Interviewer: Dear Mamosta, this is a project about Kurdish women’s stories, which Lancaster University and Soran University have cooperatively undertaken. We want to gather stories of the Kurdish women, as told by them. After that, we will translate them into English and later on we will carry out a research into them. In the future, we will participate in some festivals, publishing the stories. This will become an achievement for the Soran University and at the same time the stories will be preserved. First, we would like you to begin your stories.

Naze: In the name of God, the Almighty and the Merciful. I am Naze. I was born in 1951. I lived in a family with an average income. We were a big family; nine sisters and five brothers. Together, we had only my father who raised us. Besides teaching, he was doing other works, in order to raise us in a comfortable life. In his life, he could raise us all; fourteen people at home. Now all of us have our own jobs as doctors, engineers, vets, teachers, teachers of elementary school, of institute. We all completed our schooling thanks to the efforts of my parents. My mother also had a great role in raising us. From here, I extend my special thanks to my parents for what they did to raise us all. At the beginning, life was difficult and was hard because we were too many at home. Of course, we opened our eyes to a world where apart from killing and slaughtering we saw nothing else. We have always lived in problems and hardship. It was all war, killing, hanging. We were young children when we went to see all these men being hanged. From the beginning of our life until we were 10-15 years we saw these scenes.

Interviewer: When you saw these scenes, you were very young?

Naze: At the age of seven, I opened my eyes to this killing and slaughtering. We haven’t seen nice things, and if we have, this has happened rarely. I mean we have rarely seen picnics and journeys, because our life was not pleasant. In general the life of Kurds was like that. This means it was not like that only for us. It means the entire Kurdish nation was so, especially in small towns. These towns were mountainous, hideouts of Peshmarga who rose against the government. Of course, we faced problems due to this. My father was arrested. He was in jail for months and he was aged. It was very difficult. Many people who were with my father were taken out of the jail and killed. So, hardly few of them were left, only some teachers.

My father graduated in 1939. He was a teacher at that time. There were three teachers in Koya, one of them was my father. Many of our current leaders were his students. My father spent most of his life at school. Later, when I grew up, I went to college. I studied for four years in Baghdad. It was very difficult there for us. It was tough, because I, my brother and another sister were all at college while my father had only one salary. Often, peace be on him, my father would say “now that I can raise you by only one salary, one day will come, when in your home each one of you will have a salary; yet, your life will still be difficult.” It is in fact true for now. Currently we are five members in our family; all of us have salary and we live with an average income.

Interviewer: At that time he could raise all of you by only one salary?

Naze: He could, of course, by his bravery. He used to teach Islamic studies at Islamic schools. He did this work, he raised livestock. We did not have to pay house rent. These were the causes that we had in middling life. This means it was all related to my father’s bravery. He could make a good coordination between his job and other works so as to raise this big family single-handedly. Now if we look at our life, we are five members in a family and all of us have salary and our life is not so nice. Later, when we went to college, the four years I was in college were difficult.

Interviewer: At that time you were studying in Baghdad?

Naze: Yes, at Baghdad College in 1974. The year I went there, they hanged some Kurds, like Layla Qasm.

Interviewer: Right, I meant that you were a Kurd there.

Naze: The year they hanged Layla Qasm, they hanged three other young boys who were students with us at college. The situation was very sad for us. We were extremely scared because we were under pressure from Ba’ath regime agents all the time. It means the Ba’ath regime agents would call us every day, saying ‘come and become Ba’athists”. For my part, I finished college but did not become Ba’athist. But every day we were threatened. It means once every month, they called us, saying “come and become Ba’athist or we will return your files to expel you’. Often I would accept, saying, “give our files back.” Me and another boy would say this. It means we were 23 students, all the others except me and the boy became Baathist, out of fear. Honestly, whatever I tried, I did not dare to sign for them to become a member of Ba’ath party.

Well, I stayed but I was smart there. I graduated as the second top student by the grade ‘Very Good’. I could be enrolled for the masters’ degree, but as I weighed up the situation, it was not appropriate for me to continue studying in Baghdad in terms of funds. I thought about my father. Though he liked it so much, telling me to continue, I refused, saying “our financial capacity is so, I will not continue.” I earned a salary and became a teacher. So, in Koya, in Harmota, among Christians, I taught. They were good people. It was a nice time there. Their feast was our holiday and our feast was their holiday too, they were nice people. All were educated people.

Interviewer: So you mean, although your religions were different, you had good ties?

Naze: Very good. We were like that (her middle and index fingers touch each other, with no space in between, as an indication that, as good friends, no one could separate them from each other). We were like brothers. It was very nice. Later, after I got married here, I was transferred from Koya to Rwanduz. Since that time I have been here, since 7/3/1981.

Interviewer: Could you tell us something about the way you and Mamosta Rizgar knew each other?

Naze: The first time we met was through my sister. We were twins. We loved each other very much. I didn’t like it for us to be separated from each other. She married Rizgar’s brother, and I married Mamosta Rizgar. Through my sister, I could know Mamosta Rizgar. We became one family after my sister married Rizgar’s brother and our families interacted. Thus, they asked for my hand and I saw in him a very nice and educated man. Though his academic certificate was lower than mine, Ma sha’ Allah, in terms of education, he was much superior to me. He is more educated than me.

Interviewer: He is a famous person.

Naze: He had a prominent personality. I myself was intelligent in reading other people’s character. Even now, whoever I meet, in one hour I can analyse him/her and indicate their personality. This aspect of mine is good. Then, when they asked for my twin’s, hand, they saw me. And later I saw the boy, my husband, and I could accept him. They asked for my hand through their family, and as God wish, now I have four daughters and one son. Three of my daughters are teachers and one of them, the youngest one, is a student at the Law college, and my son has graduated from an institution.

Interviewer: Right. As you said you have been married since 1980s, then you were transferred from Koya to Rawanduz, two slightly different environments.

Naze: Quite different from each other.

Interviewer: As it seems the political situation of that time was not nice.

Naze: It wasn’t nice, yes.

Interviewer: Could you tell us some stories about that time?

Naze: Of course. When I was in Koya, the situation in Koya was very, very difficult. At night there were Peshmarga and during the day there was the government. Government agents would come and tell us to bring students and teach them Ba’ath party’s principles. And by night, the Peshmarga would come, telling me “avoid doing this”. Of course, I obeyed the Peshmarga rather than obeying the government agents. The party organization would send after me and when I was there I would tell them “I’m not responsible for this. I am here only for teaching. I am not here for raising awareness about a political party. I have come only to teach. I’m principal, supervising the students in terms of manner and behaviour. I don’t do things related to political aspects.” For the period I was there, I remained like that, which means I didn’t go under the wing of any political party. From there, when I came to Ruwanduz, I saw that here the party activities, enlisting of people, were more. The Baath party activities were more here and that was very strange for me. I thought, I came from Koya and it was not like that, no events like that but here Ma sha’ Allah, all of them were Ba’athists.

I noticed the Ba’ath party had more authority on people. It put people under a very strong pressure, and of course, people feared. And the situation here was really horrible during 1987-88. In the morning, we woke up and saw soldiers around the four sides of our house. It was all Arabization. They arrested all the people. We faced much difficulty, much hardship in the 1980s. It means every time in one way they caused us troubles. Often they would call Mamosta Rizgar for mobilization for the army. We were always scared. Our life was shaky. Our life was very difficult.

We didn’t dare to turn on the radio. One night, when secretly inside a room, we turned on the radio, they came and knocked at the door. Zuber Afandi was with us, together with Mamosta Rizgar, listening to the radio about Syrian opposition. All of sudden, they knocked at the door. We were startled when they knocked at the door. We asked “who is it” and they said “it’s us”. A group from the party organization had come. They said “some names have been written. Saddam has been insulted. Saddam’s photo has been spoiled. Let Mamosta Zuber come and clean it and mend it for us.” Then we could relax, otherwise we were terrified, thinking they had come to arrest us.

Well, we had many issues; we saw many unhappy things until the 1990s. We were always scared, saying if not today then tomorrow they would come to arrest us. They would come to school, saying “it is the last time that they were warning us. “Why do you come to teach if you cannot enlist yourself or anyone else?” “Why don’t your students come to participate in the party celebrations or so and so?” I said, “I cannot do this.” When the party officials came, I would send all the teachers to a room. For their manners, as I said, they the agents and officials were very bad. I would tell all the female teachers to go to classes. He would say “why don’t you bring female teachers to see me?” I would reply that they were teaching classes. I knew his intention was not good. He would say, “come to the celebration” and I would say “sure” but when he was gone, we would say “no one should go to the celebration.”

The principal of the elementary school would usually say, “Mamosta, why don’t you fear?” I would say “why should I? I have done nothing wrong, I will not obey them. I will not create troubles for myself. I am Kurd and that’s all.” Then, our life was so difficult. They would come to school. One day, a party official came to school, to us. The poor man had run away from the southern part of Iraq. He was taking his penalty by being assigned here to Ruwanduz. Though he was a party official, he spoke to me about something I should not know. He said “well, I’m not Ba’athist, but they have imposed this on me, so that I should do wrong things but I will not do anything wrong.”

So, one day, the Peshmarga came, knocking at the school gate. The poor man turned white. By God, because I knew he was a good man, at once we didn’t let him get hurt. Mala Adil, God bless him, said, “Peshmarga are here, they have come for killing the official, what shall I tell them.” I said, “tell them he is not here. He has not come.” We didn’t let them do that. It means the Peshmarga would take him and kill him. But he was very good. He said, “Mamosta, every day I come to school and people bring papers reports, saying this person or that one is Peshmarga, saying this or that person is so and so. All are reporting about each other. But I tear all the papers. That means I don’t reveal anyone to higher officials for punishment.”

Thus, we faced many problems. We saw only unpleasant things. I haven’t experienced any happy moment in my life. Later, of course, as you know, in 2004 I underwent the tragedy of my son, my elder son passed away. Then, life changed for me. Although I tried hard, up to now, since I lost this son of mine, I have been trying not to shed a tear. A tear hasn’t rolled down from my eyes, for the sake of my children, so that my children do not feel sorry and they will not be demoralized. I have not cried in order that the situation passes in a normal way, not in the opposite way for them, so that they will not face trouble, psychological condition and depression. I have not let the sadness show on me at all; not for one day I have shown it that I have lost this son of mine. Still, up to date, the day is the same day for me. I feel like the first day my son died, but I have never shown it, in any way possible. There might be speeches about me, “Naze did cry” and things like that. But I know what I do. I haven’t let my children get off track. In fact, for sons, I’m left with only one. See, though he is sad, I keep telling him, life is like that; we are born and we should die. It means I have run my family more. Mamosta Rizgar is a humble, modest and respectful man. He feels shy to do everything. I myself was more a man, the leader of the family, at home. I was both man and woman; at home woman and outside man and at school, teacher. Always, even up to now, I run home affairs more.

Interviewer: Right, I am aware of this from close. Even now when people mention you, with a prominent character, they…

Naze: I’m poor with the poor. I am never with the rich. Even at school, I always take care of the poor students and respect teachers. The teachers, who are there now, were all my students. I mention them a lot. They are good people. I really respect them, and in fact they respect me, too. And I love everyone. I have a good thing and that’s I am not jealous. I love a life in which everyone lives happily, in which no one has problems. It means I love all people. Let me say, I have this characteristic that I don’t hate people. Even if they say negative words about me, it is very normal for me. I don’t take it on my heart. I thank God too much for bestowing this feature on me.

Interviewer: Certainly that’s right. During your teaching, if we say before the 90s, i.e. during 1980s, when the political situation was not stable, was there any event that affected you a great deal?

Naze: By God, I was a teacher for many years during the time of the Ba’ath government but nobody told me a bad word even for one day. It means at the time of Saddam, I was working at my school, and they were grateful to me. Later, the Kurds came and it changed to Kurdish rule. Of course, we all remember the time of civil war. Twice I saw civil war, in 1994 and 1996. The civil war broke out between the Kurdistan Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan. Of course, when I was here, because the family of my father-in-law were all members of the PUK, I was also understood the same way as a PUK member. After 1996, they kept trying to dismiss me from school principal position and make me a teacher with no administrative role. Whatever they tried, in terms of administration, they could not fabricate anything. This continued until they called me, saying “we want a party affiliated person and we don’t want an administrative person, one who knows how to run a school well.” They dismissed me as principal in 2001 without having anything against me. They tried to fabricate something against me, but they couldn’t find anything. Only the minister came, I said, “it can’t be better than this. I have no problems, in terms of administration, I have no issues. Whatever accusation they make against me is not true; it’s baseless.” Well, at last they dismissed me and made me a teacher again. The case was, of course, political. They know better. They said they even didn’t like me to teach. They told me “you are relieved,” as if they wanted me to get side-lined.

This continued up to this year when they asked me to go back and teach in the second course. They blame me now, saying, “why haven’t you taught for this long period.” And I explained how the case was, that they had regarded me as a PUK member and thought I had to be kept away from teaching and students, that they were afraid, had a fear of me affecting the school and students by enlisting them in PUK.

Now that today they tell me I should teach, I really dislike it, dislike the situation, especially that the education director does not call me to meet and talk to me in person. I’m not a person with a low status. I’m not that young, which means, I remember when he was in preparatory school, I graduated from college. Now, today he says Mamosta so and so Mamosta Naze should teach. It’s ok. I have taught, I have no issue with that. I will teach. But he calls Mamosta Rizgar in such a rude manner. Mamosta Rizgar was his teacher, I was also his teacher. It means, unfortunately, only the party affiliation aspect not the educational aspect is considered among these Kurds. Age is not taken into consideration nor is the certificate, nothing is taken into consideration, or now I would be the highest person in Ruwanduz. This means, by age, I’m older than all and I have a bachelor degree. My certificate is also higher than all. Now I should teach forcibly and go to school every day but why they did not tell me 13 years ago. Why they are telling me this exactly today? I’m really upset with that. It was ok if since the beginning they had asked me to teach, but they told me that I should not go to school and that they would send my salary. At that time I resisted, saying “no, I will come to work.” Now, in a way they have turned this against me.

Well, this was the unhappiest thing, when they sacked me. I felt really unhappy about it because the Ba’ath party didn’t sack me even for one day, and by the Great God, I wasn’t Ba’athist. But Baath did not sack me. But when the Kurdish rule established, ‘this KDP, this PUK didn’t considered me for anything. My family, the family of my father-in- law, and my brothers are all members in PUK, all have certificates, all have military stars on their shoulders, are high officials in PUK, but this has nothing to do with me and my husband. They sacked my husband, too. He was a supervisor. They made him a primary school teacher. He was transferred to a new school every day. Then, our life was so difficult at this time.

Interviewer: This time, I ask you the opposite of the previous question. For a long time, you were a teacher and also school principal. Which situation pleased you very much? A nice situation in your life that made you really happy?

Naze: Well, I can’t remember any happy situations. Working was nice. Then I didn’t have any problem. But later, by the time the Kurds arrived, we got self-rule for sure and pushed the Arabs away. We should have lived a happy life, but there was no happiness; it was difficult, indeed.

Rizgar: Excuse me, I remember one thing, although I should not interfere. She was the school principal for 17 years. Whenever she went to school, all respected her – the cleaners, students, teachers. This is not to defend her; this is reality, I swear. She was so humble, people loved her. All the hard work of school was on the teachers and cleaners; they didn’t have a problem. To pass 17 years without even big problems, though certainly, school is full of problems, proves they loved school and she loved school, too. Thus, I remember during these 17 years when she was the principal, she did not have any problem the size of the head of a needle. And this is art. John Dewy says, “the most difficult task in the world”; education is the most difficult work. This means that if she managed the school without issues in these 17 years, she ran the situation well, right?

Interviewer: Surely. Just now I told her that she is a distinguished character in Ruwanduz, among students. When they ask about her, especially people around me, they get the answer that Mamosta Naze’s character is different from others. She ran the school for a long time successfully, a girls’ school, which was very difficult during those times.

Rizgar: I swear she didn’t have relation to politics; neither me, nor her. But they shape it differently, washing away the true situation. That’s why she feels sad. I feel unhappy, too. For instance, we have both been accused of having party affiliation. We don’t like this. It means, though we are not affiliated with any parties, we feel proud of these parties in Kurdistan.

Naze: We are Kurds and that’s all that counts.

Interviewer: Dear Mamosta, for the final word, if you have anything to tell us, or give your last account or last story… anything, you’re free.

Naze: I appreciate your work and warmly welcome you. Thank you for your visit. Hopefully you will be successful in your project.

Interviewer: Thank you so much.