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Armanj Ameen & Avras Taha

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Kurdish Oral History Project
Interview with: Armanj Ameen and Avras Taha
Interviewed by: Erdem Ilter
Transcriber: Marwan Tawfiq
Date of interview: 8 March 2013
Interview Setting: Binghamton University
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

(Start of Interview)

0:09
EI: Okay, so let us begin with your name firstly.

0:15
AJ: Armanj Ameen.

0:16
EI: Armanj Ameen? Okay, yours?

0:19
AT: Avras Taha.

0:21
EI: Avras Taha. Eh, birthplace?

0:25
AJ: Iraq.

0:26
EI: Iraq? What, which part? What city?

0:27
AJ: I was born in Baghdad.

0:30
EI: Baghdad.

0:31
AJ: Yeah, I used to live in Baghdad. Then, after I was six years old, we moved to Kurdistan to Duhok City.

0:34
EI: And–

0:34
AJ: And now–

0:35
EI: Ah yeah, your experience will be different but actually because–

0:40
AJ: Oh yeah, I was only six years old in Baghdad and we moved to Duhok City and I stayed there; rest of my life until I came to this country.

0:45
EI: Eh, how many siblings do you have? Brothers and sisters–

0:48
AJ: I have two brothers. One passed away in ̶ for car, car accident and one sister. Now I have one brother, one sister.

0:57
EI: Okay. You?

0:58
AT: Um Duhok, Kurdistan

0:59
EI: Duhok, Kurdistan?

1:00
AT: Yeah.

1:02
EI: Ah. How old are you?

1:04
AT: I am twenty-four.

1:05
EI: Twenty-four? You?

1:06
AJ: Thirty-nine.

1:07
EI: Thirty-nine? You are uh like–

1:08
AJ: Fifty? [laughs]

1:10
AT: No, like early thirties.

1:12
EI: Twenty-eight, twenty-nine.

1:13
AJ: That is nice.

1:15
EI: Yeah, twenty-eight, twenty-nine.

1:17
AJ: Thank you. I try to stay in shape. [laughter]

1:21
EI: Okay uh both of you are originally ethnic Kurds and ethnic Kurds and Sunni Kurds?

1:27
AJ and AT: Yes.

1:28
EI: Yes okay, and are you married?

1:29
AJ: Yes.

1:30
EI: Yeah, uh same name again eh Armanj ̶

1:35
EI: Yep. They should know who I am asking–

1:41
AJ: Oh yeah Armanj yeah.

1:43
EI: Yeah um, are you married?

1:44
AT: I am not married.

1:45
EI: Okay. [laughs] How many siblings do you have?

1:48
AT: I have three brothers and five sisters.

1:51
EI: Okay do you have any relationship like relative ̶ what is your uh–

1:52
AJ: Just, we are just friends, family friends. And–

1:56
AT: Yeah.

1:57
EI: Yeah, okay, okay and you are not cousins.

2:02
AJ: No.

2:02
EI: Yeah okay, eh education level?

2:03
AT: Um I finished Associate’s degree in civil engineering.

2:07
EI: Civil Engineering?

2:08
AT: Yeah.

2:09
EI: Um where?

2:09
AT: Broome Comm ̶ Community College.

2:11
EI: Okay.

2:11
AT: And I am currently attending SUNY IT to get my Bachelor’s degree–

2:12
EI: Okay–

2:13
AT: In civil engineering as well.

2:15
EI: Now you are doing your Bachelor’s?

2:16
AT: Yes.

2:16
EI: Okay, where S.U.N.Y. [State University of New York]?

2:20
AT: S.U.N.Y. I.T. [State University of New York Polytechnic Institute, a.k.a. S.U.N.Y. Poly] up in Utica.

2:24
EI: Ah in Ithaca?

2:25
AT: Utica.

2:26
EI: Utica. Okay, okay. You eh? Armanj?

2:29
AJ: I had two years in business management in Erbil University back in 1990s and here I got asso ̶ Associate degree in Civil Engineering.

2:40
EI: Eh in B.U. [Binghamton University]?

2:41
AJ: No, no, just at uh Broome Community College.

2:42
EI: Broome Community College.

2:43
AJ: From ̶ and I am doing work that is bad. I am doing bridge inspection.

2:48
EI: Yeah, what you are−

2:52
AJ: I am doing assistant team leader. I am doing the bridge inspection in New York State.

2:55
EI: In New York State?

2:58
AJ: Uh yeah generally.

2:59
EI: In the company?

3:00
AJ: Yeah, I mean in the company, Prudent Engineering.

3:02
EI: Okay.

3:02
AJ: A station in Syracuse and we go around according to the contract- wherever you get the contract because you have nine regions.

3:10
EI: Okay.

3:10
AJ: And uh in New York State wherever you get the contract you stay there for a couple years and do bri ̶ perform bridge inspection as 100 percent hands-on inspection.

3:23
EI: Okay yeah uh perfect. Your native language is Kurdish.

3:25
AJ: Kurdish.

3:26
EI: Do you know Arabic as well?

3:28
AJ: Fluently.

3:29
EI: Perfect. And English you know it.

3:30
AJ: Uh I try.

3:31
EI: You same?

3:32
AT: I know basic Arabic words.

3:34
EI: Basic Arabic words? Kurdish?

3:36
AT: Yes.

3:37
EI: Uh yeah and English ̶

3:38
AT: Obviously.

3:40
EI: Okay number of years in United States here?

3:43
AJ: I have been here since I left the country in December (19)96. But we were stationed in Guam Island for three months. Then after Guam I got into United States in March of (19)97.

3:56
EI: 1997?

3:57
AJ: Yeah.

3:58
EI: So, since 1997, you were here.

3:59
AJ: Yeah.

4:00
EI: Okay.

4:01
AJ: Yes.

4:02
EI: Yeah, you Avras?

4:03
AT: At the same time.

4:03
EI: Same time?

4:04
AT: Yeah.

4:04
AJ: Same group of people. We went together to Guam. They were stationed as well around three months in Guam.

4:10
EI: What is Guam? Eh–

4:12
AJ: It is a Guam Island.

4:14
EI: Ah okay, before coming here?

4:16
AJ: Yes.

4:16
EI: Yeah.

4:16
AJ: To do the processing and get ready because back then many Kurdish people worked for NGOs [Non-Government Organization] in Kurdistan region. And Saddam Hussein was in power in Iraq and he start threatening anybody who work for American NGOs or non-NGOs, non-governmental organization. He starts threatening them so United States decided to pull everybody worked with them ah directly or indirectly so about five to six-thousand Kurdish people uh got out of Kurdistan through Turkey–

4:48
EI: For their security.

4:49
AJ: –Yeah went through Turkey and stayed there a couple days in Turkey and they flied directly to Guam and everybody stayed in Guam in a very nice army bases- very beautiful places for three months up to three months after they did the process and they start divide us sending people all over United State; in every state–

5:11
EI: Okay yeah, they asked you if you have any relatives, you want to go–

5:13
AJ: Exactly, yeah, yeah.

5:14
EI: You can or otherwise we will provide you.

5:16
AJ: Yeah absolutely yeah.

5:18
EI: Yeah it is perfect actually.

5:20
AJ: It worked out. It worked out.

5:23
EI: Yeah, Saddam’s perfected–

5:24
AJ: Yeah oh yeah.

5:26
EI: Yeah let us start ̶ you said eh Baghdad.

5:28
AJ: Yes.

5:29
EI: You eh until six years old you were there right?

5:34
AJ: Yeah. Yes, I was born.

5:36
EI: Do you remember anything about that?

5:37
AJ: Actually, absolutely because uh I used to like I still remember our house in Baghdad.

5:42
EI: Which years do you know?

5:44
AJ: I was born in 1974. And we left Baghdad in 1980s.

5:48
EI: (19)80?

5:48
AJ: But I still remember our house even after 1980s.

5:53
EI: How was it? Yeah–

5:54
AJ: I kept visiting my uncles in Baghdad–

5:57
EI: Ah yeah.

5:57
AJ: like every summer–

5:58
EI: Ah okay, okay, okay.

5:58
AJ: After school so–

5:59
EI: So, your memory is like fresh.

6:02
AJ: Very fresh yeah.

6:03
EI: Yeah okay, okay.

6:04
AJ: Last time I went to Baghdad, I was nineteen, beginning of 1990s.

6:06
EI: 1990s.

6:08
AJ: And one time I had to go to Baghdad and come back for some paperwork and stuff.

6:12
EI: Okay so how was it? How do you ̶ what do you remember?

6:15
AJ: Back in the–

6:16
EI: From the house, how was the environment?

6:18
AJ: Back then in 19–, when I was about four, five, six, or seven years old–

6:22
EI: Yeah.

6:22
AJ: –And then environment was kind of friendly environment, quiet. Uh, it was a lot of respect and a lot of technology was–

6:33
EI: In Baghdad.

6:33
AJ: In Baghdad. [clears throat] really good.

6:35
EI: Did you have TV for example?

6:36
AJ: Oh yeah, yeah, yeah it was full.

6:38
EI: Really?

6:38
AJ: Absolutely. In 1970s, back then it was one of the top countries when it comes to technology. Cars, trains–

6:43
EI: Because of the oil I think, yeah.

6:45
AJ: Oh yeah, yeah, yeah, because it is a rich country because I remember two of my uncles, one from my mother’s side, one from my mom’s side were big contractor. They have huge villas, houses uh they were going ou- out of the country and coming back. It was, I can, I can tell you back then in the 1970s it was just like any European country.

7:08
EI: Countries yeah.

7:09
AJ: Now, yeah but not anymore. [laughs]

7:10
EI: Yeah of course. Now it is–

7:11
AJ: It is destroyed.

7:13
EI: Yeah, completely disastrous.

7:15
AJ: Oh yeah. Life is a cycle.

7:16
EI: Actually–

7:17
AJ: Life is a cycle.

7:18
EI: Yeah actually Baghdad like it was from the history it has always been really like part of modernization.

7:22
AJ: Really advanced.

7:23
EI: Trade.

7:23
AJ: Exactly.

7:24
EI: And there was huge museums.

7:26
AJ: Oh yeah, yeah, yeah absolutely yeah.

7:28
EI: Now, unfortunately not.

7:29
AJ: Yeah it is been destroyed.

7:30
EI: So, do you remember anything from your house, your environment, like uh you said it was good.

7:37
AJ: It was good.

7:38
EI: Like you had many opportunities.

7:40
AJ: Oh yeah like–

7:41
EI: You could have like good life.

7:42
AJ: The whole neighborhood ̶ The good thing about Baghdad was your neighbors were your family–

7:48
EI: Okay.

7:48
AJ: Back then.

7:53
EI: Were they all Kurds or Arabs?

7:52
AJ: Mixed, Kurds and Arabs, Christians.

7:53
EI: Mixed. How was it? Do you remember anything?

7:55
AJ: Yeah, I do actually. The front of our house was a guy named Dilemy from Dilemy tribe, huge tribe in Baghdad.

8:01
EI: Arabic tribe?

8:02
AJ: Yes, Arabic tribe.

8:03
EI: Okay.

8:03
AJ: They called Dilemy. One of their sons was uh officer in Saddam’s army so every time there was a problem and he know Saddam’s people looking for Kurdish people, he was telling us, guys come to my house and hide- he was helping us.

8:21
EI: But I mean it was a personal protection, right?

8:23
AJ: Personal protection like Saddam were looking for Kurdish people.

8:27
EI: In Baghdad?

8:27
AJ: In Baghdad, just to harass them, hurt them, send them to the army or just because they were Kurds. He was trying to always put them down and make them as a second level–

8:39
EI: Yeah.

8:39
AJ: –Class people and he knew about it ̶ Our neighbor because he used to work for their army–

8:44
EI: Okay.

8:44
AJ: –But he did not like that so every time he knew about it, he was trying to gather all the Kurdish people around him and protect them from Saddam’s thugs or intelligence.

8:56
EI: Okay

8:56
AJ: –And I remember that part very well.

8:58
EI: Did you ever, did you ever go in his home or house?

9:01
AJ: Yeah, we, we, we used to go to his house for dinner, he come to our house for dinner, lunches uh−

9:06
EI: Yeah, I mean when hiding from intelligence.

9:08
AJ: Ah yeah, yeah just go to his house, sit down for a couple hours, and intelligence cars drive by nock the door nobody open and then they leave.

9:15
EI: Okay yeah.

9:15
AJ: So, it was not for a long time.

9:16
EI: Yeah

9:16
AJ: Couple hours only and uh ̶

9:20
EI: Yeah

9:20
AJ: But in 1980s they forced my father to leave Baghdad ̶ Saddam’s intelligence−

9:25
EI: Yeah how was it? I mean did you go to school in−

9:27
AJ: I just started school in Baghdad and they started.

9:30
EI: Do you remember anything in school?

9:32
AJ: Ah first thing in school. I did not remember much but for ev ̶ ah you remember you get in the school, you saw Saddam’s statue, Saddam’s picture, Saddam’s this ̶ everything was about him. [laughter] Nothing is about real uh education about life or change. It was about him and him and him.

9:49
EI: Dictatorship, normal.

9:50
AJ: Yeah dictatorship. And after they forced my family, my father and my uncle to be ̶ to leave Baghdad immediately. We had to leave within, within twenty-four hours. We came–

9:59
EI: Why? I mean how was it?

10:00
AJ: Because my ̶ They were asking my father, my father actually was uh uh working for a Kurdish um TV station and the radio station in Baghdad and he was all about Kurdish.

10:15
EI: What was its name eh TV station?

10:17
AJ: I, I cannot remember. It was just called, the Kurdish, the Kurdish uh just Kurdish program.

10:24
EI: Ah okay, okay.

10:24
AJ: Something like that. It was not real name, just a Kurdish program.

10:27
EI: Was it in government control? I think–

10:28
AJ: It, it was under government control beginning of Saddam Hussein in 1979-80s so it was what they did- they went to that office and they ask a bunch of Kurdish people who have to become Baathist and my–

10:41
EI: Party member?

10:41
AJ: Yeah, they have to, they have to become a Baathist or party member and my dad refused. He would never work for Saddam Hussein. He was against Saddam Hussein in fact and he said “No, I will not” and he started running away to Kurdistan. We went to Duhok city.

10:58
EI: How, how was it possible to refuse it? I mean it would be difficult yeah.

11:01
AJ: He was, he could have, he could have been executed, so what he did- he refused it and he knew things are going to get out of hand so he came home, we rented a big truck–

11:17
EI: Okay.

11:17
AJ: And somebody, a driver with a truck ̶ I mean we knew him. We put all the stuff in the truck and we left Baghdad to Kurdistan next day.

11:24
EI: Oh okay

11:24
AJ: Next day. We left the home in Baghdad. We gave it to our neighbor and told him the Dilemy guy to take care of it until we can sell it someday.

11:33
EI: Yeah.

11:33
AJ: And that happened within a few years we sold the house and we bought another house in Duhok City in Kurdistan and it was much better.

11:42
EI: So, you could sell it uh, you could sell it.

11:45
AJ: Yeah you just sell it by the help of other people.

11:48
EI: Yeah, yeah okay so you start school in Duhok?

11:53
AJ: I started school in Duhok city in 1980.

11:56
EI: So, what was the main difference between ̶ Do you remember anything like? Maybe Saddam’s authority was much there or or–

12:03
AJ: Actually, it was the same but they were not, they could not go after everybody in Kurdistan because everybody is Kurdish.

12:10
EI: Yeah.

12:10
AJ: It was different than Baghdad. The school was kind of its better, better education, safer but everything again was about Saddam, Saddam did this. That is dictatorship you know, but there was not much difference in education.

12:22
EI: Were they ̶ there Arab students there?

12:25
AJ: Very few.

12:26
EI: Ah yeah.

12:26
AJ: You know very few in Kurdistan. There was maybe ten- ten in Duhok City and maybe there were, maybe there were about 8 to 10 percent Arab student ̶ People who worked for Saddam’s intelligence who lived in Duhok city.

12:42
EI: Ah.

12:42
AJ: Their family they went to school there.

12:43
EI: Okay, okay

12:44
AJ: That is how uh ̶

12:45
EI: Their main language was Arabic.

12:46
AJ: Yes, main language was Arabic.
EI: Could speak Kurdish in school or?

12:49
AJ: Oh yeah, yeah, yeah, we speak- we spoke Kurdish.

12:51
AJ: Everybody could speak Kurdish, but there was only one class of Kurdish language.

12:56
EI: No, no I mean eh−

12:57
AJ: But in general−

12:59
EI: –But during the break or−

13:00
AJ: Oh yeah, yeah, yeah absolutely, you could speak Kurdish to a teacher, Kurdish to your friends uh−

13:05
EI: Eh teacher knows Kurdish–

13:06
AJ: Oh yeah most teacher were Kurdish from Duhok city.

13:10
EI: Ah okay.

13:10
AJ: Most of them except some of them were from South and they were in the, in the society among the society just to find out what is going on as a type of control from Saddam’s intelligence.

13:24
EI: Ah but the, the education language you said was−

13:31
AJ: Was Arabic.

13:32
EI: Yeah okay, okay yeah, yeah okay so behind the assignment how was your relation with your friends not the macro-politics or macro-events like, like street emm−

13:42
AJ: Daily street life−

13:43
EI: Yeah street life, I mean ̶

13:46
AJ: Actually, I mean we had uh starting from the elementary all the way to the ninth grade was kind of similar. We just spent time with friends from the class going playing soccer together; any other sport together was no problem. Then getting home after school, getting in the neighborhood at everybody neighborhood knew each other like a family. All the kids go out to play together and the parents either work or worry about the rest of the stuff uh ̶ We did not worry about anything.

14:22
EI: Yeah.

14:22
AJ: No politics, nothing involved except we used to hear stuff from our parents. “Oh this guy did this, this guy got executed, this guy got dragged to jail, that other person run away.” We used to hear stuff. We did not see from our own eyes until 1991 when Saddam attacked Kurdistan, everybody ran away; then I remember very well what happened.

14:44
EI: Yeah okay but for that time they were hiding from you right? What is going on−

14:49
AJ: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, they did not want to talk in front of us all the time. We just hear from here and there and because we were children, they did not want to give us involved in politics because if we said any word−

14:58
EI: In school−

14:58
AJ: In school, he always had somebody in school who will turn us in. They could have taken the whole family to jail or execute them or whatever.

15:09
EI: Okay.

15:09
AJ: –That is why we could not say anything about the party or Baathist at all at school. Every day you might ̶ Where our parents were reminding us do not talk about politics in school. Do not do that, that is it yeah.

15:21
EI: Yeah, I understand.

15:26
AJ: Yeah until 1991, then we had the no-fly zone; then we were free.

15:31
EI: Yeah.

15:31
AJ: That was a different life absolutely different life.

15:34
EI: So, 1980s, you could come to−

15:37
AJ: I was in Duhok city.

15:40
EI: Yeah okay. Do you remember anything like that affect you from- like it can be Eid or something, yeah personal story? That you do not forget or still you remember.

15:50
AJ: Yeah in 1980-1987 I think I cannot remember, (19)87 or (19)86, anyway I would say 1987 my grandmother died and our tradition, we had a ceremony for three days funeral in our house.

16:07
EI: Yeah.

16:07
AJ: We had a big garage so everybody was coming to our house for three days.

16:12
EI: From different villages, right?

16:14
AJ: From ̶ yeah from all over the place.

16:16
EI: Yeah.

16:16
AJ: One of my cousins used to live in Baghdad. He was in twelfth grade in uh high school.

16:23
EI: Yeah.

16:23
AJ: The last year of high school he was in Baghdad. Before my grandma passed away, by fifteen days, he was arrested by the intelligence of Saddam Hussein.

16:34
EI: For what?

16:36
AJ: We never knew, nobody knew. It was him and one of his friends was only in twelfth grade, not even eighteen years old high school. One of him and his friend, he was actually Arab Shiite from Baghdad. They were friends playing together at school, all of a s−

16:51
EI: A Kurd and a Shiite right?

16:52
AJ: Yes.

16:52
EI: Okay.

16:53
AJ: All of a sudden, they disappeared.

16:54
EI: They−

16:54
AJ: Nobody know what happened to them.

16:56
EI: They do not need another eh−

16:58
AJ: Exactly. [laughs] No, they did not even know they were Kurdish and a Shiite, twelfth grade, not even eighteen years old. They got arrested and nobody know where or how. His father trying to look for him through the school and hospitals everywhere. He could not find him. Anyway, after fifteen days when we had the funeral or ceremony in our house, his father, my father was sitting down in our garage and probably hundred more men and women sitting in our house. All of a sudden in Duhok City that is about six, seven hours away from Baghdad. We saw two guys from Saddam’s intelligence knocking on the door and telling us, “Where is Mahmoud Salih?” Muhammed Salih was my uncle, his father, and we said “Why what is going on.” He said “We have his son.” We were all shocked. We thought he is dead by now.

17:54
EI: Okay.

17:54
AJ: And we were all shocked. He said “We need two of you to come with us to the intelligence center.” They call it “Emn,” the security or intelligence center, the name in Arabic was “Emn.” So, my father and my uncle went there plus one more cousin. They went in front of the door and they start questioning my, my father and my uncle. “Uh we arrested your son and his friend by mistake. We thought he work for Hizb al-Da’wa’ the party,” the Islamic party from Iran. Two children cannot be working. That was just an excuse to, to, to put fear in people’s heart. And, when they took him out of the cell or the jail, he was beaten so much and tortured with iron he could not walk, he just could not walk ̶ both of them, they had to drag and put them in car, brought them home. Everybody forgot about the funeral. Nobody thought about funeral anymore. Everybody start thinking about them and the incident.

19:00
EI: Yeah, alive.

19:00
AJ: That was one of the small incidents I can remember and I can never forget because I saw him when he walked, they dragged him to the house. Stuff like that I, it is hard to forget and there were like other uh at Eid time, let us say for Eid or Newroz, specifically Newroz because it was a Kurdish ho- uh celebration−

19:22
EI: Yeah.

19:22
AJ: Everybody in Kurdistan in all three big cities Duhok, Erbil and Sulaimaniyah, everybody was getting up, going to the mountains, starting the fire and celebrating, singing and drinking or eating, doing whatever they can do.

19:35
EI: Yeah.

19:35
AJ: Picnics, all type of picnics. Everybody was free and screaming about uh national Kurdish songs and everything. Stuff like that, we did it every year. We cannot forget that.

19:47
EI: Yeah.

19:47
AJ: It was great.

19:49
EI: Do you remember anything about it?

19:50
AJ: Every year.

19:50
EI: What was your preparation for it?


19:53AJ: Like a couple weeks ahead of time, all the family gets together let us say about ten or fifteen families, cousins, uncles, aunts get together and decide who going to cook what.

20:04
EI: Oh yeah.

20:04
AJ: Oh, and I am going to get what type of vegetable and fruit and where we going and that day, we get up in the morning whether it is raining or not or [laughs] snowing.

20:12
EI: Yeah okay.

20:12
AJ: We used to go out and celebrate just to have that feeling of nationality, Kurdish nationality against Saddam Hussein. And that was the only day−

20:21
EI: I mean it was just like cultural celebration or does it have international view?

20:27
AJ: International view, mostly in Saddam’s time when he was in power- mostly it was just to prove to Saddam Hussein we are still Kurdish, we are still strong and no matter how many people you killed or executed, get executed, we still going to be here and we still going to fight. That was the message and every, every Newroz−

20:45
EI: Yeah.

20:46
AJ: And I am sure his father remembers that very well.

20:49
EI: Yeah.

20:49
AJ: Because he was, his father and his uncles were all uh Peshmerga fighting against Saddam Hussein for a long time.

20:57
EI: Is he living here?

20:58
AT: He lives yeah at home.

21:01
EI: Ah okay, we will see him inshallah [chuckles] yeah.

21:04
AJ: Yeah that is my story up to 1991 and everything after that was completely different life so–

21:11
EI: You have not born yet? [laughs]

21:16
AT: No. [laughs]

21:16
EI: So, now we eliminate you. [laughs] Okay yeah 1987 this is. You were in the high school or anything−

21:25
AJ: That was uh– yeah, I was actually in middle school−

21:32
EI: In middle school.

21:33
AJ: −Yeah, I was in middle school 1987- well no, no−

21:35
EI: Was there any conflict?

21:35
AJ: Wait yeah, I was in first year of middle school sorry.

21:36
EI: Okay, okay so was there any conflict at that time?

21:38
AJ: Oh yeah, the conflict between Kurdish and Saddam has never stopped since the day he took office in 1979. We had Peshmerga. The Kurdish uh party democratic and patriotic union.

21:52
EI: Oh yeah, he came to power in 1979?

21:54
AJ: Yes.

21:55
EI: Then one year later, you Kurds left the Baghdad to Duhok.

22:00
AJ: Not all the Kurds, only some Kurds.

22:03
EI: Yeah who were working for−

22:05
AJ: Or who, who did not accept to be−

22:08
EI: Baathist, okay.

22:09
AJ: Baathist. They, they left Baghdad.

22:11
EI: Eh who accept Baathist? They−

22:13
AJ: Yeah, some people accepted it just for their daily life−

22:16
EI: Yeah.

22:16
AJ: −Or routine. They did not want to change their life.

22:20
EI: Yeah.

22:20
AJ: Yeah because they−

22:21
EI: It is not easy yeah.

22:22
AJ: No, it is not easy because especially some of them had older children in college.

22:26
EI: Yeah.

22:26
AJ: They did not want to risk their future so they signed okay, we are Baathist, we are going to stay here until they finish.

22:32
EI: I mean what does it mean if you sign it and you are Baathist like−

22:35
AJ: Well Baathist was the biggest enemy of Kurdish nation.

22:38
EI: No, no I mean I know it but−

22:39
AJ: Oh.

22:39
EI: What was the requirements for it?


22:41AJ: You sign−

22:43
EI: Okay.

22:43
AJ: And you attend meeting whenever they want you to attend and they going to give you a weapon and you go fight against this this this for people whether you like it or no and when we tell you your brother is our enemy, you are going to go get your brother for us. If you do not do, do not do that that is when you are betraying the Baath and they will shoot you. That was the basical requirement−

23:08
EI: Yeah you become not party member and their soldier or everything yeah.

23:15
AJ: Everything the party and signature is just the way make a formality.

23:20
EI: Yeah.

23:20
AJ: Behind that you are their ̶ just a machine you become a machine and that is it.

23:28
EI: Yeah, so it is not surprising they came to power and then you left.

23:32
AJ: Exactly.

23:32
EI: And then you left okay yeah during the ̶ we talked about uh Newroz you remember, Ramadan do you remember?

23:40
AJ: Oh yeah, we used to re ̶ yeah, I remember Ramadan very well and how the whole city get ready for it and all the restaurants gets ready for it all the juice-maker, yeah uh people make juices and sweetness.

23:55
EI: Yeah.

23:55
AJ: Everybody gets ready and you see the lines out beh ̶ behind the store people buying all the refreshments.

24:01
EI: How was the welfare- do you remember?

24:04
AJ: In 1980s, in general in 1980s−

24:07
EI: What were people doing there like farming or−

24:11
AJ: In in Kurdistan, or general, my, my family a couple cousins all of them in Baghdad they like were either teaching or engineering uh or farming like chicken farms.

24:25
EI: Okay.

24:26
AJ: In Kurdistan, same thing my far ̶ we had a farm um a very small farm−

24:32
EI: Chicken farm?

24:33
AJ: Uh we had chicken farm and then we had others like farming just like fruit.

24:36
EI: Okay.

24:36
AJ: And before that we had a store for uh building material−

24:43
EI: Okay.

24:43
AJ: For three years. Then after three years in 1980 my father opened the store in 1983 and one of the intelligences took a lot of materials from my father and never paid him. Just to hurt him so he can close the store and he could not ask for the money because nobody can ask.

25:05
EI: Yeah if they pay−

25:07
AJ: Exactly, you cannot ask so he closed the store and after that we opened a farm an hour away from Duhok City on a mountain with like fruit; we had like all type of fruits. We did that for about three years, four years then we had a chicken farm−

25:22
EI: Okay.

25:22
AJ: And that is how we used to live. In general, it was farming and majority of people in Duhok City, they were like uh employed like either teaching uh or working in one of the offices uh like municipality.

25:37
EI: Service sector and−

25:37
AJ: Service sector exactly yeah in general−

25:41
EI: Construction?

25:43
AJ: There were small, there were small construction companies. There were probably a few of them in that town.

25:47
EI: Not building but uh−

25:48
AJ: Construction, roads−

25:50
EI: Companies like uh industrial−

25:55
AJ: No, no, no, no, no, no.

25:56
EI: There was not any of this?

25:57
AJ: No industrial except one factory was−

26:00
EI: Yeah factories yeah.

26:02
AJ: Making− there was one factory making in Duhok that was making uh tomato paste.

26:07
EI: Okay.

26:07
AJ: That is about it.

26:08
EI: Yeah.

26:08
AJ: That is all we had, rest was just−

26:09
EI: So, related to farming-

26:10
AJ: Yes, yes, yes.

26:11
EI: Yeah okay service sector, farming, and maybe animals−

26:18
AJ: Oh yeah, yeah, yeah people had animals absolutely−

26:20
EI: Yeah.

26:20
AJ: People did.

26:21
EI: Okay so the ̶ I mean there was not any like em food uh supplies like−

26:34
AJ: Food supplies was not a problem because of the farming and Saddam had all type all food what do you call it− All type of food let us say dry not dry or whatever.

26:48
EI: Yeah.

26:48
AJ: Food was really cheap.

26:49
EI: Yeah.

26:49
AJ: It was really, really cheap because he was handing it to people. He was bringing it here. It was an oil country.

26:57
EI: Yeah.

26:57
AJ: So, he brought it and made sure there was enough food supply in every cities; not villages, but every major city have plenty of food supply yeah.

27:06
EI: Okay so as I know he like gave food to the people like for every family- sugar uh−

27:14
AJ: Yes, yes was assigned, every family was assigned.

27:17
EI: Did you get it or?

27:18
AJ: Yeah, yeah we got it.

27:19
EI: Was it for some families or−

27:20
AJ: No, no it was for all families, every families in cities. Every family got it.

27:25
EI: Okay so I mean there was not any discrimination in that sense, was there?

27:28
AJ: Not in Duhok.

27:29
EI: Not in−

27:30
AJ: Not in Kurdistan part of it unless if you, you used to live in villages.

27:35
EI: Yeah.

27:35
AJ: Then they were not really helping people in villages because villagers always helped Peshmerga or the Kurdish fighter.

27:41
EI: Yeah, I will ask about it.

27:43
AJ: Yeah so but in the cities, there was food always available−

27:47
EI: Oh okay.

27:47
AJ: Always available beside- beside the point if there was some poor families who did not get food. There was always other people donating food for them it was you know the culture.

27:57
EI: Yeah, yeah.

27:57
AJ: Yeah and the cultural thing.

27:59
EI: Or the civil negotiation.

28:00
AJ: Exactly or people take food for them every day−

28:03
EI: Okay yeah, I got you.

28:05
AJ: So that was available−

28:06
EI: Okay yeah so you said Pesh ̶ the villagers helped Peshmerga−

28:10
AJ: Yes.

28:10
EI: So, the conflict was not in the city actually?

28:12
AJ: No.

28:12
EI: Do you know−

28:13
AJ: Once in a while.

28:15
EI: Later maybe they come−

28:16
AJ: Like in 1980s, they did come to Duhok. They were attacking Duhok by like small mortars from the mountain. They were attacking for couple of minutes and going back to the villages−

28:27
EI: Yeah what do you mean by attacking Duhok the−

28:29
AJ: A, a, attacking, attacking the Iraqi soldiers−

28:35
EI: Okay.

28:35
AJ: Or the intelligence offices only.

28:35
EI: Okay.

28:36
AJ: Yeah.

28:36
EI: Yeah.

28:36
AJ: But in the war time, there was always mistakes so−

28:38
EI: Yeah, yeah so have not you heard anything about them? Do you remember anything about them?

28:43
AJ: Yes.

28:43
EI: Was there legend or something? I mean could you see them in street?

28:47
AJ: No but because my house−

28:50
EI: Yeah.

28:50
AJ: My house was right under the mountain−

28:53
EI: Uh huh.

28:53
AJ: And on the top of the mountain, there was always police point over there, not the police uh soldiers a couple small buildings for Iraqi soldiers on the top of every mountain around the whole city−

29:05
EI: Okay yeah.

29:06
AJ: Just for protection.

29:07
EI: Yeah.

29:07
AJ: And every time we heard like gun-machine I could hear it right from my house. We woke; I used to go up on the roof and look at it. The Kurdish fighter Peshmerga and then they are fighting each other I will look at them right in front of my eyes they were attacking each other and also uh Peshmerga were attacking and trying to bomb the intelligence of Saddam Hussein. Usually it used to last like five to ten minutes and everybody disappears again. The Peshmerga will back up and everything was quiet after that but in that time, you should not get out of the house because Saddam’s army and intelligence were all over the city looking for them.

29:49
EI: Okay.

29:49
AJ: In case they were entering the city−

29:51
EI: Peshmerga they were coming to city?

29:54
AJ: They, they never ̶ I never seen em myself. People said there were some Peshmerga in the city once in a while.

30:00
EI: Yeah.

30:00
AJ: But I never seen them myself.

30:02
EI: But they were hiding themselves−

30:03
AJ: Exactly oh yeah. Exactly.

30:07
EI: So was there any member of your family in Peshmerga I mean or−

30:11
AJ: I, I had like one two probably six or seven of my cousins were Peshmerga fighting against Saddam Hussein and actually my father was interrogated by Saddam’s intelligence many time. Why his nephews are Peshmerga many times.

30:31
EI: Yeah.

30:31
AJ: He was dragged to the intelligence office and being questioned and interrogated many times.

30:37
EI: Okay, okay so could you have heard about them? What are they doing or I mean−

30:41
AJ: Absolutely I saw them couple of times.

30:44
EI: You were conscious right when you were in high school?

30:47
AJ: Oh yeah, yeah, yeah always.

30:50
EI: I mean you know that or do you remember the days of war between Saddam−

30:51
AJ: Oh yeah.

30:51
EI: And Kurds I mean.

30:54
AJ: Yes.

30:55
EI: It was not just the ̶ was it just or was it just rebellion group or you do not know what was going on between them?

31:00
AJ: No, I knew every time what was going on.

31:04
EI: Okay.

31:04
AJ: Even from my middle school until−

31:07
EI: You had sympa, sympathy to them.

31:09
AJ: Oh yeah, I had sympathy to them and I knew how bad Saddam’s people or intelligence are.

31:15
EI: Yeah.

31:15
AJ: Not Iraqi people you cannot mistaken that. It is not about Iraqi people, it is about intelligence.

31:22
EI: Yeah, yeah.

31:22
AJ: It is about Saddam’s uh−

31:25
EI: You said an Arab protected−

31:27
AJ: Exactly so there are always good people everywhere do not get me wrong some people mixed in the two things between Iraqis and no Saddam’s people are different than most of Iraqis. Not all Iraqis are bad that is not uh not true.

31:41
EI: I generally believe that identity of people who are in government; their identity is power.

31:47
AJ: It is true.

31:48
EI: Ethnic or religion.

31:49
AJ: That is absolutely true.

31:50
EI: Generally, I believe−

31:52
AJ: Yeah, yeah, yeah so, I remember everything because we- every time I went to school there were Arab people in my school I was not able to talk about uh any politics.

32:03
EI: Yeah.

32:03
AJ: Or Peshmerga or anything like that or they would be dragged.

32:12
EI: Do you think ̶ did they tell you anything ̶ tell you anything like uh Peshmerga are bad or−

32:15
AJ: Yes. Every Arab kid in elementary school, middle school, high school I met their parents were Baathist very uh very loyal, very loyal to Saddam. They were brainwashing their kids to come to school and interrogate us indirectly and ask us questions: “Do you like Peshmerga or do you like Saddam? Uh are you willing to fight for Saddam Hussein against Iran? Are you willing to fight Saddam Hussein against this or that?” They were always asking these questions and even teachers.

32:47
EI: Yeah, yeah.

32:47
AJ: Like Kurdish teachers were afraid to get involved.

32:52
EI: Yeah.

32:52
AJ: Because a teacher would not be able to tell that kid do not do that. This is school. Because his father one of the big shots in the government he will hurt them.

33:01
EI: What about the teachers?

33:02
AJ: 90 percent of the teachers were Kurdish, very conservative they always trying to protect us as Kurdish people because they knew how bad these Baathists are. 10 percent of them were Arabs and some Kurdish who are worked for Saddam Hussein as well. So, they were mixed but majority of teachers were helping children in general.

32:26
EI: So, was there any discrimination?

33:30
AJ: Not that I have seen−

33:31
EI: Okay.

33:31
AJ: I have never seen discrimination in my own eye.

33:37
EI: Okay eh, did you uh read the anthem or something uh during the day or was there a national day celebrating in school or what were they−

33:48
AJ: Every morning in school in Saddam’s time, we used to, they call it Estifaf. Everybody ga- gathers and in uh field in the middle of the school and you say the national anthem of Saddam Hussein for five minute and uh the principal would talk for a couple minute and then you start the class. That was every morning.

34:13
EI: Okay, do you remember anything from that anthem?

34:17
AJ: Not really [laughs] not really.

34:21
EI: What was it generally about?

34:24
AJ: It was just about our, our love of our country, you will die for this country, you will sacrifice for this country, and for the Baathist, stuff like that.

34:31
EI: Oh okay.

34:31
AJ: Yeah that was the main idea of it.

34:34
EI: Okay.

34:34
AJ: Yeah and something about the flag. Everything, cannot remember much of it.

34:40
EI: And uh do you celebrate eh the birthday of Saddam?

34:43
AJ: [chuckles] Oh yeah, the whole school was celebrating. [chuckles] You had no choice. It was just like a made it, made it kind of national−

34:51
EI: Yeah.

34:51
AJ: Uh events everybody it is Saddam’s birthday uh we had ̶ They pushed us to the street and we start walking to the street like all the children they were closing school because of that. I was like [laughs] uh that is very childish.

35:06
EI: You were in the street and like−

35:07
AJ: Oh yeah, yeah, yeah, all the student, every school in Duhok City they pushed out by Saddam’s thugs to the street and organize them and you have to walk to a front of the one of the Baathist party buildings and one of the guy comes out and talk to you. We were all children; we did not even know what he is talking about.

35:26
EI: Yeah. [laughs]

35:26
AJ: But if we start playing in the street, somebody will slap us in the face “Hey listen to him.” We did not know what he was talking about−

35:32
EI: Yeah, [laughs] yeah.

35:33
AJ: That was uh the days of Saddam−

35:36
EI: Yeah.

35:36
AJ: And I remember one time−

35:38
EI: Ah yeah please tell me.

35:39
AJ: One day we, we were in the street. They said Saddam will drive through the city and all the schools, every building uh dumped to the street, lined up waiting for Saddam Hussein to drive through the city. Like uh on something. I do not know I do not want to say it but if Saddam comes through the road, everybody has to be there and just do this. [clapping] All the way till he leaves just like a child and we saw one Mercedes, two Mercedes, ten, thirty, forty Mercedes keep going. We never saw him.

36:13
EI: But he was in there.

36:14
AJ: We never saw him. We do not know if he was in there. He could be, he could have gone by helicopter or by a different car at a different time. It was just all acting. It was all some type of acting to make sure people “Hey Saddam is still alive and you should be afraid.”

36:30
EI: Yeah.

36:30
AJ: That was the main idea.

36:33
EI: Ok do you remember any slogan from that time?

36:39
AJ: Mm it is hard because boy I cannot really ah hold on. [chuckles] Uh. “Live- live to ̶”

36:47
EI: You can say it in Arabic.

36:51
AJ: Yeah, “Ya’ish Ya’ish Saddam” like “live live Saddam.” “Long life to him.” Stuff like that.

36:56
EI: Yeah.

36:56
AJ: “Long life to Baathist uh and death to Iran.” That was one of the- because it was Iran−

36:58
EI: It is time to war−

37:00
AJ: Yeah, yeah it was the war.

37:06
EI: What was the time of the war? Do you remember? Because eight-year wars−

37:11
AJ: Eight years.

37:12
EI: Yeah eight years. Uh you remember that wa, I mean how was it?

37:16
AJ: The war affected everybody.

37:18
EI: Yeah.

37:18
AJ: If it is not me, my ̶ one of my family. It is not my family, my neighbor. It affected everybody in different ways. Either one of your family members or cousins or neighbor were dragged to the army and he had to go and next day he- he would be-

37:35
EI: It was compulsory right, the army?

37:37
AJ: It was−

37:37
EI: I mean did you have to go into army?

37:39
AJ: You had no choice. He was uh like uh recruiting people without choice. “This age to this age must come right now.” Without choice. You had to, you had to go. See many people hide, like my father never went to the Iraqi army; always hide from that. He always went to the mountain in a time of recruiting. It was certain times. Not every day. Certain times. “This age to this age must show up at this place or- or else.” And my father, my uncle, a couple of my neighbors always were hiding or going to different places until that process is done for a couple weeks; and then they come back home and I remember some couple times uh Iranian airplanes fighters attacked Duhok City and killed quite a few people and after that we− somebody said “Oh no, that was Saddam’s plane doing that on purpose to blame Iran as well and kill Kurdish people.” So he’s killing two birds with one stone.

37:37
EI: Yeah.

37:37
AJ: Blaming Iran for it and killing Kurdish people−

38:46
EI: Yeah.

38:46
AJ: Everywhere the story’s going−

38:47
EI: Maybe get some support from Kurds−

38:49
AJ: Exactly−

38:49
AJ: Exactly and so it was all politics. I remember all that stuff. Everything is going in my head.

38:54
EI: Were people as I understand people were not like tend to go to army for like two or five days against Iran−

39:02
AJ: No, no, people were going into army because they had no choice, but they were not really fighting against nobody.

39:08
EI: Okay.

39:08
AJ: And Saddam made a like republic his what do you call him his republican army whatever. He had a special force who goes behind the army and check if the army is not fighting they were shooting their own army. You cannot back out. You have that re- re I cannot remember−

39:24
EI: Yeah muhafız or something−

39:26
AJ: Uh republican army whatever.

39:29
EI: Yeah, he is close like bodyguards or something.

39:31
AJ: Yeah, the whole army− Oh and yeah yes, yes, yeah it was all types of things going on in my head now.

39:37
EI: Yeah.

39:37
AJ: It is a lot to say I can talk about it for two months and it is never going to end.

39:43
EI: Yeah exactly uh the general things that you remember actually is important.

39:47
AJ: Yeah these are the general that I really remember even picturing them.

39:54
EI: Yeah [sighs] so the first event that your family directly faced with; It will be like army come to your house or you leave house when it starts the main conflict or something?

40:08
AJ: It started beginning of 1980s when we were in Duhok.

40:11
EI: Yeah.

40:11
AJ: They start knocking the door and looking for my father. How old is he? Is he that army age and after asking for “hey you guys got to pay money do you have a gold like earring? Bring your golds. We going to have to support the Iraqi army. Got to buy weapon against Iran.” Uh these is the main things I remember. It happened many times.

40:34
EI: Yeah.

40:34
AJ: Many times, and then my father, he was a writer he was writing and we had music ̶ Shivan Perwer.

40:41
EI: Yeah.

40:41
AJ: New music and we were listening to it sometime. Once a while we had to hide every cassette we had or every Kurdish book we had underground probably two meter in the ground; under the backyard because uh randomly the intelligence would come check your house if they see that cassette.

41:02
EI: Shivan Perwer?

41:03

41:04
AJ: Shivan Perwer’s cassette or−

41:06
EI: Ah or other Kurdish−

41:07
AJ: Or other Kurdish singers or some- Kurdish books talking about Kurdistan. If they see any sign of Kurdish nationality in your house, you will be executed.

41:14
EI: Even language or cultural things?

41:16
AJ: Oh yeah even, even that- forget it, so−

41:19
EI: Okay.

41:19
AJ: And even though someday they came to our house, we did not have Saddam’s picture hang on our wall.

41:26
EI: Ahh. [mumbles and laughs]

41:26
AJ: My father never had it up. They checked it. They ask my father where is Saddam’s photo? They were, I remember the guy. He was so upset with my father he threatened him to death. If you do not put Saddam’s photo in your house next time, I am going to come check it, your life is over.

41:41
EI: Yeah.

41:41
AJ: Just like that and he brought a picture for us himself.

41:44
EI: Okay.

41:44
AJ: Yeah and [chuckles] that is, that happened I remember that part.

41:50
EI: Yeah, the picture of Saddam that was important from other stories as I remember.

41:58
AJ: Yeah.

41:58
EI: Okay uh so eh how about the ̶ like do you remember, you said uh Peshmerga were in the mountains?

42:09
AJ: Yeah.

42:09
EI: There was a conflict between them and−

42:11
AJ: Always.

42:12
EI: At that time yeah−

42:13
AJ: And different places but always−

42:16
EI: Do you have any eh like- how was the- do you remember anything about the Barzani family or Barzani himself or−

42:21
AJ: It is no ̶ Back then I was not knowing who is Barzani is because I was young. All I remember my cousins who were fighter. I were always proud of them. I have cousins who are older than me who fighting for Kurdistan and I saw that couple time in our farm back when our one hour and a half away from Duhok in the mountain we had a farm −At evening time, they came visit us−Couple time my father used to support him with money- all the time give them money and I remember my cousins and their clothing and they were talking to us. All I remember back then the Kurdish Peshmerga were not concerned about Barzani or Talibani or which party they belonged to. They all worked side by side together like a brother. I remember two of my cousins different- one of them was from Kurdish Democratic Party. One of them from, the other guys from like Socialist Party, the other guy from Kurdish Patriotic Union but they never mentioned that. Back then, everybody worked together. There was no difference. It is not like that they are¬−

43:26
EI: Yeah, I mean all comes from Kurdistan or something.

43:27
AJ: Yeah there was different story like all I remember is Peshmerga are fighting and sacrificing every minute of their life−To defend this land.

43:37
EI: Okay so, when you started to hear about Barzani?

43:39
AJ: After 1991 one as soon as uh Saddam start entering Kuwait.

43:46
EI: Yeah that time−

43:48
AJ: That time, that time I started I got older.

43:52
EI: You were sixteen at that time?

43:53
AJ: Uh 1991 one I was seventeen.

43:56
EI: Seventeen.

43:56
AJ: Yeah, I started heading for my father uh talking about the history Mala Mustafa Barzani and Jalal Talabani, Abdul-Salam, Sheikh Abdul-Salam− All of these before the started in 1940s- They started of the Kurdish Patriotic Union or Democratic Party. Then, I heard about Barzani and after uh the new fly zones got established in 1991 or 1992.

44:25
EI: Yeah do you like- Saddam attacked Kuwait−

44:28
AJ: Yeah.

44:28
EI: And then the uprising starting Kurdish one. What happened there?

44:30
AJ: After he took away then there was a coalition fight against Saddam Hussein all the coalition, they start hitting Saddam’s army. It became really weak.

44:44
EI: Okay.

44:44
AJ: Then Saddam got really weak, got weakened−

44:46
EI: First Gulf War.

44:48
AJ: Yeah, the First Gulf War, Saddam got really, really weakened so the Kurdish uh two main party uh I do not know how they started or who supported them that is all politics uh I do know that much but they started taking advantage of that time.

45:04
EI: They came together?

45:05
AJ: They came together.

45:06
EI: Until the time that they were fighting right uh Barzani, Peshmerga and the Jalal Talabani.

45:12
AJ: They were fighting together against Saddam. Together in 199−

45:16
EI: But before that, they were fighting against each other?

45:19
AJ: No, no, no, no, no not before that, that was ̶ no, no, no not before that. They always worked together until 1994 when they start fighting each other. After 1991 when Saddam got weakened uh the two party came to Kurdistan plus many other parties, small parties and they established the Kurdish Coalition Party together party, Democratic Party, Patriotic Union and communists, socialists, everybody, Islamists; they all worked together and when we ran away to Turkey in 1991 one and came back after three months, we had the new fly zone established by United Nation and America. Then we had our own territory.

46:04
EI: The autonomous?

46:05
AJ: Saddam, autonomous. Saddam could not enter there after that. After that by two or three years, the two parties start fighting against each other over many things.

46:20
EI: Okay, okay we will talk about maybe eh, so in 1991 Saddam attacked on the Kurds like United Nation.

46:30
AJ: The coalition− In general, yeah, all the N.A.T.O.s [North Atlantic Treaty Organization, an international military alliance among nations that was formed in 1949 after World War II]

46:32
EI: All the N.A.T.O.s. Okay they attacked Saddam.

46:35
AJ: Exactly.

46:36
EI: So, the uprising−

46:37
AJ: Started right after that.

46:38
EI: Right after the Kurds−

46:40
AJ: Yes.

46:41
EI: So how- how it started do you remember it? Like−

46:43
AJ: Yeah.

46:43
EI: Like when people said like yeah, we are uprising now it is the time or something−

46:45
AJ: Actually, it is not the people there was- there was the people- the head of the like tribal leader− First, head of the tribal leaders and head of the−

46:58
EI: ??

46:58
AJ: No no, the tribal leaders in the cities−

47:00
EI: Okay.

47:00
AJ: And the villages and the head of Peshmerga like Barzani and Talibani send a message to these tribal leaders and to the people of cities and Kurdistan in general. We are going to start, we need your help and everybody agreed, it was time. Even some Kurdish people who worked for Saddam Hussein came back and said that “Yes it is time.” I will be with my nation and let us start against Saddam Hussein. He’s weak, we can take control of our nation” and it started. It started in diff- in two- three different days from east to west.

47:36
EI: So how was the uprising? I mean do you participated−

47:39
AJ: Actually, I remember there was, it first started in my city at four o’clock in the morning. First bullet got shot from some uhm Kurdish people who were fighter already. They were, they knew how to fight. They were older. They surrounded the intelligence building of Duhok City.

48:02
EI: Okay.

48:02
AJ: And they start attacking it. And there was couple others, Baathist party officers also got surrounded by many Kurdish groups- young people starting from age fifteen to age ninety.

48:17
EI: Okay.

48:17
AJ: And they all got together and it was kind of chaotic, it was chaos. But it worked and everybody worked together and they start arresting and kicking every Baathist out of the area. And there are some Baathist who ran away, some of them got killed, some of them surrounded and stayed with Kurdish people.

48:36
EI: Okay what do you mean by stayed?

48:38
AJ: They stayed among Kurdish uh they were arrested.

48:41
EI: Okay.

48:41
AJ: Then after that they said we do not want to go back to Saddam, we want to stay here if you guys allow us. And the Kurdish community did allow them uh we- they forgive them because they have not done any damage to anybody, they were just small Baathist people.

48:57
EI: Okay.

48:57
AJ: Not like criminal−

48:58
EI: Okay yeah.

48:58
AJ: Like intelligence so they started stayed among us and become part of our life because they were Kurdish originally anyway.

49:06
EI: Ah okay, okay yeah so uh Kuwait War ended and then Saddam came back eh so Saddam’s, what did he said like you upraised and now I am going to attack your−

49:18
AJ: Uprising yeah.

49:18
EI: Eh so Saddam’s party−

49:19
AJ: He tried, he tried to attack us uh but it did not work because the coalition got together against especially America and starts air supporting the Kurdish people. It was an agreement between Masoud Barzani, Talibani, and Unite-coalition. The N.A.T.O. [North Atlantic Treaty Organization] countries and America, “Hey we are in control of this territory, we need uh protection.” So they draw the line.

49:43
EI: Ah yeah in 1998, actually−

49:45
AJ: In 1991 or 1992, they draw the line.

49:48
EI: Yeah and in 1980, the Halabja occurred.

49:50
AJ: Yeah, the 1988, that was Halabja time, that was when Saddam−

49:54
EI: Do you remember anything about?

49:56
AJ: When he ended the war with Iran. He started, I do not know he had too much power or what. He started another war. He wanted in his mind I think I was hearing from others. He wanted to get rid of all Kurdish nation. How I do not know nobody can get rid of an entire nation. Yeah. That was his idea so what happened he start attacking Halabja first with the chemical biological weapon. Whatever weapon he used I do not have details, much details all I know I remember not only Halabja got affected. First was Halabja many people died in that city about five thousand of them right in that same city. Then, it spread around. It was not only one place, it was many places got attacked.

50:47
EI: So, watching TV or heard−

50:48
AJ: Heard.

50:49
EI: −Or how was it?

50:50
AJ: I, we ̶ TV and the radio we had always had a radio uh Kurdish radio station being transferred to us from the mountain or from Syria or from Turkey so we knew all that information and uh like Saddam doing this and ever. It was kind of like a ghost town. All of a sudden; all of Kurdistan was like a ghost town. Everybody’s quiet and confused and do not know what to do anymore. Then people start running away. Many Kurdish people start running away to the mountain, to the border of Iran and border of Turkey to stay away from these chemical and biological attack. And in fact, I do not know how many thousands of them entered Iran and Turkey and Diyarbakır and Mardin but there was a refugee camp.

51:42
EI: Oh yeah.

51:42
AJ: Yeah for a very long time for many years. So that is, that is all I remember about that.

51:47
EI: Yeah so uh after uprising pee like Saddam came back and uh people start to go to the camps or mountains eh in 1991. Do you know about it?

52:01
AJ: In 1991 when Saddam after the uprising− Started, Saddam try to come back here. He brought all his forces back to Kurdistan border and start attacking Kurdistan. All Kurdish people about three million of them walk back to the border of Turkey and Iran. In fact, they enter−

52:21
EI: Did you?

52:22
AJ: Ah yeah, I was one of them. I remember I walked nine days from- we drove from Duhok City to Deanna. Deanna one of the border close to Iran uh we did not go to Turkey. We went to Iran because we have cars, it was easier. We heard you cannot take your car to Turkey and we had to walk. So, we decided we have a lot of elderly people with us. We cannot carry them so us and ten of my eh uncles and cousins we all had cars so we decided to drive to Iran. We got to Deanna. That is the town called Deanna close to the border, then was lined up. It was only two-hour drive from Deanna to Iran. We stayed in that road nine days because it was car bumper to bumper and Iran was accepting the Kurdish people very slowly. Maybe one hundred cars per day, one hundred fifty cars or family per day. After the nine days I walked near my cousins, the younger generation could walk. The elderly stayed in car. We entered Iran and it was easier. Iran did not really harass us or did anything. Okay go, go to any city you can find a place. There are camps or refugee camps or if you have money you can rent uh a room like this. We did, we did rent a room like this. Seventeen of us were in a same room for two months until we decided uh we were going back to Kurdistan because the coalition in America start kicking Saddam back.

53:58
EI: Yeah, some families stay in the mountains like seven months or something−

54:00
AJ: Oh yeah, oh yes, yes especially in the mountain between Turkey and Kurdistan.

54:04
EI: How was life in Iran?

54:06
AJ: In general, for us, it was not bad because when you have money you could buy anything. Eat, only worried about food back then. Nothing else.

54:14
EI: Yeah exactly.

54:14
AJ: Just food because we are running away. What do we need just food? And health-wise we were good, food-wise we were good, at the camp we are okay uh and we had cousins who were living in Iran. Yeah, we had cousins to help us out, what to do that was kind of easier for us.

54:30
EI: So, is there a Kurdish city that you stayed in in Iran?

54:35
AJ: Yeah, yeah, yeah there is many Kurdish cities in Iran we, we stayed in Naqadeh.

54:37
EI: Naqadeh.

54:38
AJ: Naqadeh yeah.

54:40
EI: Yeah and uh I think generally the camps in Turkey even there was not a camp that they stayed in the mountains.

54:49
AJ: Yeah it was just a mountain. They called it camp but− It is not a really camp back then.

54:53
EI: But for Iran treated families or you well?

54:56
AJ: Yeah, yeah, yeah actually it was because I had ̶ we separate into two sections like take ten family went to Turkey, ten families went to Iran. When we came back afterward we sit down together and we talked about it. Our condition in generally in Iran was much easier than their condition. Especially the rain and snow, the weather was not helpful in Turkish border. It was kind of easier in Iran border; much easier.

55:25
EI: And then after two months, you all family you turned back?

55:29
AJ: We turned back, we came back to our cities right away.

55:31
EI: How was life after that?

55:33
AJ: First, first uh six months−

55:36
EI: Was there more fear? [laughs]

55:37
AJ: No, beginning of more fear because there was uncertainty. There was uncertainty. We did not know where we are going to end up. Is Saddam coming back? Is the Kurdish coming back? Is America going to protect us? Everything was if, if what is going to happen and how it is going to happen. Nobody knew the future. Then after six months, I remember the especially British we saw a lot of British army and American army. The coalition in general. And the, and the street of Kurdistan trying to push Saddam’s back and back and back to the no-fly zone line thirty-five or thirty-six. I do not know which one back then.

56:16
EI: Out of Duhok City−

56:17
AJ: Out of Duhok City, yeah out of Duhok City, out of Sulaymaniyah City, out of Kurdistan territory in general except Kirkuk. Because yeah know Kirkuk was a whole different story.

56:26
EI: I see.

56:26
AJ: Very complicated. So, after they kicked them all out and we have the no-fly zone area and Saddam people could not come to Kurdistan, we felt like we are in heaven. We seriously felt like we are in heaven. Regardless of the living condition, there was no power, not much food, people struggling to find food and stuff because we- it is like kind of new, new generation coming and running this country three or four million people who has no experience how to run themselves without a government without resources, very, very few resources and uh I was kind of chaotic but really happy. Everybody was happy. There was no more fear. The fear was gone so nobody cared about the, the living condition.

57:16
EI: Luxury life. [laughs]

57:16
AJ: If you have a house luxury life or power. Who cares, there is no more Saddam. We are happy.

57:22
EI: At least your life is guaranteed?

57:23
AJ: Exactly, exactly, exactly then the other political party start uh getting more in control, trying to organize uh in general that administrative part of the government and−

57:39
EI: Kurdish parties, right?

57:39
AJ: The Kurdish parties yeah. And they worked pretty hard until 1994 or (19)95 uh after (19)94 or (19)95 and then the two main party start fighting each other. Who is going to be in control here? Who is going to be in control there? They did that mistake. Actually, they were pushed by other people and other countries too.

58:02
EI: Iran and Turkey.

58:03
AJ: Uh in general. In general, whoever wanted to destroy the area again was behind that. And they were unexperienced parties anyway to run the country. Uh after that war that war was kind of was a disaster. It did not last for a long time.

58:21
EI: Called as brakuzhi right?

58:22
AJ: Exactly yeah.

58:23
EI: Killing your brother?

58:24
AJ: Exactly and it lasted for a while, about five thousand people died for no reason. Then they decided okay what we are doing. What really are we are doing here? After that it got much better. They still- they still after they did not−

58:39
EI: Power struggle?

58:40
AJ: They, they did not, they did not really work together very well but they never fought again.

58:48
EI: I mean political struggle for, ugh, yeah.

58:51
AJ: Exactly yeah it started much better.

58:53
EI: Okay.

58:53
AJ: Yeah, start much better much more organized because they have more resources as well. They had more money in hand. They know how to do it.

59:01
EI: Okay for that time, do you remember anything about the other uh Kurdish regions or Kurdish parties from other countries from Turkey, from Iran, from Syria you remember?

59:10
AJ: Yeah because- because Kurdistan uh Iraqi Kurdistan was the safest place for Kurdish people. Nobody could attack any of the political party. I remember the Kurdish uh, uh Kurdish worker, the PKK [Kurdish: Partiya Karkerên Kurdistanê; English: The Kurdistan Workers' Party] start coming to our, to our Kurdistan and the Kurdish party from uh Iran start coming to our Kurdistan. As a small group, they just wanted to find a place of living and some Kurdish parties from Syria’s part then they start causing problems too. Because they- they looked for some autonomous- within us not within their party and that ended up in the wrong way they start fighting again anyway. They start fighting against the Democratic party, the Kurdish Patriotic Union, and then they decided okay you know fighting again they still our brother, they did a mistake, let us teach them what we got and how they get, let us work together and they still working together somehow− Up until these days.

1:00:15
EI: Yeah so after 1994, (19)95 it was−

1:00:18
AJ: (19)96 it stopped.

1:00:21
EI: Relatively good, uh (19)96?

1:00:23
AJ: (19)90, eh let us say (19)98, the whole thing stopped. There was no more war− Between any parties as, as, as I remember there was no more.

1:00:34
EI: And it was relatively stable life.

1:00:35
AJ: Very stable like uh it got really stable in 1998 to 2003. I was not there but I used to go back and forth for visits every now and then. I used to call my family even like every other week. I used to call them and ask them and we had our Kurdish news coming over the dish satellite. It was much more stabilized because it was open border for commercial stuff. For uh like general whatever commercial you want to get, you want to be a business man, you want to buy this, you want to go to this country, you want to get that.

1:01:04
EI: So, you started to have that chance, right?

1:01:06
AJ: Yes, yeah everybody.

1:01:08
EI: Did you go to school at that time? College or?

1:01:10
AJ: I ̶ in 1994, I was going to college in Erbil for business management.

1:01:14
EI: Okay.

1:01:14
AJ: Yeah.

1:01:15
EI: But there was a university in−

1:01:16
AJ: Oh yeah, yeah there was always Erbil University and Sulaymaniyah University are really old.

1:01:21
EI: Yeah, yeah they are.

1:01:22
AJ: Yeah really old.

1:01:23
EI: What was the education was it in Kurdish or?

1:01:26
AJ: It was in Arabic.

1:01:27
EI: Arabic.

1:01:27
AJ: Yeah it was Arabic. Even then it was Arabic. It did not change to Kurdish until very close, these last five, six years.

1:01:33
EI: Okay, okay maybe the system, the system was same but the owner of the system was different or the Kurds leading for example. How was it?

1:01:41
AJ: The system, the system, the ̶ like the same education but different mentality. The teacher was more open-minded and Kurdish time− When Kurdish controlled the area.

1:01:50
EI: I mean they were all Kurdish or?

1:01:52
AJ: They were mostly Kurdish but they were Arab too. There were Kurdish and there were−

1:01:54
EI: From the Baath party or something?

1:01:57
AJ: No, no, no.

1:01:58
EI: No Baath party?

1:01:59
AJ: No Baath party. Done. After 1991 and the no-fly zone area yeah no Bath, no Saddam at all.

1:02:05
EI: Autonomy.

1:02:06
AJ: Autonomy. Absolute autonomy.

1:02:08
EI: Okay yeah.

1:02:08
AJ: Protected by the coalition and America.

1:02:11
EI: Okay, okay I got it now ̶ You got your education for two years in Erbil?

1:02:16
AJ: Yeah, I went to the third year, I wanted to go to uh finish up but I was working at that time for one of the uh non-government organization to rebuild Kurdistan. It was supported by United State. And I stopped college for one year because I would not pay for the- I could not do it. I was poor back then and uh when I worked for that organization uh I worked only three or four months. Saddam start threatening all these people who work for United State directly or indirectly. I will attack them again. Although he was behind the line, he was not in control of Kurdistan, but America decided to pull all of us out of there so I was−

1:03:02
EI: Okay yeah so because you were working for the NGO.

1:03:05
AJ: Yes.

1:03:05
EI: Okay.

1:03:06
AJ: Yes.

1:03:07
EI: And what was the year? 19−

1:03:08
AJ: 1996.

1:03:10
EI: 1996.

1:03:11
AJ: Yeah 2006 when we pulled out. Yeah in 1994 I was going to school, in 1995 I was going to school, between (19)95 and (19)96, I started working for the NGOs.

1:03:20
EI: Yeah and then you came to US.

1:03:23
AJ: Yes.

1:03:23
EI: Okay we should stop here for a breath.

1:03:24
AJ: [laughs] Okay.

1:03:25
EI: Thank you so much.

1:03:27
AJ: You are welcome.

1:03:29
EI: And uh−

1:03:29
AJ: Avras.

1:03:30
EI: I think for now we start remember something. [laughs]

1:03:35
AT: Now I am a little boy [laughs] yeah.

1:03:39
EI: When did you start school?

1:03:41
AT: Um

1:03:41
EI: In (19)95 or (19)94?

1:03:43
AT: I do not think I would remember the year. Yeah, I would say (19)94 or (19)95.

1:03:49
EI: Hmm where? Duhok?

1:03:51
AT: Duhok yeah.

1:03:52
EI: Do you remember anything at that time?

1:03:55
AT: I do like my class school was not so much um I remember Arabic class, a Quran class um but a Math class I think um my childhood not so much not so ̶ I, I went back after ten years. I could go back to the school and see what my school looked like because I did not really remember anything.

1:04:19
EI: Hmm for primary school, you do not remember it? [laughs]

1:04:21
AT: No, school throughout my whole childhood honestly when I came over here and I went back I did not remember that much.

1:04:27
EI: You do not remember anything about Kurdistan?

1:04:29
AT: I, I knew my ̶ I knew my relatives and where I used to live and ̶ but−

1:04:32
EI: I mean any difficulties or any funny things or?

1:04:37
AT: Well it was, it was a piece of cake honestly, I remember it was just waking up just like over here waking up in the morning, get dressed, go to school, go to your school, come back from school, grab something to eat, or do homework, and then go outside and play either soccer or just play tag with friends. None of that pal, well like he said little kids, Kurds do not tell us about politics, we do not watch the news, we do not deal with that we just, just living as a little kid you know.

1:05:01
EI: Yeah as he said like um it was kind of like steady time for you in 1995. So, you come to United States after that?

1:05:09
AT: After (19)90 yeah (199)6.

1:05:12
AJ: (1999)6.

1:05:14
EI: Yeah how, how ̶

1:05:16
AT: Yeah end of (19)96.

1:05:18
EI: Your family came here? Your dad?

1:05:21
AT: My whole family yeah, my, my parents and my siblings.

1:05:23
AJ: His dad worked for an NGO as same as well.

1:05:25
EI: Ahh okay yeah so for the same reason. So most of the Kurds who came here, they were ah working for NGOs or that is why?

1:05:36
AJ: And people who came here in 1997−

1:05:38
EI: Okay.

1:05:39
AJ: −Only−

1:05:40
EI: Okay.

1:05:41
AJ: Majority of them worked for NGOs. Either one of the family member worked or maybe couple of them, then they brought the whole family.

1:05:48
EI: Okay.

1:05:48
AJ: I did not bring anybody but his father brought everybody in his family.

1:05:51
EI: But you could.

1:05:52
AJ: I could but my parents refused to come so I did not ̶ I, I came by myself.

1:05:56
EI: Yes okay.

1:06:00
AT: Yeah, my, my uncles and a lot of cousins, they had the same opportunity but they, they are like no we will stay here because of pride you know. They are like, we are not leaving. This is Kurdistan, this is our homeland struggle depending on how bad effort is, we are staying here. And my dad- my dad is like no like when, what is they because we watch TV a lot oh my god America is perfect you know [laughter] land of opportunity so my dad is like my dad’s like no I will go over there and see how that is so we just ̶ Packed up and− Because he, he told us that his dad was like that whatever your heart desires I am like I want you to go too and his dad was like if you want to go then go ahead and like take your family and go okay.

1:06:36
EI: So, you came here kak [Mr] Avras right?

1:06:43
AT: Yes.

1:06:44
EI: Uh and uh for a camp for three months?

1:06:46
AT: Yeah.

1:06:46
EI: Were you in the same group or?

1:06:48
AJ: They were in a different camp than I was.

1:06:52
EI: Okay where was it?

1:06:53
AJ: Guam, same Guam.

1:06:54
AT: Same Guam.

1:06:55
EI: Same Guam?

1:06:56
AJ: Same island, same island but two different camps.

1:06:58
EI: Ah okay so how was life there?

1:07:00
AT: Guam? It was perfect out [laughter] beautiful like it was pretty much like Hawaii waking up, green grass, blue skies.

1:07:09
AJ: Beautiful, it was beautiful.

1:07:11
AT: Nice house yeah.

1:07:13
EI: They were swimming? [laughs]

1:07:15
AT: We did not go swimming, no, but they had army soldiers working around the clock around us but then they were like friendly too they would just come and greet you like they could not speak English or anything but you could tell they are friendly.

1:07:25
EI: Okay yeah so which come for you especially it should be completely different for you Armanj.

1:07:30
AJ: Yeah when I came there−

1:07:32
EI: For a, for a soldier the treatment−

1:07:36
AJ: Oh yes, yes [laughter] we, I ̶ Because I worked for the NGOs myself and I knew English already ̶ I, I knew how American soldiers are. When I first came to Guam, I, yeah, I was hired directly as a, a interpreter for the Kurdish people for the processing− And medical problems and their treatment, the soldiers’ treatment to Kurdish people everybody was shocked. My gosh look at these soldiers, look at these police, they treat us like we are brothers. And everybody thinking soldier or police as a terrible soldier because of Saddam’s police and− That is all we knew. Anybody is police or army is a terrible person.

1:08:19
EI: Did you ever question like is Saddam Muslim and look at his police or soldiers but Americans are not in general and even you do not feel it, I mean you, did you ever question it or your family or something?

1:08:31
AJ: I mean not us but our family we are talking about it once in a while. And they said look at this person. He claimed to be a Muslim and not every Muslim are Muslim. There are Muslims who are terrible. He claimed to be a Muslim and a lot of people worked for him claimed to be a Muslim but in fact they had no faith in any god. No Allah or any type of religion at all. And people or other army from coalitions in general or from Britain or America, they were so much nicer and so much more, they had so much more mercy on people, you would feel these people should be Muslim, not Saddam. [laughter] You would feel if we talk about the behavior of uh our prophet in general like not only our prophet− Like Jesus, Moses, all of them. The behavior of all these religious prophets and messengers, we see them in this country and these soldiers. We do not see them in our own country and our own army at all. We did talk about it many times and we still talk about it. [laughs] We still do.

1:09:43
AT: I remember they were, they used to walk around with candy in their pockets and every time a little kid gets home, he takes a candy out and gives it to him.

1:09:45
EI: Give you candy?

1:09:48
AJ: Oh yeah.

1:09:49
EI: Yeah okay so eh you start school, here right?

1:09:57
AT: I did.

1:09:58
EI: How was it? Eh.

1:09:59
AT: It was−

1:09:59
EI: Terrible I think for the beginning.

1:10:01
AT: It was, no it was nice. We went to Maryland first um and then they have an Iraqi kid− He, he, he pretty much just helped us out. He was in high school but he came to middle school and then elementary school to help my family out. Took us to classes and walked us and then it was me, it was three of us, me and my sister and my other sister so they establi ̶ They gave us in middle one teacher just to teach us alphabet you know they did not put us directly into classes like here ̶

1:10:24
EI: Oh okay.

1:10:25
AT: Go to class.

1:10:27
EI: First they teach language.

1:10:29
AT: Yeah, they, they had that in Guam as well. They had middle for- it is for little kids but then it went to hell in a couple of months. You cannot learn anything. When we came to Maryland they gave us a teacher. Our personal teacher who helped us with just English, alphabet, you know readings first of all before they put us into classes. After that we got like we are, we are little kids so like we, we um, we learned really quick so after that we went fourth grade. I started in fourth grade and we started the same guy helped us out with everything and it was good. It was a good transition I guess. I mean it was, it was hard to learn in English honestly but, and you used to walk around kids speaking a different language like− [laughs]

1:11:15
EI: Understand nothing yeah it should be difficult that part.

1:11:18
AT: Yeah.

1:11:18
EI: You can tell yourself what do you think to−

1:11:19
AT: When I was a little kid, you- you absorb more, you learn more.

1:11:24
EI: Yeah of course, of course.

1:11:26
AT: So, at that age ̶

1:11:27
EI: Exactly.

1:11:28
AT: They came at a good time.

1:11:29
AJ: And I think it was a big, big thing for them too because I did not go to school here in the beginning like elementary or middle or high school. Elementary school or high school or middle back then was cold room, no central air− Broken windows.

1:11:46
EI: Physical conditions yeah.

1:11:47
AJ: Physical conditions terrible. When they came here, and I went for translation purposes−

1:11:51
EI: In Duhok, right?

1:11:52
AJ: In Iraq in general. Not just Duhok, in Iraq in general; and the way the teacher treated you sometimes like were allowed to slap you or stuff like that. Here they come like carpet in the room and central air and you see all this techno ̶ technology like smart boards and stuff. They give you food at school. There was no food at school back in Iraq. No such as thing as food at school so all the kids were so in love with this society. Were unbelievable. Even the parents. Many parents not wanted to go back to Kurdistan because it is stable. They can go but they are not going to keep their kids here and to get better and better education and better chances in life because the opportunity you are getting in United States, you cannot get it anywhere else. We learned that.

1:12:43
EI: Okay yeah for the high school or how was it?

1:12:46
AT: It was like, there was because we, we stayed in Maryland half a year and his father in law and my father are best friends and they, his father in law called my dad and he is like yeah come to New York. There is more Kurds here, there is better opportunities. It is a bigger city, bigger Kurdish community. And my dad’s like alright so we just packed up everything we got and just moved up to New York and as he said−

1:13:14
EI: Which part? Binghamton?

1:13:15
AT: In Binghamton yeah. And we came up here and there were a lot of Kurds. I do not know how many Kurds at first back in 2000 but there, there was a good amount.

1:13:20
AJ: About forty families.

1:13:22
AT: So, going in the lunch room there were other Kurdish kids. [laughs] You know like there were other and we like, we did not like going from this village to that village but we were just friends, get to know each other, talk, go to lunch, or play a sport and back then, there were like two or three parts of Binghamton you lived. There was either Carlisle or Saratoga. There is two groups and we pretty much all went to the same middle school, all the same high school and like together for everything like basketball− Or soccer.

1:13:50
EI: I mean there is like a community between Kurds here as I see.

1:13:54
AT: Yup.

1:13:54
EI: So how this work? I mean how do you establish it or continue?

1:13:57
AJ: I can put it in one sentence for you. The best Kurdish community on Earth is Binghamton Kurdish community [laughs] I believe it. The, the ̶ I do not know how to put it together but the Kurdish environment in Binghamton area and Broome County, everybody feels like the next house is his brother. And there is no sensitivity whatsoever. There is always difference in opinions, that is normal but the ̶ when there is a death in the family or a problem or a, or a happiness in the family, all Kurdish people in the community are there for them to do anything. It is unbelievable. [chuckles] It is unbelievable.

1:14:41
EI: Yeah how you establish it? I mean what were you doing to protect it or?

1:14:45
AJ: Uh first of all when I first came here. Me, my brother in law who is deceased actually right now, uh Karwan’s older brother. Brother, Karwan is my brother in law. So, his older brother, me, and his brother Zeke. I do not know if you met Zeke or not.

1:15:01
EI: I think so. He is Zeke Taha.

1:15:03
AJ: Yeah Zeke Taha. So were, were a bunch of uh like twenty, twenty-two years old ̶ Uh kids here. We started uh first we started for every event like Newroz. We start having a big party for Newroz inviting everybody. Pay only ten-dollar, twenty dollar per family. We were getting a singer from somewhere, Europe or somewhere and have the whole group together to memorizing these Kurdish events. There was Eid everybody was going to visit each other. Every Eid we still do it. Every first Sunday would visit every forty-five or fifty families in couple days just to strengthen their relationship and the other way sometime uh there is couple other events like they ̶ these guys uh were−

1:15:51
AT: It is newly established- the A.K.C. [American Kurdish Council].

1:15:52
AJ: Yeah, the A.K.C. after they started ̶

1:15:53
EI: A.K.C. is−

1:15:53
AJ: American Kurdish Council.

1:15:54
EI: Okay yeah.

1:15:54
AJ: Uh they started this, it is new but they established it.

1:15:59
EI: It was established, when was it established?

1:16:00
AT: 2010.

1:16:01
EI: 2010 yeah.

1:16:03
AJ: Uh they start like we had a ̶ what was events we had at Cole Park?

1:16:07
AT: The picnic?

1:16:08
AJ: We had a picnic, invited every Kurdish family to our picnic. Everybody brings their own food. Let us eat together, dance together, play together, do so, do soccer together. It was unbelievable, all the kids started to know each other and especially, especially when there is a death or somebody is sick, real sick and in this Kurdish community everybody jumps in to help each other. And it is getting and better every day. Everyday–

1:16:34
EI: So, you are still coming together?

1:16:37
AJ: Oh yes

1:16:38
EI: Eating yeah okay.

1:16:39
AJ: Absolutely.

1:16:40
EI: You know each other I mean if there is something wrong in one home you heard about it and ̶

1:16:43
AJ: The next day we all know.

1:16:44
EI: Yeah okay yeah.

1:16:45
AJ: Next day we all know. And it is been like that forever.

1:16:48
EI: Okay, okay.

1:16:52
AT: So, like as you could tell it was easy transition on us like you have other Kurds. Other Kurds’ kids were around you but I mean maybe if we stayed in Maryland it’d be a different experience you know? We would be just one Kurdish family grown up together, just sisters and brother but um luckily, we came up here. It was easier for all of us, for me, my sister, and everybody.

1:17:14
EI: Maybe you. Yeah, I mean eh this um, like will make America more easy for you living here.

1:17:21
AT: Yeah.

1:17:22
AJ: A lot easier.

1:17:23
EI: Yeah so uh are you going to Kurdistan sum ̶ during the summer or?

1:17:28
AJ: I did visit Kurdistan mm uh I was there about a month ago. I went for twenty days and came back.

1:17:35
EI: And before?

1:17:36
AJ: Before I went when my father passed away in 2011.

1:17:39
EI: 2011.

1:17:40
AJ: Yeah.

1:17:42
EI: So, after 1997, right?

1:17:45
AJ: Yes.

1:17:46
EI: You went like around ten years later?

1:17:50
AJ: Oh no, no first time, first time I went to Kurdistan it was 2001.

1:17:54
EI: 2001?

1:17:55
AJ: Yeah.

1:17:56
EI: Okay.

1:17:56
AJ: So, it was about five years−

1:17:58
EI: Okay.

1:17:58
AJ: After I came to this country.

1:17:59
EI: Okay.

1:17:59
AJ: I got married here−

1:18:01
EI: Okay.

1:18:01
AJ: And I took my wife and I went to visit Kurdistan because my younger brother passed. Got, got a car accident− And passed away yeah, I had to go back, back then. Then in 2004 my brother in law passed away. We had to take my in-laws and we went back to Kurdistan again. 2005, I took my family there and went back again. Just for like a month. Each time for a month.

1:18:28
EI: So, eh you said you are back to Kurdistan after like 1997. Five years.

1:18:34
AJ: Yeah.

1:18:35
EI: And then in 2001. What were the differences?

1:18:40
AJ: Huge difference−

1:18:41
EI: From−

1:18:41
AJ: From (19)97 to 2001, it was serious different and uh−

1:18:48
EI: What was the main difference I mean−

1:18:50
AJ: Infrastructure. The, the government itself. I saw a sign, a sign of a developed government uh ̶

1:18:59
EI: Who was in power in this time?

1:19:00
AJ: Business-wise, the, the Democratic Party and um patriotic union.

1:19:07
EI: Yeah.

1:19:07
AJ: Barzani and Talibani. They were both in power forever.

1:19:09
EI: Okay Saddam was−

1:19:10
AJ: Duhok City, no, no Saddam.

1:19:12
EI: Saddam.

1:19:13
AJ: No, no Saddam was still alive in Baghdad.

1:19:15
EI: Yeah okay, yeah, I mean−

1:19:16
AJ: 2001.

1:19:17
EI: He was still in power.

1:19:18
AJ: Yeah, he was still in power, yes, yes but uh we did not go to Iraq.
We never went to Iraq. Always to Kurdistan through Turkey or directly to Kurdistan. We never went to Iraq. Yeah so, I always going through Turkey from Istanbul.

1:19:30
EI: Istanbul?

1:19:31
AJ: Or to Diyarbakır to Duhok City.

1:19:33
EI: How was the Turkey when you go? Was there any problem?

1:19:37
AJ: Oh, there was always problem in the border. Not when you fly. When you go to Istanbul, and Istanbul to Diyarbakır not a problem. Then you drive you get a cab or taxi from Diyarbakır to the border.

1:19:47
EI: Erbil?

1:19:48
AJ: Then, no, no the border of Zakho?

1:19:50
EI: Oh, okay, okay.

1:19:51
AJ: The border of Kurdistan. The Kurd- the Turkish Iraqi border, Zakho area uh we use- we used to drive from Diyarbakır to the Zakho, then Zakho to Duhok. But that point the Silopi. They called it Silopi? Border going. Yeah, yeah that Turkish part of it was always, always uh kind of harassing us like one person working and there is ten families in line for the stamp- for ̶ to, to stamp your passport−To exit Turkey to Kurdistan.

1:20:26
EI: So bureaucratic uh part was the−

1:20:30
AJ: Bureaucratic part exactly then it was like hey−

1:20:32
EI: Bad treat, bad treatment or something?

1:20:33
AJ: No, no, no bad treatment.

1:20:34
EI: Okay, okay.

1:20:35
AJ: Just keeping people, keeping people standing there for hours for no reason. He, the guy will close his window. “I am hungry” and he will go eat for two hours. [laughs] He was an officer. You cannot tell an officer what to do. And he was going to go for two hours.

1:20:51
EI: I mean it is the check so common Turkey, not about that part uh−

1:20:56
AJ: That, that is−

1:20:57
EI: I can say even it is same in Ankara in some cases. [laughs]

1:21:00
AJ: Yeah, when we go to the officers in Turkey in general, they treat you in a hard way. That is any soldier in Middle East is the same way. You cannot change it, you cannot change it. That is the way it is. You can go to uh Amman, you go to Syria, it is even worse. Back then, when Assad was in power and Saddam was in power, if you had, because I had heard about people. You go to Kurdistan to Syria, the soldiers in Syria in part, right at the check point they will distract you, they will harass you, they will make your life hell. Before you pass through. It was just the mentality of soldiers in Middle East. Bottom line.

1:21:41
EI: Okay, okay yeah in 2001 you said there were lots like of developments.

1:21:46
AJ: Yes.

1:21:46
EI: More stable?

1:21:47
AJ: More stable and what I liked about it, more freedom. People could people can open a big construction company. If you had money, you will go to Turkey and partnership with one of the Turkish companies and bring all of the tools and rebuild whatever they want. And was nice bedding, nice system, but there was still corruption. That is all. It was corruption. The government in general but people were more educated, more open-minded because people could travel and the longer distance to Europe to China to Qatar to Istanbul every day and come back. They got more open-minded, they learned more, and they got educated a lot more. That was the big difference.

1:22:30
EI: So next time was 2004.

1:22:33
AJ: 2004, I did not see much, but two the- because it was a funeral. But 2005 in the summer, spring time I went for two months. Was even better.

1:22:43
EI: Because the Kurds got their autonomy officially?

1:22:46
AJ: Offi−

1:22:46

1:22:47
EI: In 2002?

1:22:48
AJ: Exactly.

1:22:49
EI: Yeah.

1:22:49
AJ: In 2003 actually.

1:22:52
EI: 2003?

1:22:54
AJ: Officially after Saddam’s regime was gone. It was completely autonomous, Kurdish autonomous and they had more power, more money, and more interaction with the world. Like six hundred Turkish construction company was in Kurdistan back then. Two hundred European construction company was in Kurdistan, was unbelievable. That was a big the ̶ a big education for Kurdish people on how to deal with a life and how to build their infrastructure. But still there was corruption again. [chuckles] Corruption did not end. It is getting worse

1:23:28
EI: In 2005?

1:23:29
AJ: Five yeah.

1:23:20
EI: So.

1:23:30
AJ: In Iraq in general.

1:23:31
EI: What was Iraq was like, how did you feel like you left the country ten years ago now you back in 2005 so how, what do you remember, I mean what did you tell yourself like−

1:23:44
AJ: First thing I tell myself, I hope they are going to stay in the same path and develop themselves without fighting− Without killing each other anymore and learn from their mistakes before they collapse. That was, that was always I thought about that.

1:23:31
EI: No. I mean not as, as a citizen or as a person.

1:23:33
AJ: Yeah.

1:23:33
EI: How was your feeling? I mean did you feel−

1:24:10
AJ: I feel really happy though.

1:24:12
EI: When you said like my flag or said my country or−

1:24:14
AJ: Oh yeah. The feeling was a lot different because like I said I was going to Kurdistan with all pride and as soon as you enter Kurdistan, you see the Kurdish army, Kurdish flag uh everything and writing on Kurdish, all the paperwork, all the documentation in Kurdish. You feel really good about it and they were well organized.

1:24:34
EI: Yeah, I mean will−

1:24:34
AJ: Well organized.

1:24:35
EI: How was the treatment of the Kurdish?

1:24:37
AJ: Perfect.

1:24:37
EI: Soldier?

1:24:38
AJ: Very good.

1:24:39
EI: Or the Kurdish bureaucracy towards you?

1:24:41
AJ: The ̶ excellent ̶ actually as soon as I enter the country, they treat you really nice with a big smile. With all respect and they ask you nice questions just like an, an, an European or American uh checkpoint. They treat you with really nice mannerism.

1:24:59
EI: I mean if something was wrong could you eh−

1:25:02
AJ: If there was something wrong ̶

1:25:03
EI: Could you question them or what are you doing?

1:25:05
AJ: Oh yeah yes–

1:25:05
EI: Yeah.

1:25:06
AJ: Yes, yes, yes I could because one day they the bag.

1:25:09
EI: Was there any fear?

1:25:10
AJ: I had no fear, personally me, I had no fear of them at all. Because on the border an officer told me, “What is in this bag?” I said, “Clothing, what else going to be in the bag. Are you joking?” I was like I was kind of yelling at him. Just, just I felt, I felt I could do that because he is Kurdish just like me. [laughs] He said uh, he said told me with a smile, “I- I am just doing my job. Please do not be angry.” Just like that. I was like, “I am sorry I am not being angry. I am just trying to joke here.” [laughs] You can open it and I was really happy he did not get upset. He treated me with a lot of respect and every time I go back, it is better and better. I ̶ last time I landed in Erbil airport, the way I saw Erbil airport, there is no difference between Erbil and Frankfurt or Istanbul airport. That much organized excellent uh treatment, it is unbelievable. If there is an issue, they try to fix or treat your issue right away with all respect. No harassment, no headache. I was really happy. Uh they are leaving. They are really learning very fast.

1:26:16
EI: Yeah and how the general conditions? People- I mean when you ask the ̶ I mean you are asking them-

1:26:23
AJ: Oh yeah.

1:26:23
EI: Your family or your relatives. I mean how is the government or how is the democracy or how is, is it work or uh how is the independence? I mean how is the autonomy?

1:26:35
AJ: Yeah okay.

1:26:35
EI: Can you enjoy it or?

1:26:37
AJ: In general, I have ̶ I saw some part of my family like they went from here to here− And some of them start from zero to everything so there was a cycle. Some people lost their jobs, some people gained jobs but in general when I ask them why, why did you lose everything and why did you have now, now you were up here, what happened? It is just an opportunity I knew.

1:27:01
EI: Free market or?

1:27:02
AJ: Exactly, it is a free market.

1:27:05
EI: But is it like their−

1:27:06
AJ: But you have to analyze it. Which part and when you need to do what−

1:27:10
EI: I mean is it because one of them is close to government or the other is not?

1:27:15
AJ: No, no, no–

1:27:16
EI: No, okay.

1:27:17
AJ: They are both close family to me. Uh they have equal relationship with the government. But because of the free market and their uneducated guess, drop one of them up, one of them down. But when I ask them about the government, it says the government is not up to the speed when it comes to processing paperwork. There is still mistakes but- but it is better than before because you can go to the office and ask them what happened and why did not you work on this case? Before you could not do that. Now you could ask them, hey where’s my case and why did not you work on my case? People going to follow up. It is still not up to the speed but it is much better. Every year I go back, the government is learning better, is doing a better job. They are not excellent. I am not happy with the way they do it. I think they could get better. But ̶ and, and looking at it on the perspective of America. America is a different story. [laughs] I cannot compare America with Kurdistan. No way.

1:28:17
EI: Eh and how is the young generation? Do you- I mean you are all hopeful or−

1:28:24
AJ: That is the main point. Yes. That was the main thing I wanted to, to say to mention here. The new generation is much better than my generation, much better than my parents’ generation. And two things. When it comes to knowledge and- and education in general. They are more educated. And when it come to we as a Middle Eastern have high temper, we get upset easy. The new generation is not like that. They stop and think before they say and do anything, which is excellent. In my generation, as soon as I hear something bad I react before I think.

1:29:03
EI: Yeah [laughs].

1:29:03
AJ: It was wrong. The new generation, I have, I have a real hope. This corruption in Middle East. Oh, I am talking about Kurdistan. The corruption is getting lessened because of the new generation are getting in more control of the offices, and the education system in general is heading to the right direction to become better because it is−

1:29:24
EI: What is the physical condition for a child? I mean you said at the end of Saddam time there was−
AJ: Oh yeah, yeah, yeah that is, that is. The school’s physical conditions ̶ They are building too many new schools. It is still a not very satisfied condition because again I am here maybe that is why I am thinking, but 100 percent better than Saddam’s time. 100 percent better.

1:29:47
EI: Okay. The education is in Kurdish right now?

1:29:49
AJ: Yes, in Kurdish but, but they opened so many private schools. You can learn English, French, Turkish, any language and you can go to any private school. There are American school there− There are Turkish school there− There are French school there. You have the opportunity and it is your choice to go which, which school you chose. It is really better, much better. And a lot more colleges. In Duhok City itself since 1991 up to, up to now. They had one college. Now they have more than twenty-two uni- colleges.

1:30:23
EI: University.

1:30:23
AJ: Yeah it is a huge university, huge.

1:30:26
EI: Okay yeah.

1:30: 27
AJ: Yeah and that is- that is perfect.

1:30:29
EI: Okay. Their education is−

1:30:31
AJ: It is good.

1:30:32
EI: In Turkish or Kurdish?

1:30:34
AJ: It is Kurdish. It was, it started in Arabic and then uh start from elementary− School in 19 ̶ what I cannot remember the year. They start in Kurdistan now in all colleges is also Kurdish and it is Arabic too but there is lot of English involved. A lot of English. Just to keep up with the world. They decided to keep a lot English in school.

1:30:56
EI: Okay yeah. Good, so you are happy I mean eh−

1:30:57
AJ: Oh yes.

1:30:58
EI: Living here and you like having a country that−

1:31:02
AJ: Oh yeah.

1:31:02
EI: You can go visit in your family.

1:31:06
AJ: Yes absolutely.

1:31:07
EI: Will you go back one day or do you think to go back or you have established life here you will stay? I mean ̶ What do you think about it or during your retirement or?

1:31:16
AJ: It is, as of now, I am not thinking to go back because I have three children who are going to school here. The education system here I am really happy with. I cannot take them over there yet because here is much higher standards.

1:31:32
EI: What is their−

1:31:33
AJ: One of them is in fifth grade. The other one in third grade. The other still at Head Start.

1:31:40
EI: Oh, so they are still small.

1:31:42
AJ: Yeah, they are small. Eh but I, I, I do not want to take them now. If I have to go I have to sacrifice a lot of things− And their life. For me it is easy. I can go there, I can find a job, I can work, but I cannot provide everything they have here. Same thing I cannot do that. For me, it is too early to think about going back home. But for retirement. I do not want to be here for retirement life and I end up in a nursing home. [laughs] I want to be among my family, cousins and have a house and be able to get out and go to the farm, go to the mountain, relax, not worry about the nursing home. [laughs] I do not want to end up in a nursing home.

1:31:20
EI: Okay yeah.

1:32:21
AJ: Yeah.

1:32:21
EI: Yeah and of course I mean we all do not want it.

1:32:25
AJ: Yes. [laughs]

1:32:26
EI: Yeah so which language your child speaking like Kurdish or?

1:32:31
AJ: We speak Kurdish at home. We speak Kurdish and I am taking them to the mosque to learn Arabic as well and English is their first language.

1:32:37
EI: English is their first language?

1:32:40
AJ: Yeah.

1:32:40
EI: Yeah, yeah.

1:32:41
AJ: Because they were born here, they go to school here.

1:32:43
EI: They know English, Kurdish, and Arabic?

1:32:45
AJ: They, they are learning Arabic now yes.

1:32:47
EI: Okay.

1:32:47
AJ: They are now in the process of learning Arabic.

1:32:48
EI: Yeah uh how is the religious life? I mean you−

1:32:52
AJ: Our religious life. It is simple as it could be. We pray, we take them to masjid uh mosque. Uh we try to keep them in touch with my Allah. With my family and other Kurdish families to keep the tradition− in their mind and the respect of elderly and helping each other to keep all that on their mind. And religiously, I tell them, we are Muslim and we live in this country. We are all here human being. The main point for me to teach my children. There is no different between any human being. Treat everybody the same. No religious tells you to treat others different way. We are all human beings. You can pray, you can be Muslim, or can be Christian or Jewish whatever. As long as you are human being and treat each other nice.

1:33:39
EI: Yeah, I will ask life after 2000, 9/11−

1:33:43
AJ: Yeah.

1:33:43
EI: You find many difficulties as your Muslim identity?

1:33:47
AJ: Not really. I, I never had any problem.

1:33:50
EI: Okay.

1:33:50
AJ: Nobody said−

1:33:51
EI: In your job or something yeah?

1:33:53
AJ: No actually in my jobs ̶ in my jobs they treated me better so I would not feel that way.

1:34:00
EI: Ah okay.

1:34:00
AJ: They were well-educated people around me. They treated me even better and helped me better. So, I would not feel bad about yeah. [laughs]

1:34:08
EI: Yeah it is perfect.

1:34:09
AJ: They did and except couple restaurant places, I went- I saw couple like very disrespectful people. They said “Why do not you go back to your country?” I was like I just laughed at them. Look at this guy. I mean I had to laugh at them. That is their small mentality. You cannot change people. Everybody have their own opinion.

1:34:30
EI: But for illiterate people or for like in your job I mean?

1:34:33
AJ: After−

1:34:34
EI: I mean−

1:34:35
AJ: No, I just went to a restaurant. I saw some ̶ I did not even know these people.

1:34:38
EI: Yeah, I am yeah.

1:34:39
AJ: Because they saw I have an accent and they thought I am Muslim, they somehow thought I am a Muslim. I am Muslim but, in their mind, oh this is Muslim, this is bad. Let us say go back to your country. I was like okay whatever.

1:34:51
EI: They were waiters or?

1:34:53
AJ: No just sitting down. A couple people just sitting down. Just customers.

1:34:56
EI: Just one time or?

1:34:57
AJ: Two time actually.

1:34:58
EI: Two times.

1:34:59
AJ: Two times it happened.

1:35:00
EI: After 9/11?

1:35:01
AJ: After 9/11.

1:35:02
EI: Yeah.

1:35:03
AJ: Then I went back to my office uh I worked with an officer John Vansant? I told him that is what happened. He is an American. He got so upset. He said, “I want to go to that person and beat the hell out of them.” [laughs] I said, “No, no, no you do not have to do that. I am just telling you see how some people have small brain, they do not even think.” They just react.

1:35:20
EI: Okay yeah.

1:35:21
AJ: And I do not blame them. He has, he has freedom. Let him talk.

1:34:24
EI: Okay.

1:34:25
AJ: It is okay as long as it does not get physical, he can talk.

1:35:28
EI: [laughs] Yeah.

1:35:28
AJ: Yeah.

1:35:29
EI: Yeah okay thank you so much.

1:35:34
AJ: Yeah.

1:35:34
EI: Yeah and how is life for you in the United States?

1:35:39
AT: It is nice.

1:35:41
EI: [laughs] You are enjoying it?

1:35:43
AT: Yeah. I went back.

1:35:45
EI: Have you ever been in Kurdistan?

1:35:47
AT: 2009.

1:35:48
EI: 2009. How was it?

1:35:50
AT: Twelve years later. It, it was different. It was- there was more improvement but−

1:35:52
EI: I mean may- because you do not have lots of memories from–


1:36:00AT: Yeah.
EI: From the childhood.

1:36:01
AT: Childhood.

1:36:02
EI: But eh. Okay for him, he is coming from Kurdistan to United States. But for you, you are going from America to Kurdistan. [laughs]

1:36:12
AT: My memory of my childhood. My memory of my childhood. Like I see dirt roads and because unlimited opportunities you know. Small community like you cannot pretty much go from here to Zakho? Or grab a taxi from like here or California or whatever you know what I mean? So, it is pretty much same village, small villages, small houses, but when I went back it is big like buildings, constructions. They had a dream home. Dream city where it is like a big playground full of lights and all.

1:36:40
EI: For now? Or in 2000?

1:36:46
AT: Yeah. Now I am like I never expected that.

1:36:48
EI: In 2009−

1:36:49
AT: Yeah, I never expected that you know um taxi- you grab a taxi and go anywhere around you know. Go to a restaurant sit down, have a juice or a drink.

1:36:54
AJ: Life is a lot easier.

1:36:55
AT: Yeah.

1:36:55
AJ: More luxury.

1:36:57
EI: Yeah.

1:36:57
AT: Never expect- like 2000 or (19)97, (19)96, I am like yeah where was this, where was that so it is way way, way much better but it is getting- it is getting better and better by the time by the day.

1:37:10
EI: Okay so will you back one day or?

1:37:12
AT: I−

1:37:12
EI: Do you have any− [laughs]

1:37:14
AT: I have a lot of cousins there. I have a bunch of cousins like I will visit here and there like maybe once a year or twice a year but as of, as of going back and staying there I do not know about right now. Maybe retirement, but− [laughs]

1:37:28
AJ: Retirement sounds good.

1:37:29
AT: This place I have, I have, I have grown up here you know I have- the environment you know everything around this place is just−

1:37:35
EI: Is that you are staying here and like if you are doing something you are doing here for the country and the mmm A.K.C.?

1:37:44
AT: Oh yeah, the A.K.C. yeah that is just–

1:37:46
EI: What is your facilities? I mean what is your American Kurdish Council- what are you doing in general?

1:37:53
AT: Um first biggest event is next week- like next week three o’clock, Halabja. We want to ̶ like nobody knows you know like it is still not. British uh UK just announced it is a genocide. U.S.A. they ̶ it is not a genocide you know. Nobody knows about it.

1:38:08
AJ: Politics.

1:38:09
EI: Yeah.

1:38:09
AT: So, we want to spread that around- make that bigger than it is you know because five thousand people dead. Fifteen thousand affected by those guys.

1:38:18
EI: Yeah for the whole process, two thousand Kurds were killed.

1:38:23
AJ: Oh what?

1:38:23
AT: No five thousand were killed.

1:38:24
EI: No, no I mean for the whole process.

1:38:26
AT: Oh yeah.

1:38:27
EI: During from starting in 1980s to 1994.

1:38:29
AJ: How many Kurds?

1:38:30
EI: As I know one hundred and two, two hundred thousand.

1:38:32
AJ: That much. It is even more. It is about two hundred twenty some thousand and another hundred eighty thousand− Beside that−

1:38:42
EI: In Sulaymaniyah I mean.

1:38:43
AJ: And in general, oh yes yes, yes a lot.

1:38:46
EI: Yeah.

1:38:46
AJ: But not, but not just the events but just in general like if because of me all my life if people are like where are you from I am like Kurdistan and they looked at you like I do not know where that is you know. You guys do not know Iraq or south of ar−

1:38:58
AT: Yeah east of Turkey you know. Like they do not know what Kurdistan is or if it is a country so. Just to establish that- put that in people’s mind this is Kurdistan we are Kurds you know this is ̶ we are here and this is what we do you know. We have our own culture our own religion. I mean our own nationality, our own flag and even though we are not established as a country on a map but we are still a country by ourselves.

1:39:22
AJ: We are monster like Saddam Hussein used to call us. [chuckles] We are human being. [laughs]

1:39:28
AT: Yeah, we are doing events for- for just community and get, put the community like it is strong it is like the best, the best community like he said but we still trying put on events for them, do events for them as well. And invite them to picnics or Newroz or to this Halabja event we are putting together.

1:39:44
EI: Okay, okay yeah perfect. Okay thank you so much. If you want to add something please I mean you want to say something that?

1:39:54
AJ: Oh, I would just wish you luck.

1:39:58
EI: You got the general topic uh about, uh you should−

1:39:59
AJ: We covered up I guess.

1:40:03
EI: Yeah so if you want to say anything else. I would take some questions if uh I mean you left something.

1:40:14
AJ: I cannot remember anything off the top of my head and−

1:40:18
EI: Yeah, I mean we talk about lots of things actually.

1:40:21
AJ: All I can tell you I wish you the luck and hopefully get your PhD and we will see you again. [laughs]

1:40:26
EI: Inshallah.

(End of Interview)


Date of Interview

8 March 2013

Interviewer

Erdem Ilter

Interviewee

Armanj Amin and Avras Taha

Biographical Text

Armanj: At the age of 6 he had to flee his home country of Baghdad for Duhok. In 1996, he left Duhok and arrived in the United States. Armanj has a degree in Business Management from Erbil University and a degree in Civil Engineering from SUNY Broome.

Avras: He was born in Duhok and lived there with his extended family, while his father was fighting for the Peshmerga. His family fled Kurdistan in 1996 and arrived in the United States via Guam. Avras has a degree in Civil Engineering from SUNY IT. He lives with his wife and a daughter in Syracuse.

Duration

100:30 minutes

Language

English

Digital Publisher

Binghamton University

Interview Format

audio

Rights Statement

This audio file and digital image may only be used for educational purposes. Please cite as: Kurdish Oral History Project, Special Collections, Binghamton University Libraries, Binghamton University, State University of New York. For usage beyond fair use please contact the Binghamton University Libraries Special Collections for more information.

Keywords

United States; Duhok; Saddam Hussein; Baghdad; Iraq; Kurdistan; Guam; Refugee; Binghamton; Culture; Syria; Turkey; Discrimination; Education

Files

Citation

“Armanj Ameen & Avras Taha,” Digital Collections, accessed November 30, 2022, https://omeka.binghamton.edu/omeka/items/show/568.