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Interview with Jumaa Barani

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Kurdish Oral History Project
Interview with: Jumaa Barany
Interviewed by: Erdem Ilter
Transcriber: Marwan Tawfiq
Date of interview: 12 March 2013
Interview Setting: Binghamton University
(Start of Interview)

EI: Begin with your name, Jumaa Barani.

JB: Yes, my name is Jumaa Barani.

EI: Birthplace?

JB: April 10, 1969.

EI: Place?

JB: Kurdistan, Iraq and Duhok. My village is Ekmala Khabur.

EI: Ekmala Khabur. Okay, you said 1969.

JB: 1969.

EI: 1969, okay, your ethnicity is Kurd, you are Kurdish and Muslim Sunni.

JB: Yeah.

EI: Okay, you are married?

JB: Yeah, I am married.

EI: How many child?

JB: Four kids.

EI: Are they all boys or girls?

JB: All boys, four boys. The oldest one, he is eighteen, following him is six, the other one is four, the other one is three.

EI: Okay. What is your education?

JB: High school, two years college.

EI: Where did you go to college in Kurdistan or?

JB: No, here in Broome County.

EI: Okay. Perfect, your native language is Kurdish. Do you know Arabic?

JB: I speak Arabic too.

EI: Okay, perfect. You got your education in Arabic, right?

JB: Yes.

EI: Okay. Number of years in the US?

JB: Since 1997.

EI: 1997, okay, okay. I think after the NGO problem, right?

JB: Yeah.

EI: Okay, these are all technical questions now start with childhood. What do you remember in, in 1969; I mean 1970s when you were- maybe in (19)75, you were six years old, you will remember that time I think, what you remember?

JB: My birthday is in 1969 after four years, five years I think I still remember something because that time was our region was controlled by Kurdish Peshmerga, we call them, so we were fighting with the, I mean Kurdish were fighting with the Iraqi government but that time I remember so-

EI: Your village was controlled by Peshmerga, right?

JB: Whole region-

EI: All region?

JB: Most of Kurdistan.

EI: Okay.

JB: Most of Kurdistan, only some cities left like Kirkuk and Erbil and Duhok, Duhok sometimes coming and going to- but other all villages from Turkey all to Iran were under Peshmerga’s control. 19- I still remember 1974 my family they moved from the village because of Iraqi’s air force, you know they attacked the villages, any village they find attack them, they kill people like that, so we moved from the village to next valley, it was a deep valley, we stayed there until wintertime came. So, wintertime came we moved back to the village. Now became 1975, in 1975 there was an agreement between Saddam and Iran and under Americans way so in Algeria they made the agreement, they tried to Iran not to support Kurdish people anymore, and they give Saddam by that, they gave, because they had problem with the border in Shatt al-Arab, So they gave them part of Shatt- al-Arab to Iran and Iran stopped the support of the Kurdish. Of course, American helped Iran at that time too because there was Shah in power. In 1975 we came back there was no Peshmerga because they did not support them under, they did not fight anymore-

EI: So, Peshmerga started to lose its control over there?

JB: They lost, yeah, they lost control.

EI: After 1975.

JB: They tried because that time Mullah Mustafa (Barzani)- he knew Iraqi regime going to kill, like what happened now Halabja, so he stopped the fighting and he went to Iran and in 1975 when that thing happened all Peshmerga- they went back home and some of them the Iraqi regime they took him from Kurdistan to Junub way, to the south of Iraq in the desert or something-

EI: So, that time, what was your father’s job?

JB: My father- he was just a farmer, just taking care of the kids because most of Kurdistan people they were working in the farm, agricultural stuff like-

EI: Were there any investment or factory or something?

JB: No.

EI: That is normal. So, you were living in a farming area?

JB: Yes.

EI: What were you doing, I mean did you help your family?

JB: I was a kid you know that time.

EI: Yeah.

JB: I just remember that-

EI: Not the whole politic or government thing, your childhood I mean-
JB: That is what I am trying to now go to my childhood because that once the war I still remember the aero planes coming and stuff like that. But after 1975, everything stopped, the fighting. So, the government they brought school to our village, there is the first school opening in my village in 1975.

EI: Okay.

JB: So, my generation we were kids, because that time I was five, six years old, so I remember the first school coming, we everybody go register for school. So, the first school started I was in there.

EI: Okay. So, you are the first student-

JB: In the school. I mean with my friends.

EI: Yeah.

JB: And we studied in the school, no, no, my father everybody like I said is agriculture stuff, his job you know he is a farmer, so we tried to help my father, but school was going until 1980, I finished (19)81- I finished my primary school.

EI: Okay. So how was it? I mean do you remember anything in school. What were you doing, how was the education?

JB: The education was Arabic, very hard for me to, I mean one kids-

EI: When you started school did you know any Arabic?

JB: No.

EI: No?

JB: None of the people in the region they spoke Arabic. So, but when they brought school in there, they brought some teachers they spoke Arabic and the teachers only Arabic no Kurdish education at all in my village.

EI: Okay.

JB: So, we started from Arabic from the beginning and very difficult you know it is a different language, even we did not know what they are talking about-

EI: I had the same-

JB: Yeah. So, we have been in the situation but year by year we learn a little bit Arabic with study. I mean I remember the first day when I went to school, he put some letter in the book give it to me, even touch I went out I saw my friend everybody is busy with try to make homework, I said what is this, they said this is homework for school, said what is this; letter Arabic you have to learn. I learnt back, home my cousin everybody was just helping to make just like Aleef in the alphabetical. So that was just childhood, with the other we just played together you know.

EI: Were there any Arabs in your village?

JB: No, no Arabs in Kurdistan at all. Only some in the city.

EI: Okay. All of them were Kurds in your village.

JB: All of them Kurds, pure Kurds.

EI: And were there any Kurdish teacher or?

JB: There was Kurdish teacher, but the Kurdish teachers’ education was in Arabic, so they did not teach us in Kurdish, only in Arabic.

EI: I mean did you have any problem when you spoke Kurdish or something in school?

JB: No, I did not have any problem but is because education is Arabic, so you had to learn Arabic, with the other way you cannot answer the question in Kurdish. When teachers ask you, they were asking in Arabic. So that was- we were about how many, three classes almost four.

EI: For one class how many students were there?

JB: I remember first time when we started the school, we did not have chairs; we did not have a table, no. Because the wall is concrete, the roof is from mud. So, when the rain is coming, it was dripping and water was coming down, everybody, even we did not have any heat inside. So, we everybody was cold and shaking, freezing.

EI: the physical conditions were bad.

JB: We brought some containers; everybody brought something to sit on it just like this and no chair no table no nothing. First year, and then after that became better because they sent us some what they call, seats you can sit down on it, so three of us just like this, like military you cannot even move because teacher will beat you, if you are talking-

EI: How was his attitude, was so disciplinary or I mean, you were not relaxed student or comfortable-

JB: In the school?

EI: Yeah.

JB: No, we scared of the teacher because teacher. We are not American teachers not beating not hitting the kids. But back then, if you move, he would beat you, if you did not your homework, it would be a hard time. So, we were scared in the school from teacher more than scared from your parents.

EI: Yeah.

JB: Teachers, they were like someone really mean you know, so we scared a lot from teachers, and they cannot sit down even kids they want sometime go to bathroom we scare to ask I am going to go to bathroom. I have my friend beside me he peed himself many times because I mean he scared of the teacher so everybody was scared from the teacher. But I mean summertime we just play you know like tradition games and stuff like that, outside kids coming and going. It was very safe you know nobody bothering each other just, it was a good life, I missed that.

EI: I mean you enjoyed your childhood that time-

JB: And until 19- six years later because we had no-

EI: During that time, that period I mean did your family talk about politics?

JB: It is very dangerous if you even talk about politics, you are done, you cannot even talk. If sometimes I would tell you that one, by then when the war had stopped, now once a while, every maybe month, whatever they wanted, the Iraqi force like military coming to check your village to control whole, I mean surround the village, they would check everything in your house or farm or anything. If they see anything belongs just like war before, like bullet or gun something they take the whole village to somewhere you did not ever know. I remember once me and my father we were trying to get out from the village, we had a farm, so my father said okay, let us go to you know take care of the farm, it was summertime. So, one guy came when we got out from there, we saw one guy coming he is from next village, he said where you are going, and I said we go to our farm. He said if you listen to me, just come back because there is, the whole area is military is in there, is came from Baghdad, came from Mosul, came from Kirkuk somewhere. So, if you listen to me just do not go there, I am sure they going to bother you. So, my father said listen let us go back and we do not have go to farm today. So, we came back we went to other side of the farm, south side, so when the military was coming it was an early morning maybe about eight o’clock, we went back a different farm-

EI: Yeah, please finish and I will ask question.

JB: So, the military came surrounded the whole village and they took any male from their sixteen, seventeen and up. And then they checked you know the houses, the families, beds anything in the house they checked looking for the anything belongs to the war before. They caught I do not know how many people was, but anybody in the village they took them away from the village, we had a little bit of some hill behind the village, it used to be straight grass in there, so grass sometime comes like needles stuff like that I do not know what they call it, they took them out about hundred degrees, more than hundred degrees, the weather in there very hot, they took them out, they share stuff like that and take shoes, okay you going to take a walk through this whole wild grass, it is very hard and hot and then tell them sit down and put your head on the stones there, it is very hot, you can put your head on the stone like this until I tell if you move you will die.

EI: Were they teenager or the whole village male?
JB: I said from maybe, it would tell you if he would see you are a little tall or do not go by birthday or something just how they want, say sixteen, seventeen, fourteen, fifteen just take them all.

EI: Physical suppression and psychological.

JB: Yeah. Just take them and do whatever you want. So, they took those people and beat some of them until they passed away, they did not come back just like normal, they beat them really bad for no reason. So, every once a while, a month or two months, three months, jaish [army] was coming, military, was coming to check something whatever they wanted to check it. And then they make problem for people.

EI: Okay, every three months for guns for food, or?

JB: For gun, anything belong like bullet stuff like that, or you have we call big knife like khenjer,[dagger] something like that, and I remember one guy he was, they had a small shop because when was Peshmerga was there we had like kind business [trade] coming from between Turkey and Kurdistan and from Syria and Kurdistan, people they go and buy stuff. He had some money belonged to Iran that time. And when the- He was blind, he could not see anymore. When he was born, he was disabled so when the jaish was coming, the military coming, checked his rural shop, they found some money belonged to Iran, Iran’s currency and then he was blind they did not tell him nothing, but they took his brother, when one day he came back he even could not talk anymore. They beat him-

EI: His brother, right?

JB: Yes, his brother, because his brother-

EI: Tortured him.

JB: I mean that was how they did for no reason because they did do nothing just did not do nothing, just coming from somewhere and because your Kurd, they just beat them.

EI: They did not need any reason to torture?

JB: No, the head of them they gave him orders just do whatever you want.

EI: So, what was the image of the soldier for you when you were a child, for example one day they say that soldiers are coming to village, I mean were they something for you or no it was normal.

JB: No it was not normal because, I was about five or six years old I mean seven years old, ten years old but I know when they are coming, takes my father, my cousin, my neighbor, my anybody in the village, and then they kill them, they beat them, they bother them, they take them away, put in jail somewhere because they can do anything they want and none of them is good for us, anything is coming, coming for some reason and then you know take the people.

EI: How was their attitude towards child or women or elderlies, like the soldiers, did you have any like interaction with them, speak with them, I mean even you were child?

JB: Not really, I mean nothing happened to me, but they took my cousin, my father, my uncle that was too much for you because psychologically is bothering you, I mean affect you. But for me I was seven, fourteen years old until I finished from high school, I mean primary school and then until (19)80, from (19)80 because (19)80 was the Iraq – Iran War- started. So-

EI: You were ten years old-

JB: I was eleven years old and then the next year I had to go to high school because high school we did not have it in the village, we had to go to city somewhere. When I went to city very close-

EI: In Duhok right?

JB: There was another small town closer to our village, so I did not have to go Duhok- I could go to Duhok or somewhere but they had a town, small town there they had high school-

EI: What it is called?

JB: Mangesh, they called Mangesh.

EI: Okay. You are eleven-

JB: I was eleven and then when age be twelve so you going to come from primary school to high school. High school is far from our village almost two hours and a half if you walk from there because by then we did not have transportation like a car or something or school bus something we never knew. So, we had to walk or- And then the war started between Iraq and Iran. Everybody is scared because Iran coming to attack air force, airplane was coming, the jet air so it was coming to bombing our city our place but because we were Kurds it was not coming so many times to our area, go to Arab area. Because they had problem with Arabs. And I moved from my village to next town for high school, that was hard because then you cannot come back every day because military, they do not let you go coming and going from city to, because it is political start, now Peshmerga started to become like-

EI: Fight again?

JB: It was kind of revolution just like, they were fighting for freedom you know. So started again and the area become dangerous you cannot get out from city or town at night tie because my school started from eight until one or two o’clock, and then you had to walk so there is a lot of military, they could kill you easily just nobody say they killed.

EI: Where were you staying at that time?

JB: I was staying in a small town now because I had to go high school.

EI: I mean with your relative, or-

JB: No, I had to rent my just small room in there and stay there by myself. We were friends, few friends like roommates.

EI: Okay. Yeah, how was the condition for the high school, I mean you are more conscious, you are teenager maybe you feel the politics in school, so how was the conditions?

JB: Now government is there, and we are Kurds and then we cannot even open your mouth about politics, if they know you belong political, or your father or somebody from your family is Peshmerga or in politics they can catch you they can kick you out of school, do whatever they want to you because they could not catch them but they could catch you, because they relate to you like brother, father cousin or whatever. So these things happened day by day, month by month became worse because Peshmerga now grew bigger I mean more active and government busy with the other side with the war of Iran, and economic is go down, now start food sometimes, no heat I remember I was there two or three years later we were sitting in the house and then hundred what they call, outside snowing under zero we did not have a heat, no heat, no electric at all, so sometimes you go to get some kerosene or whatever for your heat, sometimes not. And 1984 they make red line; anybody from here to the other side in Kurdistan we cannot come to the city or you going to move your house from the village to the city somewhere.

EI: Okay, what was the line between Duhok and like another Arabic city or within Kurdish cities?

JB: No, they divided Kurdistan now because Kurdistan-

EI: For example, from Duhok to Sulaimaniya or-

JB: Say from Duhok to Zakho.

EI: Okay.

JB: From to Duhok to Mangesh, from Mangesh to Ammadiya.

EI: Okay.

JB: Okay, all this they had street in here like road, they had a point in here what they call it; base of military here. All the belonged road, what they call it I do not know, base or, we call it rabiya. So, they put military in there If somebody comes from here village to, they can shoot them, they can take them to jail, kill them or whatever, so you had a red line you cannot go anymore. That become big problem for us because I am in school how can I go back and come.

EI: To your family-

JB: Yeah, I stayed there, it was in 1987 until 1987 I was in high school. Sometimes you cannot see your family for months and then no word no nothing and then no food even because in Iraq they did not have food in the market, so food coming from the government, and government gave it to local people. It is a shop; they have a contract okay I am going to give you food and you can give it to people. So, when they give food, bring this food people to the shop they know how many people they have in the city, they bring just for this people. The other people in the other side of red line, no food for them, so they were using agriculture stuff like that for food and sometimes they bring it from illegal way from Turkish border or Iranian border, so you need to survive anyway.

EI: Okay.

JB: So, there is now problem for I cannot go back and then I have no work and I have to go back get money or food or dry food, stuff like that from my family for myself.

EI: Did they send you money or something?

JB: Who, my family?

EI: Yeah, when you were there?

JB: Because we knew some of those people in redline whatever because those people most of them were from the area, Kurdish people but they give money and gun, do not let the other people coming, so it is worse than Arabs now because they knew each other, we call them Jash to those people I do not know what they call them [mercenaries]. Those people were Kurd and government gave them money, and gun and then fight against their brothers, Kurdish brothers.

EI: They are called Jash?

JB: Jash.

EI: Yeah, okay.

JB: Yeah, because now we cannot go back because I know some of these people, they let me go sometimes secretly, nobody knows, so I go back to my family stay with them for a couple of days and come back to school. High school is very hard. Finally in 1987 because my father he refused to go to join military fighting Iran for no reason, he said I am not going to go, I am going to take care of my kids, I am not going to military, and then governments coming saying if you have relative who are not going to military service, I will kick you out from school. Now from high school I cannot go to school anymore. I came home was summertime until 1988 and worse stopped between Iraq and Iran and 1988, February 3rd they started Anfal.

EI: Okay, just a second, when did you leave the school, 1985?

JB: 1987.

EI: 1987 you left high school?

JB: I left high school because they kicked me out because of my father he did not go to military service. If I go back, they would put me in jail and they kill me.

EI: Okay.

JB: So, I went back to my family stayed there until next summer. But before next summer January 23rd, they started Anfal, so they started February 23rd (19)88 in, they make steps start from Iranian’s border and all way came to the Syrian border because Turkey belongs our border but started from Syria, so almost Syria very close to the corner of border Syrian and Iraq, from Zakho, exactly from Zakho. So, we were scared but no choice what you going to do.

EI: Military operation, right?

JB: Military operation started, and they used chemicals.

EI: What was the aim I mean against the normal civilian people?

JB: Against who is besides, who is out of this redline.

EI: Okay.

JB: Civilians, birds, animals- people anything in this area is going to be destroyed because Anfal in Quran was said there was a fight between Kuffar and Muslims. Muslims they control it, when they control this thing, they cut some like business stuff from them, when they come back, they divide among them look like they fight each other and the prophet Muhammed told them this, if you believe your God, believe your prophet listen we will see in the Quran. So, Quran say okay divide these things you got it from the war divide it between yourself, I mean everybody else. So, they put this name Anfal operation they kill other people not like whatever happening in Islam. This is something is worse than-

EI: Yes, Kurds are Muslim.

JB: Yeah, Kurds Muslim and this innocent people, there are kids in them, animals there, and they destroyed even what they call spring of water, anything. Anything just destroyed in the whole Kurdistan. So, they started 23rd February, I remember they called the area Sargalu Bingalu is very close to the Iranian border and started then came back. I believe it took three weeks because there was Peshmerga in there, they were fighting they could not do easily. And they came back to the second operation I am not sure was Germian or the name of it but the worst one was in Kirkuk area. Kirkuk because Iraq they started move Kurdish people from Kirkuk to different areas to Kurdish area or the Arab area and they moved Arabs from south to Kirkuk because Kirkuk is the most problem between Iraq and Kurdistan because see of oil in there. So, when they move the Kurdish, they put Arab in there now majority is Arab that means Kirkuk is Arab. They started in, the operation in Kirkuk is about one hundred fifty thousand people just killed; kids, male, female, animal anything in the area they killed them destroyed the whole region.

EI: in 1988, right?

JB: In 1988 they call it Germian region. They finished from there they came to Erbil. Erbil is now capital city of Kurdistan. They started this area is because of mountain and Peshmerga and people they fight it took about two months, two months or three months until finished the area. Now become Badinan area, they call Behdinan as Muhafadh Duhok, Duhok region until Akre they call it Behdinan. In 1988 August 8th Iraq and Iran stopped fighting anymore because of United Nations no more fight.

EI: Okay, just a second, what was the Kurdish position towards that war? I mean the Kurdish were neutral or side of Iran?

JB: No, not side of Iran, just tried to get freedom from Iraq just like Peshmerga. Because we were fighting for freedom, we were not fighting because of Iran or Turkey or any country. Because they controlled our land, they divided Kurdistan between Iran, Iraq, Turkey, and Syria during the first war now we fight since that time fighting for freedom or at least our land. Now because the war stopped, they brought the whole troops whatever they were fighting with Iran they brought this military from there all way to Behdinan, so when they brought it to Behdinan, they started to some street [road- high ways]in there if they control all these street because all way from Zakho to almost to the Iran belong to Turkish border, they control all this area you cannot move, you cannot go nowhere because military is there or behind you it is government you know is the big cities there which there is government. So, they surround in about starting from 8, 1988 that the war stopped between Iraq and Iran and the 25th of August they started Anfal sixth step they call it Behdinan step or whatever so start-

EI: So, it was organized-

JB: Very organized, I mean they had a plan; they just not came to-

EI: I mean they did not just bomb.

JB: No, it is kind of first from 8th they even did not shoot a gun they just came brought tanks, helicopter, military weapons anything bomb just tried to control streets first, they did not say nothing to nobody, just control it first from August 8th to August 25th just brought their military and weapon and the operation was started 25th. So, the operation was started 25th, now I was in there in my village, and we had to escape or find some place, there is no safe place, the only safe place is to get out from Iraq. The nearest. So, the country nearest for us is Turkey, otherwise we cannot go to Syria because all government is there, Saddam, Iran is very far, we cannot get it, now you have your only choice is Turkey. So, Turkey is about maybe if you walk three days you get to the border. It is too long but you have to at least try it. So, we tried to on 25th to get out from there with the family and the first night 26th we got that street I talked about that there is military in there and there was locked you cannot go nowhere.

EI: The year is 1988?

JB: Yeah, 1988, so in 1988 when we got the border I mean to the street, no way you can get out from there or go under the street somewhere, my family we came back again to some a little bit far from the, because it was dark time, in the morning the military will see you and they would kill all the families. And not just my family, million people are around, I mean people of all villages moved, just region all region.

EI: Okay.

JB: So, we came back again and we decided to go somewhere to at least we are familiar with you know to hide in there, maybe this pressure of coming and going, come back give some forgiveness or whatever they call it, we can be survived but night time, next night, so it is 27th, became 27th we got like saw a village I see them, what they call kind of lights bombing and lights shining night time, makes whole region light just like day time. So is military coming very close to us. I decided to go, I mean not stay with the kids because we cannot, that is a bout thousand people around you cannot be with those kids. In my head I say maybe those people that not going to bother kids or female I knew because I was there in the city, I know how bad the government. So, I talked to my mom, my father he was with my brother behind did not get there yet, so I told them I am not going to stay here because if they catch us, they can kill us. So, I decided I told my cousin everybody, nobody came with me. Only me and two friends, I told my mom I am going. So, I left the kids with my mom, next to the village in there and then I went back tried to border again. So, when I got there was a nighttime.

EI: You came back to Duhok right?

JB: From Duhok, the region is Duhok, but we are far from Duhok, I came back to the village, my village.

EI: Why? What was your aim? You back to your village?

JB: Yeah, we tried because we cannot get to the border, Turkish border.

EI: Ah, you could not go there, and you came back?

JB: I came back yeah.

EI: Okay.

JB: So-

EI: Why could not go there, because it was surrounded?

JB: Surrounded by military, so we came back to our region. Our region still military did not move in yet. So, they had a plan, they are far from us, they are in the street, but our village is far from them a little bit between two highways. So, they did not come yet. So, nighttime I saw they were coming because they were bombing, light of bombing, so I told my mom I am not coming, I am not going to stay in here military catch me in here they kill me, so I am going to hide somewhere, or I am going to try to escape to Turkey. It is not easy you know you leave your kids and their father, mother, brother so I went back with two friends.

EI: Did you marry at that time?

JB: No, I was nineteen years old.

EI: Okay.

JB: I decided to go back to find way to get out from Kurdistan to Turkey. So, when I went back, I told my mom my father and my brother, the youngest brother was sixteen years old, maybe I see them in my way when I come back on my way, so unfortunately, I did not meet them, and I did not know where there were. So, me and my friends we went to the way we tried to escape. One of my friends he said I cannot cross the river, because there is a river in there you had to swim or walk through, so he scared and said I am not coming, and my other friend, his brother we saw him, met him said oh my brother is not coming with you, we go to find somewhere else. So now I and my other friend scared cross the river. We came back we decided to come back to the village another village very close to the river until morning maybe we scared nighttime to go through the water, so I told him okay, we going to stay here but this military is coming, so we are dying anyway. I so his, one transportation is coming, a tractor we used it in my country for agricultural stuff. We saw his cousin in there, so okay, let us go by tractor we going to cross the river to the other side and try to get cross to the street, the military there until nighttime and nighttime we try to escape to Turkey. But Turkey is still two days until you get there. So, me and him and his family went to the mountain we stayed in there, I saw one group of Peshmerga is coming. Those people they tried to escape two. And I know that those people they are familiar with the area because they know how to get cross the border of Turkey. I told them you know what, let us go with these people because we do not know where we are going. I know there is Turkey is right there, but I do not know how to get out. So, he said okay, his cousin okay if you stay with me help me with my kid we going to everybody going to escape tonight under street to the border, he said I am going to stay with my cousin. Now I am by myself, but I saw them like two friends from my village is with the group with Peshmerga, I was so happy you know when I saw somebody at least I know them. So, we get to the one we call them valley between two mountains, there is thousands of people in there, I mean kids, families, everybody is there. They try to stay in there until dark time, maybe they try to escape the highway and then get to the other side of the highway is very close to Turkey border. Now it was kind of dark next day it is about maybe, it did not become dark yet, evening just like maybe 7 o’clock. And then government they see, they know there is people in the valley, and they bombed it, I do not know how many bombs dropping the valley. So, everybody ran away go to because you cannot away nobody. I saw this group of Peshmerga we can escape a little bit. We moved in a different direction and then we had some people they knew this area, familiar with. So, the guy he said okay, I know how to escape now, I do not know if they were military or not, I know there is a kind of tunnel under the highway which the water comes through it is like a bridge. We tried to go there, so it is too much cross stuff in there, it was about twelve o’clock at night to get there. So, we went to the bridge, there is military on the highway, and tank they loaded with the trail, they still moving, I mean there is a lot of militaries in there. So, we tried to decide; fight because we had a gun at that time, we going to fight or die whatever because you have no choice. So, we tried to escape under the bridge, nobody sees us, I do not know. It was about maybe one hundred people. Just one by one, we escape and there was water we go through the water until here. So, we escaped to the other side of the street, highway until we got maybe five miles farther from the highway. We stopped by there. There was people, they moved there before because summer time is hot, some people they move from village to there, they stay there for summer and so we saw all these days, no food, no nothing we do not eat nothing so very tired we could not walk anymore. So, we knew now military is behind us. We going to move forward to Turkey, so there is no military in there yet. Me and couple my friends we walked through the, used to be family in there, they left some dry rice and some flour you know food. We tried to make some food for us, we were happy to see these things there with the cooking oil. So, we tried to make some food. I think we cooked enough just we did not eat yet almost morning now; there we see military comes to very close to us to the mountain. So, we had no choice we had to walk. So, I got some of that food we cooked, he gets some and we eat and walking. We walked until I do not know almost evening; from morning until evening until we got to Turkish border. There is a lot of people in there because some of them were on the other side of the street, it was easy for them, so they were good and had no problem but people between the two streets could go nowhere. So I stayed, I went to Turkey I saw some of my family was there, I mean relative to us I stayed with them about fifteen, I am not sure how many days we stayed on the border, and then Turkish they tried to move us from the border at least to inside Turkey because you know journalist and people and the UN everybody knows what happened on the border, million people coming to the borders and there was kind of agreement between those people in the, I mean Turkish military and in the point on the border, they tried to you know let us go back to Iraq so they catch us. I mean I do not know they might pay them I do not know what happened, kind of agreement. But we told them they going to kill us, so anybody try to kind those stupid agreement, we do not care we going to fight we going to kill you or Turkey or who is going to kill us, we going to fight them. Because we did not have a choice. So, I remember that time Ahmed Turk he was what they call it, I do not know what they call-

EI: Parliamentarian?

JB: He was not a Parliamentarian at that time, yeah but now he is a parliamentarian.

EI: Okay.

JB: He did love for us, and he gave name of Kurdish people, what happened, to the journalists and media and they knew we are now where they are and coming.

EI: Helped right?

JB: He helped a lot. So now Turkey- they want to move us from there, so they moved group by group. They brought I do not know it was car’s structure or dump trucks whatever, they brought it to there because it is dirt road you cannot bring bus or something in there. So, they moved us from there all way to Slopey. And some of them they moved them to Mardin, Some of them to Diyarbakir, some of them to Moosh. So, they made camps in there, so I was one they moved me to Slopey very close to border of Iraq. So, we saw Zakho and I do not know that time truck was coming and going. It was sad you know, because they put us between I do not know what they called a building, they make building around with the, it is not camp yet it just like I think for those people they are going to Hajj, they bring them there and take them until they make paper stuff and move them to the- So they put them in the camp, made camp in there. The food was not enough, I mean a family they had six person they gave them two breads [somon], they gave them two, so how is enough for two people and then they put some bulgur in a big barrel in the military’s car and they give you some soup, mean people was too hungry they cannot get full. And they decided they move us from Slopey now to Mardin, so when they moved us, it was almost wintertime, it was raining, no transportation them in the trailer in there and they moved us to Mardin, when we got Mardin it was mud, rain but the only thing is good in there they had a lot of food in there, they gave every food not like Slopey. Because in Slopey they tried to you know did not take care of us, not help us just make people okay I do not want to die, and I want to go back to my country.

EI: Okay. I mean the treatment was not good.

JB: Yeah.

EI: So, could you interact with local people?

JB: No, local people they cannot because my uncle of my father’s side, he was imam for one of the villages next to Slopey, the called Girkey something like that but he tried to at least give me some food, they said no, even military can, nobody can get around.

EI: Turkish military, right?

JB: Turkish military yeah. They put in the camp rounded with jandarma [gendarme].

EI: Okay.

JB: Now they moved us to Mardin, in Mardin they gave us you know just a little tent and some, the only thing we had a lot is lentil soup. We ate a lot of lentil soup, [Adas, what they called, Neask]. So that is one food, and then potatoes, sometimes they would bring rice and, but the good thing they had a good bread in there, I mean Turkish bread tastes good too. We stayed in there about one year and then I do not know there was agreement between Iraq’s government and.

EI: How was the life other than that, I mean where were you staying in village or in camp?

JB: No camp they just gave us tent, we had tent.

EI: How many people lived in that tent?

JB: Well, it depends, some of them ten people in just about one tent.

EI: Did you share it with your family.

JB: Yeah, I shared with my cousin, he has a family, we got two of them; small one just like an umbrella is coming down. It is for one person for picnic something like that not for you live in there in Mardin. Because Mardin is very cold in wintertime and then some air coming, blowing wind coming they bring the electric what they called wire or electric pill coming down. They kind moving and then break the tent. It was very-

EI: Yeah, just tents.

JB: But you had to take care of yourself, it does not matter where you are. So, it was hard, and one I had friend you know visit, playing keep busy until I do not know when they going to get out from this. And one day people-

EI: What about shower, could you-

JB: Shower you have your own tent, and this two, I mean each side of the tent they had two places you get water from there by container or something bring home with your tent and then in there you can make your own place and take shower, in the tent-

EI: You sleep there-

JB: You sleep there too, you make a little place in there and then, I mean day by day or month after month become little bit better because people, they built kind of place from the mud to take shower in there, so-

EI: and the other interviews they said like airplane dropped food or something, did you?

JB: That is not happening yet. We still in (19)89. And then when I was there, there were two bakery they brought us food, one of them they put poison in there, put poison between the in the oven what they call it bread and they sent it to us.

EI: Who?

JB: Turkish, because Iraq gave them poison to these people owner for the bakery for make us the bread. It was about evening because they came morning or sometimes evening, each bread they had a number when they put bread in there the number is coming like 75 or umber of the oven. So everybody feels bad, you know people they vomiting, people get sick, now we had a speaker in the camp so if something you need, somebody needed like call or something, somebody going to talk in the speaker everybody hears it you know, so people coming and then go little clinic was in there for sick people and people vomiting just laid down in the ground and could not move anymore and get sick. So finally, they found out when they opened the bread they found a kind of green thing in the bread, it is about- now is problem because I saw, you eat, I eat, other eat, and nobody knows who is going to die. So, everybody says oh I ate and something psychology kills you because you say I eat the poison too so how- You going to die. So, everybody got scared and tired and they run to the hospital. About 12,000 in the camp.

EI: How many people, 12,000?

JB: 12,000, so say maybe that time they make bread for thousand people, or a thousand people had eaten, more than a thousand people they just were on the ground. So, they take them to the little hospital, the clinic, and then the people there vomiting but the good thing because they put the poison in the oven it was almost expired, and it was not affecting that much. So, it still had affect because it is a poison but not that much. I had my friends, so I was with him, he was doctor, he said you know, he showed me how to you know get syringe stuff like how to shoot people when I was in the clinic, it was local, it was our doctor not Turkish-

EI: The clinic was Turkish?

JB: No, he made his own clinic we had about four to five doctors from our country went to camp-

EI: Ah, okay, so the doctors were Kurds as well.

JB: Yeah, so but they gave sometimes-

EI: Was there many medicines or had support from Turkey?

JB: There was medicine, they had a clinic, had a clinic, they had own clinic you got to go in there but-

EI: You had alternative clinic as well.

JB: Yeah. So, you go to the doctor if you have a cold or something, you bring some pills from there or medicine after you get well, you do not need it. So, you gave it to our doctor so maybe he will give it to somebody else. He was just using like this some medicine from there. So, he told me okay thousand people they laid down in the, we kind have a kind next to the Turkish clinic is kind of hospital but nothing in there just to give you some medicine. So, there is thousand people coming just lay down, people vomiting, people screaming and then said you know what, the good, the clinic they gave us syringe and medicine we going to shoot people. They call anybody knows to shot or you know use syringe just please come help because just two or three doctors and some nurses-

EI: Not enough-

JB: That was not enough. So, I was one of them to shot maybe hundred people, but this shot is just something, I mean it is medicine.

EI: Psychologic?

JB: It is something to help, oh’ I got medicine, I am not going to die. So, it was helping because I saw one guy he brought his wife, most ladies scared more, so he brought his wife in there and then he did not eat yet but because psychology, you know because he did not eat yet, he fell down too.

EI: Okay.

JB: So that was terrible, then they took some people to the hospital in Mardin, so but because the government they were to be secret nobody knows what happened in there, they did not let us talk to media, actually media was not allowed to come inside. They did not talk to media too. It was bad, I think few of them died, killed but the other became better but still it is very hard to poison your body, so it affects but you know it is not dying yet. We stayed like that bad you know nobody can go nowhere, you cannot get out like get out sometimes just because I know one guy he is, what they call it, komiser [police chief in Turkish].

EI: Komiser.

JB: Zabit Shurta- Police. So, I knew the guy he would let me sometime go to Mardin and Kızıl Tepe and those area can bring some food or whatever, but nobody had money because you are not working. And then they gave us money. So that is what in there. In 1995 until when it was it- 1990 Saddam went to Kuwait and intifada [revolt] happened but I came back before that because my family, they took my family, they killed my brother, they killed my father in Anfal when I moved from Kurdistan and I escaped, so they caught seventy-three people from my village, they caught the whole family but they killed all seventy-three male from age fourteen and up. My father, my brother, my four cousins, my other you know cousin side, everybody, from my village, the village usually were close to each other-

EI: How many brothers did you have; brothers and sisters?

JB: I had six sisters and we were four brothers but one of them was killed, and the others were too young, they were five years, six years all of them, so they did not kill those. They put those kids with the female, they were separate with the males, I mean ages fourteen and if you were tall, it did not matter what your age was, they did not go by age, so they took them away. They took them away; took the families you know kids and mothers and sisters to Erbil. Erbil is a flat area, is very hot summertime, because it was august. So, they put my family with other families; you know half million people was in there, maybe more than half. So, my father passed away and my brother, we had nobody to take care of the kids because in there and when they put the kids in there with the mother and sisters, no food-

EI: You did not know that they were killed right?

JB: No, when I got to Turkey, so now we tried for relative, or anybody knows; we knew what happened now.

EI: Could you interact, could you talk I mean-

JB: Yeah, I mean very secret, you know somebody told me I got news that they put your family in the area called Bahirke, is very close to Erbil, no it is part of Erbil. So, they them in there with no food, no shade no water no nothing just like you are in there and it is your problem. But the only thing we never forget those people from Erbil they helped a lot. They tried to get anything you can, water, milk and just do whatever you can do, just take from your pocket, from your home, from somewhere just give something to those people they might die until tomorrow. I mean they did a lot for those people. Trust me some people brought what they call; flat truck, put it on the back side and made some kind of cave put kids in there because it is hundred degrees and most kids died, and female and male, old people died and those people they brought food, some shades, some water and then until almost mosque after that government because the media now knows. There was some media talking about Anfal and what happened, so they opened you can go to the city one of your family like mother, nobodies’ father is there just mother or another sister maybe young she can go to city and those people they had relative gave them money and they brought some food. Day by day, they get better, you know people they go work outside. When before Saddam go to Kuwait, they had afu [pardon] forgiveness whatever, those people who wanted to come back to his family that we are not going to do nothing to them, just forgiven by Saddam; if Saddam says it is okay, it is okay that is it nobody can talk, or if say kill them, they will kill them, just his decision. So, I decided to come back to the family because she called my- by phone said we have nobody because your father and your brother, cousins we have nobody to help us I have these kids with me so if you know you can come, come back. I said okay I will come back because maybe nothing will happen to me because life if you not enjoying your life, you have lost your brother, cousins; nobody left so you did not know okay I did not do something for those kids if I would be survived. I am back to my family nothing; I mean they did not do nothing to me. Saddam, he went to Kuwait. When he went to Kuwait, he would be busy with Kuwait and United Nations and other coalition coming to bomb him and take him out. Now before that, they said who wants to go back to his city, we can take your family. I took my family from Erbil all the way to Duhok again. But there was a problem because of war no food in the market we can buy it and no place left because a lot of people moved to the city. I mean we cannot rent anymore. And you cannot build a house, they did not have money. I asked my one of- my our relative he is not very close to us I told him you know what if you have just a place I put my kids, I mean my family here. He said okay, I have three bedrooms, I will keep two bedrooms for myself and you can bring your family in there, that is all I can do for you. So, it was a small bedroom just like this room. How many; six sisters in there, the five sisters because my other sister she was married so she went to her family but four sisters, three brothers, my mother in one bedroom. And we shared the kitchen with the other family, so sometimes cooking. I worked for my family, any kind of work, just get some money to be survived. I worked hard. I remember Saddam he was building; Gare is a big mountain in Kurdistan close to Duhok, he was building his mansion on the top of it, so I knew how to do electric for house stuff like that. I found one guy he was working in there. I told him you know what, I need to work I have my family. We have no money. He said okay, I will give you a chance. He gave a job in his contract. So, when I was in there, he gave me fifteen dinars a day. So, fifteen dinar a day that time was too much. None of people, I a lot of people had fifteen dinars. Workers who worked you know in my country from dark in the morning until dark in the evening working for five dinars or seven dinars. I was making fifteen dinars a day. So, I was so happy, it helped me a lot. And then just about two, three months I got some money to help buy stuff, cloth whatever I needed for my family. I was so happy you know helping my family. Then Saddam and his party Baath said okay those people who came from Turkey, they cannot work in that area, you are not allowed because you were khawana [treacherous] they said you cannot work in this area. So, they did not let me go there anymore. Now he started with Kuwait. He went to Kuwait and then the coalition kicked him out. They started a war now what they call intifada happened. We cleared from Arab people, from Kirkuk, Sulaimania all way to Zakho. No more Arab they kicked them out and everybody-

EI: Kurds?

JB: Kurds.

EI: I mean the uprising?

JB: Yeah, uprising. So that is happened too now.


EI: How was the uprising? What was happening? Were you in street, were you fighting?

JB: For myself, I had my friend because I was with the Peshmerga, I hoped something like this would happen because my family, my land everything still in my heart, I will never, never forget for year, but these things happened is a good chance for us now. So now he starts- I got a gun from one of my friend, he said I have two guns, and we get go started. So, it is again with the government, kick the government not just me thousands, all the Kurdish people went to street, and everybody just get gun-

EI: All civilians they armed and started to fight-

JB: Yeah, everyone, because Saddam that time they gave a lot of weapons to Kurdish people to keep Kurdish, they still had the guns. So now these Kurdish people become against government, against Saddam’s army.

EI: Okay, so-

JB: Kind of revolution.

EI: Before that Saddam gave guns to Kurds to fight against other Kurds?

JB: Yeah.

EI: Now, these guns were used against him?

JB: Yeah. Now, but Kurds they have a nice heart, they never be punch other they do not try to punch-

EI: Revenge or something-

JB: Yeah. So, there was a lot of military in Kurdistan. We told them you know what, just leave your weapons, just go back, wherever you came from. None of them, because those people, those military, they made Anfal in our region, if anybody want to kill, they can kill thousand soldiers nobody tell them why you killed them. We told them you know what, just go back, just leave your gun, drop your gun and then wherever you came from. And we let them go, thousands just they went back to the border between our governments. They went to there, they stopped them there, and they give them gun again and came to fight us again. Now and that time Bush, father he was president, he said okay we going to stop war against Iraq because the purpose we needed we did it. So, we moved Saddam out of Kuwait control Kuwait now, we do not care about Saddam. Now Saddam brings his troops to against Kurds too. Now Kurds all of them moved again. They moved from all cities to the mountains and then now to Turkey and Iran and Syria. Now there is million-

EI: Because Saddam came back after uprising-

JB: Now there is million not just like before, before was maybe one million or two million, now two to three million coming, because all cities came.

EI: There was threat right, he said I will come to destroy you because of the uprising?

JB: Yeah because of the uprising and knew if he came, he can kill all these people because he did before in Halabja in Badinan in Soran and everywhere. So now we scared again because the government they have a lot of weapons, tanks or whatever. So now we moved again to Turkish border, Iran border- See I was one of them went to Turkey. So, when I got to Turkish border, I was-

EI: With your family or alone again?

JB: I lost my family again because I sent my family to Zakho, I am still in Duhok, because Zakho was safer because Duhok very close to the government, they bombed them. I told my family, I have my cousin in Zakho, I told them go there for a while until Duhok becomes safe and now is happened, they are in Zakho, I am in Duhok. I have no, I need car to get to Zakho, there is another way I can go, this street I remember I told about that was controlled by Iraqi government next to the Turkey and they come back to the Zakho. When I get there, I cannot go back there because no transmission to go that way. I do not have a car and it is too far, but I heard somebody told your family is coming this way. I was waiting and waiting and finally my family mom and kids came, I met them in Batifa, they call it Batifa in there. So now because I have experience with the border and stuff like that and now, they go to border. The good thing the military was you know not a lot left because all of them tired and they do not have weapons because American they destroyed Saddam’s army. So not that much left. They came to the city but not after us. So, we moved to the border of Turkey and then now we stayed in there. No food again, and we are far from the street in the Turkey and wintertime it was March 21st. It was Newroz that time I was on the border. It was snowing.

EI: In 1991?

JB: 1991. We went to the border again. So, it was Newroz. Newroz back Kurdistan in Iraq still warm but when you get Turkish border, mountain is still snowing, so snowing down there and nobody knows where we are, half million people again in the valley only one base of Turkish military is in there, they bring every day we call truck, they bring some bread for us. Nobody had nothing, so-

EI: That time I think the Iranian border was better or safer-

JB: Iranian is- was better because they let you go inside in Iran, go to village, go to cities wherever, I mean is better-

EI: Because the other people they said people who went to Iran they said it was better-

JB: It was better because they let you go inside; you can buy if you have some money or- I mean Iran was a lot better. But Turkey, no cities there, there is some village in there and then the cities in there in Turkish they did not let people to go inside, they did not like us, and we could not go anywhere. So, I was-

EI: And that time there was actually war in Turkey as well, I mean between the Turkish-

JB: I mean that time you could not, I mean Kurd in Turkey you could not talk by Kurdish language. Now we have a family, I have my everybody around me, but we do not have food, because I was in Turkey before- Now we are in Turkish border and like I said we had no food because of it was in Turkey that time about two years I could speak a little bit of Turkish. So, the jandarma in there know body knew how to talk Turkish you know so they said if anybody knows Turkish language just, I told them I know a little bit I became like leader for those people, like translator, so they gave me some food extra and gave me one tent too. Nobody had a tent that time. So, when the helicopter came from the United Nations, I think it was from Germany, it came saw all these people in there, so it landed there when it landed, they said nobody knows you are here because it is a big valley it is very close to Roboski, but Roboski is small about ten – twelve families in there, they just coming and go. They can help. We talked to them, and they said those people here, they do not have food, people dying. I still remember cemeteries here tomorrow always hundred people dies, in this cold and no food. So, they said okay nobody knows here but I promise I will let the United Nation and other agencies know that you are here. We will help. And a day after the helicopter is coming gave us food and some tents and some water. But those seventy-three there they go check first, anything is good they would take and then they give us the rest of it whatever left.

EI: Turkish jandarma.

JB: Turkish jandarma. And then they decided to move us from there to another place there is more easier to for transportation bring some food by Camion (Truck in French) or whatever they call it in there [Truck]. So, they moved us from Roboski to Ekmala, they called Ekmala too. So, when they moved us there, it was a lot better, there is a lot potatoes in there and flour is there and then people were more happy and they were not dying then. So, I stayed there until I become leader for my group so-

EI: How many groups were there, do you remember? Do you know the number?

JB: Nobody knows the number because-

EI: Can you guess?

JB: Just maybe about half million people. So, one guy I knew him his name is, he was from American military is he was sergeant his name was Mike, I do not know what his surname he was from California that time because I spoke a little bit English too. I became his friend and he said was little bit farther from the other people I mean not very far but a little bit, we were sitting there maybe there was ten minutes. He said okay I will bring by helicopter food for you, but we can clean make a little bit flat area to airplane land in there, I will bring some food for you and the other side is too far too far from there you cannot bring food all way down. I said I will be happy if you do this for me. And then there are people and friends coming make a little bit flat stone from there. It was a mountain, so the helicopter was coming there, and they bring food for us also we were now a little bit comfortable and the people they eat, and food was nice. But it is almost April 20 I do not know when it was, it was a little bit warm. And then now they made no-fly zone in Iraq. They now wanted us to move from Turkey back again to Iraq. I decided I took my family you know what I have been in this situation many times I am tired of go and come, go and come. I am staying here I will try to get out of Iraq that is it I decided. And the whole family agreed with that. One of my cousins from my mother’s side we were very close to each other he said I am not coming because my fiancée she went back to Kurdistan. So, he changed his mind, and his mother changed her mind and his brother, and my mom said okay my family lets go back to Iraq. I told them you know what let us go back to Kurdistan. We went back to Kurdistan again. When I went there, I had no house, I had no place to live in, the place I used to rent I talked to them you know what just give me couple months to live in here again he said okay. One of my friends came and said there is some place I know it used to be company and make some building in there, they moved because of war back to Pakistan and nobody live in there. I told him just show me where is it, I will put my family in there. I went to there I checked there was some of fifteen houses in there. Nobody lived in there, it is kind of cabin made just like American way. It is not concrete, so it is good for- But no electric, no nothing in there. So, I went there, I told the guy whom I rented the house from him I am going to move thank you very much. Everybody told me oh that is far, how can you take your family to there. I said you know what it is far, but it is mine. I can live in there, I took my family, I was not married at that time. So, my brothers my sisters my mom we went to their nobody was there, so we just lived there, cleaned it people broke the windows and everything. So, I fixed it I stayed there about until 1993 I was fully working government job for the Kurdish. So, they give me some money but too good and that time this organization is coming to rebuild Kurdistan again. So, one of them was called KRA- Kurdistan Relief Association, something like that-

EI: Organization of the Kurdish I mean Peshmerga?

JB: No, it is like they have an organization here, they help people, they have money.

EI: Civil organization?

JB: Yes civil, so the send, like they have to them they come to Kurdistan okay we have some money we want to build one village or hospital or something. So, we have organization in there too, I have my friend in there, he said okay. There is one organization coming from America. Actually, it was from Europe, Belgium so they had money, we going to rebuild the house. So, I become member with them. So, we tried to rebuild Kurdistan again.

EI: Okay rebuilding.

JB: Yeah. So, in 1996 this organizations come to here they went back to America so was Bill Clinton that time president in power and Saddam at that time he said anybody worked with these organizations; American, European or any other foreign organization we going to kill them. So now the problem for the organizations too. The organizations came back to America and Bill Clinton decided he said because what happened to us when we were in Vietnam, they killed a lot of people, Vietnamese people because they worked with us. So now those people bring back to or we going to take them to America if they want. So, you can register your name. So, I registered my name and went to the American organization, and they brought me here. I stayed in Guam; from Zakho all way to Guam.

EI: With your family or?

JB: No, me and my wife. I got married in 1993.

EI: How was the condition, where she relative or-

JB: She was not my relative but was a neighbor of my uncle, so we know each other and just got married. And back then we had only one kid, actually it was his first birthday we did in Guam, because his birthday is 1994 April 19th. So, I got out from Kurdistan it was December 16th I believe. And we stayed in Guam until April. So, make paper stuff in Guam until can be ready, they brought me all the way here from Guam to New York. When I got New York and I had my friend because we were in camp in Turkey, so I went back to Iraq, he did not come to Iraq, he registered his name and he tried to get out, he came from Turkey to Binghamton. I knew he was here, but I finally got his phone number from somebody I called him and told him you know what now I am coming to America, but I do not know about America I do not know how it looks like I do not know, I need help. He said okay, we will help you as fast as I can. I live in Binghamton, New York. Here is my address, here is my phone. And give my name to those people they will bring you here to immigration. If they bring you here, I will be happy to get you help. So, I know this guy and those my friends we are about four- five friends together, I told him you know that all, I have my friends he going to help me, he going to help you too if you come with me. They said okay, we will come together. So, the guy yesterday and he translate to me yesterday you remember, Shivan, his father has a big family about sixteen kids-

EI: You all came together?

JB: We all came together. I mean different days; we all came from Guam to here. And another two friends. So, we came from Guam all way to Binghamton, New York. We do not speak English very good. I mean we had one friend he spoke English, but those people were here, we have more families here I know them and then they helped us a lot.

EI: Kurdish families as well?

JB: Kurdish families.

EI: They came before you?

JB: They came before us about for – five years.

EI: After, during 1991?

JB: Yeah, not those people during Anfal they stayed in Turkey in the camps, and they brought them here-

EI: And then they did not go back to Iraq and directly came here.

JB: No. [they did not go back to Iraq], just directly to here. Some of them went to Europe.

EI: Okay.

JB: So those people they helped us a lot, anything we needed, they came to help us, and my friend is here. When I first I came I stayed with his family about one month in his house and the day I got out from his house, he gave me anything from dish, clothes and blanket and anything I needed to put in my apartment. So, he helped me a lot. And we need to speak English a little bit. So, I went to American Civic Association to learn English, the call it English second language. And finally, I tried to find a job because you know the social service that time did not help if your work is better. I found my job.

EI: What were you doing?

JB: I was working for Felchar first my job in America. Felchar is a manufacturing company they make vacuum. So, I work in there and then just little bit English I went back to school for English as a second language and try to get computer information system.

EI: You got your two-year degree here, right?

JB: I did not graduate but because of my- I work and my family; work and go to school is not easy. I did not graduate. So, until 2009 or 2007, we had another kid his name Blind. There was a big gap between the first and the second. Now we are happy we have another one. So, after one year, a yeah and a half later we had another one his name is Avend, and after two years we had another one his name is Havend. So, we had Aland, Blind, Avend and Havend. It is four kids. Until now I am here. I am back to Kurdistan twice, my wife and kids-

EI: When did you go?

JB: I went last year.

EI: Last year? The first time?

JB: No.

EI: After 1997?

JB: I went 2001.

EI: How was it?

JB: In Kurdistan was-

EI: First time because you left the country in 1996.

JB: In 1996 was bad, because economic was down, people did not have money. No work.

EI: Although there was not soldier suppression or something, was there any?

JB: No, no soldier. Because we had no fly zone in there.

EI: Do you remember how the Kurds got control after 1991, I mean you came back from-

JB: From Turkish border?

EI: Yeah, when- did you back directly-

JB: To Duhok.

EI: Yeah, so what was the government there?

JB: Okay. There was no government there. There was some police stations belonged to Iraq still in the cities. So, but because the United Nations and the Coalitions forces whatever they called it, they made no fly zone for us, so they brought us back from Turkey to our region that includes, Hawler and Sulaimaniya. So, everybody went back to their places. It was really bad, no food, no work, no nothing. Everybody, people you know tried to survive. Most people they went back to agriculture you know to plant rise, wheat anything you need for your family to eat and the United Nations, organizations coming to help us.

EI: So, how the Kurdish government established there, was there any Kurdish government or soldier-

JB: Back there?

EI: Yeah.

JB: No, no government in there only some Iraqi soldiers, but when we came back so we became government. Everybody had a gun, and Peshmerga came so-

EI: How was that part? Peshmerga just came and they say like we are the government or?

JB: Yeah, because we had two parties big power I mean I can tell you two, there were a lot parties in there like Hizb. The parties in there they were KDP and PUK; these two they had a lot of power.

EI: Talabani and Barzani?

JB: Talabani and Barzani, and there was PKDP and KSP and CKP and a lot in there, but the most powerful parties were the two Barzani’s and Talabani’s. So, they had a lot of people. But both of them they had experience with how to lead people, so they almost controlled the area. We had government and stuff and people they bring helps so it was bad because no nothing, I mean no work, no money, no food but you had to be survived. They made own government in 1991 late. So was that they called Baray Kurdistani, so they made government from all these parties and then Masoud Barzani he decided to make election, so people they elected and then Parliament, Parliament we still have and after that they voted for Kurdistan president and Masoud Barzani he became president for that big government, now government is developing- But I was there until I mean 1996 when I got out from border from Kurdistan it was not too good because we just beginning to build Kurdistan.

EI: Okay, I mean the problem was economic mostly.

JB: Yeah, mostly was economic. And not safe yet because Saddam you never know is coming or not coming, you know is a political sometimes they make agreement with some other country they come back too. So, it was not safe yet but when we got out of there, I got here it was not construction or stuff like that was not good but beginning to rebuild the country.

EI: Were you part of any conflict, or where you include in any conflict, I mean did you fight that time?

JB: I was with Masoud’s party.

EI: So how did you join them? When did you join them and how?

JB: I joined them; I was member of party in 1996. I was young, I was before Anfal.

EI: 1986?

JB: 1986.

EI: Okay.

JB: I was member they call it you know Tanzim Dakhili [undercover agent], we just tried to register in party Baath secret nobody knew. So, I was with them.

EI: When you were in high school right?

JB: Yeah, I was in the high school at that time, but I was young. I was member with them, but when we left for Turkey and they came back now I was, nobody knew and then until you know 1991 so in (19)91 when everything happened, you can get gun anything you can do you know by-

EI: So, you got you gone-

JB: Yeah, my gun I got-

EI: But did you do any military service in Peshmerga?

JB: No, I did not go to military. I cannot force it I do not like military sometime but want to be like sitting in office or do something… So I was, we had an office, so in our office we had a lot of members from the city, we had part of this city is belonged to you going to take care of these people you know-

EI: Oh! So, you were responsible-

JB: Yeah, so me and my friend until I-

EI: Like you were part of bureaucrat not military but the bureaucrat.

JB: Yeah. So, I was with them until now, but from here-

EI: Are you still part of it?

JB: I am still part of it.

EI: Can you go and serve?

JB: If I go back, I will do.

EI: Okay, yeah. Perfect. So, where were you responsible that time as officer to Kurdish government or to central government?

JB: No for Kurdish government, I do not care about central government, just for Kurdish government, because we are Kurdish not Arabs, we are not Iraqis at least because but they put with Iraq so, but now we are part of Iraq, so we have no choice I hope tomorrow tell okay you are not, we are not- But we still part of Iraq.

EI: So, in 2001 you said you went back to Kurdistan?

JB: 2001 I went back to Kurdistan is developing just a little bit but not that much people still no work.

EI: How were the conditions before the American second gulf war?

JB: 2001, no, that is after.

EI: Yeah, 2002, right? America went again.

JB: 2003 to remove Saddam.

EI: Okay.

JB: Now Saddam-

EI: Still in power-

JB: He was in power at that time, this way we came over here, they said we going to kill you, so we should come back, and a good chance to get out of Iraq, there was chance you can help your family because dinar that time when came here I remember one dollar become 100 dinar, Iraqi dinar, and before-

EI: Inflation?

JB: Before in 1986, 1988 when we moved from Kurdistan to Turkey, that time I remember one dinar was six dollars.

EI: So, Saddam was powerful.

JB: So, lost all this economic, no money, no nothing, so one dollar become 100 dinars. So, economics were very bad, so when we got chance to get out from the American, they have working with American some might help your family that was why we came over here. I am not coming over here just to, because of scare or something, be honest with you just moved over here to help my family. So, when I got here, I work in here I send some money to my family, even one hundred dollar you send your family is too much down there. When I was working with the organization, they would give me about sixty-five dollar the whole month. It was too much, not a lot of people could get that much money, but now in 2000 I mean last year when I went there, it is too much, we are now behind. It is too much.

EI: Yeah, your second time.

JB: My second time, last summer.

EI: So, what is your emotions?

JB: Trust me my brother he came to pick me up from the airport in Erbil, he took me to my house remember I took my family put in the house, I did not it is my house, because it was mansions around and there are nice streets there is that place I used to make kind of vegetable and stuff now what they call it, now what they call it imara [high buildings] big buildings in there you cannot even imagine. Everybody is happy for that, everybody is rich.

EI: So, development-

JB: Development increased.

EI: Welfare, okay.

JB: The development you see you cannot believe it.

EI: So, you went to Istanbul and then Erbil?

JB: No, I went from here all way to Qatar.

EI: To Qatar?

JB: Okay, from Qatar all way to Erbil.

EI: Okay. So, when you go to airport, it is Erbil airport, it I Kurdish, officers are Kurds. How was it?

JB: When you get there, what they call about the janna, what they call-

EI: Paradise?

JB: Paradise. No, I am very excited but because too much excited you shake, because you are happy, too much happy. It used to be when you go to any border or any airport you going to talk one language which is not your language, now you going to talk your language. This service people you know they speak your language and officers speak your language, say whatever you want you are not scared from nobody, and the best airport in the middle east now. So, I just can believe- how to describe this happened you know.

EI: I mean did you compare that like I left my country ten years ago now I am back-

JB: The city was small; the city of Duhok was very small that time. Every day we walk from this side to the other side; from north to south, from south to north, I mean you could walk, now by car take one hour to get from this side to the other side all way joined up. Now I went to the place I told you I make vegetable and stuff around, now-

EI: So, what is life, what does it look like now in Kurdistan, I mean when you go there your neighbor, maybe you met with your friends, your childhood friends I mean how was it? What were you talking about?

JB: I guess everybody is busy now, but anybody you see them, he is happy because he is rich, I mean they have money. They can take you to dinner or to picnic or somewhere, if he has time but because you go from here you have free time you just go spend nice vacation in there but people working in there. They are working, if somebody comes from there to here, I cannot spend one month, spend whole one month with him, because I am working here. But he has or he take his vacation whole month, he is free.

EI: Do you have relatives there right? Your mom-

JB: My mom is there, my two brothers still there, and a brother have kids and my uncle everybody is there-

EI: Are they happy like-

JB: Yeah, they are happy now, but they lost member, but you know people forget.

EI: So difficult.

JB: Yeah, I mean the first time I went there the only thing is there I know when you visit to friend, your cousin, your family or relative, I mean they are poor, you cannot help all of them. That is the problem. I mean if I come to your house and then you are my friend or relative or whatever, I know your kids need money, if I do not have it, I cannot help you. You know whatever you can this is sad for you. But this time I went there, when I went there nobody needed me anymore now it is opposite way.

EI: Oh, in 2001 they needed you but now-

JB: Now, they do not need us, then everybody is happy just like the lady she said you can talk about eight hours sit down-

EI: [laughs] So how is your reaction to officers I mean before the soldiers were scary for you, the Iraqi soldiers, Iraqi officers. There should be a gap between- it should be difficult to talk with them, now what do you think, it is ordinary.

JB: Now I will tell you; it happened to me, before office I want to have something to do in office like make ID or something it took you long time, but any office I go there my friend is there, my relative just sit down and talk, and joke and then he can make your paper he is happy. That is your only government. If somebody’s government they do not serve you, they do not help you, just come for money or- but if it is your government from your own people or culture or nation, you would be happy because I went to, I mean one place it is not easy everybody get in there because it is a security is like what they call, like here homeland security, you cannot get in there easy but when I went there, I told them I have some paper to finish, somebody told me just go there but takes about months maybe until finish because they going to go check background and everything you know, told him who is there, the mudeer what they call it?

EI: Mudeer?

JB: Yeah.

EI: Officer maybe?

JB: Officer, yeah. Told him who was there. He named one guy I told him he is my friend, he said your friend, I said yeah. My brother came with me, I went to there I asked them the security people around the building I told them I want to see your boss, he said who are you, tell him who is coming because it is not easy to get there. I told him my name and tell him he is coming. He came from his office took me inside you know, that is because your government.

EI: Okay.

JB: You will be happy you know your brother, your cousin or neighbor or from your village or somewhere is doing in the office or somewhere just for you. That is the difference, before I cannot see him, I cannot talk to him, and I can tell him just do it, but the paper I gave to him, he did it in five minutes, he told me sit down and somebody would take it from this office to the other office until it finished. But if the other way, maybe takes month.

EI: So, I mean you are happy with the life situation in Kurdistan.

JB: I was very happy. I was very happy.

EI: You think it should develop more or-

JB: It will develop more because Kurdistan is a poor sea of the oil.

EI: So, you said you are not happy that you are still part of Iraq?

JB: No, I am not happy, and I wish it is separate now and we have a big wall between us. Because those people not you know even trust them, they are not become your friend they always try to-

EI: I mean, yeah, the problem is about the nation or the government? What do you think?

JB: The government is part of the nation.

EI: I mean do you have any Arab neighbors or friends, were there any problems?

JB: Not exactly my place but I know a lot I mean they are nice but when they become government it changes.

EI: As an individual you do not have any problem?

JB: With other people, no. because you know always problems come from government, I mean small problem maybe you know between families, or some stuff happens but anything problem is from government.

EI: Okay. Do you think you will go back one day or?

JB: If not because of my kids going to college now, I will go tomorrow.

EI: Not now?

JB: I mean if not because of my kids. Because I send them, they want to go to best college, they want to be doctor, you know education in this country is better than our country, so the best thing I think for me if I stay with him until he graduates from his school and then will tell them you know goodbye.

EI: So, you want to back.

JB: I want to back as soon as possible.

EI: Okay. What is your job now, what are you doing here?

JB: I am working in EAT Manufacturing.

EI: It is like factory or?

JB: Yeah, company. It is a company.

EI: As what? What are you doing?

JB: They build boards for computers and stuff like that.

EI: Okay. Perfect. And I took a note like in 1994 around that time there was a problem between Kurdish parties as well, right? Between Barzani and Talabani, what was the main reason? You were one-

JB: I was one party. The reason is-

EI: You know from inside-

JB: Yeah, the reason is just for power, so each party they wanted to get more power from this side. Actually, I mean Barzani’s party we have more power than others, so like the others. So, like the other like opposition, so they try to good and because of money they a lot of things you know, other saying in the other party we do not want to be I mean out of power, so it was beginning so, very beginning so it was bad, they said you know we killed each other for no reason. I mean power is not a thing that you can kill your brother, your cousin because all of them are relatives.

EI: What is called in Kurdish, Brakuzhi?

JB: Brakuzhi?

EI: Yeah.

JB: That is something sad you know, nobody happy with that but it happened.

EI: Yeah, when you back from here you said it is about the power, I mean so you were not happy with that?

JB: No, nobody was happy, I am one of them, I am with Barzani’s party, but I am not happy.

EI: Will it happen again?

JB: I hope not but and then Barzani he decided anything for that not to happen again. Just I do not want to Kurdish people kill each other.

EI: So maybe that time it would be difficult but were you aware of the situation of other Kurds as well?

JB: Like?

EI: Like in Turkey, in Iran, in Syria.

JB: You know because of it is political, Iran maybe supported one group, Turkey support one group and Iraq support the other group, so they are trying to you know make problem in the area, in the region of Kurdistan. So is happen, I hope not because now is very safe, before it happened between PKK and ours side but both sides they knew there is not going to happen, so that something affect both sides, so I am happy not, I mean they stopped, they do not kill each other because is a Kurdish wanted to offer Diyarbakir of from Erbil or from Iran is a full one nation, one brother, just somebody divided them.

EI: Yeah, do you see their destiny is the same or I mean They should be united, or it is fine now, what do you think about all of them, not just Iraq or?

JB: You know I hope, that is any Kurdish hope that the borders destroyed, disappear- all Kurdistan become one Kurdistan, but that is happen is now is part of Iraq or Syria or Turkey or Iran, but fight nobody like it and then we are better than before in the part of Iraq, I mean we have our government we have parliament , I hope the other sides have the same thing and they have power in Turkey, Syria and Iran because in Turkey I believe is now more than forty million people love in Turkey, so they are Kurd, nobody can take your ID because you are not Kurd or whatever, change your nationality. They tried before they did everything they could, but now the truth coming, so you are Kurd, I am Kurd, I am going to be here this is where I love. So, if you want to fight, I am going to fight for y land for my life for my nationality but if you want to peace, I am here for peace.

EI: Good, last question, one of the last two questions I think, a lot of time. Here after 2001, 9/11 did you have any problem here?

JB: In the, the problem for anybody, this history in America, anybody comes from a different country to here, they have a problem, the problem is it is not your language, you did not grow up here, so maybe language is a problem and you-

EI: Do you feel any discrimination or something because you are Muslim?

JB: No, to be honest with you since I am here something like that never happened to me or a person, but I never seen anybody else because this country is very open country for nationality or religion but the problem is inside you, yourself, so when you come from a different country to here, it does not matter where country you are from, half time you are here, half time you are there, you are not from here, you are not from there, so both in both, between both, but generation after generation, your kids growing, is growing in this country, so becomes part of this country.

EI: They integrate.

JB: Yeah. So, after them, their kids, they will totally forget what they are from, so this country become-

EI: You want them to forget your child?

JB: I hope not, it depends how can I but I will take every year, or maybe more than one year, two years to there to just you know they know they have relative in there and they are from here [Kurdistan] and they have own language, they have everything, and if they graduate in here.

EI: So, you have communication with other Kurds here as well.

JB: They are tied with each other, they are close to each other, so this is why I am here I am happy in this area because small area we know each other you know for wedding for party for visit other, any something sad is happened so, everybody knows each other.

EI: Okay. You are coming together for Newroz or other ceremonies?

JB: Yeah, you know sometimes work in your job it depends how you can but most of the time everybody is coming.

EI: You are trying to meet together, continue culture. Yeah okay. Thank you so much.

JB: Thank you, I am here again, you have my phone number, anything else you need me just I am like your brother.

EI: Thank you so much for everything.

JB: Okay.

(End of Interview)

Date of Interview

12 March 2013


Erdem Ilter


Jumaa Barany

Biographical Text

Jumaa was born in Iraqi Kurdistan in the village of Ekmala Khabur near Duhok and came to the United States in 1997. He has a Associate degree from SUNY Broome. Growing up, he witnessed the harsh rule and treatment of Saddam Hussein and his military towards his own family and people, which lead to his brother’s and father’s death. Jumaa and his wife currently live in the Binghamton area with their children.


114:32 minutes



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Binghamton University

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Kurdish; Kurdistan; Iraq; Turkey; Iran; Kuwait; United States; Broome; Anfal; Intifiza; Conflict; Iraq War; Saddam; Family; Duhok; Mardin; Peshmarga; Ebril; Education


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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 Jumaa Barani,” Digital Collections, accessed July 25, 2024,