What Being Kurdish Means to Me
Lifestyle | September 23, 2017
Note: Before you read this post, I kindly ask that you refrain from political comments about the referendum. This is my personal blog where I can openly share my most intimate thoughts and experiences with my readers. What you choose to take away from this article is at your discretion but please respect that we all come from different walks of life that we should not judge or discriminate upon. Thank you xo! – Sazan
I remember in 2nd grade a kid asked me, “Where are you from?” I said, “Kurdistan but I was born here in America.” She looked at me and said, “Where is that?” As an 8 year old (who’s still horrible at geography might I add) I couldn’t refer her to the map because well, Kurdistan isn’t on the map. As I got older, and more friends and school mates would ask the same question I referred to what my parents taught me about my heritage and where we come from.
The Kurdish people have been split up into several regions that spread across the Middle East. This mostly includes Northern Iraq (where my family is from), parts of Iran, Turkey and Syria, but Kurds can be found in several other countries in that region. The first time my family was able to visit Kurdistan, back in 2004, I was so intrigued by how beautiful and wonderful Kurdistan (North of Iraq) was. To be honest, I always pictured Iraq looking very different in my head, more desert less green but Kurdistan was so lush and mountainous, so much like Southern California minus the beaches.
I seldom share heritage posts like this here on the blog, partially because this is a fashion and beauty focused channel, but there is a beautiful side of who I am that I’ve never had an opportunity to openly express. God has led me here today and has put it on my heart to share this very historic moment in Kurdish history happening right now. The Kurdistan I know and love, the Kurdistan that my ancestors fought and died protecting – may finally gain it’s independence and be free from a country it never truly fit into.
I come from a family that has always been proud to be Kurdish, both on my mother’s side and my father’s side. Growing up my dad would always say “Don’t ever be ashamed of who you are or where you come from. You are Kurdish no matter what anyone says”. My grandfather (on my father’s side) was a Peshmerga who traveled and fought alongside Mulla Mustafa Barzani, who some may call the “Father of Kurdistan”. My grandfather, Siyamand Barzani was martyred in the 1960s, when my father was a very young boy. I never met him in person but he has always been one of the most important people in my family’s life and we carry his memory with us always. In Kurdish we call him a “Shahid” and in our culture “Shahid Namirin” which translates to martyrs don’t die.
My grandfather on my mother’s side, Jamal Bekhtyar, has also dedicated his entire life to the Kurdish cause. He is an artist who has depicted the Kurdish struggle through his paintings his entire life. Him and his family were forced to flee Kurdistan as refugees because of a political artwork he created depicting the cruel behavior of the Baa’th party towards the Kurds in the 1970s. It’s terrifying to hear that Saddam Hussein was on the hunt to kill my grandfather. My grandpa Jamal is still alive and well today, hopeful that he too will witness an independent Kurdistan.
So you see, this referendum is more than just a vote for yes or no. My vote will be dedicated to the head of our family, my Grandfather Siyamand, who sacrificed his own life for Kurdistan, for the moment we are standing in front of right now. His blood along with the blood of so many has been spilled for far too long. This vote is for all of the families who have had to say goodbye to members of their own, the ones who sacrificed their existence for the safety and existence of Kurds and Kurdistan. I vote BALE (yes) for them.
I hope one day my daughter (who will be half Kurdish) will have the opportunity to point to her mother’s country on a map for anyone who may ask her where her family comes from.
My husband Stevie has always embraced my Kurdish heritage and wants our children to understand the value of where they come from. It is a desire of his to visit Kurdistan one day. But first? He’s working on his Kurdish speaking skills and is actively learning the language.
September 25, 2017 is a date that my family and I (as well as all of you!) get to witness in our lifetime. Truthfully, I’ve never been so excited to vote for something in my life! It is very emotional for me because I get to be a part of something my grandfather died for and I also get to witness my other grandfather watch a dream come true, a dream that has been denied for a very long time. It’s also a special tribute to the brave men and women who have been fighting these past few years against terror, defending not only their fellow Kurds but so many others who have found refuge in Kurdistan. No group of people deserves to live in a world where they are not recognized. No group of people deserves to live stateless and oppressed.
My sister Sayran and I decided to collaborate on this post to bring the vision of Kurdistan to life through fashion and beauty. The vibrant colors we chose represent new life and change. From past to present, we incorporated our traditional dresses with a new but powerful twist. I did both of our makeup looks and decided to take the beautiful colors from the Kurdish flag (Red, Yellow, and Green). I credit my love for color and statement making to my Kurdish culture.
I can’t end this post without saying a few words about our Kurdish President Masoud Barzani. It goes without saying his entire life has been dedicated to the moment we stand in front of today and for that I am grateful. I admire and respect his leadership and devotion to Kurdistan and his peaceful and welcoming approach towards all people. Salute to him and all the other champions of freedom who have made this moment possible. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for Kurdistan, a time for growth and change and hopefully acceptance in this world of ours. This is truly a dream for all Kurds, to have a place where we feel safe and at home. Biji Kurdistan, BALE bo referendum.
Special thanks to:
Photography by Jon Volk
Jewelry by Shop Sayran
Graphic Tees & Hats by Peshmerga Clothing