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.