The Statement of Kani Xulam
At the National Day of Remembrance for Qamishli, Western Kurdistan
Lafayette Park, Washington, DC,
March 21, 2004
We have gathered here at a difficult time in our nation’s history. Arab hoodlums who miss their deposed cousin Saddam Hussein are targeting our brothers and sisters in Qamishli, Amude, Derbasiye, Sere Kani, Tirba Sibi, Derik, Afrin, Aleppo, and Damascus for expressing a bit of guarded “joy” at the turn of events in Iraqi Kurdistan. The Syrian Baathi government is either condoning this systematic assault or taking part in it actively. Scores of people have been killed. Hundreds have been injured. Thousands are in custody and are being tortured as I address you on this Newroz day. The Kurds of western Kurdistan are defending themselves from those who unashamedly are shouting, “With out lives, With our Souls, We sacrifice for You, O Saddam.” They have earned our utmost respect for their grit under fire. We honor their selflessness for the cause of Kurdistan. They can rest assured that we will not relax until their dream is our will and our will is to mobilize everything for Kurdistan including our lives.
The events of this past week have wounded us all, in a way, that is very personal. Our pain is national. Our desire to live free and unmolested is basic and universal. For days now, together with the friends liberty, we have taken to the streets in Copenhagen, Prague, Brussels, Berlin, Hanover, Warsaw, London, Ottawa, and Sydney, just to name a few of the places, to demand an end to the Baathist reign of terror in the land of our fathers among our sisters, brothers, cousins, nephews, and nieces. What Halapja, Qala Diza and Hewler suffered under and after the brutal dictatorship of the Butcher of Baghdad, the Kurds of Qamishli, Derik, and Afrin have been undergoing on the watch of Asad and his kin as well as their predecessors. We fought hard, and prayed too, and finally located the thug from Tikrit in a spider hole to face the naked sword of justice for his crimes against humanity. With faith, diligence, and struggle, and some luck too, the same could be the lot of Asad in Damascus who could easily pass as a carbon copy of the Butcher of Baghdad.
Before I go any further, let me at this time pay my personal dues and acknowledge the work of those who have helped me with this first gathering of its kind for our cousins in western Kurdistan. I ask that you kindly withhold your applause to the end as I go through their names. Dr. Pary Karadaghi of Kurdish Human Rights Watch agreed to be part of this remembrance the moment she heard me say the word, Qamishli. Kak Jamal of Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan did the same as soon as I placed the call to him. Dr. Karim and Kak Saman were equally supportive as representatives of the Kurdish National Congress. Dara Birindar, Newroz Samo, Sherko Abbas, Mehmet Akbas, Andy Abbas, Attilla Tas and Yuksel Serindag helped us in their own ways from making signs to calling you to make sure of your presence here. We are also blessed with a group of Kurdish folk dancers, Koma Hevi, which come to us from Brooklyn, New York, and symbolize defiance at its best in the midst of the grief that surrounds us from Hewler to Qamishli, from Mahabad to Amed, and from Dersim to Kirkuk. Please join me in giving them a hearty round of applause worthy of this assembled crowd.
Today marks the beginning of the Kurdish New Year celebrated in much of the Middle East for 2616 times now. Whatever may be its history — some say it is mythical — its present meaning is clear and unmistakable for all the children of Kurdistan. More than its namesake, Newroz is not just a new day, but also more importantly, a new beginning. In the days of old, if the historians can be reconciled with the chroniclers of our myths, our ancestors were the ones who, when a cruel and merciless spell of despotism gripped the Middle East, gifted freedom to all its inhabitants. The joy was real; bonfires were lit on the peaks of the mountains of Kurdistan to herald not just a new day, but also a new order. 26 centuries later, we have lost that most precious gift, the linchpin of civilization, freedom. The disciples of darkness and despotism, the Turks, the Persians and the Arabs, have banned our language, prohibited our culture and wish to bury our civilization head over heels. In so doing, they have brought shame to the Middle East, darkness to the land that gave western civilization its humble beginnings, and authored a way of life that has produced monsters like Saddam Hussein, Hafiz El Asad, Kemal Ataturk, Ayatollah Khomeini, and Osama Bin Laden.
The Middle East has to change; it needs to go back to its noble beginnings, where humanity took its first baby steps in the fields of light that separated us from the beasts of burden. Our misguided and confounded adversaries have been lost to humanity and think of it as progress to obliterate languages and cultures. They have made criminals of their peoples and committed abominations against ours. To free ourselves, we have been tasked with a double duty, that of not only liberating ourselves but also humanizing our adversaries. Whether you look at the origins of Newroz from a mythical point of view or see in it a bit of history, as I do, the finger of destiny is pointing at us again for the supreme task of transforming the Middle East yet again. When we bring about that second spring of freedom, it will mean not only the liberation of our nation, Kurdistan, the most populated enslaved country on the face of the earth, but also peace which can only have a future when it is coupled with liberty
Power, the philosophers have long observed, develops its own blind spots. America, the most powerful country on earth, is not immune from this observation. For years now, we have been enduring the worst of all evils, slavery, without much notice from the rest of the world. Twice, in the memory of people still living, this adopted country of ours encouraged us to fight it, but both times we were abandoned to the tender mercies of one of the cruelest man ever to walk on the face of this earth. He subjected us to the worst atrocity the humanity has ever known, the use of chemical weapons on our loved ones. With the advent of 9/11, the world has somewhat awakened to what we have been enduring for decades. It may be that some of them will see the light of day and perhaps join forces with us to cleanse a corner of the world from evildoers. If America has any regard for its present glory, past history, or future reputation, the Kurds are its natural allies in the fight against the forces of despotism and nihilism. Whether America joins forces with us or not, from our chosen path we will never waver no matter what the cost. On it lays, the freedom of our nation, the hopes of our children and the respect we could accord to those who died so that we could live free.
Till we meet again, Newroz Pirozbe! Happy Newroz! Happy New Year!