13 years of social change

13 years ago, 16-year-old me landed in Erbil International Airport (it was actually just one room at the time) everything else after that day writes novels and books- not just stories of my one, but of every person I have encountered in my time ‘back home.’

On the streets of Erbil petrol was sold in bottles, the only tall buildings were the Zakaria Apartments– AKA Naz City– and the only English Language University in Kurdistan was UKH. There was not a single coffee shop in town, and we could only push trolleys in Naza Mall. The biggest social issue was Female Genital Mutilation, there were no smart phones and Facebook didn’t exist then, neither did Twitter or Instagram- hence, the beginnings of this humble blog.

Photo: Harem Sewaisi

This makes me seem so old.

Maybe I am old. Or maybe Kurdistan grew too quickly. From a crawling baby to a running toddler overnight- I feel as though I witnessed it all. Every political, social and even economic phase. Who could have ever imagined a nation could experience so much, in so little time.

I admire how it grew. The social issues are only natural, from tribal mentality to a more modern lifestyle in ten years is a major leap. The social difference between a single generation was — and continuous to be– immense. A traditional, tribal father, all of a sudden has a daughter who wants to drive, dress in jeans, do her eye brows, sit in cafes with her girl friends, and travel alone for a conference before she is married or even in university. Therefore, the internal struggle, turmoil and loss of identity exists in many households.

Photo: Harem Sewaisi

Some families managed to understand, accept, and go with the flow while others debated, resented and firmly resisted the wave. This wave, whether it was welcomed or not, it came, it swept every house-hold in every corner of Kurdistan.

Changing social order, behaviour and norms in a community requires a social evolution, which in normal cases is a gradual change over generations. Here, it was overnight and with it came the tag of honour, culture, tribalism, heritage, customs and norms– when some accepted and some didn’t one community was no longer riding the same boat. Which is why neighbourhoods five minutes from each other often feel like different countries and cultures.

Photo: Harem Sewaisi

I often find myself in deep conversations with many girls from different walks of life in Kurdistan. Each in a different struggle between family, relatives, parents, older siblings, in-laws and even extended family members. I humbly observe a clash between the different generations as many I speak to describe their challenges.

What is deemed correct, acceptable and a mere right for a 20 year-old college girl is not accepted, supported or welcome by her parents, older brothers, uncles, and even the next door neighbour. A simple decision becomes a struggle, a normal action has severe consequences and living a life she wishes to live can be mission impossible in the face of those who didn’t ride the wave of social change.

I know a day will come where these changes will settle, and become part of our society. But in the meantime too many girls are on a daily struggle in the face of their families and relatives. Neither are wrong in their thoughts, the changes just came too fast for some to comprehend- positive role models, influence of religious men, those in power and ongoing awareness is one of the keys ways we can go about this…

Photo: Harem Sewaisi
and there are people like this too

I am hurt for every time a young girl is unable to achieve her dreams in life as she is opposed by those closest to her.. and only a Kurd will know what it means to be abandoned by your family.

I’m full of hope and optimism for the future.

for now lots of love from

My Nest in Kurdistan,

Sazan,

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