Heval nin bes ciya.
No friends but the mountains. It’s a slightly overused Kurdish proverb, somewhat melancholic, a little bit melodramatic and intended to convey the loneliness that Kurdistan has had to endure for the past 2,700 years. Now, this sentiment is proving truer than ever before as the Kurds face genocide at the hands of the Turkish military. The Kurds are perpetually, tragically alone. It’s time for us Yalies to start caring.
I don’t know if I’m the only Kurdish person at Yale, or even the first. After all, Kurds don’t stray far from home — unless they’re being forced by the threat of ethnic cleansing and chemical warfare. It’s not like there’s a box you can check that says, “Tick here if you’re from a country that isn’t a country.” Unlike people from France or India, we don’t have an internationally recognized descriptor. I often feel lucky if anyone even knows who we are.
I’m writing this piece to tell you that I am here — that we, the Kurds, have a presence at Yale and a stake in this community. Yale should feel like it has a stake in our future, too.
It’s lonely being here. I came from Nashville, the city that weirdly enough houses the largest number of Kurds in America, to a university that didn’t even have a Middle Eastern student association until very recently. It’s hard to make people understand the 18 years of my life before I got here.
Now, I’m 900 miles away from everything I’ve ever known. Now, as Kurdistan falls apart once again, I feel like I’m the only one grieving at a funeral the entire world should be attending. It makes me want to scream.
Kurds are no strangers to genocide — it wasn’t very long ago that we were running to the mountains to escape chemical warfare at the hands of Saddam Hussein. We’re no strangers to loneliness, either. Kurdistan is torn into four parts by Turkey, Iraq, Syria and Iran, and you can sense that lack of belonging in every Kurdish man, woman and child. Call it a sort of incompleteness, some type of wishfulness, something only part of the way there.
The Kurds, a people who put so much emphasis on community, have been fleeing their homes for decades for some reason or another. Sometimes, they get lucky and end up in some place where they find others, like Nashville. Sometimes, they don’t. Either way, we know what it’s like to feel alone.
Maybe Yalies struggle to focus on Kurdistan — as well as on the rest of the Middle East — simply because it’s so far away. We’re able to turn a blind eye. At Yale, we are so focused on the current moment. We are fixated on immediacy, on tangibility, so caught up in this 340-acre bubble that it’s hard to take a step back and consider the fact that there’s a world that deserves attention. But isn’t that ironic? We’re supposed to be becoming global thinkers, understanding the impact we can have on the world. We are being groomed to be leaders, but we have yet to open our eyes to how our own country is perpetuating bloodshed through its indifference. The Kurds lost 11,000 of their own to fight ISIS so that the rest of the world wouldn’t have to. It’s time the international community help the Kurds.
The Kurdish people have continued to rise even after being torn down over and over and over again. But what if, one day, they fail to keep doing so? Kurdistan has been giving the world powers the benefit of the doubt consistently for the past century, but she has grown tired, and she will not let this happen again. She has lost too many daughters and too many sons. She is already split into four jagged pieces — she doesn’t have much more left to give.
Today, you should care. Maybe you haven’t ever before (and you wouldn’t be the only one), but today, you should. Today, as I write this, Kurdish blood is staining the world. She has a knife in her back and a bullet wound in her head, and America swore they would protect her. I know we live in a world where a retweet is often the most sympathy that can be garnered, but even that is better than nothing. Even a post shared on your Instagram story is more allyship than the Kurds are being shown — or have ever been shown.
I know that at Yale, it can feel like there isn’t time to read a lengthy article about an ethnic group you don’t particularly care about. But this is Yale. We’re supposed to be thinking about the world around us. We’re supposed to be paying attention. This is our chance to do so.
In not even the last month of conflict, there have been 200 civilian casualties and the displacement of 200,000 others. The world is watching an ancient group of people, who have been fighting for their independence for centuries, consistently be let down again and again. We have never forgotten. We won’t keep forgiving the world’s indifference much longer.
DEREEN SHIRNEKHI is a first year in Davenport College. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org .