As children we heard the sound of gunfire more than any other noise. The ugliest regime smothered the best and most beautiful years of our lives. The date of our birth is like a riddle which needs careful solving. This is because, in the past, the Registry Office recorded each child’s date of birth to be 1 July. They used to say that this date is good for school registration.

The vicious upbringing which carried a ruler and battered our small hands and fingers was pure ignorance of the childhood world. When the mind cannot rule and carry out its orders then force will lead the way. The nation which does not take the education of its children seriously will remain in the margins of history.

The artist is born with his art. There is not particular moment when a person becomes an artist but there is a moment when expression reaches a stage of maturity it can express itself through the arts. I was really young when, for the first time, I made a musical instrument out of wood and surgical thread. Even though it looked like everything but a musical instrument I named it a guitar. Its sound was terrible but in my phantasies it had the best sound.

We should only count those years as part of our lives when we have felt love. The rest are just years of running after life or from life. There is no country like ours where so many negotiations have taken place yet there has always been war. We have always been the victims of the various authorities’ negotiations with each other. I remember those few days, during one of these negotiations, when people were holding hands and dancing and the planes were throwing sweets down. From our innocent childhood’s vision we were very happy because the adults were happy. We thought the planes were ours. Suddenly the sound of music stopped. Weeping and black dress entered our houses. My uncle, the one who gave me my first present, was martyred. His present was a small plastic toy which gave me huge pleasure.

In those years the majority of the games that children played involved stone. This is why stone has an important place in our memories. Stone was our best friend. Until 1982 we threw all of our stones at the Baath government and we screamed ‘Down with the regime’.

Since the borders were drawn, dividing Kurdistan, the hearts of all our newborn children have been divided in four and four oppressors are waiting for them as a present. Instead of protecting their citizens, the various governments which came to power one after the other, have all been murderers. Death knocked on very door. Everything was forbidden. There was no heart left without anxiety. There was no house left without a hiding shelter. Homeland had become a prison for the nation. No one lived their own age. Children thought like the adults. The young like the old, the old were thinking of death.

The TV screens showed one of two things: the burnt and mutilated bodies in the battlefields or images of the laughing dictator when there was hardly a smile left in any part of this wounded and deserted country. The villages were beheaded one by one and the cities were queuing for death.

Before the eyes of the world, they were wiping us out from the map but no conscience stirred. Before the eyes of the world, we were Anfalised but no whisper arose from anywhere. The mountains’ voices were choked by the desert-sand without being heard by any ear. There was nothing left but the sound of the overlooked radio. That too sounded far and hushed.

It was very difficult to do art in a place where aesthetics was killed. It was really difficult to find happiness in a place drowned in bad news. On top of the political problems and complexities, barriers were created in the path of making art. Despite all of that, every new generation takes a new step in changing and shaping its own era.

It is very strange that although, as a nation, not accepting each other has harmed us the most throughout history, this obstacle still stands in every place and every field. This reports lack of self-assurance and security. Confident people are not scared by the existence of others. They accept others with a friendly and open heart.

We did not do art only for art’s stake. We did not sing just for the sake of singing. Our voice was a message to break the silence. At that dark era we were certain that there will be a day when the sun of freedom will rise.

Suddenly, one morning, we felt that the sun was more beautiful than any other morning. Within all that silence and stillness we heard sound. The wind dared to blow. For the first time dew shone openly. The day before all the trees had been in the death throws but that morning they suddenly all germinated once again. It had been a long time since the poisonous smell of apple had chased all the birds away but that morning, in 1991, they were returning in flocks.

The overlooked sound of the radio kept gaining strength. Each moment it broadcast better news.  That morning was like the moment of the lovers meeting. Every passenger you met carried their lives on their hands and wanted to sacrifice it to homeland. It was the first time when the sound of gunfire was better than the sound of music. It was the first time when the smell of smoke promised happiness. It was the first time in history when we were all gathered under the same umbrella.  We had heard about freedom and we had read about it. We had been in love with it for so long and it was the first time when we could smell it so close. Like waiting lovers we were finally meeting the beloved. It is very difficult for the pen to describe that moment of embracing.  It is difficult for the tongue to become the storyteller that speaks of that love and burning as it was. It is really difficult for the eye to turn all those images into a description. Freedom is an emotion which is only understood and appreciated by the soul. Every person is born once but we were all reborn on the day of the uprising, on 7 March 1991.

Before too long, just after a few days, the mass exodus started. Once again we were displaced from our homes. We were so intoxicated with freedom that the mass exodus, with all its tragedies, seemed like a picnic to us. Despite its dreadfulness it seemed like a big happy moment. A whole nation was walking together and with every step we saw the remains of the lovers’ meetings places who were still embracing under the desert sand. There is no place in the world where so many groups of people have been mass graved. We kept walking and seeing the dry lips of the strangled springs. We kept walking and the wind and rain kept turning the burnt pages of history for us. Our eyes wept, our hearts wept but our hearts remained calm. For the first time in our lives we were freely walking through our homeland. However, if freedom is not utilized in the right way it can harm. Once again the gunfire of celebration suddenly stopped and the gunfire of death restarted, once again the flue of lack of tolerance spread. This illness became so widespread that it entered every house. Even those who did not suffer seriously were mildly affected. First it was a media war then came the hot war. The language of understanding disappeared and the world was divided by two colours. All the pillars that carried our social life fell.

No beauty was left untouched. There was no road left without a wake and a black flag of mourning. There was no love which did not change to hatred. That fire burnt the heart of homeland and displaced generations. It changed life to an endless exodus. When a boat sank in any lake in this world it immediately drenched in black a few mothers in this homeland.

Many things seem alike in this world but exile is like nothing else. If someone has not experienced exile they cannot understand that feeling. Worst of all, suddenly you realize that only your body has immigrated and your soul has not followed you, it has remained in your homeland. This is the beginning of a pain which originates from this division between the soul and the body and it never ends.

Despite all the sorrow and tears, homeland is always your beloved. The further away she is, the closer you feel to her. When you are physically absent from her you are more than ever present. No matter how she is you always see her as beautiful. Even when you forget yourself you always remember her.

Born in  Sulaimanyh city of  Kurdistan on 1965.

Translated by Dr. Choman Hardi