By Solin Hacador:
Spring has officially sprung, colours are in full bloom in Kurdistan. Vibrant colours and wonderful scents of the suburbs and Kurdish mountains are the perfect cure for Kurds. There is beauty amidst all the wild flowers, charming with their colours and pleasant smells. It is also a beautiful, relaxing and amazing way of discovering just how many different varieties of tulips grow naturally atop Kurdish mountains and in the valleys.
However, one flower among all tells us a lot. It is a beautiful flower but intensely sad! The beauty of this flower lies not just in itself: it is also in teaching someone about how it came to be. This beauty is called tulipa humilis (lîloz in Kurdish).
Tulipa humilis (‘Lilliput’) is an early-blooming variety with cardinal-red blooms and a violet base ringed in gold. The four to six-inch tall flower stems often bear three or four blooms each. Foliage may be edged in red. It is native to Kurdistan.
This Kurdish flower also decorates many Kurdish childhoods since any caring parent or grandparent will talk about the tulip to their children. That is the only way that Kurds in Turkey can teach their history and culture to their children.
This flower is a symbol of the tragic Kurdish love story of Mam and Zin (Mem û Zîn), written by a Kurdish poet, mystic, scholar, and intellectual – Ehmedê Xanî (Ahmad Khani) (1650-1707), born in the Hakkari province of Northern Kurdistan. He was the first spokesman for a united and independent Kurdistan. ‘Mam and Zin’ was published in 1692. It is an important source for understanding different aspects of Kurdish society in the 16th and 17th centuries.
‘Mam and Zin’ is the story of a pure and divine love between a young Kurdish man, Mam, and a Kurdish princess, Zin, ending with the tragic death of the two lovers. They fell in love with each other but could not be together because they belonged to different tribes, and because a malicious man, Beko, did everything to prevent them from coming together. Mam died in combat and Zin died of grief after her lover’s death. They were buried side by side. Beko lay down on the ground between the graves which soon grew a thorn bush where his blood had fallen. The faced-down tulip is said to originate from Mam and Zin’s tragic death. It is believed that Mam and Zin’s tears fell into the soil and turned into a beautiful tulip.
The origin of the tulip is not Turkey or the Ottoman Empire. It is the mountains of Kurdistan, followed by Western Asia. The Ottomans loved it so much and took it as their own as they usurped all Kurdish heritage. They never mentioned its origin but proudly sold it to Europe as their own. The empire of the Ottoman Turks once included much of the tulip’s natural habitat, and it was through Turkey that most tulips reached Western Europe and the Netherlands. The Turks prized the tulip, and were cultivating that flower on a large scale by the mid-sixteenth century when the Austrian ambassador to the Turkish Empire brought some tulip bulbs from Constantinople to his garden in Vienna. From Austria, the flower found its way to the Low Countries. In 1562, the first large shipment of tulips from Turkey reached Antwerp, then part of the Dutch nation.
The Turks, meanwhile, enjoyed a period of ‘tulipomania’ all their own. During the twelve years between the defeat of the Empire by Austria and Venice in 1718 and the revolution of 1730, the cultivation of tulip gardens became a craze in Constantinople.
There is even a period in Ottoman history called the ‘Tulip Era’. The sultan of the period, Sultan Ahmed III, preferred to spend his time in his beautiful tulip gardens instead of dealing with matters of state. Tulips were cultivated in Turkey during the 1500s. Because of their resemblance to the ‘tulbend’, a turban worn by Turkish men, these flowers were christened ‘tulipan’.
Mr. Sözer, an academician from Amed (of Turkish origin), after long years of research concluded that there are more than 150 types of tulips available in a rainbow of colours and a wide range of bloom times, but that the origin of red and black tulips is Northern and Eastern Kurdistan. Mr. Sözer wanted to publish his research but the Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism prohibited him from doing so. It is obvious that Turkish authorities deny Kurds their basic rights and also hide from facing historical realities.
Gene Rodriguez III, author of ‘The Tulipans’, stated that tulips are native to southern Europe and Western Asia.
Anna Pavord, author of ‘The Tulip’, explores the tulip’s origin in East Asia around 1400 A.D.
Today, the Netherlands remains the chief source of tulip bulbs for much of the world, with millions cultivated each year. The total value of Dutch horticulture approaches a quarter-billion dollars annually!
While our historic Kurdish tulip helps out the Dutch economy enormously, its origin is not mentioned in any Dutch sources. It is the same as with the Turks. This misrepresentation of the Kurdish tulip, like all other stolen Kurdish heritage, is offensive. I would like to say that people should always respect each other’s cultures, and be thankful for the beauty and charm supplied by a variety of colorful cultures. I hope that Kurdish culture and history will come to be respected and fairly represented by others, just as we respect theirs.