Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Agha Burger!

Hellloooo to the most Loyal Blog Reader in the world,

So, we meet once again!

This week's Out & About Reviews is brought to you from the beautiful cultural capital of Kurdistan, the city of Sulaimaniya, or as I like to spell it, Slemani.

Agha Restaurant in Sulaimaniya (Slemani), Kurdistan

Before my first visit to Chavy Land I was "not so hungry" but peer pressured by the Partner and a friend of mine, R.B., to have a meal. Why not I thought to myself. Now, the exact location of this I can't give to you, because I really can't remember, but it was only a few minutes drive away from Slemani Palace hotel. In fact, if I am not wrong it was on that same road just after the bridge! Yes. I do remember where, Jaday Saholaka but towards the very end (Yes? No? Maybe...?! hmmm not too sure now) Anyhowwwww....

The little restaurant was called Agha. The seating is outside on the main road. It was early evening when we passed by so the beautiful Slemani breeze, the little chaotic (but definitely not annoying) main street made the meal a perrrrrrrrrrrfect one.

When S.K. asked what I wanted to eat,  I said bring me anything, and I never thought anything will be this little not-so-little mouth watering burger.

Agha burger in Sulaimaniya/ Slemani
If you pass by let me know what you thought of it.

Until next time
Love from My Nest...
in Kurdistan


Monday, August 25, 2014

A Kurdistani bag to help displaced people in Kurdistan!

Hello Loyal Blog Reader no matter where you are in the world,

Kurdistan bags sold for a good cause
Since you have always loved to help those in need I had to introduce you to my friend Shara! In raising money for the displaced people in Kurdistan Shara is selling the last pieces of the "Kurdistan Shopping Bags" by ROBIN-RUTH.

Get a Kurdistan bag and help displaced people at the same time
The bags cost as little as 15, 000 IQD each (just under $13 USD) if you would like to purchase a Kurdistan shopping/ handbag while helping people in Kurdistan who are in desperate need then please email: shara.jamal89@gmail.com

Love from My Nest..
in Kurdistan!


So.. what happened? Vian Dakhil's crash story!

To the most Loyal Blog Reader in the world,

Thanks for dropping by (again)!

From the time I drank water from the spring in Lalesh, I fell in love with the most peaceful, loving, and vulnerable people I have ever met, the Yazidis.
Lalesh or Lalish

Lalish/Lalesh for more info click here

Earlier tonight I sat by the side of  Vian Dakhil, a Yazidi herself who spoke up in the Iraqi parliament against the butchery taking place against her people. The same woman later visited Mount Sinjar^, where thousands were stuck surrounded by ISIS. During her visit, the helicopter crashed and as a result  Vian was severely injured and hospitalized.
Vian Dakhil's plea in Parliament
Normally when I hear stories like these my heart can't take it. My tears flood down my cheeks and create puddles in my notepad, later, I wont be able to read the smudged words I have written. Today, was different. Vian's strength as she described her story to us made me burn in the inside but I kept a smile as a I sat in front of a hero, strong woman, someone who lives her life to help her people  sorry, can't find the right word, but definitely someone I admire.

"Vian, what happened?!" My mother exclaimed in a question with no end. Vian laughed, a look on her face that says "Oh aunty where do I start from?" 

I am silent. Secretly wishing to hear this from the start, but I also understand if she doesn't tell her story, after all she is still attempting to recover.

"We took off from Peshxabur," she begins.
"Wait. Can I take notes?" I interrupt.
"You can even record." I didn't expect this as an answer from an MP who is on a hospital bed with no makeup, wearing a simple shirt supported by pillows all around. Hence, I refuse to do so, I don't want her to feel she is doing an interview.
Taking notes - typical me.
"Other than me it was a pilot, a co-pilot, three other people as well as a group who had brought food, four journalists, Yadgar's uncle Thawri and Yadgar too. They had brought bread, and I think, oranges, apples, juices and water. As we were flying over Mount Sinjar they were throwing them down to people."
Vian's last pictures with the martyred pilot, Majid Tmimi

As Vian begins her story, I watch her father sitting in a chair in the corner of the room. If I was sitting any closer to him I would probably see a sparkle in his eyes, surrounded by faint wrinkles behind is glasses. I watch him kneel forward to hear the clear words of his outspoken daughter. I watch him hear the encounter that he has probably heard for the hundred and tenth time today.

"I sat by the captain in the helicopter he was explaining to me what he is doing, people were running on the mountain beneath us, following the helicopter, making signals. Some took off their shirts waving them in the air. It was tough."

"We landed. I spoke to the Peshmerga and people. Everyone ran inside the helicopter so they can return with us. We couldn't stay too long we had to take off quickly. Once we got into the helicopter and began to take off it lost balance. The pilot said it was too heavy, some people had to get off."

There is a little pause here and that's when I know the Vian who loves her people and lives to fight for their rights is finding it difficult to take in that the pilot is now dead.

"One of the woman told me 'take my two kids, I will get off.'" There is another momentary pause here. I don't ask what happened to the kids.

"No one wanted to leave the helicopter, some had to be forcefully taken out. It was hard. We tried to take off again, as we did, we lost balance once more  and the main rotor of the helicopter hit against the side of the cliff/ mountain, we crashed with the front hitting the ground."

"I was sitting behind the pilot. About 40/45 people fell on me in addition to the other things we had with us. I thought I was dead. In a matter of seconds I saw in front of my eyes a quick video tape of my life."

Vian's Facebook caption to this photo reads:
عذرا ،،، كوجو
لم استطع ان افعل لكِ شيئا
Here, I can see the MP living that particular moment again. Now I know what people mean when they say they saw death with their own eyes.

"The next thing I remember it was dark. Very dark. I was breathing heavily trying to take in oxygen. I called Dr. Dr. Dr. Dr. with a very faint voice."

Here she speaks gently, living the moment to depict the picture of what had happened. I look at Vian's mother, she is staring at her daughter without a blink, resisting the tears laying at the corners of her eyes. This woman must be proud to have raised such a daughter, I think to myself.

After the helicopter crash
"My breathing stopped, but a little of air was coming to me every now and then. I took as much of it in as  I could. I knew very well my leg was broken. I could feel it. As I opened my eyes I could see a little hole of light slowly it became bigger and bigger. I knew by then there are people removing things on top of me. Twice I took out my hand, someone tried to pull me out but couldn't. Here, I lost the little hope that I had."

"I began to hear people calling vian, vian, vian. then I knew they were looking for me."

After removing the people and the goods on top of Vian they reached her. She recalls being lifted and walked from the sight of the crash to the mountain with her broken leg dangling behind. "I asked about people--who survived and who didn't, I was told the pilot didn't make it and died immediately."

From the start of our evening till this point I knew this woman is deeply affected by the death of the pilot. At this point there is interruption in the room that the pilot's family need to be taken care of, and a statue or monument to be created on the Shingal mountain in his honor. Of course, once all this ISIS issue is over.

"One of the Peshmerga brought two pieces of boxes and put my legs between it, he then took off his shirt and tied my legs with it."

Then Vian goes on to talk. My mind flies away to the top of Mount Shingal and therefore I miss all that she says. My mind goes to the Muslim male Peshmerga saving the life of a Yazidi woman; My mind goes to an Arab pilot who dies while taking aid to Yazidi people. Then again, there are people animals monsters like ISIS who kill their fellow humans because they believe only they deserve to live in this world.

In the helicopter, after the crash
Anyhow, I manage to wake myself up from this thought,  re-focussing my attention to the woman laying on the hospital bed in front of me.

"In the helicopter back the body of the pilot was laying next to me. The atmosphere smelt like blood, like death, everyone was shaking."

Here, Vian's father, who has been silent the entire time interrupts. "She called me while she was on mount Shingal,'dad if you hear a plane crashed on the mountain, don't worry I wasn't inside.'"
Recovering her physical wounds but still strong & loud about her views
and still fighting for her people's rights.

We all let out a little laugh, a little sigh and we all look at one another realizing in her most difficult moments this woman is thinking of her father. She didn't want her father to be worried, to be concerned, to go through a moment of not physical, but mental stress.
"Then I watch TV and it says Vian was on the crashed helicopter. I didn't believe the TV because her voice came out so strong and clear, it didn't feel like she has broken her body parts in a crashed helicopter."

Vian picks up from here, "Yes, I used a Peshmerga's mobile phone. I didn't tell anyone that I will be going on the helicopter to the mountain. Dad called earlier while I was on the plane I didn't pickup, because I didn't know what to tell him."

Dr. Dakhil, Vian's father...
Vian gives a gentle laughter, "I kept strong for that call after the crash, I had to make it, I remember at the end of the call my dad asked me when I come back to bring my aunty with me, she is in Duhok. I said okay."

"I didn't call my mum, because I know she never picks up her phone and we had a lot of guest at home I knew she is busy, same go to my sisters. Dad always answers."

"Dad always answers" is the last sentence I have written in my little notebook, leaning on Vian Dakhil's hospital bed taking notes on Friday night. Inside I am packed with thoughts, emotions and feelings. When I see this strong woman I don't dare shed a single tear.

Some people are born to make a positive change in the world, Vian Dakhil

I look once again to her father, still sitting down. His built is strong and tall from the outside, a white, thick moustache reflecting years and years of experience in life. A father who has clearly been part of his daughter's journey right from the beginning, a father who is in deep thoughts. A father who is living difficult times as his people are in a genocide. He is sitting watching his outspoken daughter who brought hope to every Yazidi, who President Obama quoted and who made us all cry over our keyboards as she spoke out for her people in parliament. I don't need to wonder what he is feeling and what he is thinking. After all the last words in my notes quoting Vian says it all: Dad always answers...Dad always answers....

I have taken some of the pictures, others compiled from Vian Dakhil's official Facebook page, the New York Times, The Time.

*Yazidi, otherwise can be spelled Yezidi, or the right term is Ezidi.
^Mount Sinjar is better known locally as Shingal or sometimes Shingar.

I Started writing this post on Friday - but kept coming back to it till I finished it off today. Sorry for the delay.

Friday, August 22, 2014

I wish...

Dearest Loyal Blog Reader,

I have been trying to put myself together and write about the recent catastrophes for a while now.
Yazidi families escaping 

I wish I was a poet so that my words can put themselves together and write themselves powerfully to tell the world what my feelings are for my nation...

I wish I was a singer, so with my beautiful voice I can depict the pain and suffering of my people to millions of people around the world...

I wish I was a philosopher so that I can put all that is happening together, make it a complicated book and let people after me analyze it, quote it in their essays in colleges. It will be a reminder of what happened to my nation..
The Yazidi pain is my pain too
I wish I was a a powerful politician who can make grand decisions in favor of Kurds (not sure how seriously I wish to be a politician but you get the point)...

How about if I were a professional journalist? I would go on field and document all that is taking place for the world to see...

I wish I was a smart lawyer, so that I can help some of these people free of charge...

I wish I was a doctor so that I can at least heal the physical wounds of children, women, men and the elderly...
Vian Dakhil, a Yazidi, speaking in the Iraqi Parliament
I am none of the above. I am just a girl who can feel the pain of every person on this land... I am just the girl next door who happens to have a blog and tweet every now and then. I am just someone who collects from those who have and gives it to those who don't.

Why? Only because of who they are....
If you, my loyal reader, knew the painful stories of the people on my land, you too, will help. Please say you will.

(I wrote this on the night of August 20th, when I could't fall asleep)

Saturday, August 16, 2014

The power in our youth

Today I am wounded. My mind is with the pershmerga, it’s with our yazidi brothers and sisters who have no food and stuck on Mount Sinjar. My heart is with the girls and women who were kidnapped – some raped, others sold. Yet, my life has to continue. I am a guest, hosted at the amazing city of Slemani, my friend and I are training young people peer education skills so they can go to high schools and in their own colleges do life skills sessions for their peers and other youth.
group work! 

There is something special about training youth. For five days from early morning till early evening I am with 20 young boys and girls. I we (my colleague and I) become part of their life, I begin to understand their different personalities and see the great side of each and every single one of them. Good bye becomes difficult. 

One of the sessions today on emotions and anger management 

When I am training and working with young people I go to a different world. I love working with people my own age. I still say my own age, even though I am constantly reminded that in few years time I wont be able to classify myself under this category of young people, Anyyyyhow... Today I learned one of them is a cancer survivor, another has lost her father yet she is determined to keep going, another was absent today because her father is having an operation. In five days you get to really know some of them closely. Even the very quiet who rarely take part in the group conversations, they still have a lot to express, they have good things to say.

An activity/ session on inequality in society-

I see these young people grow as individuals; I see them become close friends. I watch them share facts about themselves and their lives with their peers that they wouldn’t normally do.

Sometimes we go an extra mile to make a point
I love seeing these young boys and girls laugh till their tummies hurt; And sometimes I see their tears. I am a firm believer there is no such thing as a ‘bad’ young person. Although their society and their experiences take them on a certain path – a path that may not always be the best choice. They are at an age where you can mould them how you want, therefore, a very sensitive time in their life. We must invest in our youth if we want a prosperous future for our country.

Friendly discussions

As I write this I am listening to so much chaos, so much noise; I am listening to shouting, to negotiating, to laughter to NOs and Yeses, to energetic voices explaining different things. They are preparing to do an interactive theatre performance on violence and its different forms.

Using materials to send messages through 
The young people in my country have gone through tough experiences. Some of them have witnessed genocide, some of their fmailies have gone through times that no one can imagine. With no doubt this has impacted who they are, how they act and what they think. Sometimes the youth in my coutry can feel lost. Lost between the older generation and their parents expectations and between their lives now and peers' expectations – lost between mountains and technology – lost between who they are expected to be and who they really are.

I hope in the little things we do we can be a positive force in allowing young people to find themselves in order to better adapt to a fast changing society. I dream of the day where our students in schools across Kurdistan can have this Peer Education program in their curriculum. 

They are about to begin their sketches. Gosh! I love how motivated this group is! Better go. Bye for now!

My friend and co-trainer,  R.B., at times we laugh our tears away
Until next time, much love from My Nest...
in Kurdistan

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Come with me to Lalesh

I am just in the process of discovering my land. Step by step, one place at a time. A few months back we decided to take a class trip to Lalesh, which is the Yezidi shrine near Duhok. It has been one of the most unbelievable experiences I have had so far.

It was the first time for me to be so close to the Yezidi people, and what wonderful people they are. They looked so pure, gentle and loving. The local Sheikh gave us a tour through the shrine.
Above: A Sheikh dressed in white just outside the the entrance to the Shrine.

We had to take off our shoes and enter what I like to call ‘a wonderland’ of its own.

We tend to stereotype people and places before we actually have the chance to see them for ourselves. I felt more welcome in Lalesh then in Erbil itself, the hospitality of the locals and their willingness to help was definitely a highlight of the trip.
Natural spring water upon entering the shrine.

(I wrote this a few years back, but never got a chance to finish it off or publish it on my blog, I saw it in the drafts today and decided to publish it in honor of what is taking place against the Yezidi people today.)

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Help Yezidi families

Yezidi families fleeing their homes for safety

Our Yezidi brothers and sisters are being killed by the ISIS in Shangal. Are you just going to sit behind your laptops and just watch this happen? What if it was your family? Would you still just sit and watch?

The situation has reached a point where ISIS is beheading the Yezidis, children in the mountains have died of starvation and everyone is on the run fleeing their area, while our Peshmerga are fighting the ISIS.

From here I kindly ask from you and beg you to help in the following ways:
In your own circle of family and friends collect donations (even if it's 1000 dinars per person), contact me, I will come and collect it off you. This will be spent on Thursday for needed goods (food  and water in particular) for the Yezidi families who have fled, it will be delivered by the Dilvia for charity _دلفيا الخيريه youth this Friday.

The Dilvia donations campaign (click to enlarge)

 Paper work is in place to place a Dilvia* donations box and booth outside Shanadar park within the next day this will also collect donations. Meanwhile, today at 5 pm a blood donation campaign will take place in the Blood Bank in Erbil (behind Rzgari hospital) The blood donations will be for our beloved peshmerga fighters facing ‪#‎ISIS‬  Feel free to call 07501871770 for more information and make your way there today after 5!

Peshmerga tanks heading for the frontlines. Photo: kdp.info  from Rudaw
You can also take part in an amazing appeal by KurdSat follow the #WeAreAllShangal hashtag on Twitter for more information and venue for donation.

Live Tv coverage of the KurdSat campaign picture from @Lawwwen

Day! Yala! Come one! Stand up for Kurdistan! Please. Please. Please. Kids are dying, another genocide is taking place.


To donate please call or inbox me and I will collect it the amount you have collect from you.
You can also contact Berivan Ibrahim Akraye and Deelan Dakhil for the Dilvia activities supporting our beloved Yezidi families. You can contact Dilvia Charity on this number 0750 853 1717 or the ones on the poster above.

One final point. I will leave you with a picture, and let it speak for itself - My friend Ashna had reposted this picture on Twitter with the following caption:

":How u treat ur prisoners in war shows ur morality & character.Here Kurds w/ an ISIS prisoner. "

Sending you peace and love no matter where you are in the world


(* Dilvia is a charity organization run by a group of youth in Erbil. 100% of your donations will go directly towards the cause. All members are volunteers and they pay membership fees to keep the organization running. So not a cent of your money will be used for administration purposes)

Friday, July 25, 2014

It's an important day...


Tonight is laylat-el-qader. In the room I am in lights are dim. The prayer mat is waiting for me to sit before God and pray. It is going to be a long night. Today was/is an important day.

My dearest reader, as we approach the days of Jezhn (Eid) thousands of families in my city will have not purchased their new clothes, neither have they purchased celebratory food, nor have they planned anything special. Do you know why? Because the leader of the country that I supposedly belong to has cut off my people's salaries. He wants us to die of starvation. He wants us to cause war and rebel against our government. He wants us to blow ourselves up. He is committing a genocide against us. My people are still going to work, they are working for no income.  

I open Facebook and the first thing I see is a picture of the Muslim shrine of Prophet Younis blown up in Mosul, next door to the city I live in. It's an important day.

60 people were killed in a bomb and car attack in Baghdad as prisoners were evacuated. I will point out my uncles, cousins and dear ones still live in Baghdad. Yes, this also happened today. After all, it's an important day.

I am living in a time, age and place where not too far away my Christian brothers and sisters get a letter 'N' drawn on their houses: They either convert their religion, pay money or get killed. Did Nazi Germany do this?

Today, my fellow Kurdistani brothers and sisters, Christians, Muslims and all the other religious and cultural colors  held hands, side by side, they demonstrated. My friend organized this walk, asking for peace, coexistence. Are we asking for too much? It's an important day.

Few years back I dealt with girls in high schools who had been through Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) when they were younger. I was close to their stories, their difficult secret lives and muted pains. The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) worked hard to put an end to this, the KRG made FGM illegal. Today, the ISIS announced every girl in Mosul must be circumcised. Two million girls' lives will officially be ruined. It's an important day.

This evening the white UN car with a convoy drove right past me, Ban Ki Moon was in my city. It's an important day.

Earlier today in between meetings I couldn't get my eyes off  Twitter, the new President of Iraq was announced. Still not sure what I think of this. But it's an important day. 

My dearest reader, yes the list is incomplete, this is my little part of the world. What happened near you today? This is aside from the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, aside from the planes falling, crashing, and getting lost; aside from the silent killings and cruel punishments of my Kurdish family in Iran, and the innocent children sleeping under bombshells in Syria; Aside from the Kurdish women in uniform fighting injustice.

As for me, I belong to a country that no one else wants to recognize. I belong to a stateless nation of pain and suffering. A nation of peace lovers, but like a tree we are trying to grow in an environment where the harsh winds of our surrounding is trying to break us apart, push us down. I have hope.

We have strong roots. Yet we are watering ourselves and carrying with us our own sunshine.

I laugh at myself. I studied politics, international relations, I read more books than my own weight on diplomacy, who was I fooling? 

I am sitting with my laptop, reading news, in tears.
My husband is sitting on the floor listening to du'as watching people pray on TV.

He is silent. I am silent. The world is silent. It's a very silent night. 

I will go now. My prayer mat is calling me. I have a lot to pray for. 

My dear, it's an important day, because "it's a night where Muslims believe that God blesses everyone, and forgive all sins, accept all prayers as you wish, and the angels come down." 

Friday, July 4, 2014

Grumpy Four: B to B Breakfast

So, on the last Friday before Ramadan the Grumpy Four and I decided for a family breakfast out. First option that came to mind was B to B

Now, before you read this review please know that B to B (breakfast to breakfast) is still one of my favorite places to eat in Erbil and it's one of my only to go delivery places in Erbil. Their food is TASTY! But this was just... an unlucky day perhaps?

Near Italian Village on the 100 meter street, Erbil

We went to the family section of B to B- that itself is divided into two different sections: Smokers and non-smokers. Hence, ideal for everyone and I loved that! I don't go to many restaurants in Erbil only because I suffocate from the smoke of cigarettes  and Argila (nargila, or shisha, whatever it's called) 

it was clean, tidy, but as Dani and Sahand pointed out the "lighting is so fa3o" - basically, they did not like the lighting. The tables and chairs however are distributed in such a way where you feel you have privacy and enough to room to have a conversation without the table next to you hearing everything.

B to B restaurant, family section

Here is what we ordered
Acke: No order (he had a tummy ache)
Dani: Breakfast Plate
Mirkhan: English breakfast

Sahand: Club Sandwhich and Cheese Mana'eesh
Saza: Egg plate! (and this was literally just a plate with two plane eggs) 

Here are the grumpy four and their ranking out of 10 for their breakfast

Service: "Zefata" 0
Food: Acke didn't order anything

Service: 1
Food: 1
"Salad was dry, definitely not fresh. The olives were bad, orange juice was good." 

Service: 0 He almost fought with one of the staff
Food: 2 "But I give the Shisha 6/10" Note: No one else has Shisha

Service: 3
Food: 3

The Bill: 80, 000 ID (around 70 USD)  We all agreed it was not worth it at all. I guess for us there is no more breakfast at Breakfast to Breakfast.

Catch up with us next time as the Grumpy Four go Out and About!

*Please note that this is a review of a single breakfast we had there, and does not mean the entire restaurant is poorly rated, as we love the food B to B provides for its main meals. 

Monday, June 2, 2014

Save a life with Dilvia

Dilvia's campaign for blood donation
 The Dilvia Charity Organization, run by a fantastic group of young volunteers, have started a phenomenal campaign to donate blood for children with thalassemia.

On June 2-4 between 8:30 am and 12 pm the blood bank van will be located in the heart of Erbil to make it easy and convenient for people to donate blood. It is near Bazaari Nishtiman, right next to Baakhi Shar (near the big clock and the fountains). Smiles of friendly youth will be waiting for you there!
When: 2 to 4 June, 2014
Where: Baakhi Shar, Erbil, Near Bazaari Nishtiman
Who: Friendly youth at Dilvia in coordination with the Blood Bank
Contact: See poster above or click HERE
People in a queue earlier today to donate blood - Erbil, Bakhi Shar

Hospitals here are always in need of blood. Usually when a patient takes blood they must also find a donor  who will offer blood, this is mainly due to the fact that not many people here donate. Families who have children with thalassemia cannot continuously give blood in order to receive some from the blood bank.
Berivan during her blood donation

What I love about Dilvia is all their members donated blood first before launching the campaign to  welcome members of the community to donate. Within the next week the campaign will move to Family and Tablo Mall as well.

Above: Children with thalassemia giving flowers to blood donors today to say "thank you!" Receive your flower and visit the mobile blood bank first thing tomorrow. The children with more difficult conditions are not allowed to leave hospital nor do they have the health conditions or the energy to come and give you a flower to say thank you. But be sure every single person who uses your blood will pray for you and will forever be grateful to you.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Life at home

Dearest Loyal Blog Reader,

Twice in my life I was a refugee. Once in Iran, and another time in Turkey. On both occasions I was too young to understand what it meant to be a refugee, too young to know what my parents are going through and what it is that is taking place in my surrounding. My refugee story ended up being one of those 'happily ever after' because a host country accepted us as we went to exile. 

Baby Hawler
Today, not too long after, here I am back home among refugees of my own nation. Every time I step into any camp a feeling comes to me which I do not encounter anywhere else I go. All of a sudden the house I live in, the car I drive and the clothes I wear mean nothing to me. Absolutely nothing. I look back at my return to Kurdistan (and if you've read My Nest In Kurdistan you'd know I had a bumpy start) but reflecting now, it was the best decision ever. 

Often when I do the training with the youth refugees (along side two other great friends of mine) a special bond  forms with some of them. This time when I went back to Kawrgosk I met Kh., she is a 16-year-old girl, the eldest of the five children in her family. She insisted I visit her tent and meet their newly arrived sister, baby Hawler. Yes, the little baby girl was named Hawler, after the city in which was born in, as a refugee*.

The eyes, the eyes kill me....

How are you supposed to feel when you hold in your arms a baby girl, born while her family are living under a tent in a refugee camp? How are you supposed to feel looking into the eyes of a shy little girl who has to play in mud rather than a playground? 

No matter what you do, you walk out feeling guilty. 

She finally revealed a smile
The people in the camps, who are by far the most vulnerable, are teaching me a lot. From them I am learning more about life, about appreciation, about being thankful. Because so many of them are so thankful for everything in their lives. They are thankful because they wake up in the morning with their children still alive.

On the ground, at the entrance of the tent
In the camps I have met the strongest youth. The ones who are inspiring, those who have left their university, their studies, their lovers, their friends, their life to live under a tent and are determined to find a job for a better living. However, some of them do admit they are at their breaking point.

Me (left) and Kh. (right) on our way to her tent
For a while N.Q. and I were standing by the UNFPA caravan as they distributed Dignity Kits to pregnant women and those with newborns. Many mums-to-be or new mums surrounded the caravan, I manage to approach a few for a casual conversation; From how they hold their little ones, or touch their big baby bumps I understand "life goes on."

One happy boy with a donation
Walking in a refugee camp where people have fled their own houses and lives in fear of being killed is tough to take in, however, there are little things you see that you make you smile. Here, a little boy is pulling behind him a big airplane, too heavy for him to carry. It made me smile, because I knew someone had bought this toy and sent it here, not knowing which child will end up playing with it (in my head I make a quick prayer for whoever it was who donated this toy). It makes you smile and happy to know you belong to a nation (Kurds) and a country (Kurdistan) who have accepted with open arms the newly comers, seeing them as guests rather than refugees. It makes me smile to have inbox messages, texts, emails and calls of people who have donations they want to pass to families in the camps. This makes you believe there are still plenty of good people in the world.

The young boy and the oversize plane
There are those in the camp who, despite all of the challenges they face, look up and thank god. I almost always come across these individuals. Those who appreciate every small thing one does for them, those who say they are "lucky" and "happy" for where they are and what they're offered. 

A new-mum breastfeeding her newborn, waiting for UNFPA Dignity Kits
And so, my life back home is a special one at the moment. I am learning a lot, finding out more about life, about myself and about what it means to be living in this world. It is special, because I am interacting with people, who not long ago, could have probably been my own relatives, my own family....this little child 24 years ago could have been me.

*Hard to call Kurds refugees on Kurdish-land. Sadly, this is the reality!