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Interview with Amin Amin

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Kurdish Oral History Project
Interview with: Amin Amin
Interviewed by: Erdem Ilter
Transcriber: Marwan Tawfiq
Date of interview: 22 March 2013
Interview Setting: Binghamton University

(Start of Interview)

EI: So, let us start with your full name, okay.

AA: Amin Amin.

EI: Amin Amin. Birth place?

AA: Um, Iraq.

EI: Iraq. What is it?

AA: Like northern Iraq, like Kani Balave.

EI: Okay, I mean the city?

AA: Kani Balave, like that is the area.

EI: Duhok or?

AA: Yeah, north of Duhok.

EI: North of Duhok, part of Duhok right?

AA: Yeah.

EI: Okay. Okay. Is it a village or a small city?

AA: I mean I was born right about when we ran away from Saddam Hussein and stuff, so it was like in¬¬–
EI: When did you born?

AA: (19)87, 1987.

EI: Do you remember anything? [laughs]

AA: Nah, not much, not much–

EI: Okay, good. You are originally Kurd and Sunni?

AA: Yes.

EI: Are you married?

AA: No.

EI: How many siblings do you have?

AA: I have four brothers and four sisters.

EI: Okay, Mashallah. What is your education level?

AA: Getting my master’s in a month.

EI: Okay, in BU [Binghamton University] or–

AA: No in uh, TSU [Tennessee State Univeristy] in uh Tennessee.

EI: Ah, okay, okay, good. Uh your native language is Kurdish. Other languages you know?

AA: I know some French but not too well.

EI: Uh number of years in the United States?

AA: Um I came here in 1992, so it is going on twenty-one years.

EI: Okay, 1992 you came here.

AA: Yeah so going to twenty-one almost.

El: Yeah ok, so when you came here you were three years old right?

AA: Yeah just about.

EI: Okay.

AA: I was turning five, probably four.

EI: Yeah, (19)87. Do you remember anything, when you came here?

AA: What was the question? When I came here? Not much I have like visual memories here and then but nothing like too specific. You know. Maybe some images, you know, but nothing too uh–

EI: So, how was your childhood?

AA: I mean it was uh–

EI: What do you remember?

AA: When I came here I did not go to school the first year, so I was mostly around my family, you know, just you know–

EI: Do you remember anything at that time? I mean how was it?

AA: When I first came here?

EI: Yeah.

AA: I mean to me it just seemed normal.

EI: Not, like the last years, you were just–

AA: We were in Turkish camps and we came here as refugees.

EI: Do you remember anything from Turkish camps?

AA: No, I mean like I got images–

EI: And when they tell, I mean your family? How they tell, did they tell you anything about it or?

AA: I mean we were there for about four years almost.

EI: Four years in Turkey?

AA: Yeah, Turkish camps.

EI: Where?

AA: Diyarbakır.

EI: Diyarbakır, Okay. Did they tell anything, did you ask them that what happened–

AA: I mean it was a hard life style, you know it is like you just got maybe couple loaves of bread and maybe like some soup for the whole family for the whole day, you know. And It was you could not really do any work, you know, so my dad tried to do some jobs, but most of the time it was illegal if you like hop the border or something like that, but he would try to do some jobs inside the camps and stuff like that, like tried to make some extra money. But it was hard to do any jobs they tell us that I mean it was a hard life style you know.

EI: Yeah, I mean, maybe your mum told you were sick like we were taking of you. Do you have any stories like that they told?

AA: Yeah, I mean, we would always like get sick and my brother would need medicine sometime and my dad would have to go you all the way to Iran and to get medicine, my brother is one year older than me but my dad would have to walk, you know he had to get medicine, and he had to do whatever he can you know, make money, however but it was like we were in camps so it was like very hard life style but um-

EI: What was his job in Duhok.

AA: When we first came I mean he was like a veterinarian for like animals and stuff like that we take care of them, but then he also did like, he did a lot of different jobs, you know, his family had farm land that was in Iraq but in Turkey, there was really like no jobs, just in refugee camps–

EI: Was it tent or constructions, the camps?

AA: No, it was tents. All the stories they told it was tents. Like one family would get a big tent but you get eleven, because my family and my uncles’ family we lived, probably back then it was fifteen or sixteen of us in that tent that is enough for like two three rooms, like two rooms.

EI: Okay, and for, for you sister–

AA: I think after like the second year they gave them another tent so they moved out, it was a little more space, you know.

EI: Yeah, Actually. It should be difficult for you I mean you are still alive because a long way if they have told you, I do not know. How long have been they have walked to come there?

5:36AA: To come to Turkey?

EI: Yeah.

AA: Um, I would estimate like probably like over fifty-sixty miles or close to a hundred and you know on their way they had a lot of problems, a lot people would throw their kids because they could not walk no more, they were just leave their kids, a lot of times like, or the planes would be shooting at them, and you are looking for your kid you do not know where they are at, everybody is running away and a lot of people lost their kid, one of my sisters, she was on my grandmother’s house when that happened and we left and my grandparents went another way, so she went with them, she did not come to America until like (19)96-(19)97. We did not see her. She was with them but at that time we did not know but you know later on they called, they got information that she was with them. So, like a lot of people just lost their kids, and a lot of people on their way they could just walk any more, if you did not have you know transportation like donkeys or whatever, you know stuff like that, a lot of people would just fall on the ground and just die right there.

EI: How did they tell stories about life in Kurdistan before war?

AA: Before war, I mean our family had ups and down do you know like financially, you know. Sometimes it would be rich and then over there is no insurance like my dad had a store, it burned down–

EI: Why?

AA: Huh?

EI: Why?

AA: Like they had farms and stuff like that, sometimes, one time he told us that the farm got on fire and they lost like everything, there is no insurance, no nothing, so you are done for the year.

EI: The fire you said, is it just accidental?

AA: Yeah, that was before we run to Turkey. I mean this is he telling me stories like the (19)70s and (19)80s, but there is no, you never know, it might not rain that year, you do not get crops you going to live bad that year you know.

EI: Yeah, exactly. It should be difficult on you. Especially in camps–

AA: Yeah, in the camps even one of my uncles because I had two uncles one of them died like twenty-seven and a lot of people, I mean a lot of the people and even like my parents and my uncle and my dad still believe that you know, because sometimes they would send bread maybe expired or um no good and they would eat it, you know, because he had stomach problem and stuff like that and he eventually died from it. So, I mean over there you know you get whatever you get, whatever they give you, you eat.

EI: No choice.

AA: Yeah, you basically you live in the mud too. You sleep on that a lot, you are breathing in it.

EI: Is your dad still alive?

AA: Yeah, my father.

EI: Okay, great. So, from which part you remember your childhood? I mean when you started school here or before?

AA: Yeah, right when we got here, my uncle he knew like alphabet, numbers and stuff like that, right then when I was four years old you know he showed me the alphabet and he showed me numbers and I started reading like little words, like cat, dog, before I even went to school and all of us Kurdish people we were like in some buildings over the main street in Johnson city like in those two big buildings they burned down recently, but we all lived there, there was like seven or eight of us, of our families, and we always go out and see each other, you know.

EI: All the families were there?

AA: Yeah, we were the original, it was my family. There was about seven families like came here in 1992. There was only one guy in 91 he came here before us and he brought most of us, did our paperwork and brought us here. You know and um we all lived in those apartments and you know, we would go and see each other every night and you know the refugee people would help us you know. I guess it is probably the American Civic did stuff like that, they helped us, they took us to stores, and you know they showed us how food stamp worked and stuff like that.

EI: Yeah, okay. So, what were you doing, I mean you just play with the other Kurdish children or?

AA: Yeah, Yeah, Mostly we were just like, you know we had a big family, so we would hang out just with the family and there was other Kurdish people would walk to the park, you know there is a park about a quarter mile down the road, you know we would walk there and have fun over there, do stuff around– just like stuff kids would do and then I went to school there elementary of Abraham Lincoln, I went there.

EI: Yeah, you started school, here right?

AA: Yup, Kindergarten, I went to Kindergarten, I mean I learned the language in like two three months you know–

EI: English?

AA: Yes, I was so young I learnt it quick, um I was just mostly with them, and then we just do what kids do, you know.

EI: Yeah, exactly. Was it difficult to learn, I mean not to learn in a short period, how was it?

AA: I mean it was easy, it was easy for me to learn, and I mean to be honest I think my, because I mean we are very cultural, like Kurdish people, like after I was done with like, I think my English was best when I was eighth or ninth grade, because I was hanging out with both American and Kurdish people, but as I got older I started hanging out more with Kurdish people, we are cultural you know, so probably my English got worse, believe it or not.

EI: [laughs] Yeah, you should be right. So, what you were doing in school?

AA: I mean in school, like right when I started I was really good at school because you know my uncle prepared me and I mean they always pushed me to do good at school so I mean you just go to school, do all my school work, and you know, made friends here and there like American friends to, and you know I would come home but like I would never like go out with them, it was just school time I would be with the American people and when I got home we would just be home, my dad would go to work and come home and we just hang out stuff like that.

EI: What was his job at that time?

AA: Um he did mostly um like uh a custodial work, you know like uh, janitor and stuff like that. Maintenance for buildings and yeah, he did mostly that type of work.

EI: Your mom, she is a housewife?

AA: Yeah, she is at home. I mean she had eight kids you know [laughs] at the time there was six of us at that time, but-

EI: Are you all studying or I mean are you all went to college or?

AA: Yeah, I mean I am getting my masters, two of my sisters had their associates another one of them is working; she is trying to get her nursing degree. My other brother has Bachelors in business; he is working for like a research company. He is doing pretty well. My other brother is going to get associates in civil engineering, and then my younger brother he is working for his associates in civil engineering too.

EI: Why all civil engineering and engineering?

AA: I do not know I did it, I started out with computer science but–

EI: No social science?

AA: No, I do not know the job market over here is civil engineering it is called whether it you got concrete, expanding and contrasting you got concrete break and you got asphalt um, you know the roads are horrible, there are always going to be bad because of the snow, so there is a lot of civil engineering jobs you know. There is not that many like if you do business. My brother did business but now I mean it was hard for him to find a job here, so he is in Tennessee right now and he found a good job over there, so you going to go with the job market. So, I think that is why everybody doing civil engineering. That’s what I think.

EI: It is interesting, yeah, okay. So after, you continued school here in Binghamton, right?

AA: Yes, well, we lived in Johnson City until about probably um (19)96 – (19)97 and then we moved to Binghamton, and then we stayed in Binghamton until–

EI: Was there any difference between them?

AA: Johnson City and Binghamton? Uh, Not really, not too much, um–

EI: You went to another school, you changed school?

AA: Yeah, changed schools. I went to um Theodor Roosevelt over in Binghamton.

EI: How was it that time?

AA: It was pretty good, but um it was pretty good. Not too many changes really. And then I went to the middle school over there.

EI: How was life there in middle school? Still hanging out with uh Kurds or–

AA: Yeah, in middle school it was mostly. It was a mix, it was probably fifty-fifty. You know as many Kurdish friends as American friends. But we still– the Kurdish people hang out together you know. We still did not, most of us hang out together, uh during even like lunch time or after school, we would definitely just be together we would go, we lived in like basically in um like housing, it is like projects, we would go play basketball, you know after school and we would do that for two, three hours or we go play soccer and it was just sports, we were mostly into sports, yeah, we did a lot of sports. It was either school or sports.

EI: So how was the life for your family at that time? I mean, they just tried to survive or uh what was the general–

AA: I mean yeah, I mean it was not too good, we were living in projects. If you live in projects your life style is not too good you know–

EI: What do you mean?

AA: Like projects is like housing when you have a lot of apartments together, and all the apartments look alike, that is like a project you know. And I mean it was mostly like a ghetto basically. Yeah it was a ghetto and we lived in there but we made it, our parents always got us what we wanted and stuff like that, but we were not living in the best style you know but because our dad like my parents they always pushed us towards education, they were like do not worry about work, do not worry about money, do not think about money, my parents always they said that to us, just worry about education and they were right you know.

EI: And they always supported you for your education.

A: For the education all the time. And never, never for like for money, they told us do not think about money, [laughter] you know because if you start thinking about money a lot of people they send their kids to work at sixteen and seventeen full time, they will not be able to do school you know.

EI: Yeah exactly.

AA: A lot of people, a lot of even Kurdish families even other families did that and yeah, they had nice cars then but now they barely making it and the people who went for education they have nice cars and nice houses, you know. It catches up to you.

EI: Yeah, exactly I mean it is guarantee for wanting you. Yeah it is good I mean, same with my family, they always supported us to just go to school, just get your education, like graduate from university. So yeah, it is good they have this idea. Okay good, and then high school or?

AA: Yeah, then Binghamton High School um.

EI: Where is it?

AA: Binghamton High School, it is in downtown Main Street in Binghamton.

EI: How was it?

AA: It was pretty good, it was pretty average, same thing, mostly, after that I went towards like mostly Kurdish friends, it was probably 80 percent, like 80 to 90 percent of my friends were Kurdish or Bosnian, you know we associate with the Bosnian people a lot.

EI: Uh how was it different, I mean why, yeah it is cultural but were there any tension between you and others or?

AA: No I would not say tension, we just knew other families we just go to each other’s houses, we grew up together, we had the same religious background and then we had the same culture, and we understood each other like, you know people, because we tend to stay away from like parties or like drinking, or like going out, that’s what a lot like the other culture they all talked about, parties– Because we did not do any of that stuff, so it was not comfortable for us to hang out with them you know, um and then, we were just comfortable with Kurdish people.

EI: Yeah, so that is why. Okay, uh were you fighting? [laughs]

AA: Yeah, I mean there was fight here and there. We had good amount probably through high school three – four fight. [laughter] It happens but you know I mean we grew up in, we understood, I mean it was not–

EI: What was the main reason behind it?

AA: I mean mostly it was, um it was mostly just like if we got picked on or something like that, some of us stand up for you know, or some of us just be like whatever but it was me and my brothers and my cousins and stuff like that, there was enough of us that we stand up for ourselves, you know. We would not take. Because I mean we grew up in the environment like we knew if you stand up for yourself they will leave you alone, if you do not stand up for yourself it is going to happened every day. We understood that, so we did not let anybody push us around, we were not crazy but we would stand up for us, and then we got respect for that. We grew up in that environment; we knew how it was–

EI: Yeah culturally, I mean you should be from Saddam–

AA: Yeah, yeah, I mean there would never be fights among like us Kurdish people though, rarely like I do not remember ever a Kurdish person fighting a Kurdish person, but I mean if there was another like group of people that wanted to fight us, we would always stand up for ourselves.

EI: Yeah, okay. So, what do you think about, uh let us back. Have you been in Kurdistan?

AA: Yeah, after 2003, but my family they go a lot, my parents–

EI: Why? They miss it or?

AA: Yeah, they miss it and I mean they got direct family over there–

EI: Yeah, still got relatives there.

AA: Yeah, so they go for visit. But for me like they are my relatives and stuff but I do not really know them that well you know. So yeah, I got feelings for them but some of my friends here became my family and they become my friends even when my family in Kurdistan. You know what I am saying. [laughter] It is hard to have that feeling for somebody you never met.

EI: Yeah, so in 2003 you went there? How was it, what do you remember?

AA: I mean, it was pretty good, but um like the people over there, they have a different mindset than the people grew up here, you know something we find it funny is not funny to them you know, or something they find funny. [laughter] I am like that is not funny you know. So, it is like two different people you know. Because I grew up over here I like to watch basketball or American football, over there they go crazy about soccer, you know? I like soccer too but for me American football or basketball is more of my type, but if I talk about a basketball player with them they are like what are you talking about who cares, [laughter] and if I talk about American football they going to be like so what, and then we were– it is different mindset stuff, I can definitely tell I was not a 100 percent comfortable over there.

EI: Yeah okay, just game things were different for you and them? Or–

AA: No, I mean just even-

EI: Have you been talking about politics or something–

AA: Yeah, I mean even like politics, what we are exposed to is different than they are exposed to, what I see on TV, they might not see, but what they see in the country I will not see, you know.

EI: So, what was the main difference for example?

AA: Um let us say like, I do not know even, let us say I talked about um North Korean politics or something like that or what is going on in North Korea. They probably did not know that much about North Korea, you know, they did not have when they grew up, they did not have that, they did not really care, I do not know if they did not care or they did not look into like the news stuff like that you know. Over here you are exposed to all the news from all different countries you know, you got Egypt, Libya, Syria, Yemen all those places you know, for them I do not think they were exposed to that many, that much news or they did not or might not care, but um. I do not know just the stuff I would find fun like going to a movie or something like that, they did not go to movies over there. Very rarely, maybe in the last for-three years they built movie theaters over there. So, for me it would be fun to go watch a movie or you know–

EI: Actually, maybe it was not possible for them because it is a new established country and-

AA: Yeah, so for me the fun doing something going for a movie for them something fun is go on the top of a mountain and grill and dance and stuff like that, it is different you know.

EI: [laughs] Yeah, exactly, exactly, so what is the country for you, I mean, [clears throat] what is Kurdistan for you?

AA: I mean for me it is, we are really cultural so for us it is always home, you know. That is always home. Every Kurdish person you ever talk to they have intentions to go back sometime you know–

EI: What about you?

AA: Huh? For me I mean I want to, but it just going to depend on the situation what I am doing at that time, for me right now I am doing my education and I cannot just get up and leave. I will be working soon. I cannot just get up and leave, but I plan to but it is going to be really hard to find the right time you know.

EI: Yeah, for the future you are planning or–

AA: Yeah, like I always had that in the back of my mind but I also know it is going to be very hard because my brothers and sisters are here and I go there it is just going to be hard, and you know. We want to but it is going to be tough, but I mean if the economy, I mean they had a lot to do with the economy, if the economy still gets worse here, because still gets worse and the economy over there is booming right now. You know if it keeps on progressing, I think a lot of us going back and a lot of Kurdish people had already gone back for good. Like there is a good amount of Kurdish people that going back for Kurdistan for good.

EI: They are going back?

AA: Yeah, they have.

EI: Really?

AA: Yeah, over the last eight or nine years like a good amount expressly [especially] from Europe.

EI: I mean because of job opportunities?

AA: Yeah, like jobs and um I mean the life style is hard here now, it is not like used to be. You know you use to able to find, you know a lot of people would work here and they just quit their job and the next they go to a different job that is how, in the nineties that is how was Binghamton.

EI: Yeah.

AA: You know you can leave job and go to a better job the next day, right now people would never their job you know, you will never find another job if you leave it. So, a lot of people going back.

EI: Yeah, could you follow, are you following the news in Kurdistan? Like watching TV?

AA: Yeah, we have Kurdish satellite at the house, you know Kurdish satellite, so we keep up with that here and there.

EI: What do you think for the recent developments or in general for the country?

AA: I mean, from what I hear and what I see, I mean if you are talking financially, you the economy is like booming or they are doing really well, and I mean a lot of people over there if you show them a 2006 car they will never drive it, they get I do not want to drive this, they are all driving 2011, 2012 over there, everybody is. So it has changed dramatically but at the same time yeah they are good and wealthier but everybody who goes back there come back and say there is no more, I do not know how to say it in English, you know rahm, like rahm, emotion there is no like connection with the families stuff like that, so yeah they are getting richer but their affection for each other like their love for each other is getting worse. So, the money might be there, but everybody goes back and comes back you know they say there is no more rahm, there is no more affection for each other.

EI: Yeah, the cultural emotion, yeah, I do not know.

AA: Yeah it is getting weaker–

EI: Maybe it is strong in Binghamton, I do not know because there is a good Kurdish community here, their relation is good because for that, I do not know.

AA: Yeah, it is good here but when they go back to Kurdistan, every year they get richer in Kurdistan but the emotion gets less.

EI: Yeah good. So, what is the United States for you?

AA: The United States, I mean that’s, this is where I grew up with at too you know, at the same time it is also home believe it or not. [laughter] so like two homes, it is like having two homes but never feeling like fulfilled, you never full it is like um–

EI: Both sides maybe you go there you will have the same feelings–

AA: Yeah, I tell a lot of my friends.

EI: You miss something here or if you are here you miss something there.

AA: I tell a lot of my friends I am like you know we are not American and we are not Kurdish, you know it is hard for us–

EI: Just in between–

AA: It is really tough because we cannot get along, we get along with American but you cannot live their life style, their life style is different than you know, our life style is different than a regular American you know. I am not going to go out and party, I am not going to out and drink, I just do not like that, you know it is against the religion I do not like it, where I am not going to you know stuff that they find fun I do not find fun you know, I do not want to go on the beach, you know have naked run for no reason, but then if I go back to Kurdistan, we do not, we were not like them either you know, they are different you know, I am not going to go on a mountain and dance for no reason, [laughter] or they like that yeah, or I am not going to go and talk about somebody or like over there it is about power you know, if somebody is more powerful than me I am not going to be like yes sir yes sir, I am not going to be his servant, you know we are not like these people we are different, you know.

EI: Yeah, exactly. New generation–

AA: Yeah, we are mixed, we are not like the American, and we are not like the Kurdish people.

EI: Yeah, what about your father and mother, do they want to go back or?

AA: I mean sometimes they say yes, but sometimes like over the last time that they have gone, they see that the affection is not the same, it is different you know. Yeah it is better to live but I mean also you over here you got the best doctors you know, over here you never have to worry about corruption, you never have to worry about it really you know, I mean you have your um laws as a citizen, you know, nobody can take your laws [rights] away from you.

EI: What do you think about corruption, do you believe that there is corruption now or?

AA: Where?

EI: In Kurdistan?

AA: Oh, yeah, without a doubt, without a doubt. It is tough though–

EI: What kind of corruption?

AA: Like let us say you want to meet with somebody, you know let us say like a congressman but not even a congressman like a just let us say like a doctor or something, you have to go to a doctor, if you know somebody, you going to be in the waiting room maybe for like six, seven hours and then somebody would walk in and he will go straight to see the doctor, and he will yell at the doctor, if I go and yell at the doctor, they will never see me again, they might even arrest me. There is other people that walk in and yell at the doctor and maybe even give the doctor a smack, and the doctor cannot say anything to them so I mean that is corruption to me or if you want to do your paperwork, if you know people it is going to be easier for you to see the person to do your paperwork.

EI: Okay, is it so common or in some places?

AA: Like I have not been there but I mean you hear stories, I do not think, it is not like it is not like horrible but it could be better, it could always be better. I mean it is like over here too, but it is very minimal over here. Like if you know somebody there is a better chance you going to get a job, but it is minimal here, over there it is a little more but hopefully it is going to get better.

EI: Still I think maybe could not establish a bureaucracy?

AA: It is tough you know, I mean–

EI: Still there is family relations, tribal relations–

AA: And then the older generation has a different mindset, it is going to take maybe a hundred-two hundred years for the mindset to change. The older generation yeah, because–

EI: But– I think you had different ideas from that so, maybe one or two generation will be–

AA: Yeah, one or two generation that is probably a hundred years you would say?

EI: No, maybe ten to thirty years–

AA: Oh really? Okay.

EI: Yeah, but okay we do not know what happen because it is not easy to even to talk about one people so for one country for one nation, you do not know that–

AA: I think it will take some time.

EI: But you said lots of people are going back to Kurdistan, so–

AA: Yeah, there is people going back, I think it has to do with both economy–

EI: And there is a lot of students here as I know outside–

AA: Yeah, they do send them, they send them but I think a lot of people going back just because of the economy you know, both the economy been bad here and the fact that the economy is still good over there. People go where the money is you know. We came here because of the economy too. You know the economy was horrible there and you know, we were been oppressed we came here for that too.

EI: Yeah. Not just economy of course–

AA: Like war.

EI: Exactly. So yeah, the war, do you think the tension will increase again between Arabs and Kurds there, or?

AA: Um, to me I think if there ever is going to be a problem is going to be over Kirkuk. That is me personally.

EI: What?

AA: Kirkuk, Kirkuk.

EI: Kirkuk okay.

AA: I think it is going to be because of that. It is all rich and it is right in the middle. So, I think if they resolve that somehow, you know if they say we split it or something like that I think they resolve that, I do not see why there would be a tension, but I think if there is ever going to be a problem it is going to be over Kirkuk between the Arabs and the Kurdish people and then between Kurdish and the Turkish government I think that is over land you know, if everyone, draw a map you know Turkey is not going to give up their land so but I think between Arabs it is only going to be over Kirkuk that is how see it.

EI: Do you believe in independence or is it good now for you?

AA: Um, I mean.

EI: I mean the recent condition of Kurdistan–

AA: Oh no, we are not satisfied, Kurdish people are not satisfied with just right now just because there is peace because unless you have your own borders you are not going to feel complete. You want your own property.

EI: Is it security or just?

AA: No, you feel more comfortable, like right now if you live in an apartment but you know it is not yours. Once you buy your house, you feel complete, you are like this is my house, this is my stuff. So, I think that is what the boundaries are going to do. So yeah, right now they are living in an apartment but you want your lands, you want to be able like this is mine I control it.

EI: So, I mean if there is like a referendum or something, you will vote for independence, is it right?

AA: Yeah, if they even let us vote over here sometimes, even for their stuff over there like we will drive to Washington and we will vote for presidency and stuff like that for Iraq.

EI: You are citizen of both countries, right?

AA: Yes.

EI: Okay, good, double citizenship.

AA: Yeah.

EI: Yeah. Do you need to serve in army or something is there anything like that?

AA: No.

EI: No? You do not need to.

AA: No.

EI: Yeah, okay Good. Yeah, perfect. So, in the United States I mean another identity is Islam, Muslim as you said. So, did you have any difficulties here?

AA: No, not–

EI: In school, in college, in work, in your job, in your environment–

AA: Um. I mean if ever there was, it is not that they would come in person and say, if there ever it was they kept it inside they might tell somebody else but–

EI: Do you feel something?

AA: Very rarely. Um I am trying to think of it, any moment–

EI: Especially after like 9/11.

AA: No. I never really thought, just because the way I dress the way I act I think it is not like I dress with the Islamic traditional cloth or the way, I mean my English is not like, you can tell it is not I just came to the country or something like that. So, I think that helps. But um–

EI: If it was not, would it be difficult or?

AA: I think it might be, yeah, if I dressed up in Muslim clothes and I went to Walmart, I am sure people look at me differently than right now I am dressed up as it Nike or North Face in I wear Adidas and I just go the store, people look at me differently like I am dressed casual. I think dressing has a lot to do with it. And then um I think dressing has a big impact on it and you know just the style of my hair or stuff like that.

EI: But for example, in school or something when you said like I am Muslim, it is not problem right?

AA: No. it was not a problem. Really was never a problem because I grew up in a school very diverse, you know it is very diverse. I mean probably white people are the minority in my school, you know it was like pretty, it was almost like that. But other schools I have heard stuff like that, especially in Nashville like the richer areas like in Brentwood because Nashville has about fifteen to twenty thousand Kurdish people.

EI: Oh, that much?

AA: Yeah, and they would say the richer school that is like a Republican state, Tennessee is and there is a lot, there is racist people there. And they would have a lot of problems over there. You know kids would get picked at because they were Muslim and stuff like that so in the South it happens a lot more and the North to be honest I cannot remember ever happening to me.

EI: Yeah, okay. Will you visit next time Kurdistan–

AA: Oh yeah, for sure.

EI: When?

AA: I have been over the last six years extremely busy with my school and work and stuff like that.

EI: You went in 2003 you said right?

AA: Yeah, in 2003. So, I mean I came back and I started college a couple years after that so–

EI: How was the physical conditions when you went there?

AA: What do you mean by that? The environment–

EI: I mean service sector, the buildings, the roads–

AA: I mean they were–

EI: It is now much better, right? Completely different.

AA: Yeah like, I mean over there when I use to go there, there is a couple areas I used to walk to the market you know, and I would walk to the market and for about half mile like to almost a mile on both sides was a rural, like it was not established it was just like dirt roads and stuff like that, and my sister was telling me now, telling me about that and she is like the whole mile is all store now, two three buildings, she is like if you go there you will not recognize it. And have like a Domino’s Pizza and they have a lot of like American restaurants, just to give you like the price of property, in that area you could probably buy a piece of a good amount for let us say ten thousand dollars, right now it would be worth a hundred twenty thousand dollars, same spot just ten different years you know so it is like you know I ‘ve known people who bought property for nine thousand dollars and they sold the property for ninety-five thousand like last year, I mean the economy is like it is going crazy over there.

EI: Do you think it will continue like that or?

AA: Personally, I have no idea–

EI: Actually, it is oil rich country–

AA: Yeah, it is like Dubai, I mean Dubai climax too though, you know right now if you go to a lot of their buildings are empty you know the skyscrapers there is a lot of, and Dubai they were one worse hit you know, but so you never know when it is going to stop, it is going to eventually stop but it might not be for another ten or fifteen years, you know.

EI: Oh, not near future.

AA: I do not see it no. There is just so much money in the country right now. There is so much business and there is, it is really incredible.

EI: Is there any investment like factories or industry?

AA: See that is another problem, when we are talking about corruption I mean it is hard for normal person to go there let us say open up a factory without somebody else being like you have to give me 25 or 30 percent. That is one of the thing– that is one of the biggest things I do not like about it. And I mean I do not know I hope that changes because I am not going to go open up a factory if they take 30 percent for no reason, if they tell me okay, it is tax, I will be like you know, but that is a thing over here they do the same thing, you know if you have a multi-million company they take 40 percent from you, you know. They do that over here but over there they do not say it is for tax, they just say you have to give it to me so I think the people over there get upset you know, if they say it is for tax and this and that, maybe they work around it, that is what they do here, but over there they really do not have tax you know, so they just take it from the people, so it is like I do not want to do that.

EI: Yeah, oaky. Yeah, I hope they will all comment. Okay, so your relation with Americans is still same or still you are more integrated or hang out more with Kurds?

AA: I mean right now, I am not at a point if I would say 95 percent of my, the people I affiliate with are either Kurdish or like I got some Ukrainian friends or Bosnian friends, like rarely I do not really associate with any Americans to be honest.

EI: Will you marry with Americans? Is it possible?

AA: No.

EI: Why?

AA: No, I mean just one is religion, that is the number one thing. And then also to be honest it is culturally, we tend to like marry in our culture.

EI: It will be a Kurd.

AA: Yeah, it will be a Kurd. It is going to be a Muslim you know. But most likely like 95 percent it is going to be a Kurd if not, it has to be a Muslim.

EI: Okay, Yeah. Good. Thank you so much. It is almost forty-five minutes.

AA: I talk fast, so that is why.

EI: No that is fine. I mean uh-

(End of Interview)

Date of Interview

22 March 2013


Erdem Ilter


Amin Amin

Biographical Text

Amin Amin fled his hometown, which was located north of the Kurdish city of Duhok, to escape Saddam Hussein’s violence towards Kurds. He arrived in the United States with his family in 1992 and settled in Johnson City, NY, where he grew up among a Kurdish community. Although his primary language is Kurdish, he became fluent in English and was able to blend in within the American society and culture. Amin has a master’s degree from Tennessee State University (TSU).


43:46 minutes



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Binghamton University

Interview Format


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Kurdish; United States; Diaspora; Kurdistan; Saddam Hussein; Duhok; Iraq; Binghamton; Johnson City; Broome County; Refugees; Turkish Camps; Kurdish Culture


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About this Collection

Collection Description

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 Amin Amin,” Digital Collections, accessed April 25, 2024,