kurdish history

“Oh mother!” - a rattle, tears and darkness. Blood gushed out, and the stabbed body trembled. “Oh mother!”, heard only by the executioner. Tomorrow the dawn will come and roses will wake up. Youth and enchanted hopes will ask for her. The meadows and the flowers will answer, “She left to wash the disgrace.” The brutal executioner will return and meet the people “Disgrace?”, he wipes his knife, “We’ve torn it apart and returned virtuous with a white reputation.” - Nazik Al-Malaika

.Kurdish refugees return to their demolished village of Qalat Diza after the failed Iraqi Kurdish uprising against Saddam Hussein. Two million Kurds from Iraqi Kurdistan fled their villages in northern Iraq for refugee camps when the uprising against Saddam Hussein failed after the gulf war. Hussein’s forces have levelled many Kurdish villages and towns, as illustrated in this example. The villagers are afraid to rebuild as long as Saddam is in power. In 19 89, Iraqi troops dynamited and bulldozed Qalat Dizah.

“Costumes of wealthy women from the city of Orfa (Urfa) and neighboring tribes.”

Image description:

Post-card by Capucin Mission, of the Costumes of the rich females of the city of Urfa,or Edessa,now in southern Turkey north of the Syrian border,and prior to 1920’s part of the Aleppo province.Edessa was a strong center of Aramaic culture and thought, the Prophet Abraham Settled there for a while [at close-by Harran ] .Center for the cult of Moon and Sun,[Sabians ] ,cult of Atargatis [ close-by Munbij,or Hierapolis in Syria ]. Early Christianity adopted by the Abgars, kings of Edessa,the correspondence between Jesus and King Abgar V, the origin of the shroud of Turin,Center of the Early Gnostic Academy surviving well into the Islamic era, and hot bed of early Eastern Christian movements: Assyrian Christians[Nestorians], and Monophysites Christians[ Jacobites,or Syriac ].The County of Edessa,was a Crusader state for a brief period. Most Arabic speaking Syriacs and Armenians of Urfa, fled to Syria and Lebanon in the 1920’s.

Where shall I go? I’m weary of the ways. I’m bored with the meadows and with the persistent, hidden enemy following my footsteps. Where can I escape? The trails and roads that carry songs to every strange horizon. The paths of life; the corridors in night’s total darkness; the corners of the bare days… I’ve wandered along them all, with my relentless enemy behind me. Keeping a steady pace, or sitting firmly. Like the mountains of snow in the far north. - Nazik Al-Malaika 

*Portrait of a Kurdish woman, Al-Anfal Campaign,1981 

I used henna to draw traditional Kurdish tattoo patters on my hand. In Kurdish we call them Deq and our ancestors practiced this art for thousands of years, both my grandmothers, my great grandmothers etc had these tattoos on their bodies, hands and faces. The real tattoos are more dark blue in colour because of the mixture used to make the ink (which I’ve put more information about below) the symbols all have meanings and were used spiritually. I am absolutely fascinated by them and enjoy drawing them on my hands almost as a homage to my wonderful late grandmothers and ancestors.

“The art of adorning the face and body with tattoos has a very long history in Kurdish culture. Tattooing carries symbolism from old belief systems, such as paganism, shamanism and Zoroastrianism, overlaid with many other influences.

Traditionally, tattoos are made by mixing soot and milk. The design is drawn on the skin using a thin twig and is, with the help of a sewing needle, penetrated under the skin. Tattoos last a lifetime.

The most common tattoo symbols are those that protect against evil forces; maintain good health or cure illnesses; show tribal affiliations; and enhance beauty, sexuality and fertility. Tattoos are placed on the most significant parts of the body, such as near the mouth and nostrils, hands, between the eyebrows and close to the breasts and genitals. Today, a decreasing number of Kurds are choosing permanent tattoos. More commonly, temporary markings are drawn on the face for special occasions and as a gesture of respect for this traditional cultural practice.”