My journey to Kurdistan- the other side of the border (Part I)

The Kurdistan jigsaw puzzle piece that falls in Iran.
30 December 2011
11:33 p.m.
Writing from Kermanshah. Today we arrived in Kurdistan- Iran. It was a six hour trip from Erbil to Khanaqin yesterday and this morning at 9 a.m. we crossed the border into the Iranian side of Kurdistan. Can you believe we needed a passport and a visa just to see the other half of my KURDISH family, in KURIDSTAN?!!

The sign pointing to the direction of Iraq

A little background information to set the picture: My grandfather, who lived in Mandaly—Iraqi KURDISTAN—married two wives; one in Iraq, one in Iran, (he basically worked between the two countries, so I think that’s why he wanted one here and one there). So the wife in Iran, also a Kurd, had many children, and so did the wife in Iraq. Hence, when my father and I decided to put together a family tree, we realized one, two or even six A4 papers together won’t be enough. The family one both sides are HUGE (xwa lekman nakat). Most of them have also married relatives so when you sit down and try to understand how we are related it can become very confusing…and often interesting, because you realized you are related from dad’s side and mum’s side, and then you realize your cousin is married to the cousin of your other cousin and then he is related to your aunt’s husband from a stepmother, whose father is related to your father because your grandfather’s brother-in-law is related to this person through their wife. Phew!! I did my part in writing it, now you can figure it out. In the real world you wouldn’t even know these people, but in our family you are considered as relatives by blood and all the protocols of ‘khzm’ (being related to someone) will apply.

Beautiful sunset on the way to Khanaqin, yesterday

Anyhow… we decided to travel on Tuesday evening, Wednesday evening our passports were stamped with Iran visas, Thursday it was off to Khanaqin and on Friday morning, when the border was very quiet we crossed to Iran (KURIDSTAN!!!!) via the Khisrawi border point.

The situation was very awkward, on the Iraq side the ‘office’ where you go through to get the passports stamped made me feel like I had committed a crime and had to walk through here before being kicked into a prison cell. There was a cat which jumped over the small broken walls INSIDE the building, it then did it’s dance (walk) on a computer keyboard. I gave it a really angry face… if only it knew I had a cat-phobia it wouldn’t have gone to hide under the desk. I saw it under the desk, because that too was broken.

we received our stamps within minutes, can you believe it!! Except M.M. junior’s name looked ‘suspicious’ so we had to wait for the big boss to come. A little waiting, then Mr. Boss came in his tracksuits half asleep sat behind the antiqued computer, pressed few buttons, asked few question, clicked on the mouse a few times began a conversation smiled before stamping “EXIT” on M.M. junior’s  passport.  I must point out if Mr. Boss wasn’t as nice and friendly as he was then I would have made a big deal of the fact that he was sleeping during working hours and came out in his PJs.

There was a barbed wire and a small door at the corner, we said our goodbyes and within few steps we were in Iran. I was almost in tears here, my uncle was on the other side of the fense speaking to my auty. There was a metal door at the end of the fense where those with an exist stamp can step through. As we passed, aunty was holding the gate on one side, and my uncle less than one metre away on the other side, both were talking to each other. Very uncomfortable situation to be in, the guards on the Iranian side would particularly pay attention and stare at them as they said their hellos like prisoners. I looked up, where aunty was standing the Kurdistani and Iraqi flag were fluttering above her side of the gate, on the other side where uncle was just the flag of Iran, not a sign of Kurdishness, despite the fact that this too in reality is Kurdistan.
Kurdistan (Iraq) walking towards the arch, from that point it’s Kurdistan (Rojhalat)
A few more steps and two sign-posts the right says Iraq, the left says Iran.
Here from Iranian side of Kurdistan, looking at Iraqi Kurdistan.
On the Iranian side it takes about 20 minutes to get our an “ENTRY” stamp.
*It is easier to travel into Iran with an Iraqi passport, very quick and easy process via the consulate in Erbil. Don’t get me started on the passports issue. I still want my Kurdistani one, and I still don’t think I should have a passport to see my Kurdish family, on Kurdish soil. L Sad that in a Kurdish city there is no sign of the Kurdish flag….
From the Khisrawi border gate in Khanaqin to Kermanshah it was about a three-hour drive, interesting sitting next to dad as he told us stories of the many areas we drove through.
Met my aunty and one of my uncles* so far, tomorrow is going to be interesting, I am going to meet the bigger family. Not sure what I am going to expect, especially since many are still mourning for the recent death of a dear uncle, H.M. I am interested to see the way of life here… what the Kurds think, what they do etc…
**My mother’s family, Kurds who lived in Mandaly, and later in Baghdad, were forcibly displaced in the 1980s to Iran. They were told that they are not Iraqis, at the time Iran also refused them saying they weren’t Iranians. They were Kurds, but denied Iraqi and Iranian identifications. Over the years many of my mum’s family returned to Iraq, although two of her sisters and a brother still remain in Iran. Those who chose to remain in Iran up to today don’t have Iranian IDs, they were also forbidden to go to university and finish their studies. Dearest readers… see just how complicated it can be sometimes to be a Kurd….

This picture, taken earlier today inspired me to write this week’s Memoirs column in KG…

[The blogs that are to come in the next days were written on a daily bases during my trip, but as I didn’t have internet access then I am posting them now with pictures. It will automatically update one post every second day]

*please excuse all typos, miss-spellings etc… these entries were all written on the go and I haven’t read through them again before posting on the blog Thank you for your understanding!

One thought on “My journey to Kurdistan- the other side of the border (Part I)

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  1. We are working on that Kurds will not need visa and passport to move withing their own country.
    Even if its difficult to be Kurd – even if its more difficult sometimes to be kurdish, if you wasnt born as Kurd – i still dont want to be anyone else.


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