Samar chose the word “Jaffa” (pronounced “yafa”). Jaffa, which today is part of Tel Aviv, is the city from which most families here in Balata come from, before being made refugees in 1948. She chose this word because she wants the young generations to know where their real homeland is.
Maryam (14 years old) chose the word “Soul” and wanted me to write it in English. She told me that the soul is the only part of a person that remains truly free. People can take her freedom away, but her soul will remain free.
Hassan was a teacher back in Syria. His life changed when the war started and he migrated to Irak, but he still has the same mission. He now teaches geography to teenagers of the refugee camp, and asked me to paint the word “Future”, because the next generation of young Kurds is what he cares about the most. I painted the word on the local school here in the camp where students are about to begin their end-of-school exams.
Roshenk chose the word “Kurdistan”. She came to Kawergosk Refugee Camp 4 years ago with her family from Dayrik, a city in Syrian Kurdistan, when the civil war reached the region. Roshenk misses her hometown a lot, but she also somehow feels at home here because she is still in Kurdistan. Kurdistan is a large region of the middle east that stretches across 4 countries : Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran. Iraqi Kurdistan is an autonomous region seeking total independence. It has its own government, police and of course its own army, the Peshmerga, for who Roshenk’s husband Zakaria fights in Sinjar.
Zakaria is away on duty and Roshenk thought that having the word “Kurdistan” painted on their house would be a good surprise for him when he comes back.
“I’ve always fought for Freedom (AZADI in Kurmanji). During the arab spring I was demonstrating in Damascus for a free Syria. Things got ugly at one point as the Syrian army started firing machines guns around my neighbourhhod. I was on my roof with my daughters and I told them to get down. They were crying but I had to keep a straight face. One day my neighbour, who worked for Bashar Al Assad’s army, came up to me and said that I need to leave straight away because the army wanted to capture me because I was a freedom activist. I called my wife and took my 3 kids and some money, and we left Damascus by bus. Along the way, the police stopped the bus and checked our ID. My kids were all crying and I kept my cool. Somehow, the police checked my ID and let me go. We went to Rojava, the Kurdish region of Syria. But then trouble started in Rojava, bombs started to rain over us, and we had to leave the country and come here to Iraq. I don’t regret anything, freedom is more important than anything.” – Redwan, 41 years old.
“I choose to share the word “JIYAN” (=LIFE in Kurmanji). My family and I left Syria because we wanted to live. It’s as simple as that.”- Hani, 15 years old.
ASTI (the word for “Peace” in Kurmanji) was chosen by Shidan. She is the mother of 9 year old twins Lava and Hossein. They used to live in Damascus where Shidan’s husband Kaniwar worked as a baker. Here in Kawergosk Refugee Camp, Kaniwar still works as a baker in a small shop on the main street. He has no hope of going back to Syria, he wants to carry on baking cakes somewhere in peace.