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Archive for the ‘Kurds and Nashville’ Category

There are some of the traditions of my husbands culture that I so adore and hope my children will also adopt and carry on. One of these is visiting guests. If someone from out of town visits, if you know them personally or know their family, you should stop by for a visit.

Today I made such a visit to a family friend. One whom in the years since we first knew them now has ties to us thru marriage also. Sometimes in Kurdish culture that’s how it goes, you know a family and eventually, somewhere down the road, someone gets married to someone else and they become not only a family friend but part of the big extended family.

This friend married into a family in Dallas that is from my husbands village, Bigdawda. She was back in Nashville visiting her mother, who I really like and has mutual feelings for me. I don’t know what it is, but I could spend hours with the elderly, maybe its their wisdom, maybe its they don’t care about the trivial things anymore, not sure exactly, but I always enjoy visits to see them.
She had gotten several sets of Kurdish clothes made for her sister in law who is getting married next month. Beautiful fabrics in shades of purple and turquoise, some embellished with sequins and others with bead work…all needing to be delicately hand sewn.

We sipped tea and ate Kada (Kurdish pastries) and chatted, catching up on each others families.

As I rose to go, her mother told me to go see their new deck. She then told her husband to go fetch me some Radish leaves and okra from their garden. Knowing it would make her happy, I accepted the gracious offering and went to explore the deck while he picked them from the garden.
He came back with a bag full of veggies and as I turned to leave, she told me, don’t forget this bag of Kada too.
Her daughter and I said our goodbyes, wishing safe travels, and giving our greetings to extended family.
“Tell them I said hello and I ask after all of them” I said
She smiled and said “They all say hello and tell them we are sick so they visit us in Dallas”
At this we both laughed.

It was a good visit. A good tradition.

A tradition that is almost dying out if we do not carry it on.

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Arum, called Kari in Kurdish is one food that may never have come into being.   You see the Arum plant is actually a poisonous plant.

This is a wild plant that grows during the winter months in shady and damp places. All parts of this plant are poisonous because of high levels of calcium oxalate crystals. If swallowed the calcium oxalate crystals penetrate and irritate cells which leads to the swelling and constriction of the throat, difficulty breathing and even death. This may not sound like an ideal plant to eat but that is exactly what some ethnic groups do, most notably the Bedouins, local Arabs and Kurds of the area.

One person recalls on their blog how they learned the art of gathering and cooking Kari:

When I first became interested in Kurdish cooking and their many kubba dumplings I naturally went to my grandmother because she was wise in the world of kubba. She told me of all the different kinds of kubba she used to make including one intriguing one called kubba kardi (made from the poisonous Arum plant).

“How do you make this kubba?”, I asked but she waved me away and said,
“Don’t mess with it, the leaves are poison! You have to learn from someone experienced.”
Being a city girl my grandmother didn’t have access to the plant. So I called my Aunt and she said,
“Keep away from it! You will poison yourself! Who ever heard of an American making kubba kardi?”

When I first started cooking it as an American cooking Kurdish food, I was unaware of the poisonous nature of this plant.  A couple times I remember tasting the cooking leaves and having my tongue tingle.  I quickly learned the art of cooking Kari. And it is one of my favorite Kurdish foods.  When the Aunties overseas ask me what I would like them to send me my reply is always “Send me some Kari please!” 🙂

Kari (Arum Stew)

Ingredients:

3-5 lbs Beef/Sheep bones with meat, cut up

2 Tbsp salt (1/2 Tbsp later added)

3 Cups Dried Arum

*8 cups cold water to soak Arum in

10 cups water

3 Tbsp Tahini

2 tsp Citric Acid

1 16oz can of Garbanzo Beans (drained)

Directions:

  1. Take 3 cups dried arum, soak in 8 cups cold water for 2-3 hours (If using fresh Arum, double the amount of Arum and cut up)

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  1. Add bones to pressure cooker…add 1 tbsp salt…rub into meat/bones. Drain Arum and add to pressure cooker. Add 1 tbsp salt and mix. Then add 3 Tbsp Tahini and 10 cups water.

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  1. Close pressure cooker and heat on high till steaming. Then reduce heat to medium. Cook for 1 hour (if meat not tender cook for some additional time)
  2. Add 2 tsp Citric Acid and ½ Tbsp salt (taste for salt/sour balance, if needed add a cup of water)
  3. Add Garbanzo beans and let simmer for 5-10mins more.

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Best served with plain rice, bread, or Arum Rice.

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Salih, Amina, and their son Shabban...the members of the Bigdowdi's that were killed.

My husband, Meran comes from a tragic past involving the murder of his parents and brother all in one day in the village of Ekmole, Iraq that is along the Turkish border.  They were amongst many killed that day and other days before in what would be later known as the Anfal Campaigns…it was Saddam’s attempt to crush the Kurds once and for all.  It didn’t work, however the effects of those lost is still felt till today.

Here is Meran Abdullah’s story…

At the time of the attack our family-My father, mother, 3 sisters, and myself-had been forced to relocate from our home village of Bigdowdi due to Saddam’s army coming to our village and destroying our homes several times. First we went to Bersive for seven or so years. Then our situation became difficult again and we had to find somewhere else to live. We then moved to Ekmole around 1986.

In March of 1988 the infamous Chemical attack on Halabja occurred to the south of us. In that attack many Kurds were the victims of chemical attacks. Due to this attack and having information from others we were anticipating having to run if we had to.

Several days before the attack on my village my older brother Shabban came home to visit. He told us rumors of Saddam’s army moving north and attacking Kurdish villages. We didn’t know what to do at that time so we stayed there. After a couple days everyone in our village and the surrounding villages heard that Saddam’s army was closing in and everyone decided to try and cross into Turkey to seek refuge. The night before the attack on our village my family decided to run across the mountains and try and cross the border. We had to do this at night in order to try and not get detected. One major obstacle on the way was a major road between two mountains. Once you crossed the road the other mountains and beyond were under Kurdish control but the Army frequently patrolled this area and it was dangerous to cross. In order to help people, the Kurdish rebels would signal people if it was clear to cross or not. That night there were thousands of us on the backside of the mountain. We waited for a signal but when we finally heard word it was only to tell us that the Army was blocking the road further up and it was too dangerous to cross. We also could not stay on the mountain because when daylight came the planes would be able to spot us. We were forced to turn around and go home and try again the next day.

Shortly after we returned home,my uncle-Mossa Mossa and his friend Tahsin Ayyub arrived at our house. They were working with the Kurdish resistance and were returning with food supplies for our family. Earlier that night they had been on the opposite side of the road in the Kurdish controlled area. They had crossed the road with no problem and had made it back to our village. Apparently there had been some miscommunication and there was no road block. They had hurried to come fetch us and get us to the border because of the rumors of what was about to happen. When they had heard what happened to us that night they were upset. But because we had gone and come back we were all exhausted and we decided to rest and start bright and early.

In the morning we woke up early before sunrise. We ate breakfast and made ourselves ready to go. My uncles and their friend, my siblings and I all decided to go on ahead. My parents and oldest brother stayed behind in order to gather a few supplies and to get our id’s that we would need in order to cross the border. We had not gotten that far from our house when we heard the planes. We had many experience with planes flying over our villages, shooting our livestock, and threatening us. Our first instinct was to run for cover in bushes or wherever we could find. At one point we heard two loud bang sounds, it sounded like someone dropping a barrel of flour, bomm shhhhh, with smoke. We ran for cover in an underground tunnel my neighbor had constructed. We had been in there for a few minutes when we started to smell something. My uncles who were in the resistance immediately recognized what this was… a chemical attack. They urged us to leave the area immediately and to wet some cloths and put over our mouths. There were two exits to the tunnels and I immediately went for the one that came up by my house in order to warn my parents and brother of the danger. But as I turned that way I was pulled by my older sister the other way and told to go and that she would warn them. I remember yelling to my parents and brother, “Bob, Da, Chemia hovit ( Mom, Dad, they have dropped chemical weapons)”. My sister and uncle echoed my yells but did not let us linger. They rushed us outside and to the creek so we could wet some cloths to cover our mouths. We rushed across the creek and up into the mountains and were trying to reach a cave for safety until the chemical had a chance to be swept away by the winds. There was no time then to try and get my parents or wait. Our lives were in immediate danger and we had to escape if we could. That was one of the hardest times I remember in my life; knowing my family is in danger and having to save myself or maybe die with them.

My uncle Suphi, his wife, children and our grandmother had come from the other part of the village and met us at the cave. Afterwards we waited for about a half hour in the cave and still my parents and brother had not come. Mossa, my uncle, and Tahsin his friend decided to go look for them. They came back a couple hours later but had not found them. They discussed what they should do with my other uncles and where they should look for my parents. They thought that they may not have followed our route but taken another one. So my uncles Suphi and Mossa went this time, along with their friend Tahsin to look for my parents and my brother. I couldn’t handle not knowing what had happened to them so I demanded that I come along. It wasn’t safe all the way yet, especially for a kid, but I wasn’t going to be deterred. At first we still couldn’t find anything either. But evidence of what had happened was all around: birds carpeted the ground under trees dead; our livestock that hadn’t been able to flee was lying on the ground dead, death permeated the air. After about 45 minutes or so we decided to follow the path that we took from our house up the mountain and backtrack. It was here, along the bank of the creek that we first found my mother. And across the creek we found my brother with my father lying beside him. It appeared that my mother had been better off and had tried to go as far as she could. But I think my father must have gotten too weak because it seemed like my brother had been carrying him on his back. In the end they were all three overwhelmed to the point they no longer had the strength to flee. By the time we reached them it was too late.

Even in that moment where my grief was so much I had to hold it together and be strong. If I returned like this my sisters would know what this meant and they would not be able to handle it. They would be so stricken with grief that they would not be able to move ahead. And we were still not out of danger. Saddam’s army could return by foot or air at any moment looking for survivors. So I pulled myself together for their sake, even though my heart ached with an overwhelming grief that almost made it hard to breathe.

Other peshmergas, Kurdish resitance soldiers, had returned to the valley as well and were helping with taking the bodies to the graveyard. As my uncles and Tahsin and I all returned to the cave, the peshmergas took our parents and brothers bodies to the graveyard. When we returned to my family in the cave we told them that we had found my parents and brother and they would meet us at the other end of our village by the graveyard. We had to make them believe there was hope even though there wasn’t in order to get them to move forward. So all of us left the cave and traveled to the end of the village by the graveyard. Only then, with the bodies giving silent witness, did we reveal what really happened and where we had found them.

We quickly buried them and moved on. We forced our bodies to push on thru sheer will. We knew that staying here in our grief was not an option. We hiked over mountains and dangerous trails for over four hours. Not too soon after we began to feel the effects of our exposure to the chemical weapons. We suffered from: Red, teary eyes; swollen, burning nasal passages; dry throats; and severe nausea and vomiting. Our symptoms varied in severity depending on our exposure and sensitivity. And they lasted with some of us for over 10 days. To this day some of us still suffer from after effects of that exposure.

Eventually we ended up in a village on the border, Oraya. There we were fed and were able to rest. Thousands of other villagers from villages all across the north also gathered there. We all were intending on fleeing into Turkey to seek refuge. We stayed there the night and intended to cross in the morning.

Eventually Turkey let us in, but it was not without difficulty. Probably international pressure was a major factor in Turkey even putting up with the amount of Kurdish refugees fleeing Iraq. We were put into refugee camps in different cities of Turkey, ours was in Mardin. We stayed there in tents, an infrequent supply or food and other necessities, and harsh conditions for over four years. We eventually were sponsored to come to America where we arrived in September of 1992.

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You can now view a special interview with my husband, Meran Abdullah about his story of survival in Kurdistan (Northern Iraq) during the Anfal Campaigns that Saddam Hussein waged against the Kurdish people in the late 80’s.

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The documentary about Kurds and Nashville has been posted online.

You can view it here.

(Meran, my husband is in it, as well as his cousin, Kasar)

Also in the next month or so they will post pics of my husband and his family from their time in Turkish Refugee Camps (1988-1992).  And they will have some additional footage that was not included in the documentary. 

I will update when they post it.

 

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Little Kurdistan, USA

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