Thursday, June 16, 2011

A Major Sir

Sazan M. Mandalawi

The kurdish Globe
By Sazan M. Mandalawi

"We, the Kurds, respect friendship."

Life back home in Kurdistan has taught me many lessons, but the most important of all is that as a Kurd, always expect the unexpected. Once again, this home-baked theory of mine proves itself right. Who would have thought, in a time when this nation was breaking into pieces, and men and women were slaughtered, the man who took part in the creation of a safe haven would receive an honorary doctorate degree from the same university I graduated from.

Almost 20 years after a major decision that he took part in, he returns to that place, where once a upon a time, no one knew if they'd live or die. Today, he speaks in front of its future leaders. The man who helped to give birth to the Kurdistan Region that we're in today.

In 1991, every member of my family was separated; my mother and I were somewhere, dad somewhere else, and the other relatives all over the place. At that time, I was only 2, and lucky to have endured those conditions.

Fast forward about 20 years. The silent but exciting preparation has us all whispering. We had many phone calls and emails that forbade us to mention the name of the "VVIP" who happened to be a "senior British politician." This was the only clue. When I was informed Former British Prime Minister Sir John Major would be visiting the home of my higher education, it was a proud moment.

As much as I was content, I feel deeper satisfaction and happiness for the guest speaker who was on the podium in the University of Kurdistan-Hawler. I could sense how humbled he felt as he spoke to a group of young people about their past and their future. As he spoke, I observed his expressions, the eloquence of his words and the way his sentences flowed.

As I listened carefully and watched this man behind the podium, I repeatedly reminded myself: Maybe, if it wasn't for this man, I wouldn't be here right now. Kurds don't have many friends -- this is not something new -- but to the friends we do have, we are loyal. We cherish their friendship, we never forget if even once someone, somewhere, in their corner of the world lends us a hand whether it's just words or actions.

As the university presented the honorary doctorate degree in politics and international relations to Sir John Major, I learned that as Kurds, we never forget any good deed presented to us by anyone. As he held the degree above his head with the Kurdish flag folded and presented as a gift, I had those flashbacks of "how we were then, and how we are now."

As lucky as we are to have great friends, the person who is our friend is even luckier, because we, the Kurds, respect friendship in this ugly political world.

While I know too well the Safe Haven wasn't just because superpowers felt sorry for the Kurdish people, but despite the intention, Kurds benefited. For that, as a young Kurdish girl, I was not only grateful to live the day when Sir John Major stepped on Kurdistani soil, but for him to be awarded and be appreciated from the same place I was educated. Who would have thought this would ever happen after such a short amount of time?

What I enjoyed most from his speech was that he confidently said "Kurdistan" on various occasions without adding and taking words before and after it (some of which include Northern, Region, Area, etc.) just to be politically correct.

In response to one of the student questions, Sir John Major replied: "Be grateful that you are in Kurdistan and not elsewhere." If you stand on the peak point of the citadel and yell those words out, no one would believe you. But when such a personality says those words, it gives it its significance and importance. It makes you believe that yes, you are living in a place where it is true.

On several occasions during his speech he pointed out at the difference between the past and the present. "To live the future," he said, "you must understand your past." And this is what hurts me the most, our young people are starting to forget their past. 

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