Kurdish New Year Celebration
In the United States Congress
March 24, 2001
Xusku birayen delal,
Ladies and gentlemen:
Hun be xehr hatin. Newroz pirozbe! Her biji Kurd u Kurdistan.
Ji bo xatire mevanen meye Ameriki, bi borin, eze axaftina xu bi zimani Ingilizi bikim.
I want to start by acknowledging a few people who have gone above and beyond the call of duty to turn this Newroz, the first in the United States Congress, from an idea into a reality that we all witness here tonight. Thank you Congressman Filner for helping us with the reservation of this hall. In Turkey, the word Newroz is misspelled on purpose and banned with the force of law if it is celebrated true to its origins. In America, celebrating it unfettered, in this most hallow and sacred institution, feels, JUST GREAT!
Next, I want to thank our good friends Zozan and Najim Karim. We are proud of both of you and I am especially grateful to the kinder and better half, Zozan Khan. In the hectic days of getting ready for this Newroz, you lent me your ears, you let me whine, and you helped me in ways that I shall always cherish. Thank you Zozan Khan and thank you Dr. Karim.
We have guests here from far away places to entertain us as well as support us in our ongoing Vigil at Sheridan Circle, across from the Turkish Ambassador’s residence. Hozan Sehruz joins us from Toronto, Canada. Hozan Delil is of Akademiya Muzika Kurdi in Neuss, Germany. Hozan Rania is a native of Boulder, Colorado. Her partner and sweet heart, Hozan Dilshad, is from Paris, France. At keyboard, we have Hozan Alkan who comes to us from Boston, Massachusetts. Please join me in giving them a hearty round of applause.
In the audience, we also have a special friend of the Kurdish people who completed her 48 hours vigil in the Cell of Atonement at 10:00 am this morning. Debbie Dilley is her name and she is one of the most committed American friends of the Kurds that I have ever come across. Historians will definitely write of your sacrifice for our people. Thank you for your solidarity. Thank you for your love of Turkey that recognizes its Kurdish part. I hope Turkish leaders will learn a thing or two from you.
I am also happy to tell you of our friends from Volterra, Italy. Annet Henneman and Gianni Calastri arrived here a few days ago and will be performing later in the night. They are an engaging duo and make a powerful presentation of the Kurdish reality with mimics and words. I was impressed with them when I first saw them in Boston, Massachusetts. They continue to impress International audiences with their performances. Thank you Annet and thank you Gianni for coming all the way from Volterra, Italy.
There are many others in this room who deserve to be acknowledged. My lawyer, Karen Grisez, who has literally given me a second chance by stopping, so far, the INS from deporting me back to Turkey deserves my personal gratitude. A person who quietly sits in this room who generously has helped all Kurds without any distinction and who now wishes to remain anonymous deserves the gratitude of all Kurds. To all others whose names I have not mentioned, please forgive me for bypassing you.
I now to come to the task at hand and that is to present the 2001 Ahmede Xani Award to our guest of honor, Congressman Bob Filner. Last year, we established this award to honor a member of Congress who stands out for his or her contribution to the Kurdish cause. This year, this honor belongs to Mr. Filner. His name has become synonymous with rights with responsibilities, liberty with order and peace with justice. In this labyrinth called the United States Congress, he stands like a beacon of light not just for us, but many other wronged and disenfranchised peoples around the world.
There is another story about this man that I would like to share with you tonight. His past, his roots, analyzed closely, reveal a noble soul going back some 40 years. In 1960’s, this nation was at war with itself over race relations. President Abraham Lincoln may have ended slavery per se, but segregation had taken root in the South and some were openly declaring it to be permanent. There were others who were equally committed to its eradication. Citizen and student Bob Filner was one of them. He and a group of his friends boarded buses, they called themselves, Freedom Riders, and headed south to fight segregation armed with nothing more than nonviolence but with the determination to change America for the good.
Mississippi where Bob Filner got off the bus was a war zone. African Americans were beaten and killed at will. Their property was attacked at random. Guns were fired to cow down the best of Americans into submission and withdrawals. Some of these young idealists tragically were murdered. Others, among them Bob Filner, were imprisoned. Citizen Filner spent several months in jail. He was only 19. But the words of the song, we shall overcome, never left his lips. As we all know these committed young idealists, guided by nobler souls like that of Dr. King’s, in the end, overcame and won BIG for all Americans. Despite some lingering problems, America remains a world leader in terms of collective liberties afforded to its citizens at home.
So, it is with a heartfelt pleasure that I have the honor of handing to our friend, a token of our appreciation, the symbol of our award, a bust of Ahmede Xani and two framed lines from his immortal work, Memo u Zin, that read, “I am confused by God’s wisdom: in this world of States.” Ladies and Gentlemen, please join me in giving our friend Congressman Bob Filner a warm round of applause and invite him to the podium to accept his award.