As I write today, I have blisters in my feet, my face is red as a ripe tomato because of the sizzling sun, my back hurts because I have been on my feet for hours, I have a round patch around my eyes because of the sunglasses. I have been pushed, shoved squashed and squeezed yet I feel deep contentment as I spent another unforgettable day of my life in Kurdistan in one of the elections rallies in Erbil.
I was in the Franso Hariri stadium where Presidential candidate Masoud Barzani gave a speech to thousands of spectators and Kurdish singer Zakaria Abdulla concluded the night with some of his top hit songs. It is rare that we spend a day and there is so much to write of, yet it is difficult to chose a starting point, no matter how much I will try to express the sentiment and atmosphere in the stadium it will never reflect the reality and the inimitable experience.
Of all the thousands of people in the stadium I cannot remove from my mind the image of the elderly woman who had made her way inside the arena gates and onto the pitch, waving a Kurdish flag in each of her hands, folk singing in an almost yodeling tune in support of her preferred presidential candidate. She was just one of the many elderly women who had made their way into a swarming and crammed stadium. The tears in her eyes made me feel the wounds of her experiences, the suffering of her past and the contentment of the present moment.
The red, white, green and yellow colors were swaying in all directions like ocean waves; women, men and children; the rich and the poor; the old and the young; the Badini and the Sorani– there was no difference, all I could sense was Kurds celebrating a day like today together. Kurds were rejoicing a moment that our grandparents were only dreaming of and the generation before us sacrificed their lives for.
The smile would not leave the face of An Ex-Peshmerga who had lost both his legs and was guided by his wife into the stadium on a wheelchair, he pushed himself this way and that way, waved the flag, sang along, clapped and would dance if he could. Nor would the smile abandon the cute face of a child with painted cheeks and Kurdish flag headband.
The crowed did not look comfortable; all falling on each other but it did not prevent the chanting, screaming and singing becoming louder every second. From a distant the stadium looked like an overflowing cup with young people sitting on the edges in the brim. The cheering was loud, it was unique and many of what was said indeed was funny but all for a good purpose– in support of the election rally.
Few of the fights and citizens doing the impossible to get a clear glimpse of the VIPs present gave the evening an enthusiastic and a fanatical mood with lots of energetic vibes from young and old people. As the celebrations came to an end, the clever ones began to leave before the official completion to avoid being jammed in a crammed crowd. Although the slogans, support and the singing continued as groups chanted with flags and posters through the busy streets that surrounded the stadium well into the night.
The fact that there are a large number of lists participating in the elections as rivals or competitors is to a great degree a healthy competition. There has been no law that has prohibited any list or presidential candidate to nominate themselves in the election process. This has already put pressure and responsibility on the winning candidates to gratify the public and fulfill their duties favorably in fear of the elections after this. Steadily Kurdistan is taking steps in fulfilling a healthy and democratic government; the fact that supervisors have been invited from abroad is also a bonus that reflects the amount of transparency and fairness that will be in this election.
I am very proud, as a young Kurdish girl to be witnessing a day like today in Kurdistan. Nevertheless, my small condemnation is that I wished to see the Presidential candidates and the head of different lists to appear in the public with their wives or daughters in the campaigning process; immediately there will be a revolution in the Kurdish culture in regards to women’s status and roles in society. Although I am confident it will not be long before a step like this will take place—maybe the candidates will broadcast victory celebrations with their families for the public to witness.
Now I know why I left behind foreign land and came back to Kurdistan. I am here because I want to experience moments like this, the feelings I had in the middle of the stadium I would not exchange to any paradise place in this world. It was indeed a day that I was proud to be still living to see and experience.
by Sazan M. Mandalawi Published: June in Kurdish globe (www.kurdishglobe.net)