalawi: What’s your journey so far, how did you get to where you are today?
Shan: I had to fight a lot of challenges.. I cried a lot.. I got depressed and disappointed by the society’s ideas and traditions that stood in my way… but I literally never gave up… I couldn’t..because it was a way of breathing to me .. as soon as I found my dream and found myself in it I wouldn’t think for a moment to let it go…
Shan, always a candle of hope
 The challenges included restrictions and bad expectations from all the people I knew who thought that I was wasting my time and I would never help someone if I wasn’t “well-known” or “rich” …

 but on the other hand… there was a few people who believed in me and supported me in a way I will never forget… all I needed was to keep going and insisting on my belief … and everything went perfectly amazing


Sazan: One day, I hope you get to meet Shan, and let her share with you the challenges. No matter how much I write it won’t be the way she describes it. I love how she calls it challenge, while others would call the same experience problem/setback or end of road. See how amazing this girl is?

Mandalawi: What is your passion? What do you live for?

Shan: The smile I see when I help someone … the great feeling I have when someone tells me that “he wanted to help a lot but didn’t know how until he met me”…my dedication is to share a way of happiness and satisfaction in life and help my society to develop and start seeing peace and love spread instead of poverty and hatred or racism

 Mandalawi: How is a day in your life like?
Shan: A day of my life would be hopefully an unpredicted day … it’s in my personality “bad and good in the same time” that I hate routine and planned days… but it should include (I won’t sleep if it doesn’t):
– Work related to Dilvia
– Workout for at least 30 min.
– Reading a book for at least 30 min.
– Be there for one of my friends who needed support

Put Shan with a little child or an elderly man
 at the Elderly People’s Home and she can laugh
and get a long with both.
Sazan: Her last point is so true. She provides psych-social support to like a billion girls; Facebook, over the phone, on text messages or in face-to-face meetings. I mean it. Every. Single. Day.

Mandalawi: Your source of support? What or who keeps you going?
Shan: For me it’s basically my close friends… they are the only people in my life who supported me in my dreams… unfortunately.
and also some books and writers like Paulo Coelho and Stephen Covey.
Sazan: Why she says unfortunately? Long story.

Mandalawi: What challenges do you face in what you do?
Shan: My first challenge was my family…because they thought it was a waste of time and money, and it’s quite dangerous for me in to do so…

It is not like they didn’t want me to support but in our country its so frightening for a young girl to mingle and get in close relation with a lot of strangers and having people know you in the society is super challenging… according to them “it’s a bad a thing”
The other challenges was people misunderstand my intention.. or paper-work challenges in getting access to people in need… but thank god non of the challenges were so serious that it stopped me from preceding.

Sazan: Her challenges with her family five years back reflects the challenges many Kurdish girls may face in this society.

Mandalawi: How do you deal with those challenges

Shan: after all.. my family gave up on stopping me after a lot of fighting and in a way or another now they are supporting me 

….how I deal with them?…. I actually cry! But I never surrender … a lot of time I was working with tears all over the place but I never stopped working ….

Shan donating blood with her father and sister

Sazan: Who was it that said tears are signs of strength? And remember Shanoo “The soul would have no rainbow had the eyes no tears.” And we all know how colourful and bright your soul is.

Mandalawi: Anything we should keep an eye on? Future plans/ projects?

Shan: Plans for Dilvia (my passion engine):
– Facilitate the donation ways for whom want to help
– Help the IDPs and refugees to survive this crisis until they go safely home
– Support the peshmarge families in this hard war times
– Encourage the youth to serve more in their society and improve their country

For Shan, it's all about working together
 Mandalawi: Three dreams in your life

Shan: Although I don’t like specific dreams… the sky is the limit for my ambition but if I have to put them in three lines it would be
– Make dilvia international and have access to all the people in need
– Be a living example of a young girl that nothing could stop her from fighting and fingerprint her life (for all the girls who think they can’t help in this world)
– Improve my fitness and health to be in a level of an athlete

Mandalawi: Any advice for other girls in Kurdistan

Shan: I advice them all to believe in themselves… the only bounderies is only found in our minds … I thought it was only a nice-speech line.. but its not… I know it … put your priority to your dreams and passions… don’t listen to the stupid restrictions… they will all fade away in front of your will… you deserve to live your life with passion, so do it.. just DO IT… we can add beauty to our grace country… and its getting to a higher place so take your chance and participate in this upcoming developement…. you will regret it if you don’t…

Sazo I wasn’t brief at all …. I won’t blame you if you won’t read it but I really enjoyed this … I was smiling all the time

Sazan: I read every single word Shanoo. And I have decided to keep it all the same. Just like you wrote it. It’s you!

The perfect role model
 We will need hours for Shan to speak of her endless challenges. Maybe an 8 am visit in her family living room on a Ramadan morning. I take this opportunity to apologize for that very insensitive act, but we laugh it off now when ever we remember.

Shan’s family home has become a place for volunteering activities, meetings,
NGO office, stocking of donations
No words can describe Shan. She is just Shan. The girl you call, but her phone is always busy, then she calls you back, and is ready to say: “Let’s meet in an hour” no matter when and where.
Until next Wednesday night Shan is the hero of the week, the month, the year, the hero in the life of all of us who know her, and all those she helps without even realizing!

Dilvia... all this and more. Indeed.
 You can contact Shan through Facebook here, or like the Dilvia page right here.

 Pictures: All photos for this blog post were stolen by me from Shan’s Instagram, Facebook and here and there (with full permission. I swear.)

Monday, January 26, 2015

The dream of a Peshmerga's child

Hello loyal blog reader,

As I write this post one of my loveliest friends in this entire world is working hard with a great team of volunteers putting together a super amazing event for this weekend. Guess what? (I imagine it’s not so hard to guess since I have placed it so boldly in the title) Dreams of peshmergas’ children will be coming true – with your help of course.

Daughter of a peshmerga writing her dream. Photo: Dilvia

Have you ever thought how a simple gesture for a child often changes their entire lives? Have you ever thought about our Peshmerga in uniform fighting terrorists just so we can be safe in our own homes? What would make that peshmerga happier than knowing his child is happy?

Children of the peshmergas have dreams. Photo: Dilvia

The Dream project, by Dilvia, for the second year is making dreams of children come true. How does it work? First, these amazinggggg volunteers have visited lots of families, they spent time with them, and allowed kids to write and draw their dreams.
When you arrive you will see all of the children’s dreams drawn or handwritten by them personally, all you (your company or your group of friends) will do is sponsor a dream that appeals to you most, if you like… and soon, in your email you will get photos and videos of the child whose dream you made come true. Something so simple, yet so amazing.


When? This Friday and Saturday (30 and 31 January)
Where? At the hall in Van Royal hotel, 60 meters rd. Erbil, Kurdistan Region.

Please come and join. Mark your calendar, make it a social event with your loved ones and come change a life in the simplest way possible.
For more information visit the Dilvia Facebook page or contact (the angel) Shan Kameran.

Lots of love from
My Nest in Kurdistan

Sunday, January 11, 2015

She turned 9.

Dearest loyal reader,
Do you sometimes live a moment in your life where you want to pause it forever, one of those picture perfect moments?
Zhala and S. I had to capture one of their long, tight hugs.
I remember a few summers back one day at the orphanage a little girl had come with three of her brothers. She was about five or six years old at the time, but was too tiny for her age. In fact they were all very thin; unhealthy, thin children. The story of why they came is a long one, but they were the type of kids that would hide from you, that would never say a word and didn’t want to be close to anyone.
Pink, Hello Kitty cake, just like many 9 year-old girls she loves the colour pink.
Pink, Hello Kitty cake, just like many 9 year-old girls she loves the colour pink.

They were traumatized. Fast forward to 2015, and that little girl just turned 9 years old. Thanks to Zhala, the director of the girl’s section of the orphanage, a beautiful little celebration was created to celebrate her birthday. I enjoyed it more than I have enjoyed any of my own birthdays.

It was one of those moments in life where I wanted to press pause and live it… forever. The nine-year-old, S., was dressed in a new dress – just as someone who had a mother would go out and buy their daughter a special dress for their birthday party. She had beautiful little ballerinas on, also new. Her hair was beautifully styled, just as a mother would style her daughter’s hair for the birthday pictures. She felt special. She felt loved. She would go stand behind her cake…the humble and quiet S., just smiled posing for photographs, her eyes spoke a million words.
Every time I looked S., went to Zhala and gave her one of those very tight hugs where she crosses her hands all around Zhala’s waist. She was so appreciative of everything.
The nine year old is like a mother to her three brothers. She grew fast. She is the chubby, cute, quiet little girl today who goes to school and loves mathematics. If she wasn’t hugging Zhala she was around her younger brother.

What a beautiful moment it was. There are some people in Kurdistan who change people’s lives forever, Zhala is one of those kind hearted individuals who does exactly that and suffers a lot along the way.
With her youngest brother.

I wonder when this little girl grows to be 19, what type of stories she will have to tell, and what type of girl she will grow into…. for the first time in a long time I have hope in our orphanage.

Lots of love from
My Nest in Kurdistan

Monday, January 5, 2015

Adoption in my society

Dear loyal blog readers,

Adoption in Kurdistan, socially and legally unacceptable
Before I continue let me tell you something, even before my marriage, I have always wanted to adopt children. Yes, not one child, but children. I knew it had to happen in my life. Maybe because of my experience with orphans, maybe I saw too many children in pain without a mother or a father, maybe the incidents in our families where some of my own cousins unfortunately lost their parents in tragedies and I saw them grow without a parent... maybe it was the occasional visit to the orphanage.

The reason, I don't know, but I knew I have enough love to give to any child I adopt. I would raise it as if it was a fetus in my own womb and would love the child as much I would if I went through labor and  gave birth myself (without an epidural).

When you are 26 and 27 in a Kurdish society, once you are settled with a partner, the expectations for a little baby keep rising. First, time was ticking to get married now time is ticking to have a baby. Let me take a momentary pause here; I am honestly not sure what the next ticking is, but for some reason for a woman a clock is always ticking and a train is always ready to pass.

I won't make this too personal about myself, but for anyone to have an idea to adopt a child or to even mention it is almost like admitting you're about to commit a crime. From those dearest to me I have heard remarks and replies that come across as rude and offensive.

I know religion plays a major role in this issue, as a practicing Muslim I understand some of those view points. However, even those who don't practice the religion remain strictly against adoption. I believe it is one of those things we refuse because socially it's unacceptable... but why don't we give ourselves a chance to have second thoughts about it?

Why should we bring more and more little innocent beings into this world when there are already children who are neglected? Why don't I take an orphan from Sinjar, Kobane or my own Mandali, Khanaqin or even Hawler? How I would love to give such a child endless affection, the best quality education I can afford and my time to raise it in the best possible ways.

Why is it every time I mention the idea of adoption I need to bow my head down in shame as if I have just cursed? Or, even worse, as if you are admitting out loud your infertility. Not sure how people make such a quick linkage. Why must one be infertile to adopt?

The reaction on some people's face when I even mention it, let alone say I would love to do it, immediately makes me feel an outcast. Sometimes you think to yourself even if you adopted a child (that is if the laws and regulations ever allow you...after a good hundred years of paperwork) society will not fairly treat that child. Your own relatives will point at him/her as the 'adopted one' I guess a time will come where you feel sorry for whoever it is you make your child by law.

Fine. Forget adoption. Why not be able to bring a child into foster care? You know, a foster family? Is it not better than living alone, living without a family? Is it not better than not having anyone to help with your homework or guide you to what is good and bad behavior?

Deep down inside me, the idea of adoption will never disappear, but with the years I have realized not everything is as simple as it is in my own mind. After all, there is always something called society.

Until next time I have a complaint, you know, bolla-bol
Lots of love from
My Nest in Kurdistan


Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Dear 2014

Loyal Blog Readers, here is the final post for a year that was packed with everything bitter and sweet,


For me you were the year of many engagements, weddings and new born babies. You witnessed my wedding day, a new career pathway and it was definitely the year where I changed a lot of my views and perspectives about people and life in general. Every year I say this was a self discovery year, and you were no different. But, by far, in your year I discovered capacities in me that I never believed existed. In 2014 my paths crossed with some amazing individuals (Farah, Shan, D.M. and S.E. kurm) and you brought to me two sister-in-law who I love dearly.
While doing peer education training with the refugee youth
It was a year of many trainings and meeting some amazing youth from the refugee camps across Erbil and Duhok in particular. I managed to form a special and unique friendship with the youth in the Erbil camps as  I met them more often than others. I was inspired by the energy and the way they cling onto life despite all the challenges they face living under a tent.
Life changing moments with my Peer Education co-trainer, Rasti Nuri Brimo
You were sweet in all your ways.


You will also be the year that will be written in many history books, researches and dissertations as people will reflect on the emergence and threats of ISIS beasts on my peace loving society. In your year children became orphans, our Yazidi girls were kidnaped, raped and sold; mothers cried as the bodies of their sons returned as martyrs and hundreds and  thousands became homeless and helpless as they fled their homes and cities. Thousands of others were left working without a monthly income... only barely making a living. For many you were a dark, bitter, haunted year.
IDP camp, where many fled their homes after ISIS threats
Photo: Rewan Kakl
Your bitterness left deep wounds behind.

Among this bitterness I watched as the volunteers in Dilvia alongside Shan Kameran achieve some astounding things that the eye could not believe. I watched this young girl lead the way and make thousands of people smile. I was inspired by her willingness to help, plant a smile and make a change. Through the use of social media thousands of dollars was collected to assist those who had fled their homes, those who needed to keep warm at night or have a meal under their tin roofs.
Our youth peer educators at the refugee camp
Photo: Taken from Aral and Rewan Kakl, but not sure who took the photo

In 2014 I learned how any individual can change the lives of others. I met Shan, sadly I couldn't give my time as much as I wanted to, but from far I watched her and her volunteers change lives, I saw these young people dedicating their lives to make others live happier and more in peace. Despite all the bitterness I always managed to look up and thank God for putting in this world such amazing people.

May your 2014 be filled with sweet moments enjoyed with those dearest to you
Photo: By me at Mam Khalil's teahouse.

I wish you all, my dearest loyal blog readers a very happy new year. May 2015 bring more happiness and sweetness, may it be a year of love, peace and great memories for you and all your loves ones.

Forgive me if anywhere in 2014 in some or another I hurt you.

Oh yes, one last point, in 2014 I blogged the most posts out of my six-year blogging journey! That, my friend, is an accomplishment.

Lots of love from
My Nest in Kurdistan