Beyond maternal borders

Shwan Dizayee

By Shwan Dizayee:

“I imagine a world without borders yet the taste of independence for my nation lingers on the tip of my tongue.”

We live in a heavily nationalistic era where Hitler’s own xenophobia has rubbed off on us. The post-colonial period saw the division of the great Ottoman Empire into what has come to be known as the Middle-East. Certain countries merged; some were formed, others destroyed and then there was the Kurds.

Following promises that were later broken and sanctions enforced during 1975 with the Algiers Agreement, the Kurdish people were left out in the cold; (I wish only the metaphoric sense was valid here).

In the years that came many fled Kurdistan in the hope of a better future for themselves. In most cases this was not a voluntary choice, but more of a direct coercion which resulted in an unsuspected and involuntary action. Many were army deserters and consequently death sentences loomed over their heads and that of their families under the Ba’athist Regime. It was not your typical holiday, flying out from EIA and arriving at your desired destination. The journey lasted weeks, months and even years for some. It consisted of long restless nights, crossing the mountains of Kurdistan or the Iraqi deserts and into neighbouring countries illegally, most commonly Iran and Turkey. Knowing people was important, both financially and to help with your route to a safe haven. Today ‘leaving home’ consists of a simple replacement of a warm home, I can’t come to imagine what sleeping out in the cold under a bridge whilst hiding from the security services can feel like. This journey was taken by foot and on horses or donkeys, if you were lucky enough to have this luxury. To leave your family is hard, but to leave them knowing that the very selfless act you took could turn out to be a very selfish one if the ‘Mukhabarat’ were to find out about your migration and approach your family, is agonizing.

The dangers of this journey far outweigh those that one may be fleeing from. The notorious Aegean Sea which is seen as the bridge between Asia and the West has been home of several devastating offshore incidents, I dare say accidents as they involved old fishing boats carrying a disproportional amount of immigrants trying to reach the Greek shores. Having lost my aunty and her whole family in the widely reported incident in 1998, I feel strongly against the poor and dangerous conditions these humans have to endeavour. Yet what more can be done when it is classed as an illegal operation. You can only imagine how many thousands of people may have been lost at sea and not found or even acknowledged to this day because of the lack of media coverage and surveillance.

Maybe if borders didn’t exist, or if the Regime hadn’t come into power, my beloved aunty would still be here today. I’m sure many have thought the same, but ‘what ifs’ are no good: we have to act to help barricade any chance of a re-creation of such a past in our future. There has been an innumerable influx of Kurds into the United Kingdom, Europe and North America within the last 10 years. Hundreds still endeavour this dangerous route to a ‘better life’ and to visit Europe and the Western Hemisphere, which begs the question: why?

With conditions undeniably easing and progressing in Kurdistan, in an economical and societal sense, along with the international airport, one would presume that the number of people illegally crossing borders would have significantly reduced. Wrong. Several factors contribute to this, one being poverty. With the gap between the poor and the rich growing ever greater, and the commercial markets targeting the rich and neglecting the disadvantaged, people from villages and smaller towns have no other way out but to pay a small lump-sum to be smuggled out of Iraq or to make their own way out, penniless which only adds to the dangers. With Visas being very hard to come by and expensive, this will only increase if the foreign consulates and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) don’t sit down and address this issue once and for all.

I am strongly against the fact that an external private company deals with Visa applications to the United Kingdom. The time is now for the UK government to open a fully functioning and recognised Consulate in Kurdistan. If anything this will attract more visitors to the country, which can only be a positive for the British economy considering the amount of money circulating within Kurdistan and the turmoil the British economy is in. With regards to the issue of the less advantaged being given the same opportunity for international visits, with some more serious cases needing urgent medical attention abroad but not having the budget to enable this, the KRG government needs to open a committee which deals with this alone, and set aside funds on a monthly basis to help with funding these visits. This can be propelled by the continual good relations between the two countries. I understand that the issue is much greater than this but these are a few good ideas which I believe would be effective in providing for our people and significantly reduce the numbers of people who take dangerous routes outside of their homes.

I could just recommend ‘Free flowing border control’ but that is just not practical right now and with the direction humanity is taking in terms of economics, politics and nationalism, I don’t think it will ever be. But as Dr King famously illustrated, one can dream.

Shwan Dizayee is a third year Chemical Engineer at Aston University in Birmingham, United Kingdom

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