Kurdish Road Trip


A little while back, I set out on a road trip through the Kurdish populated parts of our planet, hoping to nail down some photos of an old people and to get a better idea about the Kurdish identity and feel on the overall culture. Upon my return, I found, maybe unsurprisingly that it was hard to get any definite answers, especially with regards to identity; though in conversations, I did get a lot of different responses on what makes up the Kurdish. If anything, it's clear that opinions vary.

Counting a population of 30 millions plus many have since the Kurdish nationality's inception about a hundred years ago, dreamt of a united people living in an independent country, as they today live as minorities in territories spread over Turkey, Iran, Syria and Iraq, with a sizeable diaspora abroad. Having in recent history endured their respective host countries' heavy-handedness, the Kurdish dominated parts of Iraq were eventually successful in carving out their own autonomous piece of land from Iraq with help of the powers that be after Saddam Hussein's infamous campaign that sought to raze their villages and kill them by the tens of thousands. In Turkey, after a little-known civil war less than a decade ago, one today passes numerous heavily armed and guarded security checkpoints to and fro the various Kurdish cities; inside which one further witnesses a large military presence by the state, presumably to keep Kurdish political aspirations under control; with some going so far to call it all an occupation. On the Syrian side, more or less closed off for travelers these days, the situation is no less beautiful

Needless to say, the larger Kurdistan is a political place, a place where big power politics continues showing its ugly rear end in the vying for power and control. On the other hand, the politics stand in stark contrast to the Kurdish people's friendliness, generosity and hospitality. As travelers to the region would happily attest, Kurdish hospitality is indeed renowned and something that frequently gets remarked upon. Smiles and invitations for cups of chai/tea are never far away. As one man described the guest in Kurdish culture: a guest is the light of the home. which is not too far from the saying in the related Persian culture that a guest is a gift from God. To be sure, a fascinating and diverse region and culture to travel. Yet one that's quickly transforming with the forces of our time. Like everywhere else.