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Interview with Midya Khudur

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Kurdish Oral History Project
Interview with: Midya Khudur
Interviewed by: Aynur DeRouen
Transcriber: Joseph Seif
Date of interview: 12 April 2019
Interview Setting: Binghamton University

(Start of Interview)
AD: We are recording. So today is. We are good. Today is April 12, 2019 and we are here uh talk to
Midya. Midya for the record can you give us your full name?

MK: Yeah, my name is Midya Khudur, um.

AD: And can you briefly tell us where you are from, and since you are so young, you would not mind telling us when you were born and where?

MK: So, I am from the Kurdistan region of Iraq, but I was born in 1992. I first born, I was born in Mosul and then my family went to Duhok to the northern part of Iraq in 2002 before the fall of Saddam. And I stayed there until now, [mumbles] until I come to the States pursuing my master degree.

AD: Okay, so, eh, so can you tell us a little bit about your family? Like how many siblings do you have, what your father does, what your mother does? You know that kind of information.

MK: Okay, so my dad is an engineer, my mom she could finish high-institute school herself teaching, but then she could not work because like she got married [laughs] and then yeah. We are, we are four daughters and one brother. I am in the middle. Two of them, my two sisters who are older than me, are both married and having kids, and the two of them that are younger than me, they are not. They are still students, they are studying, yeah. And currently live in Duhok. Yeah.

AD: So, uh, your father works in Duhok?

MK: Yeah.

AD: And what kind of engineer?

MK: He is a Mechanical Engineer. Yeah.

AD: Okay, so, eh. You said you were born in Mosul and then moved to Duhok area. So do you remember, do you have any memory of uh, Mosul?

MK: So, I was nine year when I moved from Mosul, but I remember from it is my grandfather’s house and our house, the playground, my cousins, because it was like my grandfather’s house like the biggest one and then small houses besides it they were all like for who else and so me and I mean my cousins were always playing there. I always loved his garden, um, the food that we were cooking there, everything. I remember sometime uh, the school as well, because I was there for like, I stayed there until fifth grade for primary school, so I remember, yeah, a little bit about the school as well. Yeah.

AD: So, uh did you live in a. What kind of uh area? Or was it like this strict like mostly Kurdish people lived, or people lived from different background in the same area? I was trying to get the sense.

MK: Yeah, I think it was like a mixed area, because we were living in the center of Mosul, so I do not really, I do not really know how like the distribution of people back then, but I remember that we have Arab and other ethnicity group uh neighbors, yeah.

AD: So, were you like interacting with them? With the neighbors?

MK: Um, not that much, because I had my cousins, they all were my age, so I did not need to have like extra friendship. Yeah.

AD: So, you were basically hanging out with your cousins.

MK: Yeah true.

AD: So, how about your family, your parents, grandparents, do you remember that they were interacting with other neighbors?

MK: Yeah, I believe so, because usually like my father and uh my aunt, usually they talk about their memories at the university some of their neighbors. So yeah they have, they have their group of friends and so on. But because like we had a lot of relative there in Mosul, like all my uncles, so I think like most of our social communication things it was through that. With my uncles and relatives. Yeah.

AD: So, did your extended family also moved to Duhok area?

MK: Well they moved but I think we were almost the first one who moved? The moved after the fall of Saddam, after 2003 after situation got bad, in Mosul, yeah they moved to Duhok. Yeah.

AD: Okay. So, you do not have any family left in Mosul?

MK: No, no.

AD: So, all Duhok.

MK: Yeah.

AD: So, what did you think about Duhok when you moved there?

MK: Yeah so, so when I first moved from Mosul to Duhok, I was thinking yay it is cool, I am going to speak my language, with like my neighbors and friends and so on and so on. But then when I moved to Duhok I discovered that my accent is different from them. [laughs] Which is like another trouble. Because like when I was in Mosul, all students or my friends they would say, “she is Kurdish, she is speaking in a weird way”. And then when I came to Duhok they were saying “you speaking almost Arabic”, because I was influenced by the Arabic language so I present a lot of Arabic words in my language. But then it was strange for me like the biggest challenge that I always had is the language, because I speak a dialect inside the house and then, when I was a kid, I was speaking another language outside, which was Arabic. And then when I moved to Duhok, I like tried to speak their dialect and the other challenge I was studying in another dialect, which was like disarani [Kurdish language dialect] one.

AD: Yeah.

MK: So, basically, I was dealing with three dialects in my daily life. [laughs]

AD: Wow!

MK: Yeah.

AD: So, uh Mosul, you went to, like when you went to primary school, it was like the language was Arabic? I take it?

MK: Yeah true. Yeah, yeah true.

AD: So, you are fluent in Arabic?

MK: Uh, yeah, I was nine years when I came to Duhok. I kind of lost it. I still I could uh, read it and write it, but when communication, I kind of lost it at some point, but then I uh a lot of Arabs displaced and came to Duhok, so I had a lot of Arab friends uh short after I coming to Duhok, so that is how I could restore my language, the Arabic language fluency when it comes to talking.

AD: I see.

MK: Yeah.

AD: So, and is this language thing still going on? You speak different dialect at home, different at school, different on the street?

MK: Yeah.

AD: Still continuing?

MK: It is always like that. Yeah at home it is a dialect, and then with friends another dialect, and then with Arabs another language, and then with my English colleague another language. So I always have that struggle of language, yeah.

AD: So, did you correct your accent for them? Or stick to your accent?

MK: No, I correct my accent, but the thing is when I am with like close friends or like. So now I mean the formation of my language is a mix of Arabic, English and Kurdish, so like the person, I mean the person that I feel comfortable with, he should know all three languages so that understand me. Because I cannot be only restricted to one language, I cannot express myself that way.

AD: Yeah.

MK: Yeah.

AD: Well, that’s good though, right? It’s different.

MK: It is suffering. [laughs] I mean people, people they say it is good, especially if you write about those challenges, but it is kind of a suffering when it comes to, when you want to express yourself or when you want to belong to something. Yeah.

AD: Yeah.

MK: Yeah.

AD: So, 2002, uh how was Duhok? Like environment wise? Like when you move there? How was it?

MK: So, comparing to Mosul, Duhok the weather was nicer, we were having a lot of fruits there. [laughs] We were not having that much fruit, but I mean as an environment and as a city it was nice. I was not really developed back then, but it was a nice one. I liked it. Yeah.

AD: You liked it.

MK: Yeah.

AD: So, uh, do you remember when things were happening? Like, like the Saddam was missing, then they found him, they, you know. I mean you were very you ng, obviously, but do you remember? Because it was a big event–

MK: Yeah, yeah true.

AD: –And then how he was.

MK: Yeah, of course I remember. So when first the U.S. came to Iraq, we Kurds, we were scared, as though we were living in the [inaudible] rural part but, a lot of us got, I mean we went to villages to more secured area because we were worried. And we all like watching news, what will happen, and I remember one day um, so we went to a village. We stayed in a school with my other relatives it was a more secured area to stay. And once I remember, we woke up in the morning and the sky and the weather was, was so, um, uh, I do not know, um.

AD: Was it foggy?

MK: Yeah it was foggy.

AD: Okay.

MK: And people were so sacred, they thought it is chemical, uh–

AD: Yeah.

MK: Yeah from, they thought that they are like chemicals from Saddam, like he’s throwing on us again and we all like put this uh thing on our mouth to cover it and in our nose covered–

AD: So that is the collective memory right there.

MK: [laughs] You think so? Yeah, so I remember everyone was so scared until we discovered no it is just the weather, it is nothing to do with the chemicals. Yeah, but then like after that, when Saddam um, when American could take over Baghdad and so on, when uh we moved back to Duhok and then, and then like everyone was watching news, yeah I remember the town when Saddam got arrest. I remember the time when he was in the court and the other Ba’ath regime people and uh there were getting asked by the court uh, about their crimes and so on. Yeah I remember it very well yeah.

AD: Yeah, but you did not really live through the uh, you know like when the–

MK: Yeah.

AD: –Chemical weapon, like the Halabja, Anfal, all that. But your parents have the memory of those incidences.

MK: Yeah, I did not really live in that part, but the threat that Saddam have, to everyone even the Arab cities in Iraq. It is so much so, I remember when I was a kid, I was always threatened by my mom. Like to be careful when I speak. I mean because I remember, um I remember when I was a kid, I used to act as a broadcasting person and like doing news and talking about Saddam, inside the house and my mom would tell me “Midya how to shut up, what if one of his, his like troops are here or one of the police are here, he will arrest us because of you” so I always learn to be careful. And I also remember once in the school, so usually when it is Saddam’s birthday or whatever, so we all we have to yell at the highest frequency on our voice that uh “long life Saddam” so, and I needed to say it because like my, because my manager she was looking at me. It was one of the most disgracing moments in my life. [laughs]

AD: Yeah.

MK: Because, you were saying “long life Saddam” and so uh–

AD: How did you say that? Where you saying in Arabic or in Kurdish?

MK: Yeah in Arabic because like when it is his birthday, we needed to celebrate at the schools and everywhere, so like we would be like–

AD: What is the sentence? Tell me in Arabic.

MK: Uh [Arabic], something like that, yeah, yeah so, yeah so it’s like how it was that we all students we will march in the school and we would say that word, yeah. Yeah.

AD: Yeah that is [laughter] so you, you, there was like the fear was like imbedded in you, even though you did not really–

MK: True, true, yeah.

AD: You go through all that, uh, so uh, so which grade where you in when you were in Mosul? Or like Middle School?

MK: No–

AD: Or still elementary?

MK: Yeah elementary, I was in fourth grade, so I was like nine years old.

AD: Oh, nine years–

MK: Yeah.

AD: Okay, so uh and where did you go to university? In Duhok?

MK: Yeah, yeah.

AD: So, you did not go to Erbil.

MK: No, no I stayed in Duhok, yeah.

AD: Okay, so uh and every– But there were still some Arabic people in Duhok area, right? It was not just complete Kurdish?

MK: Yeah true, true. Yeah there were Arabic back then. And after the fall of Saddam, yeah, a lot of Arabs came and make it to live in Duhok.

AD: Duhok area. So uh, so where you interacting with those people or your family you know did you have any in your neighborhood?

MK: I do not remember exactly, no, in my neighborhood we do not have it but yeah we interacting, because there were student with us, uh, they were working with us, so, yeah I mean from that, yeah. And my dad had his like university time friends sometimes they would come, stay, tour in the area, yeah.

AD: I see, so uh, like how was the like the life growing up? Like what did you celebrate, what did you, you know like do like with your family or with your friends, like what were the major things. Like I do not want to give you ideas, but like for example like either religious holidays, or Kurdish holidays, like what were the things that you were?

MK: So, I am considered from the generation the lucky ones because at my time we could have our autonomous government, so we were reading in my language, celebrating Newroz, wearing our cloths. So, so I mean I do not really share any bad memory, just like my parents, so almost my memories they were good one. So like we were celebrating uh, our Eids, our, the Muslim feast, we were celebrating uh, Newroz, Yezidi’s one, Assyrian’s one. Uh and the way it was brought up, it was really easy for me because I was mostly going to school to university or not really having those high conflicts of politics in the time that I grow up. Yeah.

MK and AD: Yeah.

AD: But uh, how about your parents, like were they still like cautious even though they lived in a safer environment things like little settle down. You know what I mean.

AD: How-how do you know, uh, view that? Like ̶

MK: Actually, after the fall of Saddam, no. I mean almost all the Kurds, I think even Arabs who did not have that fear of Saddam any long. So we were life you are having a peaceful mind when it comes to Saddam and what he might able to do for us. So, no we did not have that fear, no, yeah.

AD: Yeah, so, uh, that is a good thing, because that lasted for a long time for several generations–

MK: True.

AD: –We have been interviewing like, what a big toll–

MK: True, yeah.

AD: –And their lives. Um, so then you wanted to come here.

MK: Yeah.

AD: To study?

MK: Yeah, true.

AD: Why?

MK: So, we are now in a developing stage and um, so I mean, true we could have our own autonomy and so on, but still we have other social things that we have to reconstruct to have a strong society, territory whatever, and education is one of them. Uh, I always wanted to have like a time of my life outside Kurdistan, getting exposed to other people, other environment and especially to other, a higher, a higher education, yeah. So that is how I could made it into here. Uh, I applied for a scholarship and I got accepted, and um, I also wanted that because now, because now the environment is getting so challenging when it comes to work, so it is like you are going to find everyone is trying to have Master. At the time when someone was having Master Degree, then that person would really have a good job, but now no, no longer matter. So now, everyone is trying to have a Master. Everyone is mastering in English language, so it is a very challenging environment right now. Plus when I.S.I.S. [Islamic State in Iraq and Syria] came to Iraq, it effected our economy. So much, so now, I mean, my generation we all like struggling to find a work and we are all struggling to improve ourselves. To have the best out of it. So, yeah.

AD: Mhm, okay, so. What did you think about this society when you came here? It is like, did you find it different, did you find it similar? Like what is your take on like. Did you first of all, did you directly come to Binghamton area? Or did you go somewhere else first, then came here? How did it work out?

MK: Do one of the things that the scholarship provide, is that you have one month of pre-academic course somewhere else. It was in Syracuse, which was almost the same as Binghamton. I was with other international students and then I came to here. The society is absolutely different um–

AD:In what regard?

MK: So, the amount of homeless people that are seen around the city is kind for shocked me. I did not expect that. Uh, I did not know that women and men get paid differently in the State, I was expecting something better. I did not know the conflict between people of color and white people. Plus, um, one of the struggles that I always have here is that the culture, because you know, we are from a very tense culture that we care about and, so coming people are so individualistic it is kind of, like it was surprising for me. At the same time, I am of course, I am impressed by the creative work that people here are doing how they impressing your knowledge, investing in it, hearing your voice. Um, I come here. I was, my, so my bachelor’s degree was English Language and Literature, I come here for comparative literature, I could never imagine that one day I am going to work in Kurdish Studies and now I am interested in that. If I was in Iraq I would not do it, because basically our education is so much like restricted, this the A.B.C.D. of your department, here no, you have more choices to develop it, so, it is something very interesting and, yeah I love it. I love it when it comes to the academic wise.

AD: Yeah, education wise. So did you get to meet with Kurdish people in this area?

MK: Yeah surprisingly, there is a high, uh, number of Kurdish community here, so. Yeah, the first time I come to Binghamton, a Kurdish driver took me to my place [laughs] that was–

AD: Did you know he was Kurdish? How did you find out he is Kurdish?

MK: I actually knew because, there was an Iraqi friend here, so that is how I could know about Binghamton and she like, I stayed with her for a half year. She told me there is a Kurdish driver, he said when you come I will take her to home. So it was nice, yeah. The first thing, he was the first, Kurdish person that I knew here, and then, I met with other students, yeah. And now I am staying in a house that is owned by a Kurdish landlord, yeah [laughs] the area, there are a lot of Kurds around. [laughs]

AD: Yeah, that is nice, right?

MK: Yeah, yeah.

AD: Yeah so, uh, do you uh, join like activities with them? Like how do you interact with the Kurd? I know that you are a student, but do you interact with them? If so how?

MK: Yeah, so my interaction, because like I have limited time, but, um, they helped me a lot when I was doing, when I moved from my house with other one, they invite me to their house. So there is one Kurdish family that I am in a close connection with them, I usually go there on weekends, or like, I mean like once or twice per month, having dinner or so. Yeah with them.

AD: That is nice, who are they?

MK: They are actually the owner of the building that I live in, yeah. Uh.

AD: The name? I do not think I know.

MK: Ekrem?

AD: Ekrem!

MK: Yeah, yeah.

AD: No, I do not think I know.

MK: Yeah, uhm.

AD: So when did he come?

MK: He came in the 90s with, yeah with the whole I mean the Kurdish community-

AD: So (19)96 area–

MK: I think so.

AD: Like a lot of them came during 1996.

MK: Yeah, I think so, yeah.

AD: Okay so he came during that time–

MK: Yeah.

AD: –I do not think I uh, I interview with him. So maybe you can put me in touch with him. [laughter] So, uh, so you just, so you basically interact with him than the others.

MK: I interact with him and his family, there is a Kurdish student I interact with him and his family as well.

AD: Kurdish student, like, like you from Kurdistan, or?

MK: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah

AD: Oh, so there are more?

MK: No, no, it is like Marwan.

AD: Okay.

MK: Yeah and there is a Kurdish lady, but she, uh, she like has the American citizenship. I know her through another friend as well, yeah. And I was, yeah. I was there in the Thanksgiving, yeah, in their house, yeah.

AD: That is nice.

MK: Yeah.

AD: Getting to know people. So did you build relationship with like other groups? Like Americans, or I do not know, different nationalities.

MK: Yeah, yeah; absolutely. So in the, it is one of the things in our department that we have weekly gathering, so, yeah I build relationship with Americans as well and other international student as well.

AD: So, do you hang out with them? Do things?

MK: Yeah, we do, like when I have time I do, yeah. [chuckles]

AD: Yeah because you are busy and then, most of your time goes for studies. So what did you do during the break? When you had a break?

MK: This break? Or like usually?

AD: Winter break.

MK: Oh, so the winter break, it was a miserable one, because all my friends [laughs] are not here, so I was just basically on Netflix, or studying, not studying actually reading or whatever. Um so yeah, that how I mean, that is the longest break that I had so far. And the winter break, that was the winter break, the spring break, I was also busy with studying. Yeah.

AD: Yeah spring break I never consider it spring break.

MK: Yeah as a break.

AD: Spring break is a time to study.

MK: And usually, professors use that to give more homework. [laughs]

AD: Exactly, right? So best time to catch up, yeah.

MK: [laughs] True.

AD: Yeah, absolutely, yeah. Uh, so spring break, and then the Thanksgiving break. I never, never understood how people can go have a vacation–

MK: True.

AD: –Like this is time to catch up, yeah.

MK: True, yeah.

AD: So, uh, now the summer is coming. What are you planning for summer? So this is going to be a very empty campus during summer.

MK: Yeah, I am planning to tour around the state, the places that I am interested in, yeah, and part of I will dedicate it for working on my thesis, maybe if I find an internship or to work. But like basically yeah, my basic aim is to tour around the state [laughs] and to study.

AD: Alone, or do you have friends, or–

MK: So that depends, uh, because a lot of my friends, even the international ones are going back home, it depends. So, but, I think I will have like at least one or two. [laughs] Yeah.

AD: Okay, so there is a big, you know, Kurdish community, like Iraqi Kurdish in Nashville area–

MK: True.

AD: –You know that right.

MK: Yeah.

AD: Do you have any like, family or friends that?

MK: Mhm, no, not really.

AD: No?

MK: No, no

AD: No, because I think that is like the biggest Kurdish community–

MK: True, true.

AD: –Uh they call it like little Kurdistan, I think.

MK: True, yeah, yeah.

AD: So, you do not have anyone–

MK: No.

AD: –You do not know anyone.

MK: No. [laughs]

AD: Yeah, you will be fine.

MK: Yeah, I will be fine. [laughs]

AD: Yeah, yeah, so how long, uh, will you stay here? So you will definitely have next fall.

MK: Yeah, so next fall is my last semester here, I will be home in December.

AD: Oh, so you decided so that– or that is the rule for your scholarship that you have to–

MK: It is yeah. I mean, because like my, I finish my Masters until then. So, so when I finish it is one of the regulations that I go back home, yeah and after that I do not know whether if I want to continue for Ph.D. here or not. I do not know, it really depends. As I told you, it is so challenging now the working environment, because I am even not sure if I go back home I am going to work with my own specialization or no. Everything depends in the time when I go back home and if I get out of the situation.

AD: Are you planning on going for you Ph.D.? Do you, do you want to go? I am not saying you are going, but–

MK: I may do it if I know that I will work in the academic field, yeah, yeah.

AD: So, do you want to come to the States, not necessarily here, do you want to do it in the States, or?

MK: It also depends in what I am going to teach so I am currently I am so much interested in Kurdish studies. If that really go on, there is the University of Exeter they have–

AD: In England, yes.

MK: –Yeah they have department for Kurdish studies, I do not know, I am just daydreaming. Or maybe here because like I love it here as well, because there are some Universities who have Kurdish Studies, not specifically Kurdish Studies, but they have, they have some department that are dedicating for that.

AD: There are some universities in the States related to Kurdish Studies.

MK: Is it the one in Florida? I have heard about one in Florida and Chicago?

AD: Yeah, Chicago, yes.

MK: Yeah, yeah but they do not, they do not give courses I think, right?

AD: I do not know the exact details, but they are providing like Kurdish language courses–

MK: Yeah.

AD: –I think it is getting there. It does not happen very quickly–

MK: True.

AD: –It takes time, but it is not like Exeter by any means. Because that has been established–

MK: True.

AD: –A while ago, so I think they are trying to establish here as well.

MK: True.

AD: So, uh, it, but it is interesting. So, it took you to come to United States to figure out that you are really interested in Kurdish Studies. [laughs]

MK: Yeah. [laughs] It was always amused but you know when you go to an external environment you get exposed to the question of your identity so much.

AD: Right?

MK: Yeah, yeah.

AD: So now you are Kurdish, so you were not even aware of that, now your Kurdish identity became stronger.

MK: It became stronger especially when you find in other nations that how the studies have developed and yours is not that much developed, so it becomes a challenge why, why it is not developed, we have to work on it, yeah, yeah.

AD: Absolutely.

MK: Yeah, yeah.

AD: Absolutely, that is a good thing. So do you have like uh, traditional clothing with you? Do you wear it like during special days?

MK: I actually brought with me, but so I have not been to any [laughs] Kurdish celebration. [laughs]

AD: Any weddings to go?

MK: –There was a Kurdish wedding I was invited, but I was in New York, so I could not wear it. [laughs] Yeah.

AD: So, do you wear, uh, traditional clothing. Like when do you wear it? In Duhok–

MK: Ah, okay.

AD: –When you are living in Duhok what are the occasions you wear those cloths?

MK: So, usually a lot of girls wear– usually the old women wear it all the time. Girls in my age they wear it inside the house, some of them, but for me it is not that much comfortable to wear it inside the house. So I usually wear it at Newroz and in weddings, and sometimes in celebrations, like if there is feast or something, sometimes I wear it into celebrations as well, yeah.

AD: So, everybody wears it like when–

MK: Yeah.

AD: –Like let us say Newroz, that is like very uh important. So, every– like– Do Kurdish people go– like in Duhok, I am not talking about in United States–

MK: Yeah.

AD: –Go with like regular clothing, or they all wear?

MK: In Newroz? No like, most of them wear the Kurdish cloths, yeah.

AD: Yeah.

MK: Yeah, yeah.

AD: That is just like the tradition.

MK: Yeah, true, yeah.

AD: Yeah, so do you have any questions to ask uh Midya?

JS: Um, not really, well actually maybe, maybe on the religion front. Um, how is religion different from in Kurdistan than here? Like, is there–

MK: You mean for me personally or the community, the Kurdish community?

AD: Both.

JS: Both [laughter]

AD: Start with personally then tell us what your observation.

MK: For me personally I am not a very religious person, I do pray and fast, but I am not very restricted to religious person, so for me it is kind of the same. In both countries. For the Kurdish community here, I feel like some families are struggling to keep the traditions and to keep their kids on the track they used to be and others cannot control it. So I have seen two types of Kurds here, the Kurds who are, uh trying to do at least praying and fasting and the Kurds who are like no, I mean they no longer caring about that. So, I have seen those two types, yeah. And I think it is a struggle for Kurdish parents to keep their kids on the track especially in the State. Yeah.

AD: Yeah.

MK: The track that they want, I mean. Yeah.

AD: Because kids, react.

MK: Yeah, because they are basically American, yeah.

AD: Yeah, absolutely so, uh, the other thing is, when– So, religion is one of them you think people are losing. What I mean losing, it is like uh the kids react to it–

MK: Yeah.

AD: –They do not want to follow strict–

MK: True.

AD: –Rules–

MK: Yeah.

AD: –Uh what else, like your observation, what else do you think, uh, is disappearing in Kurdish culture. Like what is continuing and what is disappearing?

MK: What I founded amazing that even young people here speak in Kurdish, which is, I did not expect that because they grown up in the State, but they do speak it and I do not know why. Is it because there is a large community here or because it is like how they grown up? Um what was the question? [mumbles] [laughter]

AD: Or like– So language–

MK: My observation–

AD: –Your observation.

MK: Ah, okay. The other observation, uh, I think the Kurdish parents are kind of struggling with their kids because I mean now with the globalization all the parents are struggling, because all of them they are like from the old generation, they were not exposed to it, and now… because even, because even parents in Kurdistan are struggling that. So here the conflict it is higher, because they, they want their kids to, for example, to be married, to follow certain norms and now because they cannot embrace that. It is not something that belongs to them. So I think this one of the struggles I have noticed here, yeah, yeah.

AD: So, uh, I know they want people to continue to marry, because those were the answers when I asked the question continue to marry Kurdish people, or girls or boys and then like keep it together, but uh I think there were some students that I knew that they are like dating or seeing other people. So, did you also observe that?

MK: Yeah, and I observed this hard for their parents to cope for that, but–

AD: Yeah.

MK: But yeah, like they are human. I mean they–

AD: They live in a society–

MK: –Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah–

AD: Yeah.

MK: I have observed that, especially the, the younger generation, um they, they basically, I mean, they cause, but they are living an American life, so it is so normal for them to be with another couple that is not, another person that is not really Kurdish and, but I think that is a struggle for their parents. Yeah.

AD: Yeah, so do you think the community here is still keeping the Kurdish identity?

MK: Mhm, to some extent, it varies from one family to another, but I think to some extent, not like that much strong, but it is not even that much lost as well. So, it really, so the parents here they could keep it for– They could keep it, they could invest that somehow in their kids. Now it depends on the kids on how they going to invest it on the coming generation.

AD: Yeah, will they marry another Kurdish person, for example–

MK: So basically, will they speak in Kurdish with their kids, or tell them the traditions or no, yeah.

AD: Yeah.

MK: Yeah.

AD: Like also the– Do you see people, like constantly cook Kurdish food, or they started to switch to like American, like you know, American food?

MK: I do not have that much interaction, but from the family that I have met uh I think they are– I do not think– Because the family that I met they really do the Kurdish food, and I know some of them are still like that. But I do not know about all of them. Yeah, yeah.

AD: Yeah, and then whenever you see them it is probably special day, so that is all you see–

MK: True.

AD: Is Kurdish food ̶

MK: True, yeah.

AD: Yeah, because traditionally, uh, you know, you make the Kurdish bread and even Marwan told me that there is a special kind of–

MK: Dough?

AD: –Yeah, needs to be brought here, so and then some people have in their homes. But like how many people have it, and how many much. Like when you have a full-time job, how are you going to do that?

MK: Yeah, I think, no, I think like to certain extent I think they are– because basically people who live in the Kurdish territories they are not that much committed to cooking food. But so, I think here– yeah, I do not think that they are doing, backing bread, or doing harder stuff, I do not think so. It might be only on special occasions. Yeah.

AD: Yeah, even in Kurdistan they stopped religiously doing that kind of hard work, labor intense cooking I would call that.

MK: Yeah, yeah especially the younger generation, because–

AD: Because they work? Right? When you work full time, how are you going to have time to go home and start making the dough and–

MK: True.

AD: –To make the bread. It is hard.

MK: True.

AD: Twenty-first century.

MK: Yeah.

AD: Absolutely, so anything else? That was a very good question by the way.

JS: Thanks. [clears throat]

AD: I am thinking if there is anything else, uh.

JS: I cannot really think of anything.

AD: Yeah, I cannot either; do you have anything else to add?

MK: Maybe the conflict of identity that Kurds are facing now?

AD: Yeah, yes.

MK: Mhm, yeah so–

AD: –So that is another issue liking in diaspora ̶

MK: Even actually I think– because now like– So it is since 90s we are having our autonomous uh territory and we are studying in Kurdish, we are seeing all the labels in Kurdish, we are celebrating our own traditions and so on. So, the Kurdish new generation, I think the conflict now higher than before when it comes to identity. We longer living wars, we are no longer– So now like we, we no longer really interacting that much with people, I mean except if they like displaced people or workers of whatever, but we are not– We are no longer, in out check points, we are having Arabs people telling to show us your identity or whatever. So, the whole conclusion is that we ask Kurds who raise up after the 90s, our sense of identity is hard than before that, we cannot, we cannot– It is hard for us to tell we are Iraqis, so especially when it comes to diaspora. So once one of my German friends told me “I was with– I went to the barber and he was Kurd and I told him, where are you from? He told me, I am from Kurdistan. He said it was talking for me you guys say you are from Kurdistan.” And I was like yeah I think that we Kurds we are now living in this conflict of identity, which one to impress, we know that we are Kurds, but at the same time we know that there is no word of Kurdistan that exist in a map or official documents. So I think this conflict of identity now is highly affecting on us, uh our daily interaction because even like with our other Arab friend it is hard for them to understand– It is not harder, but like it is hard to accept the idea that we are a different identity group. We are different ethnical group. So, so I think now that new generation we are struggling when it comes to identity, and especially in diaspora. So I think that we are always lost in this, the amount of language that we are embracing since we have a grown up, than the amount of identity that, I am Kurdish, but then when I have in my passport is Iraqi, then do I really belong to this Iraq, or no? and then when I go the diaspora I am exposed to other identities, so I do not know whether it is even it might be even the modern age fever, that everyone is having this conflict of identity to what we belong to truly. But now for me, especially, after I came to the State, now it is even more tense. What is my identity, what do I belong to really? So, yeah, yeah. I think now, this is like one of the hot topics that is in the Kurdish brain– people– young generation mind, the identity.

AD: Absolutely.

MK: Yeah.

AD: But uh, even though you know Saddam is gone and you know thankfully hard days are over, uh, but you know Kurdish people came a very very long way, so and then kept the identity going–

MK: Yeah, true.

AD: –And not just in Iraq, look in Iran, especially in Turkey–

MK: Mhm, True.

AD: –So and, so I think it is one of the very strong identities, like among people that–

MK: Yeah.

AD: –I met. Even though, it is normal, all those factors are very valid, but uh.

MK: Yeah, true.

AD: You know even the people, like uh, I met or I read like they lost a lot of aspects of Kurdish culture, maybe they do not really know the history of it anymore–

MK: True.

AD: –But when it comes to the question, what is your identity and then they are like oh I am Kurdish. [laughs] You know, you know what I mean.

MK: True, yeah, yeah, exactly, exactly.

AD: Very interesting, it is like they cannot really tell you solid thing. Like there are a lot of Kurdish people in Germany for example. They lost a lot of things–

MK: Yeah true.

AD: –But when it comes to the question, oh yeah, I am Kurdish. [laughs]

MK: True, true, yeah-yeah true, true, yeah.

AD: So that is promising in a way. [laughter] So, yeah but it is it is a big problem.

MK: Yeah, true, the identity is a big problem. Especially it is conflict between us and other ethnicities, which we do not really love it, I mean I personally I do not really like it, but–

AD: Yeah.

MK: –It is what it is. [laughs]

AD: That is right, that is right.

MK: Yeah.

AD: And religion in this area I talked to two different people. There is a group they are very religious, and then there is a group they are not religious at all, so. And that is the case living in Duhok, right? Not everyone is religious–

MK: True.

AD: –Or in any society. So people. In this place you know, not everyone goes to church every Sunday and some people do and some people– So, that is normal.

MK: True.

AD: That is a normal thing. Uh, I think, but language, religion, identity, that is all important aspects of the Kurdish diaspora–

MK: True.

AD: –We examine today.

MK: Yeah, true.

AD: So, I cannot think of any other question.

JS: I think we covered a good portion. I cannot think of anything either.

AD: Yeah, I think, I think because uh, you know, you are actually the second– Actually you are the youngest person so far–

MK: Oh really?

AD: –We interviewed, so your perspective is totally different because you do not have–

MK: Yeah.

AD: –You do not have the memory–

MK: True, yeah.

AD: –Of what your parents went through–

MK: Yeah, true.

AD: –You have little bit of things through them–

MK: Yeah.

AD: –But thankfully you do not have that memory, uh, and so it is different.

MK: Yeah, it is different true.

AD: Yeah.

MK: Yeah.

AD: So, do you have anything else like regarding your experience living here <clear-throat> uh related to society or related to Kurdish community, or anything you want to add?

MK: Mhm, no nothing in my mind so far. [laughs]

AD: Okay, but they were really helping and accepting toward you when you came here.

MK: Oh yeah, because when I was back home, I was like I wish I do not meet Kurdish, because like I sick of my society I wanted to go somewhere there were not any Kurds, but when I came here I realized that it is really important to know some people and there were really– I mean like they were so generous and helpful and I was like surprised. I mean like, I was like wow, I mean I should have, I should not have been so weird about it at the beginning. [laughs] Yeah because they really, they really helped me so much especially when I first moved to here, yeah.

AD: That is nice.

MK: [laughs] Yeah.

AD: Yeah, so you did not want that and that happened and then–

MK: No, I did not want that, I want go to society that is completely different one, but– yeah, but.

AD: How did the– Like did you pick Binghamton University, or the Fulbright [name of the scholarship] people decided where you are going based on your studies?

MK: It is basically, they tell us to suggest– So I never knew that Binghamton has the Kurdish community, but it is like, it is what they, they selected actually, they tell us to do some selection, but eventually it is them who select and decide, yeah.

AD: So, and you selected because of the faculty, or like what a department has to offer–

MK: I think so, yeah, yeah, yeah.

AD: Yeah, yeah, and then having the Kurdish. [laughter] community was a bonus. [laughter]

MK: True, that was something I should be thankful about it, I did not know about it. [laughter] True, yeah.

AD: Okay, well thank you so much for you time and–

MK: Yeah, no thank you.

AD: –I wish you good luck and I am sure you will do just fine.

MK: Inshallah [God willing]. [laughs]

AD: Inshallah, okay, all righty.

MK: Thanks a lot, I am sorry for the bad language–

(End of interview)

Date of Interview

12 April 2019


Aynur De Rouen


Midya Khudur

Biographical Text

Midya was born in Mosul and lived there until 2002, before the fall of Saddam Hussein. She then moved with her family to Duhok and has been living there ever since. She came to the United States in the fall of 2018 to study at Binghamton University and get her Master's degree.


48:30 minutes



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Binghamton University

Interview Format


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Childhood; Mosul; Duhok; Kurdistan; Kurdish Diaspora; Kurdish Culture; Language; Kurdish Dialects; 2003 Iraq War; Saddam Hussein



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In 2011, Binghamton University Libraries received the donation of the Vera Beaudin Saeedpour Kurdish Library and Museum Collection. The acquisition opened a dialog with the local Kurdish community in Binghamton, N.Y., which led to the creation of the Kurdish Oral History Project. These interviews provide deeper insight into the… More

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“Interview with Midya Khudur,” Digital Collections, accessed July 25, 2024,