Saturday, 27 June 2009, 08:03 GMT
Rewinding memoriesBy Sazan M. Mandalawi
The Kurdish Globe
Imagine a little girl living continents away from where her parents and grandparents were, oceans apart from her culture, religion, traditional values, and far from her relatives and even the language she speaks, yet when asked where she is from, she would reply: "I am Kurdish, from Mnaly!"
That little girl was me, and yes, the little girl never found anyone who had ever heard of Mnaly. From a young age, my younger brother and I were always taught that we are Kurds, and more precisely from Mnaly. I realize today it was a technique used by my parents to keep us attached to our roots even though we were living far from where we belonged. As experience has taught me, the unbelievably strong connection some Kurds have to their land is one of the most unique features of our nation.
If you, my dear reader, also have not heard of Mandaly (or as it is called by its inhabitants, Mnaly), it is situated approximately five kilometers away from the Iran-Iraq border. The city center of Mandaly is approximately 60 kilometers south of Khanaqin--75% of the population are Kurds who speak the Kalhuri dialect. In 1975, marking the end of the Algerian Pact, approximately 400 Peshmargas in Mandaly participated in the Kurdish movements and the Ayloor Revolution. As a result, the Kurds were forcibly displaced by the Baath Regime and Arabs were brought into the area instead.
The Kurdish people in Mandaly were forbidden to speak Kurdish or wear Kurdish clothes, 75 villages in the Qaraloos area were ruined, houses were destroyed, and the water that reached the district was cut, giving the Kurds no choice but to leave.
In a short and compact sentence, Mandaly today is in ruins-there are no proper schools, and water and electricity services are poor. The houses that once stood up now lay in ruins on the ground.
Nevertheless, the vision I had of Mnaly was like the vision or the imagination one has who has not seen Paris, Rome, or New York. I was never told there were tall buildings in Mnaly, but somehow as a child in my own imagination the big city had bridges and tall buildings; people drove sports cars. There were also mountains, valleys, lakes, and lush, green grass-- it probably even had an airport. I never heard these words, but when Mnaly was described to us by my father who spoke so fondly of it as a place where he spent his childhood years, and how he wished to return, for me, in my imagination it had to be a fascinating wonderland-otherwise, why would he dream of it so often? Why would he want to go back?
After the fall of the Baath Regime in 2003, my father returned from Kurdistan with an entire CD of pictures he had taken in Mnaly. I remember we all huddled around the computer, as if waiting to see something that was exclusive, previously unseen by anyone. Finally, after so many years of imagination of this place where my roots lay and my ancestors lived, and the place in which my parents were born, I was able to see it in pictures. Time was not passing. As the CD was placed into the computer, we adjusted the screen and brought in chairs--the atmosphere was filled with excitement, tension, and joy as I was watching my father's hand on the mouse impatiently, gentle click here, another click there, and the screen goes black before the slide show begins.
Picture after picture, all of the sudden the room is silent; you could hear a pin drop as I asked a simple question:
"This is Mnaly?"
"Yes it is!" he replied.
"No! It mustn't be" I thought in my mind.
Mnaly did not have tall buildings; the flowing water had either all evaporated or I just did not see it. The people in the pictures looked worn out. There were no villas like I had imagined; instead, there were mud or brick houses. As I attempt to rewind my memories to those minutes around the computer screen, it is difficult to remember what I thought exactly, but I must have believed at that point my father was either foolish or naïve to love Mnaly so deeply.
Years later, the thought of that day makes me giggle. The point I like to emphasize is that the bond some people have with Kurdistan is unbelievably great. What makes Kurdish people--especially the generation before us--particularly distinctive is that they share a magical connection to this land. As youth we tend to like a place if it provides us with luxuries and an imagistic lifestyle; they, however, cherish the land because of the memories they have in it, because of the blood they gave for it, and simply because it is their home.
The words I had heard of Mnaly from my father have taught me a great lesson in life. We do not necessarily have to love our culture, country, traditions, and roots only because of its materials; there is something much deeper and greater that creates a sense of attachment within us to a particular place. Mnaly was certainly not New York or Paris, but with no doubt it had a meaning and significance as grand as Paris and New York.