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Interview with Hawar

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Kurdish Oral History Project
Interview with: Hawar
Interviewed by: Aynur de Rouen and Marwan Tawfiq
Transcriber: Marwan Tawfiq
Date of interview: 23 April 2017
Interview Setting: Binghamton University

(Start of Interview)

MT: Now it is on.

AD: Okay. So today is April 6, 2017, and we are interviewing with Hawar, and Marwan and I here to interview with you.

H: Okay.

AD: So, when were you born and where were you born?

H: Well I was born in Mardin, the city like in Northern Kurdistan and then the date was 1988, December 12. It is a nice one, 12/12. [laughter]

AD: 12/12, wow!

H: Yeah, 1988 yes.

AD: And is that where you grew up? I mean your house was in the city or outside the city?

H: Well, no. So we used to live in a village. So it is a village in Mardin but it is like South, not south, like the East part of the city. So it was really like far from the center. And when we came to, like in 1993, so we had to leave our village so because of like the conflict between PKK and then the Turkish Army. So basically, they came to our village and then they offered two options; so one is like take up the guns and fight against the PKK or you had to move your village in two weeks. So, it was just they gave you, gave the villagers two weeks, you know, and you do not know anyone in the town. So, Mardin, the province, the Kerboran or Dargeçit is the town and the village, you know. So, at that time we did not have any like relatives in the town. So, because we were like villagers, you know, we were there for a long time. So they offered two offers and then well we cannot live with guns, you know, and we do not want to kill anyone. And then we do not want to be killed. So my father and the other villagers decided to leave our place. It was 1993. so and then we went to town. So as I said we did not have any relatives and at that time, it was not, our village was not the only one. There were many other villages they had to come to this town, you know, and then it was really hard to place to stay because there were a lot of people and some people had the opportunity to make some money, you know, because a lot of, like, people wanted to rent rooms or a house. So finally, my father found a place and we stayed there. I think it was like for two years, three years and then after that during this time my father built his own house. So that time still we had some problem, you know, because the state or the army was thinking the people who left their places they are helping PKK [The Kurdistan Workers' Party; Kurdish: Partiya Karkerên Kurdistanê] from the town. So, one time my father’s name, his name was on a list, like the killing list [executions list], you know, it was 1996. Well, I mean we just heard that his name was on the list because I mean someone just said something bad to some soldiers or army, we do not know how exactly they got information. So that time and then there was a local election and then so we were really like– my father went to Konya because of this name, his name was on the list, like the killing list and then he said well it is probably will be better not being around the town and then he went to Konya, and then so finally at that time we had election, local election, and then one of the candidate visited, you know, the small town, the candidates like go to, like they visited every houses and they came our place and they said do you have any problem, you know, because it was election, they needed our votes and we said well, I mean he said where is the guy, where is the boss [laughter] and my mom said well he is not here. What happened? Why? And we said well his is on the list so– And the he said well if you collect like twenty votes I can go to the headquarter and talk to the commander and then I am going to say it was a mistake, this is not that guy. So and then my mom, she talked to uncles, aunts, finally we collected twenty votes, you know, and then this time I mean I have 9 siblings but that time they were small, I mean they are young, they did not have like the right to vote. So it was really hard to collect the votes. So finally we collected twenty votes and then we said here is, we said okay we promise, you know, when we said promise, I mean they are going to vote for you, and he said okay and finally, so he did something that my father at that time came back and he built his own place and then 2001 so my father and the two sisters and one brother they were living in Istanbul. They were sending money to town, I mean my mother, you know, it was hard to, they worked over there and we were spending money and then he said well this is not a good idea, I mean you can come to Istanbul. So, in 2001 we moved to Istanbul; village to town, town to province, I mean Istanbul, sorry to Istanbul and then from Istanbul to Alaska. [laughter] So yeah, twenty01 we moved to Istanbul, Tarlabaşı, Beyoğlu [neighborhoods in Istanbul] one like the richest place. It is really expensive place in Istanbul, yeah, any questions? [laughs]

MT: Did the government provide any support for the families when asked them to leave the villages?

H: Well no, even I mean they created some problems, you know. They said okay they are still supporting PKK, so for example, we had many animals, you know, goats and sheep and then we did not have place to put them, and then we had sell them really cheap price, you know, it was nothing. I remember it was horrible, you know, you have a lot of animals but you cannot make money. A lot of people wanted to get rid of their animals. No place to put them, you know, to refuge. It was no– We did not have any places. So, it was hard but the government aid, no. I do not remember.

AD: So, how many siblings do you have?

H: So, the total number is nine, yeah.

AD: So, you are number what?

H: Well, my number is four like from top.

AD: From top, and both of your parents are alive?

H: Yes, they, now they live in, well between Istanbul and Mardin. So now my father he is in Mardin. He goes to village and then like and just grow some vegetables, you know. He is happy in the village. He does not like the city life, like Istanbul, you know, it is a crazy city. And then you do not have any land to grow and there is we have like houses like boxes you know. They are really small and so he preferred to live in the village.

AD: And your mum stays in Istanbul?

H: Right now yeah she is because my siblings stay at school so she is like she is taking care of the kids but summer time, everyone goes to village and then they will come back when the school starts you know.

AD: Okay, so what was the language you were speaking at home growing up?

H: Yeah, well at home we, the Kurdish. I mean like I can say like 90 percent you know. In the village. The town it was 100 because you know, we did not know any Turkish. And still my mum and dad– I mean my dad he knows few words you know when he goes like government buildings he can do his work but he is, he cannot– He is not comfortable to make like a good conversation, you know, because he did not go to any school.

AD: So, when did you learn Turkish?

H: So, it was– Well, I can say even like the seventh grade I had like a hard time because like in the town, you know, everyone speaks Kurdish. I mean there is like no Turkish population, you know.

MT: Even in the village?

H: No, no the town.

AD: In Mardin, you mean?

H: Yeah, the town, yeah because we do not like have any Arabic or Turkish population. The whole town Kerboran is like Kurdish but we had some Assyrians but we killed them, you know, so now we do not have Assyrian population [laughter]. Yeah, I mean so now and then offices, like state, officers, Army but you know they are like scaring, they do not go to outside. Usually they stay at their own places like headquarters. Yeah we do not have like Turkish population.

AD: So, growing up in the village everybody was Kurdish?

H: Yeah, all the village.

AD: Every household?

H: Yeah, sure yeah. In the village, the whole village is Kurdish, yeah.

AD: Really?

H: Yes.

AD: So, but in the city–

H: The town. The town still no Turkish, I mean just like officers, like the soldiers, the people who like the teachers, some teachers, doctors; they came from like the Western part of Turkey but the population, the public only Kurdish.

MT: Are there schools in the villages?

H: It was a small one but I mean no, it was not a proper one. Just sometimes they had a teacher, just one, sometimes it was like the war, you know between the two sides. So the people they did not want to come to village, I can understand.

AD: Did you have electricity, running water, things like that?

H: So no, in village I think it was like the last two years we had kind of electricity. No water. We did not have water. You needed to go to what’s called the fountain and then bring water.

AD: Çeşme. [fountain]

H: Yeah. çeşme and then, but in the town yeah, I remember we had the water it was weird, you know, it was my first experience and my brother and I we played with the what it is called this thing, you know, the mechanism, so and then we broke it you know, because it was the first time and then we broke this thing and then my dad said– He was really angry. [laughter]

AD: Because it was a unique experience.

H: Yeah, it was a unique, we are– I know it just open the water is coming and close. It was–

AD: So, you started learning Turkish when you went to school?

H: Yeah, even we had like some Kurdish teachers. Well I mean they were even Turkish teachers, they were saying something but I mean the students I mean they did not understand anything. So, we had like some students like they are translators you know, they were telling us you know do that. Because I mean we were not able to understand the teachers. It was– Yeah, we had like some middle– Intermediary person, like students.

AD: So, obviously not in the village but when you lived in Mardin, the city–

H: Town. You know we never moved to Mardin province, I mean the center. We were in the town, you know.

AD: So outside of Mardin because I was kind of like surprised that–

H: Yeah, no not Mardin itself, like town, you know. Like Mardin is the province–

AD: Kasaba. [town]

H: İlçe. [district]

AD: İlçe, okay.

H: Navçe [area], yeah.

AD: Okay, so–

H: Yeah, not Mardin.

AD: Not in the city. So you never lived in the city of Mardin?

H: No, no never. Just in town and then from town to Istanbul.

AD: Okay. So, in the town while you were, uh– So how many years– So which education you completed in town?

H: So, it was until like sixth grade, you know. Basically the elementary I think.

AD: Okay, so do you remember like any newspapers published in Kurdish living in town, I do not think in village that would be the case? Do you remember?

H: Well no.

AD: No? So Kurdish was, can we say Kurdish was mainly like spoken language?

H: Well I mean at this time I was a kid, you know, maybe I mean they sell but I was not aware. I was just like my age was like twelve.

AD: Probably like newspaper you would know your father if he read newspaper right?

H: But I mean he cannot read, you know.

AD: Oh, he cannot read?

H: Oh yeah, he is like no.

AD: Oh, he cannot read in Kurdish either?

H: No.

AD: Okay, alright. So, but you guys all went to school, all of your siblings, he raised you and–

H: School no, like the older– I am the first person who had a chance to go to like higher education. So like my oldest brother and two older sisters they could not go to school because there was moving and then financially we had some like hard time. Like nine kids and then we were really small and then we could not work. So, yeah, I mean my oldest brother he just can read a little bit but he is not–

MT: So, there were no Turkish people in the neighborhood, in the town?

H: No, no the town was like full Kurdish. I mean some towns I mean like they are Kurdish we do not have like the Turkish. Some Arabs, maybe neighborhood but our is not, our town was a small one. It is not a town actually it is a big village, you know. It is like 15,000, now it is like 20,000 the population. This is okay but it is not a huge one.

AD: So, what did your father do as a living when you guys moved to the town?

H: So, he was working like in construction work you know, like building. He went to Konya a lot. Still I mean I do not know why, the Kurdish they go to like Konya in the middle of Anatolia and they work there. I mean the Kurds are very good at construction work, I mean and my father, my uncles they are very good, you know, they are like good constructors. They know how to build the places and houses, yeah.

AD: So, you never learnt how to do that kind of work?

H: Well no, because I– So, when we moved to Istanbul, I was working for like Textile Company or maybe workshop yeah textile. So, we were making some clothes like the ladies, the stuff but like the older people like my dad and then uncle they were busy with construction work, they went to somewhere and then– Yeah to help people in Istanbul.

H: Okay, so then you moved to Istanbul, so what do you remember about life? Do you remember anything from the village?

H: Oh, yeah, yeah.

AD: What do you remember?

H: Well I remember we were growing like tomatoes, you know, like the fruits and I remember we had like our house, we had like two floors, you know. I think our place was the only one like two floors building like at that time because maybe the tallest one. The tallest building in the village because my dad he went to Konya and then he built another floor, second one but we did not live in the second floor because we had to move. It was really sad, you know, I remember he bought some doors like the wood doors it was nice one probably you might have the same one, not like that one but it was nice I remember that yeah.

AD: So, did you sell your property?

H: No.

AD: You just sold the animals and moved out of the village.

H: In the town. So we sold our animals in town because in the village everyone has animals, you know.

AD: Okay, what I mean is so you kept the property, the farm whatever you had in the village, when you moved to the town, I am trying to understand. You did not sell your property?

MT: What happened to the animals?

H: I mean they were just there you know. I mean we could not we just left and–

MT: Everybody left?

H: Everybody, yeah sure.

AD: So, it was vacated completely.

H: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

AD: So, then when did you guys go back?

H: So, I mean recently, well not recently, so after 1995 so it was interesting. So, you could go grow or work in your land from 8 (am) to 5 (pm). So you go there, there is like, you need to like, give your ID to the soldiers and then you need to come between like from 8 (am) to 5 (pm), there was like a time you know. After 5 (pm) if you cannot come, you needed to go and then to the headquarters to get your ID, national ID. Yeah it was like some limits, you know. So it was, we did like two – three maybe four years. But sometimes they did not let us, they would say well no, there is fighting over there so you cannot go there. But you had to give your ID because there was one big road to go to the village. It was the only way and all the soldiers were there and then they say okay give me your ID from 8 (am) to 5 (pm). So you needed to come back at five, you know. It was interesting.

AD: Okay, so but your father can live there now? He is allowed?

H: Oh, yeah, yeah, he now they are fine.

AD: When did they allow people to move back to village?

H: Probably I think it has been at least like maybe ten between ten to fifteen years, yeah, I mean now we have twenty-five houses. Most of the old people you know. I mean they cannot leave in the big cities. And then summer time we– so more people go to village it will be around like maybe forty; you know, like permanent, twenty-five with temporary population is forty. But in 1993 we had like 150 houses, can you believe that. It was a huge, it was big village and it just was evacuated.

MT: What are the houses made of; I have not seen villages in Turkey?

H: It was like stone.

MT: Stone?

H: Yeah.

MT: Not, mud bricks?

H: No, no we use stone. We do not use mud bricks, we do not have it. Yeah it is like regular. It is like brown stones I think.

MT: Do you have like trees, farms?

H: Oh, yeah so the Tigris, our village is like really the nice one because we have like a river. So the Tigris is really close to. So we can grow whatever we want, anything. So that is why I mean–

AD: A fertile land–

H: Yeah, yeah. It is not like a dry land. Our village is really nice. If you want to see some pictures we can go–

AD: Yeah, we can look at it. Sure.

H: And then you might have some more questions. [laughs]

MT: And how about the land, is it like mountainous, is it like hillside?

H: Yeah it is. We have a lot of mountains and hilly you know.

MT: So it is not like a plain land?

H: No, it is not. Some part, if you go to Facebook, you know, there is a Facebook page yeah.

AD: Oh, on the Facebook?

H: Yeah. This guy he is sending some pictures about–

AD: On your page?

H: No, if you write DERECA and then yeah the first one. So, it is village, town and then– The first one, oh yeah. I shared something. Yeah.

AD: This?

H: Yeah, I mean yeah. It is our village.

MT: It is nice.

H: Yeah it is nice.

AD: It is nice.

H: So it is mountains, can you believe that?

AD: Where is the river?

H: So, it is, I mean you need to come to this– There is like the cemetery.

AD: Were there like Armenian or Assyrians in the village?

H: No, not here but like other–

AD: I know Midyat was full of them

H: Yeah, Midyat, there are– Well, I mean there are some other posts but ̶ There is like winter and then we have a lot of figs, you know, and then pomegranates. We have a lot of yeah.You know we sleep like summer time on these things, probably you have the same one. Or I mean our village like famous with its figs, you know.

MT: It is unripe.

H: It is what?

MT: It is not ripe.

AD: It is not ripe. [laughs] These are not yellow right?

MT: Still baby.

AD: What is this? Cucumber?

H: Yeah, not exactly but it is–

MT: It is a wild cucumber–

H: Yeah, you can call it that.

AD: Acur [kind of cucumber]?

MT: Trozi [kind of cucumber].

H: Yeah, trozi. And then yeah, we have– Do you know anything like about the tunnel of Bitlis. So the Bitlis I mean they had this one, like tunnel and then like they got the Vehicle it could not go through, so it like destroyed the tunnel in the Bitlis, you know. It was a really famous but hopefully I mean we keep our tunnel. It is like natural. So is like my cousin.

AD: Really? It is really nice.

H: Yes, so. Probably my– Yeah, I do not know my dad might be around here. These are our villagers. I mean our neighbors, these guys.

AD: So, still only Kurds live in the village?

H: Yeah. So, she is, so basically her mom is my aunt. So, she is my cousin. I am her like uncle. There is like our school. It is a small school.

AD: Well it is nice.

MT: In the village right?

H: Yeah.

MT: Is it in Turkish?

AD: Yeah, that is right. What is the language?

H: So, I mean it is– So they–

AD: Both?

H: No, no, well I mean the teacher probably uses Kurdish a lot, you know, but I mean the textbooks are in Turkish.

AD: But did not they pass a law like you can also–

H: Selective course?

AD: Yeah.

H: But it does not work. They do not.

AD: No? They do not teach Kurdish at school? I thought–

H: So, some places it is about like the principal. You know, if the principal is okay, he said okay, the students can select the language but big part of Turkey they do not let it– Istanbul, I told my like niece and the nephews, they said oaky but the principal said no you cannot take it. It is about the principal you know, if he is okay, if he has like some sensitivity about language, he is going to be okay but most of– I mean my niece and nephews they are not able to take the Kurdish course.

MT: So, if the principal is Kurdish then it is okay?

H: Probably yeah, probably but we do not have a lot of like Kurdish principals, you know. It is hard to come to get a high position you know.

AD: Yeah, or open minded.

H: Yeah, maybe some like open minded–

AD: Exactly, it depends on the people. So, you remember– So now this is good that we visualized the village right. So now you– How was in the village? I mean like so you guys were kicked out of the village but was there any like shooting going on? Do you remember?

H: Oh, yeah. Well, I remember, I mean we had a lot of the militants, you know, they come to our village. I mean our places they stay there at the night time and then in the morning they just leave you know.

MT: So was it like that the PKK coming and going, using the village as a shelter and for food?

H: Yeah, yeah, they would come and I remember, so one of the– my cousin basically he is from our village. And then for my grandma always like leave some food on the tree. She knows that he will come and get that food. And then the one we said the PKK, I mean some of them are from our villager, you know, just imagine a mum, of course she is going to provide some food to her son and the other, you know. I remember my grandma always she like left some food and we said, oh the guy he will come and get his food. We always– She like leaves some the food over there.

AD: Yeah, so how about life in general, other than you know the PKK or–

H: Well, I mean so it is village, usually the people were busy with land, and you know, winter time they were busy with the animals and the summer like fruits, the land. They were like extraordinary busy, you know, the village life I mean you are going to have the weekdays you have to work, you know all of us we have animals, or you have to take care of your animals and land–

AD: But did you also like celebrate anything?

H: I mean so, we had a lot of weddings. You know, village and weddings, and then I remember my dad was like celebrating Newroz. You know, you can see we had a lot of hills. So, they knew the army will come and, what it is called? When they see like the fire they will come and then my dad and his friends they knew the army is coming they would go to another hill, they were going to make fire at that hill. I was like, the army or the soldiers were following the villagers you know, from the hills to the mountains, you know. So and they would have fire everywhere. It was like–

AD: So they were not allowing you to celebrate Newroz?

H: Oh, no, no.

AD: No?

H: No, it was like a political event, you know, I mean it was banned.

AD: How about religious like eids or bayram or whatever, were you celebrating those?

H: Oh, yeah, I mean they were like big events, like the two holidays, and the weddings, the Newroz– what else. Yeah–

MT: How about Turkish celebrations?

H: Well I mean so, we do not have them, because we do not have school. So usually these celebrations belong to school, Cumhuriyet Bayramı [Republic Day], you have to have principal, teachers, the students and you know they are going to read some poetry.

AD: But I think that is the biggest one but like right now I think they got away with it, so but when I was little in school. They were so many days, official days like celebrated now with each political party they eliminated them.

MT: Because in Iraq, like now so many holidays, celebrations connected to the Baath party, to the government.

H: Yeah, the foundation of the country, the leader, his birth on that day. [laughs]

AD: I know.

H: But the village, no we did not have this official, that is why we were not familiar with Turkish, like the official discourse, you know. Like flag or like the anthem because if we do not have school, I mean so I remember just I saw the flag, so when the soldiers came to the village you could see, you know, the flag and then there was still a flag on the hats and that is all I mean maybe some vehicles, you know, they put flag on the vehicles, yeah that is all. So one time we saw the flag, I mean we had to evacuate our village, you know, so we had some not positive feelings about flag. I mean personally I hated it because they came and we saw that and they say you had to leave your village, and then before that I mean so the villagers resisted, they said no we do not have place to go and then they like gathered people, villagers and they were like making fun of the people in front of the whole village and then they like beat people, you know, they took like my dad and then the villagers like to town before the process of leaving, and then they detained five, six days and then when they came back, I mean they were horrible, you know. They, like they got tortured and then it was really bad, yeah.

AD: But in town you were in school, so then you had to observe the national holidays right?

H: Yeah, that time, yeah sure. I mean the May 19th, you know.

AD: Yeah, the May 19th, April 23th but I think, are not they got away with that with AKP [Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi; Justice and Development Party] now?

H: Right now I do not know. I do not know.

AD: I think AKP is like doing everything

H: You know like the anthem, what was it “andımız” [our pledge], no yeah, they do not do that anymore but the other like maybe the May 19th, the Republic holiday, Cumhuriyet Bayramı, I do not know.

AD: I think they still keep that because that is the biggest one. But I remember when I was a child, like 27th of May was a national holiday all because they killed the prime minister, you know, the Democratic Party, then after that they decided that was not a nice thing to do, so they eliminated that. You know, things like that, you know, people come and change things, so.

H: Yeah, probably it is about the place. So which place are you talking about. Yeah, the Ankara maybe with Istanbul, the Izmir, probably more– It is like really, like obviously visible but the village, the town, still the fighting, I mean still the PKK come to the town, they were fighting you know, you can see the bullets at the night, yeah, you can see, I mean, and in the morning so when you would go outside you can see a lot of donkeys and then horses being killed, you know. [laughs]

AD: Yeah.

H: Still I mean in the state, officers were not comfortable, you know, because always they come and bomb somewhere with gun, the militants but like other places you said Ankara, probably it is because no fighting over there, people and then you can see the state it is can like move.

AD: So, people were close to each other both in village and town?

H: Oh, yeah sure, the village, still I mean everyone knows each other and then in Istanbul we most of the people from our village they live around neighborhood, so still I mean the people wants to keep their like relationship because they are the only group they know each other. It is like in the diaspora you know much better, they want to keep their kinship and the relatives, the village, feelings, you know, over there.

AD: I was just going to ask if they keep like that–

H: Oh, yeah sure, two weeks ago I think, someone just passed away in Istanbul, it is interesting; so when we lose some one we do not bury that person in Istanbul. We got the body all the way back to Mardin; twenty-four hours. It is interesting, you know, still people do not bury their lost ones in Istanbul. It was really– I mean I was curious– It is really a good topic you know, I mean still the people are not comfortable and then I asked my mum, I said mum come on I mean twenty-four hours you got that body from all the way, and she said well, I mean this– We might go back, I mean they still, they do not feel comfortable in Istanbul, they think something might happen, at least our body, our people will be with us. So when you go to our village, or town, it is our land you know, they still have that feelings. It was really interesting. I thought I might go to like study anthropology or something after that conversation. It was really interesting because the body I mean you can like create some conversation on bodies–

MT: Actually, I think it is about people have this idea they tend to be buried where they were born so– Even in my city, my uncle died and he has been living in there forever but they buried him in his village, so.

H: This is a good point but I mean so for some villages they do not do that. Like three villagers they are like Kurds I mean everyone Kurds, but these three villagers they do not do that. They bury their people in Istanbul. We do not know why, these three or four village and the people from those villages they do not do that. Yes, I mean it was really interesting. Some do, majority do but the other people I do not know, one of the village they really had a bad time with the state you know, I mean the state destroyed the whole village, I mean the whole, it was really intense, it was really hard, but some, like our village we do, they take their bodies and go to Mardin all the way.

AD: So tell us, what is your experience in Istanbul, because that is when you really started living with other people, other than Kurds, right?

H: Sure, I am.

AD: So, were you like telling people I am Kurdish or were you hiding your Kurdish identity, I am curious?

H: Well, I mean the school life and the people I mean probably they knew we were not Turkish from our accent, you know. We were not like, we do not, we still, personally I do not have the Turkish accent, you know, people can tell that you are not like one hundred Turkish. So, probably they knew and when they ask where are you from, I would say I am from Mardin, you know, so the Mardin, so if you say like from Erbil, Mardin people know you are Kurd, you are not Turk you know, you might be Arab but most of the time you are the terrorist group, the Kurds, you know. [laughs] The school, yeah, it was really hard you know because they were like making fun of our clothes, but still I mean we have some hard time from the town and then come to the big city. So with the language, with the clothes our culture it was really hard and then I decided not go to high school. I did not go to high school, regular high school.

AD: Really?

H: Yeah, I went to, like night school, what it is called, probably.

MT: Yeah, night school.

H: Night school, So, I went to night school because like of this pressure, you know, I was not comfortable. So, okay I went to açık öğretim [open university] and then well I mean because of this pressure you know, I was– I did not want to be with these people you know. I did not want to spend four years, another four years with these people, then I said well okay, probably açık öğretim will be better, a good idea.

AD: So you did not have a good experience with school?

H: Oh, no. I mean at least I went to school in Istanbul two years, you know, like the 7th and the 8th grades. I mean my performance was not bad. I mean I got some like teşekkür, takdir [honor roll] stuff but still I mean the students, I can tell I have, I mean I learnt a lot from two years, you know I mean in town we did not have computer, you know. First time I experienced computer, I saw like the books, you know, we did not have books. So I can tell, my friends who stayed in town and then I can tell them their education experience were worse, you know, I mean I was able to go to University my first year, you know, so after high school, so I went to directly to University, you know it is enter exam, I mean I was good I got the good point, I mean the score I went to Istanbul University, it was not bad yeah. I can tell like these two years you can see, and then Istanbul this is a kind of like the largest, the biggest and then the most modern, the other places are, you know, not good. So, now I am telling my siblings stay in Istanbul, you know, I mean you can– it is much you have like more opportunity–

AD: You learn more stuff, yeah. So, did your siblings also experience similar things that you did or were you able to help them what you experienced–

H: Probably, so I was the first victim you know. Probably my younger brother had the same problem, I can tell. And then he stayed in Istanbul too. He went to Marmara Sosyal Bilgiler [Marmara University, Department of Social Science] and now he is making his own business. You know, he is making some like, what is called, the games to flash cards for the students. It is good. So but the other guys so they did not go to school in town, so I think they were fine and then well maybe my brother and I we had some hard time, you know. But the other guys they were, they all because they did not go, they did not know the differences, you know, between the town, Mardin and then the Istanbul. But we, I mean we saw and we had both experiences. Yeah, and It was interesting in town we were majority, you know, everyone was Kurdish, you know, I mean even at the school, I mean we speak Kurdish, you know, we did not care, I mean the Turkish, speaking in Turkish kind was not a good think, we would say what! Yeah probably you had the same experience in Arabic version, yeah. So, but in Istanbul is a new episode, new chapter. So, we became a minority and be honest I realized my Kurdishness in Istanbul because I mean I did not have any like any Turkish people when I was in town, no Turkish, you know just like a few teachers, doctors and then the other we usually we were with the Kurdish people but Istanbul, so I said oh, I am different you know. [laughs]

MT: So, and then of course you had like Kurdish friends in the university, right?

H: Yes, yeah–

MT: So, were you speaking Kurdish in the university?

H: Yeah, yeah, I mean not in class you know, but outside, like the coffee shop yes, we were, we were okay. Because my school and Aynur went to the same school, so it kind of has like leftist, like Kurdish tradition you know. We know we will be fine because we had a lot of Kurdish, leftist open-minded people but Marmara it is opposite, another school and Ghazi for example they had like bad reputation. They know like they are the racist, fascist you cannot speak, you cannot have long hair, you know. [laughs]

AD: Yeah, but, so were you also, so how was your relationship with Turkish people in Istanbul? I know you had a bad experience in high school but as you got older, like how was it? Did you feel, I mean were they still like treated badly when they figured out your Kurdish?

H: Sure, I mean, yeah after two years I mean I did not go to like high school, and at açık öğretim, night school you cannot make friends, you just study at home and then go to take your exam. That is all, I mean just like four months and you take exam, you know, you like study by yourself. So I was working at the like a textile company, the owner was from Mardin, you know. Still, I mean in Beyoğlu we have a lot of Kurdish people. So I mean I made some Turkish friend at the University, that is all. I mean still I have just a few, you know, maybe up, you like political opinion, what you do, I do not have a lot of Turkish friends.

AD: Yeah, you do not?

H: No, I do not. I mean on Facebook I had some and then they were not happy with my sharing, now we are not friend on Facebook.

MT: If you compare the University to the high school, which was one better in terms of your experience with the Turkish people?

H: Well, I mean so the university I was really Kurd, you know. I mean I knew, I realized, so our village because when you are a kid I mean, you do not, you cannot like see the whole picture, you know. So why we left our village you know. I mean but at the school and then now you are, you will become an activist or you want to change something or you want to improve something, you know. So I mean, high school yeah, I was Kurd, but I mean, so you are still like a kid and then but at the school we were active as a Kurdish group, we like organized like some lectures, you know, we were calling the people. I remember one time, Sebahat Tuncel, she came to our school, you know, our students, student union at like when you go to the language department, you remember, it is not a part of the Edebiyat [the College of Literature, Arts, and Social Sciences] it is far.

AD: No, I do not remember.

H: Maybe they built–

AD: Yeah, that was (19)90s,

H: What was the year, what is the year?

AD: You were not born–

H: Yeah, Oh my gosh–

AD: What you mean oh my gosh–

H: [laughs] It is like before Crisis, you know–

AD: Before the war. [laughs]

H: Before the war.

AD: Which World War, ask.

H: [laughs] Yeah so–

MT: So, in terms of University’s student/ treatment with you, were they more open minded than the high school?

AD: Sure, I mean, you know, being able to go to school, you know, it was like everyone equal, you know. So I mean if you go to the same school, it means you made a good job at the test, and then you were kind of, they cannot like treat you, you are Kurd, I am Kurdish, so yeah, we had like some more freedom I can tell and then we had, we had our own Kurdish group, always who work or go to archive together, write something. It was good. We had few Turkish friends still they, I mean they called our group PKK group.

MT: So, you had the presence–

H: What do you mean?

MT: I mean you were allowed to have a group–

H: Oh, yeah, yeah, sure to school yeah, we had our own group and then the people, I mean they labelled us as a PKK group, you know, so we did not go to some class they would say Oh, PKK group is not here today, can you believe that [laughs] and then we knew it and okay we are like Kurdish activist but, I mean and then some of us were sympathizers of PKK but everyone was not a PKK. We just wanted to be a Kurdish, civil Kurdish that is all. It was interesting.

AD: So, and then when you finished college, what did you do?

H: So, I graduated 2010.

AD: Oh, recently!

H: Yeah, recently from history and after that I said well I do not want to stay in Turkey you know. I had two options. So, I said well I go to Sulaimaniya to learn Sorani. And then I got some scholarship, I found a scholarship, they said okay if you go we might help you like Kurdish publishers like publishing, publisher DOS, so the DOS and the K.R.G. [Kurdistan Regional Government], they have some like connections, you know, like for students and then the other one I said well I might come to the U.S. So, I said I have two options, you know, first but my priority I said well I want to go to the U.S. for education, for my higher education. So, I mean I got visa, you know, but my like the second option was Sulaymaniyah. So, I came here I went to Alaska we had like student–

AD: Alaska?

H: Yeah, student program, work and travel, probably you know–

AD: I do not know.

H: So, there is a program, you can go outside the US for three months and then come back, you know to just have some experiences so I went to Alaska because that time I did not know any English, they said well okay in Alaska you do not need to use English because you know you are not going to speak with fish, [laughs] so I went to Alaska for three months.

AD: What did you do?

H: So, fishing. Yeah, really. So we were like cleaning fish and then the processing, you know, for three months and then I went to Chicago.

AD: Well who were you with in Alaska?

H: Well there were like some a lot of Students from everywhere, Turkey, from Romania, Russia, Ukraine, you know.

AD: Did you make friends?

H: Yeah, we– Yes, I made some. Still we had some Kurdish friends and then so I stayed in the US another guy he came to New York. So, I think I have three or four people decided to stay in the US. The plan was, they say okay, after the program, you had to come back. We said okay, we can stay here you know. We decided to stay. So, I went to– I found like a website, it is Chicago Kurdish Culture Centre. I send an email, and said guys I am in Alaska and then I want to come to meet you and then probably I will stay in the US, do you have any suggestion or what kind of, I mean what do you do, and then they said okay we are here and then I went to Chicago.

AD: Okay, so and then you started working over there. Do you have a green card or something?

H: So, no that time, so, I enrolled like for the language courses you know. So I went to school, I mean it was like really that school just it, just the purpose to have like a legal visa, you know. That is all. So, I went to that school for 1 and a half year and then after that, yeah, I got my green card you know and then every year I mean I applied and then I got green card and then I just stayed in Chicago for five years.

MT: Through Lottery Program?

H: Yeah. I mean it is really, and then if not– I am not the only one you know. Few other guys they got green card too.

AD: So, and in Chicago, you only have Kurdish friends? Do you also have Turkish friends?

H: Well, we have some Turkish friends. So, I was driving Taxi for a while and then–

AD: Uber–

H: Well, before Uber, regular taxi, yellow cab and then later Uber. Yeah we had like some Turkish, Kurdish friends. So, yeah when you are here, and then it is like you have to make some like friends you know, so because, you cannot find many people from Turkey. It is kind of necessary, you have to create great or say hi to Turkish people, but now we established a big center, Kurdish Center you know, a physical place to go and so when we, you can stay even there, you know. It is really big. I mean everyone and then now they offer some Kurdish courses like dancing and then they invite people from Academia.

AD: Yeah, maybe that is what we need to tell Mr. Koçak because that is what I think they are trying to do, to establish.

H: Well, a few years ago, I mean they had one, so and then the Koçak he paid a lot, he was the, what it is called, the main guy and then I think he decided, well I am not with you anymore and then they could not keep the center in New York. Yeah, but I know they are trying a new one. It is good to have a physical place, you know. I mean students, we, our Facebook page, all these people say hey I am coming to Chicago, do you have like any place, you know, or school or what you offer or what kind of work do you have–

MT: Guest house?

H: Yeah, guest house. So, it is good, I mean so that time we did not have that, I had a hard time. I was thinking a hotel, can you believe it. It was really far from Chicago–

AD: Because it is very expensive in Chicago.

H: Yeah, so there was no physical place like I was okay to stay at the center you know for like few months but that time we did not have it, and then we said okay how about to establish Kurdish Center. So now, yeah but they are doing a good job you know they are, they can collect money from their members. I am still not paying my membership you know. [laughs]

AD: Yeah, no but that I think that is a very good idea, absolutely.

H: Yeah, even I mean here you know, be honest with you, it is like, I am so sad to not have like a çayhane [tea house in Turkish] or like a restaurant, you know sometimes I mean just you want to go and meat people or just you want to have a conversation but here we have around I think around 100 families, yeah, between seventy–

AD: Really, did it grow that much?

MT: It is around seventy and seventy– Yeah new families.

AD: It was seventy-seven.

H: I mean all they are we having wedding, you know, [laughs] I mean the last one, the last year. I mean the Newroz I met the Zebari family, Botan, you know, so they were there.

MT: The thing is the families here; the Kurdish families are more assimilated because some families came in 1992, so it is almost two decades–

H: Yes, probably– sure, yeah, sure. In Chicago we just, we have like Kurdish-American generation coming, you know but here probably they are, so they had already they have some Kurdish-American generation, but I think still they think they are Kurdish at some extent, they can speak Kurdish. They know where they came from, yeah? Maybe they are not full Kurdish like one hundred but still they are not American, you know something is wrong with them, probably they know, you know! Or maybe their color, they are not white [laughs] or black.

AD: It depends on the person that is my understanding or my observation. Some, as Marwan said that they are like truly assimilated, I mean. Language is the first thing people lose and some of them, you know, even other things. It just depends on the person. By each generation, they are like so much into the host culture, and you forget about your homeland, you know.

H: Absolutely, absolutely.

MT: Another thing is that people do not hang out in the social places because they are busy; it is not like back in Kurdistan–

H: Well, I mean they are just driving Taxi, you know, [laughs] it is interesting I always meet them… few days ago– Just one, he asked me like, the other day I saw him I said “Kaka you are Kurdish,” he said oh, yeah. I knew he was a taxi driver, he was from Kirkuk or somewhere, just here on campus.

MT: I know him, his name is Salar.

AD: I mean the thing is, here at least it is like a small city, going one place to another place; you do not spend time. I mean in New York, God just going from one place to another you spend all that time and–

H: So, here I hope they are going to open or establish some institution or but it the Iraqi Kurds they are not like well-organized to be honest, you know. No, no it is ideologically because it is like not maybe PKK or maybe other Kurdish organizations, I mean we like, we want to come together and do something, you know–

AD: Cultural censor–

MT: I am not saying anything. [laughter]

H: Yeah, they are good like to keep their culture; you are much, much better you know, like your cloth, language. I mean like they are Kurdish, they can do like do anything about language, unfortunately they cannot speak–

MT: If you are talking about me, I am more Kurdish here than I was in Kurdistan–

H: Yeah, sure, sure. Yeah, being outside of the homeland, you know it is really bias, you are right.

AD: Yeah, speaking of clothes, like your like, your mum, your dad, what kind of clothes are they wearing? I mean we know what you are wearing.

H: Well, I mean so my mum just like classic well I do not have her picture at home. So, she is like classic like scarf, you know, the white one, like classic Kurdish mother, at least in Mardin mothers they–

AD: Anatolian, you know like–

H: It is not, no. Like we can go and then I can show you–

AD: In Anatolia, you know köylü kadın [peasant woman)–

H: No, no, they are different–

AD: Really?

MT: Do you know the Iraqi Kurdish clothes, outfit? Is it like that?

H: It is kind of but you are more–

AD: Where I am going to go?

H: So if you go to google just write like the– like Mardin, yeah, okay, let us see. Well if you go not that far– No if you go to like images, so now–

MT: Is it like that?

H: So, like our old women they do it but I mean– It is like new–

AD: How about this?

H: It is maybe but if you can tell like between twenty to forty–

AD: This is Anatolian–

H: No, no, that is it–

AD: Do you see what I mean?

H: I know, if you go try to write Dayk in Kurdish word probably you will find it. Or maybe the Saturday Mothers– Can you write the Saturday Mothers– Yeah, there are many Kurdish mothers from Mardin, so every Saturday they go to like the center of– Yeah this is from Mardin, I mean from our town you know. She lost her like son or the husband and then he or she disappeared, you know, and then they go there and hold their picture. They want their bone you know. They want to have like a grave–

AD: Other than this needle work but that is how all women wear–

H: It is not old, I mean my mother is like not forty, I mean–

AD: Not old, all, all. I do not mean old, all this is very typical.

H: No it is not, you cannot, no. I mean in Turkey seeing hair is fine, no one cares.

AD: This is not typical for Anatolian village women?

H: No, if you go and write Anatolian, they do not wear the white one, and this is special fabric probably you know it, yeah. It is the old woman, and not the old woman– The women who married, they can have it for example my sister, she is not at that level, you know. There is like some age– So yeah.

AD: Okay, so what is so different than the other one?

H: Probably she is Kurdish, [laughs] but usually they are like that, you know. It is colorful but for example, Mardin region is white.

AD: Yemeni [in Turkish, a head scarf made of a loosely woven cotton material], yemeni.

H: Trhi, do you know trhi?

AD: We use the word yemeni, you know what I am talking about?

MT: Is it from Yemen?

H: Yeah. Of course, it is from Yemen. [laughs]

AD: Look, no that is the– If I want to purchase it– There you go that is your brother.

H: Yeah, Kurdish from Yemen, yeah.

AD: [laughs] Yeah, there you go.

H: They are like–

AD: Many different kinds, I do not know, I do not think I have ever seen this kind–

H: Simple white, you know, you do not spend a lot of–

AD: It has like needle work.

H: Yeah, they do some work.

AD: Yeah, I cannot see it here but it is like you go to, I mean I have it at home. My mom gave me some. I have it at home, you know?

MT: How about wedding, how is wedding?

H: In Istanbul, it is usually, I mean–

MT: In town, in village?

H: Yeah, we have like kemançe, do you know kemençe [small violin played like a cello]?

MT: I know kemençe.

H: So, in Mardin we have kemençe–

AD: Like this?

H: Yeah, but now the wedding they are kind of they usually seem like–

AD: Kemençe in Mardin– Is not that Greek I mean yeah from Greek. Kemençe is Black Sea I am sorry–

H: No, no. it is a Stereotype, you know, they just something and they label everywhere– No.

AD: It is not ̶ I thought kemençe is from Black Sea.

H: Well, I mean yeah, the Black Sea the people have too but Mardin we have it.

AD: No, no Greeks taught you.

H: Or maybe we taught them, how about that. [laughs]

MT: Is there singing or just kemençe?

H: Oh, yeah, there is singing. I mean if you go to, there is a really famous one, do you want me– Can I write–

AD: Yes please.

H: And it is from our town, you know. Oh my Gosh–

AD: So, I thought zurna [wind instrument] and davul [bass drum] I mean I am not stereotyping but I thought that was the culture. I never heard of kemençe of– There you go.

MT: We do not have kemençe in Kurdistan–

H: Yeah, it is some region, you know. You have some region, every region has their own special things so Mardin we have that guy.

AD: I never heard of that before.

H: Do we have like speakers? Oh no yeah?

AD: I do.

H: Oh, you do. So, this guy is–

AD: You need to plug it in I guess.

H: Oh, yeah. So, he is really I mean– [music playing]

AD: I would think this is a Black Sea music. No, here.

H: Oh, sorry. So, but I think like the makam [tune] is different. I mean the Kurdish and probably, it is really sad music, you know.

AD: But it is fast just like, oh come on.

H: The cancel is not working–

MT: I think this is lawk [a type of Kurdish song]–

H: Yeah, So I mean he is–

MT: This is Sorani?

H: No man– but anyway, we have that guy. He is really–

MT: But this is called rabab–

H: Yeah, it is the same thing, rabab. Yeah, do you have rabab?

MT: We do not have it but I think this is not kemençe.

H: Yeah, rabab–

AD: [speaking Turkish]–

H: It is a village really close to our village. So, yeah.

MT: So have you been back to Turkey since?

H: No, not yet.

AD: When did you arrive here?

H: 2010.

AD: And you have not been back?

H: No.

AD: Don’t you miss your mom?

H: I mean yeah, I do. I mean we speak on WhatsApp [laughs] or maybe Skype. Maybe not this summer, maybe the next summer I might go. And now Turkish is not a great country I mean at this time, so.

AD: Yeah, it is not. You are right. It is dangerous. I mean it is dangerous to travel everywhere. So it is not just. You never know when will they attack, how will they attack, so there is no time to relaxing anymore. You just like– That is the new normal but yeah, they did a lot of attacks and now we are really living Halabja in Syria right.

MT: You said when you were in the village, some people, some young people joined PKK forces–

H: Oh, yeah, yeah.

MT: So did government know about that and did put pressure on the families to get them back?

H: Yeah, yeah. Probably they knew I mean. They came sometimes like for like census or they ask like the army you know, or where is this guy, you know he just disappear or where he is and then they can get suspicious or they can ask someone.

MT: Because in Iraq when somebody would join Peshmerga, the Iraqi government would give the family two options, either bring them back or leave. So many people left like, they had to leave especially in Kirkuk. They had to leave the town or wherever they were residing.

H: Yeah, yeah. We had kind of the same problem.

MT: In many cases they were like bringing a truck, loading the stuff and take them out of the city.

AD: Yeah this is hard.

H: Yeah, this time between like 1990s and 2000 it was really harsh.

AD: Yeah, I think that was the worst, like after 1980 I mean although you were not born then but I think that was really like tough time for a lot of people not just Kurds particularly Kurds but I think a lot of people. I mean politically active people I should say. Yeah, that was unfortunately that time. So did you have like really bad experience with Turkish people, like discriminating you living in Istanbul?

H: Well, I mean even in Chicago, you know. So the first time I needed to find a job, you know, so the first thing I went to and found a restaurant, like Turkish-Kurdish restaurant like from the Turkish names. And then I called one I said hey do you need someone. He said oh, yeah we need someone. He is leaving tomorrow. So yeah, you can come and then work in the kitchen. I said okay. And then like the next day I went to the restaurant I said hey I just called you yesterday, Yashar. So this is a nick name I like bear. So yeah, I said I am the guy yesterday I called you, well and then he saw me and my accent– He said where are you from brother. I said from Mardin. He said well our guy he said he is not going to leave the position–

AD: You are kidding me!

H: Yeah. And then I said okay, that is fine.

MT: You should have said I am from Istanbul.

H: Well, I mean he can tell from your accent and then I was kind of naïve and then said I am from Mardin.

MT: How long did you live in Istanbul?

H: Well so after like 2001 to 2010, around ten years. Yeah.

MT: And you still have an accent!

H: Well not heavy but I mean people can tell you know. I mean from it is I mean like linguistically we do not have any problem but the accent you know it is–

AD: Even accent, but the thing is when, if I talk to you, I would not automatically think you are Kurdish not that it would matter to me but a lot of people speak Turkish with accent. I mean people from the city like Istanbul, Izmir, Ankara, you know in big cities they speak with no accent but other than that a lot of people speak with accent. And then so I mean you could come from the East, you would not be Kurdish, I mean I do not know it is not an automatic elimination, you know what I mean?

H: Yeah, but yeah, when you say, they see you and you say from Mardin. They say okay he is Kurdish. I mean even then if you are Arab or something, they know the Arab, they do not have any problem. They accept what the state tell them. So but the only problematic group is Kurdish, you know, they say well we do not accept, we are going to resist so this is the problem. So when you accept it you are fine, you can be like even the president, you would be a great Turkish but we have like a huge Kurdish population and then we do not want to be assimilated that is all, you know. We want to– we do not want to be Turks, you know. I mean now Arabs, they do not have anything, they cannot speak their language, I mean some of them they are like racist and Turkish they said because they are not Turkish they are pretending to be Turkish, you know because they want to be told oh, they are great Turkish citizen, you know because the flag or being Turkish is the only way to not being bothered, does it make sense? Like the other Chechen’s they are like racist you know, they are not Turkish but they are racist like the normal common Turks you know, [laughs] the outsider when you come from– When you are not from the original land, so I mean it is one way to keep, you know– to show you are like a good citizen. [laughs]

AD: Yeah, I was told about that like these Muslim–

H: Bursa, can you believe it, Bursa like they are Albanian, most of them Albanian from Bulgaria, from the Balkan area and then it is not a good city, not nice one.

AD: Muslim minorities for some reason they came from Balkan and they are more racist than the original Anatolian, you know, living there. I heard about that and I read about that too, yes. It is interesting because they themselves dealt with, you know, discrimination while living in those countries and all of a sudden they are in, you know, in the Turkish nation state and they just behave that way.

H: So, they cannot speak their language, keep their culture, you know. I mean if you ask like the Albanians or the Chechens, probably there is nothing, you cannot see the differences but this like the Kurds I mean at least we have our Newroz. When you go to wedding, you can tell this is a Kurdish Newroz, I mean the wedding or the– One time so my mum we went to hospital, like I think six months we needed to go to a hospital. So, one time she always like wearing this scarf you know, the white one and then so she does not know Turkish, we always speak Kurdish and then the person who is like at the front desk said oh what do you want, she realized we are not Turks and my mom, I mean when you look at her, oh she is not Turkish, not like great citizen and then she said oh well doctor is not here so you need to come here again you know. And we knew, at that time he or she was there we had an appointment you know. She said no come on another day, call the hospital, get another appointment and come back, you know, the hospital Şişli Etfal yeah, I mean, and then you can, mum said then– Yeah man I mean they can like hide their identity you know but women, mum generation yeah it is– One time we went to like a movie, a movie theatre. A Kurdish movie; Min Dit [The Children of Diyarbakır, 2009 by Miraz Bezar]. The movie was Kurdish and I said let us go to the movie. It was the first time, history, [laughs] my mum and she was so happy. It was weird, you know. She was always like. I said okay, come next to me so that we can have a conversation. Said no, you can go and then, there was like a distance like three or four steps, probably same thing, the women cannot like walk next to you. They are always, they come from the back, you know. I do not know, the poor mentality, you know, so it was weird so we talked but she was back and then I thought come on I am not your husband I am your son so we had conversation and then but she did not come next to me, you know. So, she [the monitor] was like checking around to see if she [my mother] is coming or not. [laughs]

AD: Are you serious?

H: Yeah. Well I mean even I mean probably the men and the women they do not eat like together sometimes, you know?

MT: Is that in Istanbul?

H: Yeah.

AD: In Istanbul?

H: Yeah, yeah.

AD: Segregation?

H: Sure, sure.

AD: I am shocked– It is like I am really–

H: You have to read more [laughter] and then probably the children, just imagine eleven people. It might be easier to eat six or eight you know, and then but usually I mean everyone has like some position, you know, the women and then men, still I mean we have these things–

AD: Separation?

H: Yeah, yeah.

AD: In eating? No, I understand that but like I thought–

H: Guest, I mean especially, you know, the guest, the woman they do not come like to the men’s room. They have their own room.

AD: Well, because it is still male dominated culture.

H: Absolutely, absolutely. I mean still I mean even I mean you know PKK says we cannot see differences between man and woman, no it is practically at home you did not do anything, you know. Okay I mean of course we have some female fighters but it is being in mountain and then the living city life totally different–

MT: Okay, I am curious, how is the role of religion in Kurdish populated areas?

H: In Mardin or Istanbul?

MT: In general. Let us say in the Eastern part.

H: So, I mean still the people are really religious, I mean Sunnis, even we are Shafi’i and Turkish are Hanafi. So, you can see that in Istanbul, so when we go to some Hanafi Mosque, so you know, we do that and then the Hanafi, the guy next to him was weird, looking at you, and then you are not comfortable you know, no tolerance you know. And then even when you do it they are like Allahuma Salli [peace be upon the prophet] it is like you know, he is doing something wrong, no it is like the Mazhab is nothing, you are doing that, nothing–

MT: I heard that people are not very religious in Kurdistan North.

H: It is about region, if you go to some region they are Alwais, they have like different agenda, the Alwais people, but like Van, Mardin this is Sunni, they are still Sunni. So the people go to the University, probably they are more open-minded and secular, but public life no. I mean in Friday, you cannot see like man outside, you know they are going to like through some stone, you know. [laughs]

MT: Like, I mean it is not about the sect, it is about commitment to religion, does everybody or the majority of the community pray five times a day, going to mosque?

H: Yeah, most of them. Yeah, absolutely. They do.

AD: Even the young generation?

H: So, yeah, like the people who live in Istanbul probably they do not, but in the Kurdish region, village to town, they still do it.

AD: Yeah, probably yeah but in the city–

H: Well, still I mean some religious people they keep doing that, you know. They tell their, still I mean my mum always she call me my dear son, pray, you know, like five times. Yeah, I mean she has this concern. She did the same thing to the other siblings too. So, yeah, this is about the family, you know.

AD: And how about you guys, your siblings, do they follow it?

H: Well, I mean they do. I mean they are maybe, I do not know, to be honest. But they are fasting, I know that, so the men they go to like Friday Prayers.

AD: They pray five times a day?

H: Well, I do not know that because it has been a long time I am here, I mean I cannot [laughs] check them but I can tell they do, this for my family they do that. They go to mosque, they pray like five times. Yeah, [it is] about family and about father you know. If the father is like secular or I mean maybe he is not okay with religion, probably his family and son, daughter, they do not and they are not care about this traditional or religion but this is I can tell about the family.

AD: Let me ask you a question.

H: Sure.

AD: So, like Dersim, a lot of Kurds live there, so and majority of them are Alevi–

H: Yeah, sure.

AD: So, like but they are still Kurds, Kurdish people. The only separation is in the religion–

H: Yes.

AD: So, how do you fell about that, you know? I am talking about because you are from, you know, Northern Kurdistan, like how people think about Alevi Kurds?

H: Well, I mean, from my family they are not aware be honest, they do not know what is Alevi [A group of people who are adherents of a specific Shi'a strand of Islam] or Kızılbaş [A wide variety of Shi’a groups (ghulāt) that flourished in Anatolia from the late 13th century onwards, you know.

AD: Really?

H: My dad and mom they do not know, they are, I mean, when you do not go to school, and when you do not travel, you cannot see the differences. So they still, but my siblings they are aware, you know. They said, they are Kurds, they are Alevi, we have Jewish, Ezidis, a lot of like Kurds but they are Kurds but for my dad, I mean they are not aware, you know, like the differences but the siblings they know.

AD: So, how do you I mean would you marry an Alevi Kurd?

H: Why not, if she is beautiful why not, I will marry her. [laughter] Yeah, yeah, that is fine.

AD: No problem?

H: No.

AD: Okay, alright.

MT: How about female’s role in the families in the Kurdish region?

H: Well I mean, so now many [of the girls] can go to school. I mean they have education but the girls who cannot go to, I mean they have like totally different life, you know. But I think it is much, much better than before, you know?

MT: But it is still not equal?

H: No it is not, it is nowhere I mean still I mean like layers you can see, like invisible layers between like female and male genders you can tell. I mean still I mean here you know, I mean the female they have lower salary in the US, you know that?

AD: Do not I know that!

H: Yes, I mean they are everywhere [not equals] unfortunately, so why we do not have like female president– The public or people are not ready or they do not want to– Clinton– [laughs]

AD: No, no. America is a very conservative country– I have always said that.

H: Yeah, absolutely yeah, they might look like, the students can be– Might be crazy, but yes you are right it is conservative so when you come to–

AD: Absolutely.

H: Yeah, but now it is like TV I can tell usually my family they watch the Kurdish channels and they see always the females, Garela’s they have like gun, they can see the female has a gun. So it is, they imagine totally different, you know. In the past I mean women they did not have that picture but now we have some female fighters. You know, I mean probably their imagination has been changed totally, you know I mean, they cannot beat their daughters– I mean there is the option that they [daughters] can go to the mountain. It is a good reason to go to the mountains. If you want to marry with someone, they say okay you are not allowed, okay, go to mountain. [laughs] You have many people they just go to the mountain because I mean they say life it is like not meaningful or the girl I love they did not give me but now it is most of the fighter’s like from school you know, education. I mean the university from our not from own class but, I know some the students who were studying like, held doctor, I mean medical they joined the PKK, many of them yeah.

AD: So, would you marry a Turkish girl?

H: No, [laughs] no I am kidding. Well, yeah but– why not–

AD: Why not! It depends on the person. So, what do you think about living in the United States, let us talk about the United States because you have been living here for seven years. So like did you deal with discrimination other than Ayyu [a person] or whatever his name? Like in, from America did you deal with any discrimination here?

H: Well, I think not really– They might have not–

AD: Not as a Kurd, as a foreigner–

H: As a foreigner, yeah–

AD: Because majority of the people probably do not know–

H: Well I think the Americans they know how to deal with immigrants. So I mean I did not feel it you know. I mean, maybe behind you they might say something but in the face to face I have not faced a bad experience or like Oh you are an immigrant go back to your country!

MT: Have you worked here?

H: Yeah, I mean I was driving you know. Taxi, limousine, Uber–

AD: Who were the employers?

H: Well I mean Taxi Company. So one of the guys was Jewish you know. And then the Uber it is like–

AD: I mean who was doing the hiring?

H: I mean so, yeah they were immigrants too, you know. So the taxi company about Uber I mean most of them were white American. So when you go to the office, when you are like you needed to update your phone or when you have some problem if you go to office, you would see like most of the employees they were like white Americans.

AD: Management staff.

H: Yeah, yeah.

AD: So what do you think about the life style here, in the United States?

H: Well I mean life, I mean be honest no one cares about the other. I mean it has been almost like one year I mean I do not know my neighbor. I know he is like Indian, so sometimes at the door we say to each other but it is totally different than home town, you know. Welcome to a new world, it is really different.

AD: Yeah, so do you miss anything about homeland?

H: Oh, yeah, yeah of course I mean the families especially now our town, you know, we have some like memories. Honestly and then all these, when you wake up the first thing to be honest in the bedtime I go check tweeter you know. So, do we have like bad news or no? The first thing to be honest our worries I mean because like few months ago like the Kurdish towns I mean like Cizre, Nusaybin, you know, like around ten cities and our towns too, Kerboran [Dargeçit] I mean it was curfew so the people were not allowed to go outside for twenty days. So than I was always calling my friends, they were teachers, they are teaching over there, they said yeah, we had really bad time. So we cannot go to outside and cannot meet our friends. Yeah, you of course miss your friends, your village. It is specially families and friends you know.

AD: Yes, and food of course, right?

H: Yeah, yeah I mean we can have like revani [syrupy semolina desert], you know here– [laughs]

AD: Or you can have some bulgur [cracked wheat].

H: Yeah, I mean when I go to Chicago I brought some sawar, you know, bulgur. And by the way the Euro Market, they have it but their bulgur is not good. I do not know it is not nice–

MT: You can get Turkish bulgur in Ali’s Halal–

AD: Where is Ali’ Halal?

MT: He knows.

H: I mean the Ali kasap [butcher]– that guy–

MT: Yeah, it is near to the mosque.

AD: Oh, yeah, kasap–

H: She does not, she go to yeah–

MT: And the best number two–

H: Is what!

AD: [laughs]

MT: Number two.

H: What is number two?

MT: The coarseness.

AD: Bulgur has numbers like what grade it is.

H: Oh, really. I did not know that.

AD: See, there you go. Yea, see he figured it out, because he is a gourmet cook, I am telling you.

H: Oh, it is like some types of bulgur?

AD: There you go.

MT: Yeah.

H: Oh, so, and Chicago it is the big one.

MT: The big one is number three– Number two is perfect.

AD: Number one is probably for kısır [bulgur salad].

H: Okay.

MT: So, he did not talk about food. Is your food different from the Turks or almost the same?

H: Well, I mean Middle East Kitchen is–

MT: But still like there are some differences–

AD: But regional differences, for example the kitchen of Mardin, Kitchen of Van, you know. And they’ve this Urfa Kebab or Adana Kebab, but what is like main dish, like what is the main dish your mum makes and you miss so much for example.

H: Yeah, so probably trshik, you know. Trshik probably the one ̶

AD: What is the trshik?

H: So, it is like the combination, not combination–

MT: Trshik is just like kebbe but the outside is from fine bourghul the inside is like qeema [minced meat], onions–

AD: İçli köfte–

H: Yeah, probably–

AD: Right?

MT: What is içli köfte, it is uncooked?

AD: No, it is cooked– but do you fry it or boil it.

MT: No, boil it in soup, in like tomato soup. So, there is like vegetable, usually–

AD: Okay, so that is healthier version because I think the other one is from Adana or whatever, you fry it but people love that– People love that I never liked it, I am not fond of that. It is too heavy.

MT: Well, we say köfte– I knew that–

AD: Well, Armenians make that too because it is like common–

H: Yeah, sure, sure yeah.

MT: I did not know that it was called trshik until I came here then my wife told me–

H: Yeah, I mean for trshik there might be like some different kind so it is like vegetable you know. Our Trshik is like vegetable so we use like dried–

AD: So, this is what I was talking about– This thing.

MT: No, no this is– We call it kebbe. Let me write it.

AD: Well that is not, you know, I think that is the Arabic name for it–

MT: Yeah. Let me write it.

AD: What is the– Go ahead.

MT: [typing]

H: You could go to the images–

MT: Yeah, this is the one.

AD: Huh, that is köfte?

MT: Oh, yeah. but it is not round actually, this is round.

AD: So, what else?

H: Well, you know–

AD: I see. Yeah, this is like regional and I do not know this dish at all. I mean we have like Köfte but it is like smaller one than you make it like that, we call it sulu köfte, but this is like a little different I think. Yeah. So, what else?

H: Well, I mean you know, homemade food is different, you know. I mean you know when your mum makes it ̶

MT: This food, you will never find it delicious in restaurant because women make it better–

AD: Absolutely, well there are like in Istanbul now the elite, they just– There are like people some women-built business and they make these home-made foods and then the elite people who do not cook they buy food from there but just like, you know, home-made except the other people bring and you know–

H: Yeah, probably there are some places–

AD: No, there are businesses like that.

H: But even, yeah, I mean when you like make food for money you just rush, you know, probably you do not like–

MT: It is never the same way when you make it at home–

H: And you know, the moms they know they make this food for their children and especially they want to like everything should be perfect–

AD: And like to me, I personally think the best cook in the world is my mom’s–

H: Yep, there you go, that is it!

AD: And I am sure you feel the same way–

MT: Because your taste buds has grown to like their food–

H: Yeah, there you go.

AD: That is right. Like my daughter when I took her to Marwan’s house. She fell in love with the rice and then she is like, when will you make, because she was like Marwan’s wife, she made the anneanne’s rice. Anneanne is grandmother [in Turkish]. Because the way they made the rice reminded her my mother’s rice so for her that is the best rice because I make it healthier, I cut down on butter whatever– So when she ate the rice she was like, oh my God that’s Nanny’s rice. When did she came here and make the rice [laughs]. Yeah, so.

H: Here we do not like have good place, restaurant–

MT: We do not have any Kurdish–

H: Even Mediterranean or Middle Eastern–

AD: Not here. No.

MT: If you are looking for a good restaurant that tastes like Turkish or Iraqi, then you should go to Michigan–

H: Oh, Michigan!

MT: Detroit–

H: Oh, Detroit, I think there are a lot of Arabs over there.

AD: I think New Jersey have some ̶

H: New Jersey, yeah of course and New York.

AD: And then bakkal [small grocery store], Turkish bakkal I heard in New Jersey, so maybe when we go over there we stop at the bakkal.

H: When you go Nashville, there are like Duhok Tandoor, and it is not bad. Yeah, when I was there I got some like sandwich it was good. The mother is making some food, so when you go there probably you should try some.

MT: Hopefully I go.

H: I mean the boss is going to send you. Yeah, you are going to send him? [laughs]

AD: I am trying, I am trying. I really hope so.

H: Do you want to go?

MT: Absolutely.

AD: Yeah, why not.

MT: Very excited about it, actually.

H: Oh, really? I went too times but they do not have like centers, you know.

MT: The problem if you go there they do not have guesthouse–

H: They have mosque. They do not have it.

AD: All those people, they should create one guesthouse, seriously!

MT: Hotels are very expensive over there.

H: You know what! One time I went to– So, and my friend we were there– There was like a festival, art festival, like three, four years ago and then so we said okay we might. We stayed at a hotel because in the morning, we found the address and we did not know that they do not have anything, you know, and then we found the address and we went there. I mean we just knocked on the door and someone just waking up and said what is going on. I said are you Kurdish, the center, Kurdish Center. He said, oh well I think here. He was sleeping you know, it was so funny. And it was they did not have the center but they just put like a residential address to online. Yeah it was so–

AD: Yeah, I think they should have some– Marwan maybe you can initiate something–

MT: Yeah. I mean the people over there are very active actually, they have this Kurdish Professional Group on Facebook, recently there was some job openings so they were trying, encouraging young Kurdish people to apply. So they made a campaign in the mosque, I saw it on Facebook.

H: Yeah, Salahaddin. And there is like Kurdish police officer, you know in Nashville, the first one. You know that–

AD: Yeah, yeah. I read the article about it–

H: Yeah, it is about him. [laughs]

MT: I did not know that.

AD: So, anything else you can think of?

MT: Are you going to go home once you are done?

AD: Yeah, that was another question.

H: Oh, so now Turkey is not good and now this month I am going to apply for citizenship application.

MT: No, no I mean once you get your citizenship and PhD, are you plan to live in Turkey or Mardin?

H: Well, I mean it does not matter, I mean at this time. I can like serve the Kurdish people. It does not matter here. I might like go to the Iraqi Kurdistan, KRG at that time, they might like have some a stable and better economy why not, and then maybe Mardin University would not be bad ̶

AD: And there are other universities in the Eastern part of Turkey.

H: So the Mardin one I think was the best one. There was a Kurdology and then they just, so now the people, the scholars over there they lost their jobs, you know, like Nilay was one of them and the other people–

AD: But they had a reason they lost their job, why–

H: So, I mean this one not for the petition you know. So, this one just after the government, I mean they just kicked many scholars out, you know, so Mardin–

AD: Yeah, but they all had some kind of connection with the petition–

H: No, no so the last one–

AD: The last one was like– I know five people graduated from here, lost their jobs one of them Kurdish, Nazan.

H: Nazan, I do not know. Is she here?

AD: from Van.

H: She is here now?

AD: I do not know where she is right now but she was in siyasal [School of Political Science, Ankara University].

H: Siyasal [Faculty of Political Science at Ankara University] Ankara?

AD: Yeah. Her husband lost his job. So, he is not Kurdish but he is also–

H: Sure, yeah. There are many people, Turks, Kurds–

AD: That is what I am saying like being from East does not necessarily make you a Kurd and you will have an accent, I do not understand how people can be so judgmental and prejudice because you are coming from the East, you know what I mean?

H: Well and then, you know, so basically when you said Kurd, I mean the people just imagine oh the PKK, they want to divide this country, great country you know. Well I mean if you do not give me my like basic human rights, of course I need to like think the alternative option, you know, even I cannot teach Kurdish my children or my niece, nephew cannot take Kurdish courses, or it is not human being–

MT: Very basic human rights–

H: Basic, yeah, so the Turks I mean at least they can speak their language, teach their language give Turkish name to their children but on the other side the Kurds, I mean, no language, the people losing their culture, language, you know, and they like, we lost our village. I mean, so now the people do not want to go back because now they are, the village, they cannot be border because the families are bigger, the village, the houses are small and then it has been like ten, fifteen years you know the people have a different experiences. Yeah, I mean the Turkey side, I mean they can lose job but I mean the Kurds they cannot live as a Kurd, you know. So, you cannot make it. [laughs]

AD: Well, I think I want to make revani to go visit this 100 years old woman, so if some people join us–

H: No, how about first, before going there you can like, we should taste it and then if we said okay approve–

AD: Marwan tasted it before, that was the baking powder; so if some people join us, they can have it right?

H: Well, I do not want this woman–

MT: It is a good inducement–

H: I do not want this like ad experience with this 100-year-old-woman who you might kill her you know with revani [laughter] You know, we should try it first, you know–

AD: You know what, that is a little gesture, maybe she even has diabetic she cannot– If I make it to a 100-year-old, I would smoke, use drugs [laughs] eat whatever I want– Just kidding, but I mean I do not think I would like you know limit myself with anything, like what I am going to live another 100 years. [laughs] you know what I mean, yeah, give me more butter, give me more börek, çörek [sweet and salty pastry] or whatever–

MT: Well, Middle Eastern mindset–

AD: There you go. Yeah, so anyway, this is like our incentive package–

H: İnşallah [God willing]!

AD: For New Jersey trip, we are practically begging him to do this.

H: Yeah, I might come.

AD: So, anything else? Marwan? Do you have anything else to add?

H: Yeah, I can eat some more– [laughs]

AD: No, please that is for you, so anything else? Thank you for–

H: I mean so if you have any–

AD: If you remember any other questions we can always throw a second interview–

H: Oh, yeah, why not.

AD: Why not! Right? Okay, alright. Perfect. Thank you.

MT: Thank you very much.

H: You are welcome, sure.

(End of Interview)

Date of Interview

23 April 2017


Aynur de Rouen and Marwan Tawfiq



Biographical Text

Hawar was born in Mardin where he witnessed the conflicts in his town and village, which forced him and his family to leave. Hawar is pursuing his graduate degree in the United States.


107:28 minutes



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Binghamton University

Interview Format


Subject LCSH

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Kurdistan; Saddam Hussein; Mardin; Iraq; PKK; Binghamton; Broome County; Refugees; Turkish Camps; Kurdish Culture; Everyday life;



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

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“Interview with Hawar,” Digital Collections, accessed April 23, 2024,