THE BLOG

Can You Find Kurdistan on a Map?

20/02/2014 17:35 GMT | Updated 21/04/2014 10:59 BST

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This picture was taken in the outskirts of Erbil city, Kurdistan.

I was passing by a local café recently and decided to have tea with Gozleme, which is a pastry dish that is filled with various toppings and cooked over a griddle. Although I have heard about many instances of racism or animosity towards Kurdish people in London, I did not think I would become a 'victim' of such an unfortunate circumstance. The café was owned by a middle-aged Turkish man, who spontaneously asked where I was from, and I responded with "Kurdistan". He seemed surprised that I would say Kurdistan with such confidence and asked me where it was. I explained briefly that it was situated in Middle East, knowing too-well that his questions were not out of genuine interest because of the tone he used, and he later asked with mischievous smile whether I could find Kurdistan on a map.

Many Kurdish people have faced similar animosity from some Turkish people, but what really saddened me was the fact that we were both in London, a multicultural city where we should be 'coming closer' as a community to share our heritage, culture and enrich this society, yet instead this middle-aged man felt it was necessary for him to belittle my heritage and where my ancestors were from. This was not the first instance where I have experienced ignorance from those who oppose a Kurdish state or even an autonomous Kurdish region in Turkey, but it was the first time that I understood that the animosity towards Kurdish people in Middle East is not just out of ignorance but probably decades of hatred that has been embedded in the mentality of the older generation (including those in diaspora).

...And to answer the question: "Can you find Kurdistan on a map?" I recall when President Jalal Talabani was asked to clarify what he meant when he referenced "Kurdistan" by a Turkish student and his response is noted below.

Deny my culture, heritage and the existence of Kurdistan but that will not cease its existence. Bring me a map and I will show you where Kurdistan is situated. And if some Turkish people insist on denying the existence of Kurdistan, their denial is in vain. This is why it is important for British-Kurds to be more active in their communities, to bridge whatever differences (politically/culturally) that exists between the Kurdish-Turkish community in United Kingdom, and open the avenues of understanding/dialogue in a multicultural society that can facilitate sufficient room for such an initiative to take place.