The following story and Kurdish poems were submitted to The Kurdish Project by Zeki Madjid in honor of World Poetry Day. Submit your own story.
I was born and I spent most of my life west of my land. I never heard about injustice, the struggle or the map. I knew what surrounded me, not who I am. Growing up I was asked, where I’m from. I told them I was from the city of Aleppo. I myself knew I was Kurdish, as I was often reminded by my family. I know that our music was always playing, our food was always on the table and our language always in the house, but yet nobody seemed to have heard of my people. I introduced myself as being Kurdish, always being asked if my language was either similar to Arabic or Turkish. They asked where my country was and at a young age, I myself had no clue as to how to answer such a question, when the map itself did not know.
With time, I began to understand. I knew that we were never a minority. I now knew that the map does not know my name, because it had been erased. Nobody has heard of me, because for a century, we had been assimilated into occupying culture. I saw that my people had been divided between four borders. Our language had been banned, our culture silenced. All who dared to speak were jailed or killed. I heard the name of Halabja. I heard the name of Layla Zana. I heard the names of Dersim, Zilan, Amed.
I did not know. I could not explain why the world stood by and watched an entire people be erased. Then I saw. I saw that we could never be truly erased. We had survived a century of oppression and genocide, yet still we resisted. Great men and women rose to speak of our struggle. In 2011 war broke out in the region and the Peshmerga, YPG and YPJ stepped up when nobody else did. We once again showed the world the true definition of bravery. We faced an evil that claimed to be fighting against the enemies of a religion, yet they seemed to only be attacking followers of that very same religion. Targeting people who had one thing in common – being Kurdish. The brave fighters of Rojava were labeled criminals, yet when I went to visit my grandmother in western Kurdistan, I only felt safe around these very same men and women. They were kind, people of all walks of life, who were ready to give up every single thing they had, to protect their land. I could never be more proud to be part of a people, who went through the worst of humanity to come out strong and with a smile.
Sadly our struggle to be free is not close to an end. The towns of northern Kurdistan are even more damaged than those that the world knows as war zones in Iraq and Syria. The towns of Sirnak, Silopi, Cizre, Nuseybin and Silvan were shelled, bombed and besieged. The residents were forbidden from leaving their homes, food and medicine was blocked from entering the city and all was done with the justification that the army was “cleansing” the town from terrorists. Sadly their statement has truth in it, with the major difference that instead of cleansing towns of terrorists, these cities were being ethnically cleansed. In the year of 2016, our leaders were arrested for ludicrous reasons. Selahattin Demirtas was illegally jailed without a sentence along with most members of the democratic Kurdish political party – HDP.
I am not a politician. I will probably never have such an influence as to change something as large as this. I do not know what to do or how to deal with this. What I spoke of was facts, yet it seems facts were not able to convince the world for decades that something must change. So truth be told, I have no clue as to what to say.
“A poem begins with a lump in the throat; a homesickness or a love sickness. “ – Robert Frost
The love for my people and the love for my land have left a lump in my throat caused by the unspoken pain of generations. Poetry has always been the only way I knew how to speak my mind, so I wrote these poems to express what my soul has wanted to tell the world, since my birth.
“Ballad of the Oppressed”
I do not fear one that bleeds like me
My death is certain, we are born and raised to leave
It is my name that shall live when my shadow runs to flee
It is my child that shall rise to walk my land as free
My enemy looks me in my eyes and tells me lies
He tells me, we are peaceful, but I can hear my people cry
This is my land, so please my oppressor tell me why
Tell me why, I should not resist until the day I die
Tell me why, I am evil when I ask for my rights
Why I should stay peaceful and live among imprisoned minds
Tell me why, the genocide on my child, is called fighting crime
and when they cheer over a dead body, I should not cry
I cry for all that seek freedom, and are killed from the sky
There is no bravery in a coward, only in a lion on the mountain top
There is no martyrdom, for one that murders an innocent child
Oh you, who holds my life in your hands
How dare you tell me, with what God I should stand
God labeled me your brother?
But my brother, you are my oppressor and the thief of my land
It is you that deprived me of the pride that all my peers had
It is you, that stole my history and taught me to kiss my murderers hand
You made me sing songs to praise the cause of my death
You say this land belongs to me too, but my name is not on the map
Tell my enemies, that I feel no fear.
Tell them I was forged in oppression, watered in tears.
Molded by the bullets, that embraced my peers.
Tell them, my heart is of steel.
Tell them I am Kurdish.
Tell them, so they hear.
“Kurdish I am”
Kurdish is the pride in my veins
Kurdish I am, through sun and through rain
Kurdish I was, through oppression and pain
Kurdish I shall stay, when freedom comes to reign
Rojhilat, Bashur, Rojava and Bakur is Kurdistan, and Kurdish is my motherland
From Rojava I rise, and at Rojava I stand
A lion that bows down to no man
Proud with the sun waving in my hands
Kurdish I am, Kurdish I am
Enemies shiver at the sound of my name
Once oppressed, now forever a flame
A chest that shall beat, until the skies know no rain
Kurdish I am, Kurdish I am