Dr Fereydun Hilmi (1942-2014): A Life of Service

By Harem Karem:

Dr Fereydun Hilmi

Dr Fereydun Hilmi

Having read his writings and watched his TV debates during the Iraq war, I knew a little about Dr Fereydun Hilmi before I met with him in a journalistic capacity in 2008. From then on, we not only became close friends, but he was like a father figure and mentor to me.

His wise words, gentle and caring nature was a great comfort to those close to him. One of the qualities he was loved for was his authenticity with people, and how he never hesitated to speak his mind.

Dr Fereydun was a loving husband, wonderful father and grandfather, who loved his grandchildren more than anything. He was a caring brother and proud son of the famous historian and politician Rafiq Hilmi. Above all he was a true systems scientist who cared immensely about the world and human rights and progress. He dedicated most of his life to the service of others, whether through his work with the UN, the first Kurdistan Regional Government cabinet, academic work or indeed through delivering public seminars and writing.

He was a true global citizen – speaking Kurdish, Arabic, English, French, Russian and Turkish – who valued humanity as a whole and fought for social justice and true democratic principles. He had a great mind and was always on a mission to find solutions to problems facing humanity; a firm believer in the dangers of climate change, for example.

He delivered many public seminars in Kurdistan and the UK on how to make government institutions more efficient and useful. His last work was a chain of seminars in Suly for all the bank managers, university lecturers, senior civil servants and media managers on how to implement new efficient systems, redesign organisational structures to save time and money while making people’s lives easier.

He even turned his bitter experiences with the courts, land registry and local government over the past few years into a constructive report and offered solutions, which I personally delivered to the leader of the main Kurdistan Region opposition party to implement.

We were meeting regularly, whether in the UK or Kurdistan, discussing his latest artificial intelligence design (a unique robotic system he has been working on for many years). Politics and democracy was always a big part of our discussions and he always held a unique perspective on Kurdish and British politics.

It was June 2014 and we were sitting at a local coffee shop in Silemani. He was explaining to me how he’d managed to fix the glitch in the system that we had discovered the previous week, when suddenly the phone rang. On the other end was his doctor, wanting to give him back the result of his routine test though he couldn’t do it over the phone. We drove straight to the doctor’s office and the doctor broke the news: “I’m afraid it is a bad news, you need to seek advanced medical attention immediately. There is a sign of mouth cancer”. There was a moment of silence and we walked out shocked, helpless.

We booked the next flight back to London, which was in less than 12 hours. Then we went to Silemani Palace for another coffee in order to spend some time before the flight. It was there when I realised the news had finally sunk in. We just sat there helpless, shocked, talking about the treatment plans over the next couple of hours. Even then he was concerned more about his sister than his own health.

Even after his return to London, we talked at least twice a week. While I was eager to learn about his condition, being his usual selfless self he was more concerned about how I was doing, telling me not to get close to the conflict zone, while always reassuring me that everything was going to be fine and he had sought help.

It was a typical Friday evening, after I returned to the UK in October, when he phoned me for the last time to say he was finally going to have the operation and that, given its nature, he might not be able to talk again. We planned to meet for a coffee before his operation. Four days later, I called him from Dublin and  realised he couldn’t talk much. We hung up and he sent me a text saying his condition had worsen and that he was being admitted to hospital the following day. On my return from Dublin I immediately visited him in Guys Hospital in London. Despite the swollen face, he remained in good spirits. We had a good chat like old times and even then he was more concerned about the Kurds’ fight with ISIS than his own fight with cancer. He reminded me of one of our discussions back in July when he’d said: “Peshmerga mustn’t wait for ISIS to strike, instead they should take the fight to ISIS”.  It was 24 hours before his operation.

Speaking to his wife, I knew he was doing well in recovery and putting up a courageous fight with the same determination that he had faced other challenges in is life. I was looking forward to visiting him on my return from Africa.

It was early hours of the morning here when I received a phone call from our mutual friend back in the UK. He said: “I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but our friend has passed away a few hours ago”. It took a while for the news to sink in, at first I thought I was dreaming. Slowly I felt like walking under water… It was terrible news. Dr Hilmi passed away during the early hours of Sunday morning surrounded by his loved ones. I have lost a great friend. I offer my sincere condolences to his family. We shall cherish his memories forever: gone but never forgotten.

He who has gone, so we but cherish his memory, abides with us, more potent, nay, more present than the living man. ~Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Dr Fereydun Rafiq Hilmi:

Born in 1942 in Silemani
Died on 14 Dec 2014
Lived in England from 1962
Read Electrical and Electronic Engineering at Cardiff University 1967;  M.Sc. Digital Electronics 1969
1973-4 Silemani University (teaching Maths and English)
Joined UN in 1974-8 as Data Processing Adviser
PhD (Systems Science, City University) 1980
Financial Systems Developer City of London (1978- 1992)
1992 Deputy Minister (First Kurdish Cabinet)
Systems Consultant (1994 2003); 2004 retired (as a result of medical blunder)
Was developing a unique A.I. System
Published hundreds of articles on a variety of topics
Published 3 books:

  • Sorani Kurdish (in a unified Latin alphabet) for English Speakers (Sold all over the world; five editions starting in the year 2000, NewhopePublishing.net)
  • Yaddasht by Rafiq Hilmi (in English, 2007, NewhopePublishing.net)
  • Real-Time On-Line Direct Democracy (2008, NewHopePublishing.net)
2 Responses to Dr Fereydun Hilmi (1942-2014): A Life of Service
  1. Rauf Naqishbendi
    December 23, 2014 | 01:20

    This is a sad news. I have my condolences for DR Fereydun Hilmi’s family. We lost a good writer, a great inspiration and a good fighter. He fought injustice in Kurdistan courageously and he revealed all corruptions, inequities, and delinquencies that has been committed by the Kurdish leaders. May God’s Grace be upon him.
    Surely, I did like his writing and enjoyed reading his articles in the Kurdish Media immensely. He was a good Kurd and a decent person.

  2. Baqi
    December 24, 2014 | 21:00

    Deepest condolences to his family members.
    Kurdistan has lost another great advocate, intellectual, writer, tutor, leader.

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