First Part

Bafrin: First I welcome you and kiss your eye. You’re most welcome.

When I was at my parents’ home, it was a very tough time. The government officers were at the village; it was a very, very difficult time. Later, my brother who was a Peshmarga returned and we and Haji Sihad’s family had an arranged marriage for my brother. Then, because of the Peshmarga and the very difficult life due to Baath’s presence here, no one enjoyed anything. Anything. Everyone from every side, the men would go to the town or to somewhere, Baath agents would arrest them. They would break into our house in the night, midnight, grabbing men. There was no joy. Later on, when the Iraq-Iran war broke out, the government officers left the village; the people could take a rest for a while. This time they went; it was nearly four years after my brother’s marriage that a difficult war, the Kurdistan war broke out.

Interviewer: The civil war?

Bafrin: The civil war? No, not the civil war. The government and Peshmarga war.

Interviewer: Ah, before that time.

Bafrin: Yah, there every year, whether in spring, winter, summer and autumn we were on the mountain, we were on the mount, under tents and under plastic covers, and in caves. There was no joy in the world at all. This time we went; we went to the mountains. When was the year when we went to Iran?

Interviewer: Before the nineties?

Bafrin: When we were at Bozan Bridge, eighteen helicopters arrived, hovering over it. “God”, we said to ourselves “could we save the children?” We had put them under a small shelter. The helicopters dropped chemicals on the mountain, all over it. It dropped chemicals and for these children I said “God what can we do with them?” Well, later Bazyd, the martyr, my husband, came; he himself was with the government before. He came and together with Bazyd we rescued the children and took them to the Strait of Zine. There we went up the Strait of Zine. We went a little bit towards Beresh. When we reached there the chemical shell hit behind our house, behind our people. There were some people who immediately vomited and got diarrhoea. No one cared about the others. Everybody in their place had turned purple like Halabja people. At the time of the bombarding I was not at home; I had gone to milk the goats.

Interviewer: At that time?

Bafrin: Yah, I had gone to milk the goats. When I got back, I had the milk bucket with me. When I saw my family all down, I gave everyone milk and when they vomited they brought it up like cheese. Well, that night we stayed there. The following day we left. For nine days and nine nights, we were on the way to reach Iran. The government had blocked our way; there was no way to reach there. Once we were on Qandil Mountain, due to hunger, none of our women, men and children could take another step and climb. I had a breastfeeding baby; I had carried the fifteen-day-old Shanaz on my back. I left Shanaz on the bridge, in Sheikh Sara Strait, from Qandil to that place. I laid him on the ground and said to myself, “I can’t rescue myself, then how can I rescue this baby.” I left him there. I left for nearly ten to twenty minutes and saw him on the snow, his hands moving. I turned back at once, sat near my child and cried a lot. I cried and well, I held the baby in my arms and on my way I ran into my brother, Mamosta Omed. He asked me, “what are you doing, Sister?” I said “Omed, I swear I have lost it all; I will not make it now. Bro, I am tired.” The snow in my eyes had turned quite black, because of cold and tiredness.

Interviewer: You were tired.

Bafrin: Absolutely. There Mamosta Omed grabbed my arm and pulled me out of the snow. He said “Let’s ski on the snow.” On the snow, I slid myself and my young child until we were down.

At the bottom of the mountain I looked where the big river was, the Martyrs’ River. My children were all on pack animals; Aram, Dilgesh and Araz were all in duffel bags. All of a sudden, from some point the horse fell into the middle of the river. It fell into the middle of the river and I screamed, saying “Water took my children.” Well, Pirot was with us. Immediately, he grabbed the children. As if throwing cement blocks, he pulled the children out of water and threw them one by one not allowing them to be carried away with the river. Well, God showed mercy and my children could cross the river. This time, once again, I was left behind the group. I was already sick myself and I was very young so I didn’t have the power to proceed with the group. This time, once again, the group and the pack animals left me behind. It was a place where the government people were standing on the way. The Jash, mercenary Kurds who helped the Ba’ath’s, were on the other side of the road, signaling to us with lights, saying “Come this way.” They signaled with lights and we took the lights path and crossed the road. We crossed and this time once again I was left behind the group. I was left behind and this time I reached Bole.

In Bole I saw members of the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran standing there. Shahnaz was little, an infant at that time. They asked me “Sister, why are you left behind?” I said “Well, I’m left behind the group, our group.” I said “I don’t have the power to proceed at their pace.” I sat with them and had food and tea and got a little bit more energy. Well, a young brother, like you, carried Shahnaz for me and it took me, say, the time for climbing this mountain, until I reached the group. They gave me some cakes, bread and similar stuff, saying these will help you even if you reach the group on your way, you can proceed with them and not become hungry. Well, at that time as we left we reached Iran. In Iran we stayed a while, almost one year. Later we came back home and our men became soldiers. They became soldiers for six months. Then Pirot, my husband, came back here. This time once again the civil war broke out.

Interviewer: Yah, after that the civil war started.

Bafrin: Yah, at the time of civil war a 50 kg bag of flour was for 1500 Dinars.

Interviewer: Which means things were expensive?

Bafrin: Yah, it was such an overcharging that had never happened before. Such an overpricing period began. I had seven children and I was the eighth family member and Pirot the ninth. Then, I would wonder “God, now me and this overprice.” We were just back from Iran. We had no house; God is my witness. We had only one room, which at night, when it rained the plastic cover was gone with the rai,n like that. Only that part was left, the part over the window.

Bafrin‘s son: We had one blanket.

Bafrin: All the children, all the children and me were sitting over the niche of this window. Until morning only the upper part of the window had remained and the plastic cover was gone. We had nothing of the house left. We were left thus; we had no house, no bedding, no home, nothing until the civil war started. Always everyday two to three corpses were returned to Garawan.

Interviewer: They were from here?

Bafrin: Yes, they were from here. The war here was fought by PUK and there by KDP. Later, when after four years my husband got martyred, I did not have any child of an age to dare to go out and do some work. All were little. My son was two months old, lying in the cradle. Then with such an economization, with such a disease I had to lead this family. I swear to God, Araz was that age, so I took Araz with me and picked grapes for other people, raised cattle for other people with half of the usual payment, just to let my children not die of hunger.

Interviewer: It means you worked to gain something to eat?

Bafrin: Yes, I swear to God it was thus; so that I could find something and my children would not die. Well, thanks to God, I did not let my children go astray and have mishaps until the economic situation was a bit improved. God showed mercy that Saddam was annihilated. By the time Saddam was annihilated, the children had grown up a little. Now, thanks to God, I have raised two of them to become teachers, one a doctor and another one an administrator, I’m not sure administrator of what. I have raised him, too. It’s for years that they have been married; I have them married, thanks to God, I have three of my sons married, my girl married off. It was thus.

Interviewer: Do you have anything you like to share with us about the time of your youth?

Bafrin: The youth time. Oh, boy, in our youth time, there was no youth time, may God not see this as ingratitude. Then they would take us to harvest plants, to work, to collect cow dung for fire, to carry water from the spring and such sort of works; the youth time then was not like that of now. For the youth time now, I swear to God, the young people, husbands and wives are now living as kings and queens. I swear to God and the prophets, my mother was the tailor for the village. Then I should have the milk from seven cows; God is my witness, I was very young, like a finger I was so slim. My mother ran the whole family with her handiwork; my father could only make trips to Iran, to bring wheat and barley from Iran. Our life at that time was not a good life. But now, thanks to God, the situation is fine and may God not disturb this good situation for us, may this peace and calm last, you know how much fun it is now.

Second Part

Interviewer: What about schooling? Was it there?

Bafrin: To some extent there was no schooling at the beginning. Later, a teacher first came here and they called him “Mu’allim“, which means teacher. They rented him a small house over there, in the Faqes’ Chamber, a house for teaching Islamic theology to Mullahs. Students would go there to study. People would not send girls to school; it was forbidden. They would say how people can put girls to schooling. But this was not so for the boys. They sent some boys and some of them learnt well. Otherwise, the rest of the teachers were Mullahs. The people had the Mullahs write them something on papers, called “Sipara“, which translates as, Mullah’s curriculum. Mullahs wrote the children Sipara and taught the children alphabet. Some taught them how to read the Quran. Otherwise, there was no school here, no literacy here. Despite that, this village was better than other places. This village had many literate people, which means because a school opened here very soon and there were potent Mullahs here and these Mullahs were educated they taught children. There were many good literate people. Otherwise, I swear to God, if you had a letter, you had to take it to Ruwanduz to read it.

Interviewer: This means somebody had to read it to you.

Bafrin: Somebody had to read it to you. And it was all in Arabic and only a very good literate person would understand it, it was Arabic language. There was no literacy in Kurdish because people were taught only by Mullahs. Oh, boy, once they said schooling in Kurdish was forbidden; it was forbidden to study in Kurdish. My brother was a student in Erbil. At that time, when the school was opened here, he studied a bit here, up to the third primary stage. If he could stay here, his study was for nothing he had to stop because the school only offered education up to the third class. He had to go. In Ruwanduz schooling was also limited. Then he had to go to Erbil to study. In Ruwanduz it was up to fifth class. Then my brother went to Erbil. Books all changed, all books changed to Arabic. My brother came back, saying “I swear to God I don’t know a word of Arabic.” Then my mother and father both took him to Erbil. Well, this time he learnt Arabic. Now he is a judge, sitting on a throne.

Third Part

Bafrin: As for the women, when they gave birth, they would say “Mrs. So and So gave birth to a girl.” Instead of saying “She has given birth to a girl”, they would say “She has given birth to a female poppy”, that is Della’ssa, which is an offensive word in Kurdish. It means people were not that educated at that time. If someone gives birth to a girl now, by God, they will cheer with joy. Once back at home, men saw themselves with a strong personality among people. Some people were not so. All are not similar. If the man was back home and the woman had not done every work: churning work, Joni work, with heavy stones and wheat seeds, doing all the housework, doing the farm, milking the cows, taking care of the calves, this husband would overcome her and would beat her. By God, he had to beat the wife.

Nowadays, if you have one dinar, you will give it to your wife, right? Previously, folks didn’t put it in the wives’ hands. The money they had, men would put it in their pockets, under their Kurtak. They would not let the women use it, or say “but am not I the partner to this person, my wife, aren’t we a couple?” No, they wouldn’t do that. Women were not considered but a little at that time. It means then they had a strict and severe watch over women. Women were not regarded that much then. But now if you have a dinar, a dirham, it’s in the wife’s hand. But we were not so in our home. I swear to God, since I came to my home, since I got married,, the way I am now, I have been thus all the time that is I had money with me all the time. But by God, around our village, the women did never have a single dinar in their pockets. Which means men went to the town; it was not the time for women to go to the town, men would go there. The women would say “buy me a dress, or a Kawa cloth.” And the man would say “Well, wife, I swear, I don’t have money now until I sell the grapes.” He would say “I don’t have it now, or until I sell the raisins or the grapes’ molasses I won’t have money to buy you anything.” This woman, the wife, would carry a pod on her back, going to collect oak apples and pistacia terebinthus and would bring oak apples, pistacia and these things home, preparing them. Then, each time they would sell two or three waqas, about 32 grams; then they called it waqa. Later, they would put the money in their husband or father-in-law’s hand, saying “with it buy a dress for me, or a Kawa.” Well, women should have one dress only. It was not like now that you wash it in the washing machine and dry it. At that time you had to hold it over the smoke of the fire until it got dried. Until it got dried it would only smell of smoke.

Interviewer: This means you had to wash it that single dress and immediately after getting it dry wear it again?

Bafrin: Well, yah. I swear to God, it didn’t matter even if the woman was married that year, she had one or two dresses, no more. They would have her put on a Kurtak and a dress and the rest was according to the will of her husband to buy her more clothes, whether he was rich or poor. The money was not in the wife’s hand to deal with it at her will or buy gold with it or clothes with it or give the expenses of the house; it was not like that. The same way the man worked and earned money for the family, the wife had also to do the same; yet, she was not allowed to do the home expenses to interfere with the way money was spent for running the family.

Interviewer: And how was the marriage ceremony at that time?

Bafrin: Well, how the marriage ceremony could have been at that time. My son, now you know what? Earlier times two fathers would meet each other, neither the girl nor the boy were aware of the talks over marrying them. The fathers would agree while doing some business over something, for example, cement. Then they would come, saying “Let’s gather tonight for making a deal together.” Three to four men would gather, coming to our house, saying, “Well, we’ve come to broker a deal with each other, and this deal is for whom? For So and So; so let’s start the deal.” I swear to God, sometimes they engaged a girl and the family would not know about it, even if the girl has been married off. For the next day at the spring, the wives of the men who were guests of the girl’s father in the previous night would say “Hey girl, Miss So and So, they had you engaged.” And the girl would say, “Come on, I swear I have not been engaged.” And the answer was, “Well, your father had you engaged. He’s your guardian but has not asked your opinion. Your father engaged you silently.” If fathers liked the marriage, if they were friends with each other and had business together, boys and girls should not have said “I don’t want him/her or I want him/her.”

Fourth Part

Bafrin: When my husband got martyred, I knew a little about midwifery before that time. One day when I came home, some people from the organizations related to the allied “forces” stood at the gate. They said “Aunt”. I said, “yes, dear”. They had an interpreter with them, saying they had come to register my name for midwifery. And I said “then write it, son.” Well, they wrote my name and I went for fifteen days of training. I became the top midwife across Ruwanduz, which means until it reached Choman. I became the top midwife. They gave me six thousand dinars of Swiss print. When they gave me the six thousand dinars it was something very exciting. That means I was mother to orphans, children are called orphans either after the death of their father, or the death of their father or mother together, but not the death of their mother alone. I had debts; so I was very happy to have the money. Well, then the official from the allied forces’ organization was English; he took a photo with me. The man put his hand on my shoulder, joking with me, telling me “You should continue this work.” I answered, “I will keep on it, anyway.”

Every month, at the end of the month, they would give me two pots of oil because I became the top trainee; they would give me 25 kilos of rice, four kilos of sugar. Well, anyway, it was fixed; we overcame the economic situation we were stuck in with this midwifery, which I even now continue with; I touch the back, legs and stuff of the people. I have taken much benefit from this course up to now. Perhaps I have cut the umbilical cord of a hundred of boys and girls at this village. Then it was not like that for people to take women to hospital. It was the civil war between the PUK and KDP. They would say “Go and bring Aunt Bafrin who is licensed.” I would go; they gave birth to a child. I cut their cord like a routine. Thanks to God, it was very well.

Interviewer: You were happy with that work?

Bafrin: Yah, I was very happy with it, very.

Interviewer: Are you still practicing it?

Bafrin: Yah, though now I don’t have that much patience, I don’t go to people for midwifery, I don’t.