Kurdistan’s Returning Diaspora Meet Locals
Arguably, the sense of belonging is a key factor in a healthy upbringing. I say this as the child of a diplomat; continuously uprooted, and never truly at home in any country. For the most part, humans are pack animals, and being part of a community is important – whether it be a country, a religion, or a group of friends; we search for a sense of belonging.
The Kurds are the world’s largest stateless nation. Following the 1923 Treaty of Laussane, Kurdistan was divided amongst Iran, Iraq, Turkey, and Syria in an attempt to assimilate them into cultures that were not their own. While all Kurds suffered under the attempted oppression of their new “nations,” Iraq’s Kurds were also faced with a brutal act of genocide at the hands of the Baathist Regime.
Many Kurdish families were forced to flee the region, and seek refuge in more stable states. Consequently, a large number of young Kurds were brought up in host countries, far from their homeland.
Today, the region’s booming economy and relative stability has brought about a wave of young returnees, set to help in the development of their homeland. The sons and daughters of the men and women who were forced to leave their communities and forsake a sense of belonging are returning.
“Kurdistan has always attracted me like a magnet,” explained Kurdish director, Beri Shalmashi, who returned to Kurdistan in 2012. A common sentiment amongst many diaspora Kurds is the idolization of the homeland, and the strong need to return.
Similarly, Italian-born-and-raised Tablo Mohammad hopes to move back to Kurdistan, “I will go back. It is where my roots are and where I want my children to grow up.”
A lot of young returnees make their way back to Kurdistan with an impressive academic background and an extensive amount of work experience, thus offering the region an impressive workforce.
The danger, however, lies in the KRG’s prioritization of returnees over young “local” Kurds. While Western education may be more appealing to employers, the “locals” life experience and resilience is as an important of an attribute when working in Kurdistan’s public and private sector, and should not be overlooked.
While the KRG should help to accommodate and integrate a people who often don’t feel like they belong, there should be a balanced ratio of locals to returnees. This will ultimately speed up the integration process, as they will be faced with day-to-day interactions.
Furthermore, creating a diverse team of work colleagues will lower the risk of resentment between Kurdish returnees and their local counterparts. Clashes between those who stayed, and those who were forced to flee are only natural, but future employers (including the KRG) can help dissipate the tension by refusing to work on a “special treatment” basis.
Having spoken to a number of returning Kurds, it became clear that despite their obvious ties to the land, it is difficult for them to become completely integrated into a society that they did not grow up in.
“I am both Dutch and Kurdish. They are Kurdish,” said Beri. This single statement summarizes what much of the returning diaspora feels. Belonging is not easy when your roots are in one place, but life as you know it is elsewhere.
The influx of returnees is not set to stop any time soon, and while they contribute tremendously to the redevelopment of Kurdistan, it is important to mitigate the potential clashes between what are essentially two different cultures; the diaspora Kurd and the local Kurd.
By: Sofia Barbarani
From London, UK