FATHERLAND – ongoing

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The project focuses on the Greater Kurdistan area (Iran, Iraq, Syria, Turkey) and Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan.

 

When I was a child, my father always told me to respect the mountains. To me it was a pointless suffering, having to wake up in the middle of the night to see the sunrise from the mountaintop. We didn’t lose time having breakfast because “you don’t eat before putting yourself under strain” – my father explained – so he would put a few pieces of chocolate in my pocket for when I got hungry. The route from my bed to the parking lot where we left the car before climbing was soporific. It was still dark and cold even if it was summer. Along the first part of the path, I slept on his shoulders. Halfway up, at first light, I’d jump down and start chattering. And so, my father would remind me to be respectful “you don’t shout in the mountains”.

Those who were born and raised in the mountains know how important that safe haven called home is. Mountain thunderstorms swipe away the guilt, the fear of loneliness, the longing for those who chose to leave. Mountains do not forget, and they wait – there is always someone who returns and rebuilds the family home. Women trample on dry grass barefoot and forget the dried tomatoes they prepared for the winter on the roof. Mountain people observe the stranger who does not speak their same language and dresses as a city man. They hesitate, but they are curious, fascinated, welcoming. They have simple manners, humble hands, earth under their nails and honest eyes. When entering a house in the mountains, people lower their heads as a sign of respect, and appreciate the spontaneity of smiles, fire-blackened pans, warm moist that sticks to the skin. Only the pristine silence of the mountain top repays the effort. The cold cements feelings, and makes the wrinkled apples harvested in autumn taste even sweeter.

The Kurdish identity is in the mountains. From the mountains of Greater Kurdistan gush the Tigris and Euphrates, and – according to the legend – mount Ararat, on the border of present-day Turkey and Iran, is where Noah’s ark stranded. The mountains of Kurdistan have also prevented the Kurdish language from being contaminated by Arabs, Persians and Turks, the conquerors and rulers of these lands for centuries. Even nowadays in the Hawraman area, between Iraq and Iran, secret rituals are still celebrated, namely those of Hal- e haqq, a religious sect as ancient as the Zoroastrians and the Yazidis. Over the years the peaks of Qandil provided refuge to the peshmerga and the guerrillas of the PKK Abdullah Öcalan during the fight against the Turkish government. The Zagros Mountains chain is a natural border crossed for business, travel and weddings.