Thursday, January 13, 2011

We are Friends (Ema Dosti Ewaeen)

                                                          Article written by; Tawfiq Rahman Hamad

The above phrase is known to most people in my region, the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. This was the motto of the Zaytun Division Korean Military. Some people may read this article and interpret this as a political slogan, but the daily actions of the Division proved that the Koreans are faithful friends of the Kurdish people.

The Koreans were not well known to the people living in the down town areas at first, but to the poor people living in villages and country sides. The Division conducted “Green Angel” operations to visit different villages on a weekly basis to assist with infrastructure development like building roads linking villages and the main roads, providing medical treatment and operations - often transferred to the Zaytun Hospital inside the Korean Military Compound. Later the Zaytun Division upgraded their activity to building primary schools, providing clean water supply, and establishing health clinics; this made the Kurdish people believe that the Koreans were truly faithful friends.

Most of the countries who helped the Kurdish people in the past focused on projects in the center of the city, and very rarely in the villages. The Koreans did the opposite, teaching the villagers to participate in the rebuilding of their villages. They introduced the Saemaul Undong movement to the people living in villages and invited some villagers to Korea learn how this movement has been effective in the past and to the present day. If you visit the villages in the Kurdistan Region you will likely see at least one road, primary school, health clinic, or clean water supply storage facility built by Korean troops.

The Vocational Training Centre was one of the other great projects of the Zaytun Division, training young people who didn’t have a career or the necessary skills to find jobs. The program helped them to become mechanics to repair cars, home appliances, software program
s, or truck drivers. The Centre helped the young people obtain new skills with certificates and easily find a job in the market. I am proud to have worked for about a year and a half at the Zaytun Hospital. Thousands of Kurdish citizens visited this hospital for medical treatment and received operation or other treatment. All the people in Kurdistan now know about Korean physicians and medical expertise.

The work of the Korean people, through the Zaytun Division, remains forever in our memories. Even after many years, when children go to school or to the Zaytun Library, the biggest Library in Erbil, they will see that this has been built by the good will of the Korean People. This will strengthen Kurdish – Korean relations and pass the legacy from one generation to another. The Korean Army's mission in Kurdistan was not only to build, but also to help outfit the facilities with modern equipment, engage in the capacity-building and training of government employees, supply local citizens in need with medical treatment, provide education to young people so that they can find employment, and to assist the Ministry of Interior and security forces in Kurdistan.

We can therefore clearly see the difference between the work of Korea’s Zaytun Division and the contributions of other countries. No other country engaged so fully and directly in helping our people on the ground – the skills that have been taught to many of our citizens will last their entire lives and transform their future.
There is a common refrain among the Kurdish people: “No Friends but the Mountains.” This relates to the difficult situation and the tragic history that Kurdish people have suffered, betrayed or ignored by great powers despite their promises. But since 2003 the Kurdish people have been able to create many substantive and long lasting partnerships, including with the Koreans. After interacting with Korean troops, H.E. Kurdistan Region President Masoud Barzani said that Zaytun troops are true friends of the Kurdish people.

There is a lot of similarity between Korean and Kurdish people. Koreans suffered from Japanese colonial ambitions and the country has been devastated by a civil war. Kurdish people suffered from the legacy of the colonial policy of regional and global powers, thousands of our people have been killed by the previous dictatorial Iraqi regime, including through the use of chemical weapons, thousands of our villages have been destroyed by the previous regime, our agriculture resources and infrastructure were demolished, and unfortunately we also suffered from civil war. This is a clear indication that our history shares common characteristics. The Koreans worked very hard in a short period time to achieve the miracle of the Han River. When I was working at the Zaytun Hospital at the Korean Military Compound in the Kurdistan Region, I felt that there was a secret behind the ethic of hard work, and this motivated me to travel from the Kurdistan Region to Korea, to discover the secret of the success of these great people, from whom we should take lessons.

In most countries around the world people refuse the existence of foreign troops and celebrate their departure. But the Kurdish people were very sad about the departure of the Korean troops and always publicly asked them to stay in the Kurdistan Region.

Mr. Nawzad Hadi, Governor of Erbil, capital city of the Kurdistan Region, told the press:

"We see people in other parts of Iraq protest against the multinational forces, but in Kurdistan it never happened," said Governor Hadi. He added, "I tell the Korean Parliament they should be proud of what Korean troops have achieved in Kurdistan."

Tawfiq Rahman Hamad; works for the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Department of Foreign Relations, and is pursuing his M.A. at the KDI School of Public Policy and Management on a scholarship sponsored by the KOICA.

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