“Worse than traitors in arms are the men who pretend loyalty to the flag, feast and fatten on the misfortunes of the Nation while patriotic blood is crimsoning the plains of the South and their countrymen moldering the dust.”
~ Abraham Lincoln, US President, 1861-1865.

I had been waiting to see if any Başurî were going to write something about the outbreak of bird flu in South Kurdistan, something with some commentary and context beside simply carrying news reports of the events. Waiting has finally paid off in the form of an article by Dr. Kamal Mirawdeli at KurdishMedia.

I do not always agree with everything Dr. Kamal writes, nor do I always agree with his politics, but I think that since his article puts the outbreak of bird flu in the South in a political context, it does a service for Kurds and friends of Kurds. Much of what he says is true, particularly within the political situation and including the idea of free expression and the press in South Kurdistan.

I have had serious doubts about the availability of Tamiflu in South Kurdistan, and this paragraph confirms my suspicions:

The PUK paper Kurdistani Nuwe has published on its front page a short message by Jalal Talabani “reassuring the people of the town of uprising Ranya” that the bird flue is under control and advises them to follow instructions given to them by health authorities to control the virus. He thanks Iraqi minister of health for going to Sulaymaniya to offer his help and thanks the US ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad “for sending some medicine” which he presumably sent in his name to his minister in Sulaymaniya to assure people that they have the same advanced medicine that the modern world has.

Since there really is no independent journalism in South Kurdistan, how can we be certain that bird flu is under control? Why should the people believe any health instructions given to them by authorities, when these same authorities do not permit a free press? One must continually negotiate one’s way through a maze of officially-sanctioned lies when it comes to the press, so that the mind becomes set to this habit over time. When a moment of crisis comes, such as the bird flu outbreak, the public has difficulty believing what it is told through the press, even if the information conveyed is true, because truth has become associated with falsehood.

Why is Khalilzad sending “some medicine,” if Talabanî is saying the situation is under control and his official press is publishing a statement which says they have all the same medicine that is available in other countries? I don’t think the Americans need to send medicine; I think the Kurdish authorities should purchase the medicine themselves, since there is a lack of a proper government and independent health ministry, which would ordinarily take care of this kind of duty.

In fact, the pockets of the two Başurî billionaire leaders are certainly deep enough to purchase all the necessary medicines, especially in light of the fact that their revenues are revenues that should properly belong to the Başurî as a whole, through a public treasury that should be part of a proper government, totally separated from any political party.

Dr. Kamal mentions the issue of a semi-independent press beginning to raise the question of “social issues:”

Only now some semi-independent papers are to some extent interested in ‘social news’ and within their limited reporting capacity publish some news of various deaths and incidents that happen on daily basis and which give alarming indicators of the state of the democratic civil society established by the two ruling parties.

If certain issues were only “social” issues, then there should be no restriction on discussions of these issues, however, so-called social issues are, in reality, political issues, hence the restrictions on them within the “semi-independent” papers. It is true, as Dr. Kamal argues in his article, that so-called social issues or social news, is in fact a reflection of the overall political situation. The heart of the matter, and Dr. Kamal’s point in raising this question, is that it is the government, or what passes for government in the South, that does nothing about these issues. These events must not affect the elites, so there is no need to be concerned with them. On the other hand, it must be intensely important for the elites to negotiate contracts to construct one of the largest shopping malls in the ME, or to contract the construction of 5-star resorts, meanwhile, raw sewage flows through the streets of cities like Akrê and villagers are routinely blown up by landmines.

After all, image is everything.

Speaking of images, I was sent a photo recently, by a heval, a photo taken in Rojhelat. A Kurdish woman is seated on the ground, probably in or near a bazaar, fabric is spread out before her. On the fabric, is some money. In a cardboard box next to the fabric, is her infant. I assume that the box is the infant’s crib. My point is that the image in the photo is not unique to Iranian-occupied Kurdistan. I saw the same image, the same scene, in the bazaars of South Kurdistan last year. The question that kept running through my mind when I saw things like this was: “Why, when there is now breathing space for the people, why must these women, or these children, be compelled to beg for their existence? Why do the parties permit these things to continue? Why the emphasis on resorts, when the people need clean drinking water?”

It is true that the party leaderships, and the pêşmerge attached to them, spent decades in the mountains and made sacrifices to fight against the regime. As such, they are entitled to some recompense for their service to the Kurdish national movement and the Kurdish people. However, for the sake of the people, for the sake of the nation, the recompense must be limited so that the fruits of liberation may extend to all the people, all of whom have made terrible sacrifices for the cause or for simply having been born Kurd.

It is not so much the outbreak of bird flu in the South which is the “social” evil in question here, but it is the political response to the outbreak that is evil, as Dr. Kamal mentions, and the response goes far beyond the healing of the sick or the availability of Tamiflu. There is also the question of what happens next, after all the chickens and other poultry are slaughtered.

As Dr. Kamal points out, and as has been reported in The New York Times this week, the loss of poultry will affect the ability of the people to feed and support themselves, just as it has affected the Kurds in Turkish-occupied Kurdistan:

Cheap and easy to raise and prepare, chicken and other poultry have long been an important staple among Kurds, whose region spreads into Turkey, Iran and Syria.

In the cities, roast chicken and chicken tikka, tiny pieces of meat cooked over flame on skewers, are favored restaurant dishes. In the villages, Kurds who raise large families on paltry incomes keep chickens for eggs that can feed hungry children or can be sold for a crucial income.

While villagers said they understood and largely agreed with the new restrictions, it was creating a major hardship.

One of Mr. Jamail’s neighbors, Salam Mirza, a 38-year-old father of 12, said a flock of 100 chickens would generate about $6 a day in eggs for the market. “Some families’ incomes depend on selling eggs,” he said. Mr. Mirza said he slaughtered 34 of his chickens last week after officials came by his village, Bachika, a few miles west of Zakho, in the shadow of snow-capped mountains.

As if in response to this fact of life in Kurdistan, Dr. Kamal writes:

The villagers should not only be compensated for their poultry but they should be helped by buying alternative sources of food and income such as cows to them. This will encourage quick action to get rid of the affected poultry, and prevents the villagers from facing poverty and further migration from countryside to cities.

I could not agree more. The real and lasting effect of bird flu will continue for some time to come and serves to exacerbate the daily survival of the people. The lasting evil of the bird flu menace is one of famine. The difference between such a response as proposed by Dr. Kamal, and what has been proposed by the Turkish state with regard to the paltry compensation offered to Kurds in the North, is that, in the case of the South, a Kurdish leadership is in place to act with justice toward the Kurdish people. It is not too late for the Southern leadership to redeem themselves in this matter or in any other, and they are perfectly capable of making such redemption.

It is merely a question of political will.


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