Submitted by Mediha Inan
Exactly one year ago, someone who is very important to me asked me a question that profoundly changed my perception of myself and my cultural identity. Ever since I can remember, my siblings and I share the strong desire to travel the world, to learn new languages, and to move to places where we don’t seem to belong at first. The question why we had this desire and whether this had something to do with our Kurdish background never crossed my mind – until my friend raised the issue. The link between the urge to explore and the Kurdish identity has since occupied my mind. When my parents had to flee to Germany in the 1980s, they left behind what they consider their home. Born and raised in a city called Midyad (the north of Kurdistan), their lives were coined by the rural traditions of the region. Structural inequalities, political discrimination, and a high rate of illiteracy were, unfortunately, part of their realities. And yet, they were taught many of the values that the Western education I was lucky enough to receive acknowledges and tries to convey: A true sense for the environment, gender equality, and the courage to speak your truth have always been part of Kurdistan’s diverse communities.
When my parents began their life journey abroad, they decided not only to live up to those values, but they also chose a path of curiosity, of eagerness to discover the unknown. Whenever my parents tell me about their travel adventures once they got to Europe, I become aware of their choices and the destiny I share both with them and the Kurdish people. I, for myself, was born in Germany and raised in a Kurdish household that used to be trilingual. We had Bollywood movie nights, favorite Manga-heroes, and incredibly diverse friendships with people from all over the world. My parents, and especially my mum, would always tell us that it was crucial to understand other cultures and not to forget that the land we live on might not belong to us. Sometimes I would become mad at her for insisting on this – as I was born in Germany and consider myself German, the idea of not belonging where I lived seemed far-fetched. But the Kurdish part of my identity has always implied that my parents’ personal story is indeed part of the Kurdish people’s truth and thus also part of my own. In this sense, my siblings and I have been taught – probably as every Kurd in the Middle East and the diaspora – that Mother Earth was maybe never meant to belong to us, but that we could nevertheless explore it and protect its beauty. Just like my parents, I decided to move away and write my own story. I learned new languages, made memories with strangers, and began to feel what they meant when they talked about the richness of knowing and loving people in more than one place. I have come to the conclusion that the striving for the unknown is part of my Kurdish identity, and that I share amongst many other things, first and foremost, the urge to explore with my fellow Kurdish people.