Thursday, June 28, 2007

Here’s to a different sort of article about Iraq…

Earlier today I typed in “Iraq” on to Google News, the Google function which spans across the world wide web providing access to a great number of news sources. I got 151,287 articles – not bad. Then I searched “Iraqi culture” – 1,386. That’s a little less than 1%, to put figures into perspective. Today, in the graduated stages of the Iraq War, we are attempting to understand ways to reconstruct the country with the help of the populace. It’s a little ironic then, that there are so few articles about what makes an Iraqi an Iraqi – the culture, history, music, which define an Iraqi. Only through greater understanding can we understand better how to fix the broken land.
After searching “Iraqi culture,” I decided to be more specific, though to unsuccessful ends. “Kurdish song and dance” yields exactly one (that’s a percentage of .0065, if we are to be consistent). This is a pretty shabby number, and so, with this first column, I intend to double the results.


The Kurds are an ethnic group primarily found in Turkey, Iraq, Iran, and Syria, though they can be located in several other states in the region. There has never been an official “Kurdistan,” though the Treaty of Sevres, signed at the end of World War I, as the Ottoman Empire dissolved, provided for it. The Kurds were not to enjoy Wilson’s “self-determination” principles – after Kemal Ataturk modernized and militarized Turkey, it never signed the treaty, and eventually “Kurdistan” was delegated to Iraq. This proved deadly to many Kurds when, by the hand of Saddam Hussein, chemical weapons were used on them during the Iraq-Iran war.
Nevertheless, the Kurds find something to celebrate. The “dobke” is one of the most popular dances – it can go on for hours on end (who knew the Kurds were such wild partiers?) A single-file line is formed behind a leader who waves a handkerchief and hisses every time he changes a step. Accompanying the dance is usually a singer or two, singing in falsetto Kurdish, usually about love, war, and hardship. Some classic Kurdish songs are the “Lawk” and the “Hairan.” The crowd many times joins in with claps, snaps, and a “lu-lu-lu-lu” cry of joy.
Snapping and clapping are not so different from what we Americans do at our concerts and dance performances at home. The lyrics of traditional Kurdish tunes only further illustrate the similarities between the two social groups.
Truth be told, these lyrics [“Sing for me just a little more/ Open your heart for just a few days/ I cannot live without you/ Come let me have a kiss/ It is not winter but spring/ But alas! I cannot speak to her, not even a hello/ Because of her mother who watches her day and night”] are not disparately different from these [“All you people can't you see, can't you see/How your love's affecting our reality/Every time we're down/You can make it right/And that makes you larger than (that make you larger than)/That makes you larger/That makes you larger than life”]. The resemblance is striking.
The truth is, in this type of situation, we need to think creatively for solutions. Partition, withdrawal, and a police state are all highly contested, and will likely prove devastating. We need to focus on the cultural aspects of Iraq more. Who knows…Nick Carter may very well be the first step towards rebuilding Arab trust in America.

Ruthie is a New York City high school junior.

8 comments:

Sara said...

Ruthie, this article kicks ass. It is concise and direct, especially the utterly unexpected parallel between the Kurdish song lyrics and those of our dear Backstreet Boy (or is it N-Sync?) Nick Carter. Totally commend your honest and effective essay on Iraqi culture, and the strides Americans could make if only we knew more about Iraqi life off of the battlefield.

Nico said...

I agree with what Sara said, and I am glad that you didn't make this a political debate -- something very difficult to avoid while talking about Iraq.

Anonymous said...

looking at the culture and humanity of iraq and its people seems political to me, and necessary. thank you ruthie.

Sara said...

Anonymous makes an excellent point. "Memory is a political act. Forgetfulness is the handmaiden of tyranny." (look for a brilliantly informed article called "The Bush Crusade") If I were Hyde from 'That 70's Show' I would assume that the alienation of the Iraqi people was a large-scale plan to brainwash the American people into thinking that their lives and culture are in direct opposition to the Iraqi culture. And, okay, so maybe it did not involve any undercover CIA operatives, but I think in light of the way the administration has portrayed this race of persecuted people, it's a fair step forward to admit that, yes, perhaps even the Iraqis make Paris Hilton jokes.

Ruthie said...

i love hyde

Sara said...

You know that kid with the Jewfro who just graduated from our school but used to play frizbee alot? I named him Hyde.

Lily said...

This article has such a strong and valid point even from the beginning...it is impossible to learn about a country and attempt to fix everything we have botched, not to mention make peace with it, if we are not willing to learn and appreciate its cultures. Thanks for the brilliant article, it really shows the hypocrisy of the American government. (Hate to be even the slightest bit political.)

hammodi said...

hi Ruthie, I live in Baghdad. I liked your article, it's cool that you're interested in Iraqi culture,some people wouldn't look at the human side of Iraqis. also you nicely described the dubke. and one note, the american culture is popular here, our channels broadcast many American shows and so i know Hyde from "that 70s show" and of course backstreet boys (but i don't like them, lol). smiles from Baghdad