Thursday, May 10, 2012

Berlin: May 1 celebration and Kurds

I left Iraqi Kurdistan at 2:30 am on 30 April and landed in Berlin, Germany the same day. I went to Berlin to be a part of the European CPT Convergence. However, the number of CPTers and interested persons was quite small. Most of the people could not come until Wednesday, so we had a couple of days to roam around Berlin.

Marius van Hoogsraten picked me up at the airport. After I had a nap to make up for the  little sleep I had that night we set off for the celebrations to send off the ghosts of winter and to welcome Spring (or something like that).
Some of the crowd in the park

A remnant of the Berlin Wall in the background.

Huge Bubbles

A jazz group that used these interesting instruments; part autoharp, part sitar and part drum.

Then at 9 pm Pat Thompson, also from the Iraqi Kurdistan team  joined us.

Pat and Marius
 1 May dawned sunny and quite warm. After a nice breakfast we set off on the U Bahns and S Bahns to the area of Berlin known as Kreuzberg. Historically, 1 May has been a day of many riots and much violence. "My Fest" has been created to make the day into one of celebration. The streets of the area are closed to traffic and international food booths are set up by the community members. Various music stages are scattered around the area to provide a place for listening and dancing. The streets were packed with families, younger people and older. It certainly had a festive atmosphere.

In front of the large mosque, Maschari Centre, in Kreuzberg. This was one of the many food stalls to choose from.

The Kreuzberg area of  Berlin has a large Turkish population. I had been told that there were Kurdish people living there too, but that often they are seen as being Turkish. I kept my eyes open. My first clue was a musical group on a stage that sounded very similair to those I had heard for the last 3 months in Iraqi Kurdistan. And, in front of the stage people were doing what looked very much like Kurdish dancing (without the traditional dress).

But, I wondered if the non-Kurdish Turkish people also danced in this way. So I kept my eyes open for a little longer. Soon, I was not unsure anymore. NOTE: these next photos do not have any political statement. They were just what I observed.
For my international readers, this is a poster of a leader of the Kurdish resistance in Turkey. He is currently in prison.
Then I heard some more very familiar music and a huge circle of dancers. Some of them were carrying this flag which is the flag of the resistance fighters, the PKK.
I spied a booth nearby that had another flag that was even  more familiar.

As I stopped to take this photo, the man behind the table directed my gaze way up into the air to many Kurdish flags floating in the breeze.
 At that point I decided to gather my courage to try to speak Kurdish with him. He looked very confused at what I was trying to say. (I like to think that he could not imagine those words of greeting coming from this woman's mouth!!) Once we established that I had just come from Kurdistan the day before he presented me with a CD of Kurdish music. I made sure (with checking 3 times) that he really wanted to give it to me. He pointed me to a man next to him who had moved to Berlin from Sulaimani. But the music was loud and really, my conversation skills are still pretty weak so we then said Khwa Hafees and I went on my way.

The day went on wonderfully. We did have some adventure watching the German riot police (100's of them) as they marched around looking for potential rioting (and I hear that there was some in another part of the city). But we just enjoyed the music, vibe and beer.

A family enjoying the music at one of the stages.

Our evening ended wonderfully as we listened to a gypsy band called "Budzillus" It provided great dance music.

On Wednesday the other CPTer people came and we got down to the real business of the trip. That was really good too!!

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