Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Archive for March 15th, 2019

Kurdish Memory Programme

Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 15th March, 2019

Kurds KMPLast night I was at BAFTA for the European launch of the Kurdish Memory Programme, a new national archive of modern Kurdish history. The Kurds often refer to themselves, with justification, as the largest nation without a country; although there are regional and cultural variations, including in the language they speak, they do have a great sense of collective identity, reinforced by generations of marginalisation and persecution. The disintegration of the Ottoman Empire after World War I should have been the opportunity for a Kurdish state to be established, but this was prevented, with the vast majority of Kurds finding themselves living as a minority in Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran. In varying ways, their cultural expression was suppressed. At the height of internal conflict in Turkey, many Kurdish villages were simply bulldozed away and survivors scattered.

Kurdistan a Nation EmergesIn Iraq under Saddam Hussein, genocide was perpetrated against the Kurds, most notoriously in the chemical attack on Halabja. But post-Saddam, it has been in Iraq that Kurds have built themselves a largely autonomous homeland. A few years ago, I wrote a book about this, Kurdistan: A Nation Emerges, with several colleagues. And it is under the shadow of Erbil’s impressive citadel that a magnifient museum to Kurdish identity, designed by Daniel Liebeskind, is taking shape. At the BAFTA event there was an interesting short filmed interview with the architect. However, the main film was a heart-wrenching documentary by about one Yazidi family and their fate at the hands of ISIS. Several perished, one girl was moved by ISIS fighters to a military camp in Syria before escaping, and the eldest son only managed to rejoin his relatives in Germany by fleeing through Turkey and joining a group of refugees who took the risk of going in a little dinghy to Greece. The Kurdish Memory Programme, involving an international team including the director Gwynne Roberts, is collecting many such stories. More than 1,000 interviews have been filmed, the testimonies featuring alongside 75 years of historical footage in an archive that is now available online.

Link:  https://kurdistanmemoryprogramme.com/

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