Friday, February 13, 2015

Still trying to figure things out: thinking of Peshmerga-" those who face death".

Today is Friday. It usually is our day off as everyone in the region has it as their weekend. Our team house is very close to Mozgowti Ibrahim (Ibrahim Mosque) so we can hear the whole Friday prayer' message.  It is a pity our Kurdish is not good enough to understand what he is saying.

Today I decided to go across the busy highway to see if I could find some countryside. The CPT house is quite close to the edge of the city, so I was hopeful. But, as I walked (trying to ignore the stares of the people in cars passing me), I found the compound where the men who run the garbage trucks stay. I could tell that they lived there by the washing that was drying on the fence. The clothes included the red and yellow vests  and the orange suits that they wear when they pick up our rubbish on six days every week.

I did not succeed in finding farms. The garbage truck compound extended to a cement factory and other industrial sites. There was the occasional cow munching grass on the side of the road and a few feral dogs sleeping in the warm sun, however, I could not find the respite from city life I was searching for.

On my way home I walked near to our local cemetery high up overlooking the city. Friday is also the day to visit the graves of loved ones. I took my scarf from my neck and placed it over my head. Some of my Kurdish friends do not do this anymore, but as I am a foreigner, I feel that it is important to make this gesture of respect. I walked silently up the hill, passing graves with  concrete enclosures that seem to resemble Kurdish cradles, ones with  simple rocks stuck into the dirt at the head and foot, and brand new ones covered with plastic to protect the exposed  dirt from the elements.

I came upon a man sitting at a new grave with three young sons and a potted plant.  I wondered who their loved one had been.  I knew that it was very possible that it had been a peshmerga fighter. We are seeing so many funerals here in the city of men who have been "facing death" in the fight against the militant fighters known here as Da'ash. I wanted to stop and ask them about the one they were mourning. I wondered what showed more respect- to nod my head and put my hand over my heart when they acknowledged me as I walked past or to stop to ask them. I decided that  I would let them be alone in their grief.

This is a sign in front of an elementary school here in Sulaimani.