May 29, 2012

The Price of Empire

Despite the heavy heat outside, the basement was cool, almost damp, with the smell of old crumbling concrete and years of dust storms. It was dark but a light glowed, soaking everything in a sinister red film, showing the way through, showing their faces, twisted with fear, and pain, and loss.

Pictures hung on the walls, one per wall. Large, almost life sized images of fallen bodies, decaying children, bloated cows. I stood in silence. I know the history, the decades of brutality, of ethnic cleansing, the systematic murder of Kurdish men, women and children in the 1980s; Saddams al’Anfal campaign. I had even seen those pictures before. But this was different; the horror was close and chilling. I left the basement, up the stairs, leaving the exhibition of the Halabja victims behind me. Stepping into the sunlight, a soft rain was falling. Mohammed, our friend, was waiting, cigarette in mouth, chatting with the guide.    

A desk within one of Amna Suraka's interrogation rooms
Amna Suraka, the “Red Security” prison stands in the middle of Sulaimani, a monument to the Anfal campaign and the abusive control of the Kurdish people during the years of Saddam Hussein. Amna Suraka still stands as a statement of Kurdish defiance. Never again will they be treated like animals, abused, beaten, raped, tortured, dehumanized simply for being Kurdish. In the ‘80s Amna Suraka was the hub of Saddam’s control in the city. The barracks, the administration offices, the prison, the interrogation rooms, the solitary confinement cells, all necessary structures in keeping people under control. Mohammed remembers those days; he was a teenager then. He was silent as he sat on the steps, but he remembered, I could see it in his face, the pain of memories, family and friends lost, maybe to this prison.

For Mohammed’s pain, my home is partly to blame. For the 182,000 Anfal victims, my country is partly to blame. The UK sold Saddam some of the arms's that he used against Iran and also sold arms to Iran to use against Saddam too. We also sold Saddam chemicals that he used to make his chemical weapons. Weapons he used against Iran and the Iraqi Kurds.

The main administration building.
The British continued to supply Saddam all the way through the Anfal. The chance that none of these arm's and chemicals were used against the Kurds is pretty small. And we knew exactly what Saddam was doing, yet we kept supplying. We have excuses of course; the ‘80s were a time of recession, and we needed the money and Saddam like other ”unsavory” characters was willing to pay. We accepted in the name of British interests. My interests.

I watched Mohammed, sitting on the steps of one of Amna Suraka’s buildings; smoking silently. I had to ask myself what had I gained at the cost of his people. My education, my “free” healthcare partly paid for by the deaths of so many Kurds. It is not enough to say that Kurdish blood is on our collective hands. We are up to our necks in it, and in the blood of countless other peoples from all over the world, the remnants of our Empire.

By Pat Thompson

May 27, 2012

From “women, money, and cars” to building a nation: the dreams of a rapper turned activist

by Lukasz Firla

Although CPT does not fully endorse all opinions of Danyal aka MC Dogg expressed in this interview, we do wish to enable and make space for Danyal's voice. We value his perspective as young Kurdish rap musician and activist who broke away from the safe boundaries of mainstream rap music and environment to engage in political and social issues.

MC Dogg (given name Danyal) is a seventeen year old Kurdish rapper and burgeoning activist; CPTers saw him performing during a demonstration against Turkish bombing and Iranian shelling of Iraqi Kurdistans border regions in September of 2011. Organizers had asked MC Dogg to perform at one of the events during the nine day long demonstration. He said he felt inspired by the activism and experiences of the older participants including activists, actors, artists, independents, and found himself accepted into their community. MC Dogg ended up joining the demonstration, which held under a tent in Sulaimanis largest park, Azadi (Freedom) Park. In order to bring the attention of the international community to the rights of the Kurdish people, and to the ongoing issue of cross-border bombings, participants conducted ablood strike,spilling their own blood over a map of Kurdistan.

The following is a selection from the transcript of CPTs interview with MC Dogg. Questions and answers were translated into and from Kurdish by Danyal's cousin Rasty.

When I started rapping, my lyrics were about women, money, cars. Later I began realizing that there are much bigger issues and problems for the Kurdish people and for Kurdistan. We must defend our country, our rights. If a person doesn't have a country, then we don't need any women, cars or money.

Some other rappers left schools because they don't have a goal. I keep on studying because I have a goal and I also want to make my mom proud.

When I walk past the statues of Kurdish leaders who were executed by the Iranian regime for the struggle of Kurdish rights and independence in Iran, I got very inspired by them and I would like to be like them.

I was influenced by books about the history of Kurdistan. We were a colony of the British and other countries like Turkey and Iran. Also, Kurdish people, they were always against each other. Till now there is a problem - they stand against each other, they are enemies of each other. ...I hate this characteristic of the Kurdish people... The problem of Kurdish people is that they don't stand up together.

There are other rappers who are supported by the parties (the PDK and the PUK are the two ruling political parties in Iraqi Kurdistan), and they have money and media attention, their shows on TV. I want to be famous, I want people to know me and ask me for an autograph, but I am doing it by myself, I am, and I want to be independent. I don't want to work with those who are not political (in their music), who don't speak about the poor people, about what the authorities do to people.

I hope that one day all the young people will stand up for their rights but people are afraid of the parties. They are afraid to say what they think, because they could hurt them, put them in jail.

After one of my tracks about the city of Sulaimani was played by people at the Saray Azadi (Freedom Park) during the demonstrations last spring (Feb - April 2011), the authorities called me and accused me of being one ofthem, [one who was] supported by the political opposition. They tried to threaten me.

If you put up a flag of Kurdistan alone, no one will see it. But if you put it up together with a flag of the KDP or the PUK, many will follow. It shouldn't be like that.

The PUK here has a really good relationship with Iran, the KDP a good relationship with Turkey. They are businessmen; no one cares about the people, if they die or get murdered or anything. All they care is money. That's the biggest problem of all the world, money. And money comes with power. They come together.

Even Gorran (political opposition movement in Iraqi Kurdistan) has businesses  
with the PUK. In reality they didn't do anything for people. I lost faith in the authorities. So many people lost their faith in the authorities.

People are fed up. After Saddam Hussein they hoped they would have a new life, that they would live happily ever after because there are no more enemies. Now the Kurdish government is one of the enemies, and Turkey and Iran are bombing and shelling, and Kurdish people are a little bit hopeless.

They live in our country, on our soil in Kurdistan and they kill us, they hurt us. Is it cool that I come to your house, I eat your food but after I eat, I break your plates and I ruin your house? Why? They send us expired products and food. Both Turkey and Iran do that. Why? Most of the food here is not safe for eating. Why?

Islam stands for peace. Turkey calls themselves Muslim but they hurt people, they violate other's rights. So they are Muslim just by name. Muslim people do not do that. They do not violate other people's rights. There was a lake in southern (Iraqi) Kurdistan, but now it is dried up because Iran built dams. Turkey uses chemical weapons in the mountains that, besides killing people, also kills all the plants and animals.

We have no allies, even the Americans they are not friends with us. They use us. We are like a military base. When the time comes for a war between the US and Iranthe war will come, everybody knows that there will be a war between Iran and the US and the worldit will be like a third world war. US will use us as a military base as they use Iraq, Middle East. The world is coming to an end and we haven't even become a country yet.