Wednesday, December 31, 2003

While the southern events are important...the Kurds could be the match that lights a larger fire.
Chris Allbritton continues to intrigue me with comments and insights about the Kurds in Iraq, over at Back-to-Iraq. I'll be very interested to see not only what an essay he's working on right now about this subject will have to say, but what reports he'll be sending us when he's back in-country in March...

Tuesday, December 30, 2003

This article, brought to my attention by a recent posting on Back-to-Iraq, is rather interesting. There appears to be an emerging pattern of support by some Jews for an independent Kurdistan, or at least an autonomous state within Iraq.

Which leads me to this article, talking about how the Kurds are asserting themselves in the current political process of rebuilding Iraq. Now is definitely the time for them to make themselves heard...

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Alas, new information makes it look like the so-called Kurdish claims were never made by the Kurds themselves, but were a product of bad journalism...

Monday, December 22, 2003

Kurds make claim to Kirkurk for historical, not economic reasons. However, it would be a wonderful coupe for them to have the revenue the oil fields would bring them to build the new Kurdistan. The current situation is making the Kurdish political parties bold; now is definitely the time to make such claims!
Kurds claim that they were the ones responsible for Saddam's capture, that without their military intelligence and expertise, Saddam would still be at large...

Saturday, December 20, 2003

I just spoke with Eva on the phone. She is home in Nashville! She arrived late Thursday evening, and spent yesterday arranging for her house utilities to be turned on. She hopes to be in her home tomorrow.

She said she ended up being in Damascus for almost a week, having to rearrange flights due to schedule limitations. While in Damascus, she was in the hotel most of the time, but towards the end, a local Kurdish taxi driver took them for a drive around town, including to what Eva called 'little Kurdistan', a neighborhood in Damascus of Kurdish immigrants.

This past Thursday, they made immediate connections once in Amman to fly out to Chicago, so she never had any time to look around there. In Chicago, there were multiple delays for the connection to Nashville due to weather. Eva joked she was about to rent a car and drive home!

Eva found out that she and the boys could have avoided having jaundice if they had had a Hepatitis Type A vaccination before leaving. She had trusted her physician to know all the shots she'd need, but that one was overlooked. She'll know better next time.

I asked her if Meran likes his job, if he's glad he went. She said yes, he likes his job very much. He's in a unique position due to his life experience, having been in refugee camps and having time to study in his native language for four straight years before coming to America, then learning English well. He knows both languages fluently and that makes him a good asset to the US military.

He has translated, for instance, for training of Pershmergas being trained as police officers by US military. He has also been with operations on the border where they were investigating smuggling operations. I asked Eva about what we've been hearing about the intelligence raids going wrong due to bad information, or despite good information the translators getting addresses wrong and innocent people being harassed, threatened, and scared out of their it's making people turn against the US military. Eva said that in Meran's experience, there has been negative situations. He has known some soldiers that have bad attitudes towards all Iraqis, no matter who they are. He has coworkers, other translators, that have said, "Yes, the money is good, but it's not worth the harassment", and have resigned their jobs and returned to the US. Due to this concern, while Meran was in the hospital recovering from his surgery, he contacted the commanding officer for the area and spoke to him about this concern. From what Eva understood, the situation improved because of this; what that means, I don't know. Maybe upper command wasn't aware of it and due to Meran's intercession, down the chain of command, word was sent to be more respectful and it has helped. We can only hope...

Eva is very proud of Meran. He's very level-headed, and hard-working, and due to that, he's well-respected by the people he works with there. But as always, she misses him!

Monday, December 15, 2003

The local Kurdish community celebrated Sunday night due to Saddam's capture! According to this (and many other independent sources), the Kurds in Iraq had a key role in Saddam's capture...

Sunday, December 14, 2003

Hussein was reportedly “tired” and “resigned” when captured in a dirt hole outside of Adwar, a town about 10 miles from Tikrit. Kurdish peshmergas helped locate him, according to some statements from the Iraqi Governing Council.
Chris Allbritton writes that he has serious doubts that the insurgents will back down despite Saddam being captured, and explains why...
From my son-in-law Meran, via email...
Date: Sun, 14 Dec 2003 06:54:14 -0500

Goooooooood news Saddam Hussien got captured last night. I am very happy. Thank Allah and long life U.S.A. The sky of dohuk is lighting up from AK-47's bullets, every body are celebrating in Dohuk city...
A powerful website of women from Iraq, mostly in exile, who are fighting politically for a free and open society in their home country. Many are Kurds...

Friday, December 12, 2003

'For several weeks, here exclusively on FRONTLINE's website, we're presenting an inside, behind-the-scenes look at the making of an upcoming FRONTLINE documentary on Iraq. Beginning with a dispatch from the chaotic border between Turkey and Iraq, the team that produced the recent "Truth, War and Consequences" and last year's "In Search of Al Qaeda" -- correspondent and producer Martin Smith, co-producer Marcela Gaviria, and photographer Scott Anger -- will send vivid updates on their journey into the Kurdish north, across the rebellious Sunni lands of central Iraq to Baghdad, and south to the sacred Shia cities of Karbala and Najaf, as they take a hard look at the country to which President Bush vows to bring democracy. Their documentary, "Beyond Baghdad," will air on FRONTLINE in January 2004.'
To see and hear more, go here...

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Eva was finally able to get through to me on her satellite 'call through' phone at about 2:30pm today! I was thrilled to hear from her at last. She was calling from Meran's uncle's home in Dohuk, the city Meran is now stationed in. They were having a send-off gettogether for Eva and the boys...

She's leaving tomorrow at 8:30am local time. Due to what seems like rather arbitrary travel restrictions/guidelines, she won't have as streamlined a way home as she did on her way in-country. This time, she'll head to Komishlu, catch a connecting flight to Damascus, Syria. She'll have to stay there for two days, and while there contact the local PKK (or whatever the Kurdish political party is called now) office for assistance on some details in her departure. On Monday, fly to Amman, Jordan, staying another two days (required again, for whatever reason!), then leave on Wednesday, December 17th to Chicago, catching a connecting flight there to Nashville arriving home at around 10:30pm. It will be one very long day...

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

Chief Wiggles shares about his organization's most recent 'side-trip' to the main game - giving out toys to Kurdish children in a village in the north. It was covered, he said, by Kurdish TV and broadcast around the world via Satellite.

The Chief is one of the best of the best, trying to help sort out the mess that is currently Iraq. It isn't easy, with corruption everywhere...

Sunday, December 07, 2003

While I was out yesterday, Eva got ahold of my sister on Messenger chat...
Eva/Nirgaz says:
Hello Aunt Betty!
BettyBoop says:
Eva/Nirgaz says:
Eva/Nirgaz says:
Mom told you I am overseas right?
BettyBoop says:
Where are you, at this moment?
BettyBoop says:
Oh yes.
BettyBoop says:
Are you still sick???
Eva/Nirgaz says:
In Duhok, Iraq
BettyBoop says:
How are the kids??
Eva/Nirgaz says:
BettyBoop says:
oh good, we were so worried.
Eva/Nirgaz says:
I am better, I had Jaundice, and Bilal too, for two weeks
BettyBoop says:
Last we heard, you did not know when or if you were coming back or staying for a year.
Eva/Nirgaz says:
How are you?
BettyBoop says:
We are fine.
BettyBoop says:
Going to do Christmas baking today.
BettyBoop says:
Eva/Nirgaz says:
I am returning on Thursday, well starting out, should be back by the 16th or 17th
Eva/Nirgaz says:
here too!
Eva/Nirgaz says:
Don't talk about baking, its making my mouth water
BettyBoop says:
Did you want to stay longer or just impossible at this point?
BettyBoop says:
Well, you know me; baking about 15 different recipes. I miss you sweetie.
Eva/Nirgaz says:
I was willing, but after seeing the conditions here, I wasn't too impressed and felt it was better for me and the kids to go back to the states even if it meant that we wouldn't get to see Meran as often.
Eva/Nirgaz says:
I miss you too, maybe I will try and come up in the Summer
BettyBoop says:
Wow I didn't know you were starting out Thurs. does your Mom know? She never mentioned it.
BettyBoop says:
That would be great to see you again.
BettyBoop says:
What time is it over there now?
Eva/Nirgaz says:
No, I have been trying to get ahold of her, but her message always answers
Eva/Nirgaz says:
Midnight, I am at a netcafe
BettyBoop says:
Cool, it is 3 pm here now.
Eva/Nirgaz says:
I will let you go, but let Mom know I was trying to get ahold of her, I will try and call again before Thursday.
BettyBoop says:
I know your Mom would be going to get Grandma for her hair appointment.
Eva/Nirgaz says:
I love you, and tell everyone hello
BettyBoop says:
ok, LOVE YOU MUCH and please take care. XO
Eva/Nirgaz says:
will do, keep me in your prayers
Eva/Nirgaz says:
BettyBoop says:
Nice to hear from her, even though it was through someone else. It'll even be better when I hear from her after she's back in Tennessee. Speaking of which, there is a fascinating article about a mother who travelled to Iraq recently to visit her daughter who is in the National Guard, who is from Tennessee; her adventure in getting there makes interesting reading...

Friday, December 05, 2003

I received email from Meran that Eva and the boys are now feeling better. That is great news! Whatever it was they had, they are on the mend. He also gave a date for their return: December 15th. It will be good to have them back home in the States...

I could tell Meran was disappointed, and I know Eva is, too, that it didn't work out as they had hoped. He was willing to rent a home just for Eva and the boys, to make it more pleasant for her, but in the end, she still wanted to come home. I don't know all the details yet, but if Eva wants to come home, it must have been a tough time.

I have a feeling she'll be going back one of these days, though. Now was just not the best time...

"If there's such a thing as reincarnation, I must've been a Kurd in my past life. How could you not respect and admire the people who have survived some of the most vicious attacks by enemies from near and far for a big part of modern history, yet have managed to maintain their dignity, their unique sense of culture and arts, their wonderful customs and language, and their distinctive outlook on life?

"A smile is never that far from the lips of a Kurd when meeting a stranger, and neither is a song when happy or a scream when facing injustice. Kurds personify what every human being strives to be; strong, sensitive, responsible and sincere. This also is their main problem..."
An interesting essay of personal reflection by an Iranian...

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

This travel warning from the State Department recommends no travel by US citizens in Iraq. Increasing security concerns even in relatively quiet areas overide any guarantees of safety. I continue to hope that Eva, Salih, Bilal, and Mu'min return home soon.

In the meantime, I've been reading up on Malaria*. Sounds nasty. Hope they're feeling better by now, or at least getting necessary treatment...

* This link at the World Health Organization explains that Iraq definitely has had major problems with Malaria in the past and still does. Programs to control it were becoming successfull through the 1990's, but now with the war, they have been interrupted. One of the areas with the highest outbreaks is in the area of Duhok, which is not far from where Eva and Meran are. Time of year also makes a difference. It is the rainy season now, which increases the host populations (mosquitos) which carry the parasite that causes the disease...

Monday, December 01, 2003

Below is a recent email exchange between my son-in-law and myself (just this past weekend...) It is in chronological order, from most recent backwards.

I learned that things have definitely changed for them due to health concerns. My hunch is that Eva and the boys may be experiencing malaria. Either way, I urged him in another email to make sure they get seen by a doctor ASAP, if they haven't already...

I think it would be best, Meran, if they are that sick, if they come back now. I think I have to agree with Eva in that case. It is too bad they are so sick, but things might get worse before they get better. It's better to be safe than sorry, as an old saying of ours goes.

Let me know what is going on as soon as possible.

I noticed Eva tried to call me the other day, but I missed the call. I tried to call back, but even with the help of an international operator, we couldn't figure out how to get a call all the way through to the phone Eva uses. They said the number coming up was a land line in downtown London, England, and they couldn't track it past that. Oh well, I tried! I was very disappointed, though.

If Eva can call again, tell her to try. I always try to have my phone with me...

Tell Eva I love her, and that I hope she and Salih, Bilal, and Mu'min are feeling better soon!

How are you doing? Are you out of the hospital now? Are you feeling better?

Eva said you might be going to Mosul again to work. Your message below indicated you are still up north. Will you be moving?

I wonder why Eva is sick now? She was there for some weeks and was OK. Mmmmm....

OK, I will not send anything right now. I will wait.

Take care of yourself, Meran. It can be a very dangerous place there now, as you know...



From: meran.abdullah
To: Trish Lewis
Subject: Re: hey you missed talking with you!! :)
Date: Sun, 30 Nov 2003 10:08:21 -0500

I think Nirgaz wants to go back to u.s. very soon. I am trying to keep her and the kids here for about one year, but she don't like it, I even told her if it will make you happer I will rent a house for you and the kids. all the kids and Nirgaz are sick all the time, they start trowing up, daireya and having yellow eyes and all of their body are yellowish. I am find and I am station 1/2 mile from my uncle's house and were Nirgaz and kids lives. don't sent anything her, Nirgaz have already hard time finding the way taking all the things that she have and bought with her back to the states.

love son in law
Meran and Nirgaz and all kids

From: Trish Lewis
Date: Wednesday, November 19, 2003 4:32 pm
Subject: hey you guys!!! :

Meran & Eva:

Hope you're all doing well. I haven't mailed anything because I'm in a muddle. Not sure what to mail, or where to mail it! What do the boys like? What might you two need/like? Should I send everything to the APO address, or only something to you, Meran there, and the rest, Eva, to Nashville? HELP!

I read this blog today from a girl who lives in Baghdad. Really something to read! All about what's happening to people she knows, for instance, in Tikrit right ...

Tell me news. Tell me how much fun it is in the hospital, Meran (just teasing)...great food, eh?!!!

Tell me what's happening, Eva. What are the boys up to?

Love, Mom

Sunday, November 09, 2003

On Back-to-Iraq today:

The top human rights official for the CPA [Coalition Provisional Authority] says Saddam Hussein killed at least 300,000 opponents and buried them in 263 mass graves located around the country...
"...the majority of people buried in the mass graves are believed to be Kurds killed by Saddam in the 1980s after rebelling against the government and Shiites killed after an uprising following the 1991 Gulf War."

Saturday, November 08, 2003

Before I posted about Eva's call, I got the first email at bottom from Meran...then a bit later, after I responded about Eva calling, he emailed back a bit more about what is going on...It looks like things are changing, he may be reassigned, as Eva said, and Eva and the boys may come home sooner than originally planned...

You sound a bit bored, huh? I know how that is, when you're in the hospital. I've been in hospital many times in the past and yes, it gets very boring!! I know Eva wanted to get the DVD player for you, but as you said, she forgot. Many things for her to remember. She did pretty good to get most of them done. I think when you have little kids around, things get much more confusing to keep track of. It was that way for me anyways...

About the box...Eva called me 3 days ago on the 'call through' phone from your Uncle's. We talked for about 30 minutes, and I asked her if I should send it to your APO address. She said to either wait, or send it to your Nashville home to wait for her. She said that some letters she mailed before she left still haven't gotten there, so she doesn't trust the mail. What do you think? Maybe there is a better way?

It is colder here than normal. I have seen it this cold before, this early, but most of the time it isn't. We have several inches of snow, and it feels more like December than November. I definitely think your weather there is better than ours!!

What do you think of the rebuilding of Iraq? It will be hard work, I think, and take a lot of time. I hope that most of the people living there will not be too discouraged. I think that most people living there want to work hard to have a good life, don't you? Unfortunately, there are a few selfish people that want to grab power for themselves, or let hate and anger take control of them instead of forgiveness and compassion...

Love, Mom

From: Meran
To: Trish Lewis
Subject: Re: we will be fine
Date: Fri, 07 Nov 2003 07:00:10 -0800

yes, it is cold at night but in day time is good, I am in mosal because of my appendix until nov 25th, I called my captian today and he told me we can do thing with out you so come back so i will try to go back after am will. do worry we all will be fine ensaallah. how is christopher doing tell him hi and also uncle billy and his wife and all his kids and any body else if they are asking about us. do you now where to sent that box if no let me now please. i tolled eva to bring with here one of these dvd with 7 in screen with you but she forgot to bring with her. i really could use one of them. because I am sitting down all day doing nating after surgery. i miss you i hope we see each other soon. yes we will have time to sit and dicuss all the hardship and enjoy i involved. keep in tauch.

you son in law
abu salih, bilal and mu'man and eva

I have more time to write
From: Trish Lewis
Date: Monday, November 3, 2003 7:53 am
Subject: Re: they are fine

I am happy to hear you are OK, Meran!! Appendix can be serious. Take care of yourself, and you, Eva, and the boys are in my thoughts and prayers.

I will be sending a box for Eid-ul-Fitr. I'll probably send it out either this week or next week. I see it is on November 25th, I think, this year?

That is only a couple of days before Thanksgiving here in America.

I bet it's getting cold there, too, eh?

One of these days, I hope to visit with you when you are back home, about your work when you are there. I'm sure it will be interesting to hear about.

I'm VERY proud of both you and Eva. I love you guys, and be safe.

Love, Mom

From: Meran
To: Trish Lewis
Subject: Re: they are fine
Date: Mon, 03 Nov 2003 18:40:12 +0300

Hi trish
yes, you could write me a massege and i will give her message. i am in touch with her every day, I am sich in a hospital I had to remove my appendix. But now am very fine i am writting this letter after two nights in a hospital in mosul. all 3 kids are fine and they have fun time. Eva had hard time until she entered the country. the serian government did not allowed her to entered so we tolled her to go to Turkey. she had no problem entered throw Turkey. nov. 1 03 before i came to mosal she drove to zakho to see me and she had mu,man with her before a flight to mosal.


Eva didn't call before leaving the morning she left, I assumed she had to hurry up.

When did they get there? Did they make the final connecting flight or did they have to take the bus?

Tell Eva if she still wants me to take care of her email, she needs to tell me her password (she forgot to do that)

I hope everything is OK. I bet you were very happy to see Eva, Salih, Bilal, and Mu'min!! Mu'min has grown so much (well, they all have, I'm sure) Take care, and tell Eva to be sure and write me when she can so I can keep in touch. (I can write her at your address, right?)

Love, Mom

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

I was on my way to pick up my elderly mother for a medical appointment today. As I drove along, my cell phone rings. While I do my best to avoid a car wreck but at the same time answer phone, I see the caller ID says that foreign number again; yesterday, I missed a call from that number. I had a hunch...

I answered. Clicks. A man says hello and I say hello back. More clicks. "Hi, Mom!" It's Eva! *Big smile* I had a hunch...!

Eva explained the phone number has a Great Britian 'country code' because it's some sort of 'call through' satellite phone that gets it's 'boost' through that country. Uhhh...OK...! Anyways, she was surprised to hear that Meran had gotten an email to me about his appendix already. She further explained that as a contract worker, he normally would have been treated at the Zahko hospital and that would be that, but when the military personnel he works with heard, they said they wanted him to have the best so flew him to Mosul to their hospital. Ironically, however, it was the Iraqi doctors who diagnosed him correctly over the onsite army medical personnel in Zahko! By the time he got to Mosul, the doctors there said that he got there in the nick of time; 30 more minutes or so and it would have burst. That could be serious. Thankfully, it was in time.

Eva said that since Ramadan has started, it's become rather boring. She was going out visiting and filming before, but now stays home all the time. She explained that the society is still very patriarchal there, and they worry about women going out during the holy month. She is spending some of this time watching DVDs she bought (many films still in our theatres here are already available there on the black market for $1 or so) She also had a chance to get online at an Internet cafe, which is very cheap there; a half hour only cost her about 5 dinars, or about fifty cents. Also, there is the housework! Meran's uncle's wife is well along in a pregnancy and Eva is helping out with chores. She said that washing clothes is quiet an experience there. They have a two-part machine they use; one part agitates after you hand-fill with water and soap. Then you rinse in another tub before loading in the second part which spins the water out; the spinning part is called the 'dryer', although all it does is get excess water out...the clothes still have to be hung. Suffice to say, it's more like the old days here. Thankfully no washing on stones in a river, but definitely more work-intensive than we're used to anymore. I smiled because I remembered Mom and the wringer we had growing up (at least until I was a bit older anyways, thankfully!)...glad not to have to do it anymore, but knowing it would be a memorable experience for her.

She said that the American presence is everywhere. You go to the market, and the soldiers are there. Meran has many enlisted men as friends, she has met several, and they enjoy socializing with them because Meran is 'Americanized', and Eva of course is a bit like the sisters, wives, or daughters they may have left behind.

Eva told me that she has taken video footage already, including of a village they visited that is much like the one Meran grew up in. She said there are orchards there of pomogranates, apples, etc. that are very good to eat. Meran has been told that he can have some leave after initial hospitalization recovery from the appendix operation. During this time, they want to go north to where his village Bigdowdi was so Eva and the boys can see the area. Bigdowdi itself no longer exists, being literally bulldozed and razed to the ground by Saddam's forces in the late 1980's after Meran's family and neighbors fled. The other village they went to after that, they hope to visit also.

Eva explained that after that, she may be coming home, earlier than originally planned. That is because there are recently announced plans to disperse translators further south, and that Meran is likely to be stationed once again in Mosul. Mosul is NOT a safe area for Eva and the boys, so they know if that is what happens, then at that point Eva will return. As Eva said, "I came not just to visit, but to be near Meran so he can come visit us on weekends. If he is stationed in Mosul, there's no point in my staying here; I won't be able to see him here anymore than I could in Nashville!"

Eva & I discussed how she plans on using her raw footage. I mentioned talking to a representative from BridgesTV, promoting her to them. She laughed and said, "Go, Mom!" But she initially said, "Really?!" being rather surprised they'd be interested. I explained that they're openly soliciting content, wanting to provide opportunities not only to creative persons like herself, but also for themselves to discover interesting work for broadcast. Why not? Eva could end up freelancing for broadcasters like them, putting her degree to use while at the same time enjoying the process on projects she likes (not to mention flexible schedules as a busy Mom...)

So there you have it...Time passes quickly, and the experience of being there will soon become a memory.

Monday, November 03, 2003

This morning, I received an email from Meran (my son-in-law):
Hi, Trish!

Yes, you could write me a message and I will give her message. I am in touch with her every day. I am sick in a hospital; I had to remove my appendix. But now am very fine. I am writing this letter after two nights in a hospital in Mosul. All 3 kids are fine and they have fun time. Eva had hard time until she entered the country. The Syrian government did not allowed her to entered so we told her to go to Turkey. She had no problem entered throw Turkey. Nov. 1 03 before I came to Mosal she drove to Zakho to see me and she had Mu'min with her before a flight to Mosal.
...and that, was that.

I wrote back to take care, all that Mom kind of stuff...! Sounds like they are busy, living life there much like they do here, just that they're halfway across the world now.

Meanwhile, little Mu'min just plays, eats, sleeps, and doesn't know the difference...

Saturday, November 01, 2003

It has been over 3 weeks now since Eva arrived in Iraq, but I have not heard from her since then. Ramadan has begun, and my thoughts turn to her, Meran, and the boys. I hope she can contact me soon. I'm curious how life is going for her over there...

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

A story about a translator working for the same company Meran does - this will give you an idea of what he is doing...

Monday, October 13, 2003

To give those of you reading this an idea of the Iraqi Kurdistan my son-in-law has been working in, and my daughter and grandsons have just arrived in, here is an excerpt from the current VANITY FAIR magazine article by Christopher Hitchens, about his most recent visit to this area...
And so to the North. One of the greatest pleasures in life is that of visiting liberated territory. Twelve years ago in Iraqi Kurdistan, I received a great deal of kindness and hospitality from the local population, who cheerfully shared the nothing that they had and put me up in the charred ruins that they then inhabited. This time was different. To move up into the Kurdish hills is not just to escape the baking heat and misery and dislocation of the plains. It is to travel years forward into a possible Iraqi future. The roads are smooth, the landscape cultivated, and - slowly but surely - the oil wells are pumping. There are three female High Court judges. Gas stations, clogged by long lines elsewhere, look as if they were in Holland or Connecticut. Well-dressed Kurdish police and militia stand guard at intersections, and Americans hardly bother to wear their flak jackets. It was easy to connect to the Internet and, finally, to have a long shower, before being offered a serious cocktail and a meal featuring five different kinds of lamb. At the reception given by President Mossoud Barzani, in a manicured villa and garden, as opposed to the shell-pocked ruin in which I had last seen him, I met my old friend Dr. Barham Salih, who is prime minister of the adjacent Kurdish region. Once highly clannish and even fratricidal, the Kurds have shown that they can transcend their differences once they have an autonomy worth defending. Barham was in tip-top form, wondering why the Americans didn't ask for a few companies of Kurdish fighters to take part in the hunt for Saddam. "No shortage of motivation," he remarks. But even here the conversation is overlaid by talk about interment and disinterment; not only has a new mass grave been opened at Hatra, near Mosul (this is the one apparently reserved for mothers and children), but a huge mound of cadavers has been unearthed in the far south of the country, near the Saudi border, and apparently the remains include many fragments of Kurdish dress. This could be the long-sought clue to the whereabouts of the thousands of male villagers of Barzan, taken away on trucks in 1983..."
This is the environment my daughter and her family are living in for the next several months.

I think many peoples, such as the Palestinians, could also find peaceful autonomy, if given a real chance.

Tuesday, October 07, 2003

Eva finally called.

At approximately 3:30pm, Eva called me at work on my cell phone. The first call I didn't recognize the number but answered. No one replied, I waited, nothing, so I hung up. A minute later another call from the same number. This time, a man in a foreign language said something, I said hello again, he repeated himself, then Eva came on the line. I had a feeling it was her!

She told me she was safe and sound in Iraq with Meran's Uncle and his family. She then shared her tale about the journey...

She left late on Thursday, October 2nd, flying from Nashville to NYC. They then took an overnight flight to Amman, Jordan where they connected to Damascus, Syria. Once in Syria, they took a taxi across country (for 10 hours) to Qamishli near the Syrian/Iraqi border. They were to come back the next day to the Party office to see about crossing the border. They stayed overnight in a hotel (politely-applied - more a hostel, with holes in the ground for 'toilets'...)

By this time, if my calculations are right, it is Saturday. They go to the border to be processed. Everything is in order and everyone is approved except...Eva. She has an American name, they say...It is quite likely not a great time to be an American travelling through Syria and asking for favors with our support of Israel, etc. The strange thing is, Iraq is OK with her entering, it's the Syrians that are not OK with her leaving Syria. For whatever reason, they make things difficult. The boys can go, but not their mother. The other members of the party travelling with Eva - two women and an 18-year-old young man - decide to go without Eva since once you are offered to cross, you must take it or lose your chance.

Eva is able to call Meran, and he suggests trying to cross through Turkey.

Eva takes the boys and they head back from the border and up into Turkey; here, the Syrians have no problem allowing her to leave Syria. This sounds typical from what I have read...Things are very arbitrary and subjective, you find your own way. Heading into Syria, then up to the Turkish border, Eva finds that despite what she was told about Turkey not requiring a Visa is wrong - they say they do; she has one, and presents it. That is not the 'kind' they require. To make a long story shorter, she has to 'buy' (read 'bribe') the right kind for $400 US. One of her $100 bills is rejected because it is not the new 'large' kind (larger heads on the bills). Luckily she has another one. Once over into Tyurkey, it was checkpoint after checkpoint where each time you had to re-tell your story, Eva said, and your papers were scrutinized, and your luggaged inspected.

Finally reaching the Turkish/Iraqi border, she and the boys were becoming exhausted. As they approached the border crossing, they noticed long lines of trucks waiting to cross. She was told it can take days for them to get across. Fortunately for her, they had no problem crossing; but the final stretch was a long dirt road with barbed wire on both sides that reminded Eva of "...a concentration camp." Waiting at the end of this long journey was Meran...He had only so many hours leave, and due to Eva's delay about 4 hours of it was wasted. Fortunately he was able to obtain 4 more. By the time Eva called, he has left to return to his duty station. The reunion although happy, was brief, for now. That was earlier today.

Eva said she was not impressed with Jordan and Syria as she travelled through it, but Turkey and northern Iraq, where she is staying (and where Meran and his family is from) is beautiful she said. When they reminensed about their home country, they weren't exaggerating, she continued. It is hilly and green.

She said Meran's uncle and his family are the final holdouts in the area that they live in called Giribisi. All the other homes have been bought out by the UN for their personnel and they're getting pressured to do the same. They do not want to, however. They have had enough upheaval and turmoil in their lives and it is their home. I don't blame them...

Eva promises to call when she can. She sounded truly excited. She also thinks she will definitely not be bored there! She has many plans to document this trip. That and taking care of the boys will keep her plenty busy.

Tuesday, September 30, 2003

In two days, Eva leaves. Last night, we spoke of practical things like draining water pipes and shutting off utilities while she's gone. We laughed over how she planned on packing light, but in the end she'll have (for instance) one suitcase just full of books (for Salih's homeschooling and for her own sanity for reading...!!) She's excited but nervous; handling 3 sons on a long trip, the trip itself, etc.

As we said goodbye, Eva shared how during a recent call from Meran this past weekend, a soldier he's been translating for was with him and asked to talk to his wife. The soldier shared how they really enjoy Meran not just as a translator but as a person, especially his sense of humour. After the soldier got off the phone, Eva could hear him say to Meran, "She sounds just like an American girl!", and Meran laughed and said, "She IS an American girl!"

Thursday, September 25, 2003

Yesterday, speaking with my daughter, she explained that she and Meran have discussed him working in his current position as a translator/interpreter for an additional year in Iraq. He has been offered that opportunity, and he is seriously considering it for many reasons - financial (it would allow them to pay off their new home in 2 years) as well as personal (helping his country and culture).

Eva said the final preparation for her trip was just accomplished when Meran's uncle, a member of a Kurdish political party (but who is living in USA now) assisted them in obtaining necessary papers for entering Kurdish Iraq. Evidently, even if you're Kurdish, you still must have authorization on-file ahead of time for entering that part of northern Iraq controlled by the Kurds or you cannot enter. Paperwork for Eva and the boys have now been faxed and they are ready to go...

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

From Eva to Meran...
Assalam ale kum Sweetie:

On Saturday I sent you a 4 page letter in the mail, and some pictures. I hope you like them. Also I am sending you a video with Issa, who is coming with Najeeb on the 6th. I told him to give it to your uncle Issa until you visit there. It has some new and old video on it. Insh'Allah in less than a month we will see each other again. When I get the tickets I will let you know what day I am coming.

Until then, do not tire yourself too much, you will need all the energy you can when I see you again! It will be some good you know what that night. I love you and miss you more than you can imagine abu salih.

Take care of yourself,
Nirgaz always and forever yours.
From Meran to Eva...
asalamu alykum habibee:

You think I am not ready don't worry I am the man of this century and the next. I can't wait until you come here. Who you coming with and when? And what country are you going to. I went to Hajji Zibayr's house for a day in Rebar, then I went to villages around and behind Duhok, it was very good. And then I went to my Uncle's house and for 30 minutes and then I hit back to Zakho. We are able to use internet sometimes in a city of Zakho but we don't have internet and telephone back in our place, but we are looking forward to get it. I like here because my friend like me and I am ok, and safe place to be, but insha allah when you come here I will be better ... How are the kids and miss them so much tell them. I love them.

What is the situation with Gullizar did she got upset when you tooled here that Meran is not coming and I will go? How is you mam and her friend? Tell her hi for me. Tell Noman and his family hi and all my other family members. Tell them I miss them all. I love you and the kids so much. Come herererererererere.

Peace be with you and Allah be with you on your traveling.

Monday, September 15, 2003

Eva now knows when she'll be leaving to visit Meran, with a tenative return next February...
trishymouse says:
Just am reading your email...10/2, eh?
Eva/Nirgaz says:
yeah...just got to apply for visa on monday, more nervous actually
trishymouse says:
I'm confused. I thought you said you did that already...??
trishymouse says:
(I hope you get a flight in Komishlu...12 hours on a bus with 3 kids...NOT fun...!!)
Eva/Nirgaz says:
no, not yet, just got passports, but visas for Syria will come quickly
trishymouse says:
I'm almost laughing at the journey you're taking...the only thing missing are the camels!!
Eva/Nirgaz says:
tell me about it
trishymouse says:
What an adventure though...You'll have to 'pack smart''ll take some real planning to know what's truly important to take, and I'm not just talking clothes. I'm sure you've been thinking about that, eh?
Eva/Nirgaz says:
yes, I am probably going to keep everything at a minimum, can buy stuff there
trishymouse says:
I am SO excited for Eva that she can go to Kurdistan and see Meran and other family there!!
trishymouse says:
I'm curious, since you bought a ticket on a particular date, does that mean Meran will still be coming over and surprising you?
Eva/Nirgaz says:
he isn't now
trishymouse says:
He's too busy, I suppose, eh?
Eva/Nirgaz says:
he is now in Zakho and doesn't want to leave for fear they will move him to a different city
trishymouse says:
Good idea. I agree with him in that case...makes sense...
trishymouse says:
I suppose he can't really talk about specifics, but do you know what KIND of translation he has been doing? What type of situations does he work in, etc.?
Eva/Nirgaz says:
The city he is in is fairly safe, on the Turkish border, only real problem would be if the Turks decided to make some trouble
Eva/Nirgaz says:
no, not yet, may know more when I can orally talk to him there
trishymouse says:
Well you know they definitely don't like the idea that the Kurds (heaven forbid!) get ahold of oil-rich land...then they could actually have power. The Turks wouldn't like that, of course...

Saturday, September 13, 2003

From chat today...
Eva/Nirgaz says:
I got the most romantic letter today from Meran via regular mail.
trishymouse says:
Eva/Nirgaz says:
He said that he hopes that I forgive him for leaving me with all the kids and that he thinks I am doing a great job handling all their problems. He also said that "...I would never think that I will marry a woman as good as you ever. That is why I will love you forever..."
trishymouse says:
That is true. He has a very special lady in you, Eva. You are smart, beautiful, resourceful, creative...
Eva/Nirgaz says:
It was nice that he was validating how I was feeling, being left with the kids, shouldering that responsibility solo. That he respected and appreciated that was nice
trishymouse says:
It definitely was.
Eva/Nirgaz says:
Thank you
trishymouse says:
Don't throw these letters away like Grandma Short did with Grandpa's...!!
trishymouse says:
Grandma kicks herself now...
Eva/Nirgaz says:
No, I have these and I have ones from when I was in WV and some from when I was in PA just after trollwood in 94
trishymouse says:
Better put them in fireproof, hot, hot! *just teasing*
Eva/Nirgaz says:
Some of them are pretty private if you know what I mean, that's why I only share tid bits with you guys
trishymouse says:
I totally understand.
You wouldn't believe the trouble I had in making passports for the kids, ok
trishymouse says:
Eva/Nirgaz says:
because they needed Meran's signature, evidently you need both parent's signature if the child is under 14
trishymouse says:
So what did YOU do?
Eva/Nirgaz says:
They had to physically see the children when you applied, but luckily Meran has the email so he emailed me a scanned signature with a letter, I would have forged it but wasn't able to because I had already mentioned on the first trip that he wasn't here. Finally the fourth trip to the passport office, today I finally took care of everything.
Eva/Nirgaz says:
They also needed his orders to prove he actually wasn't here
trishymouse says:
Oy! Don't you just love paperwork? I've been through the mill on stuff like that myself, so I know what you mean...
trishymouse says:
Where did you have to go, what government agency?
Eva/Nirgaz says:
It was a big headache, one that I would have abandoned had it not been for Meran's letter today where he mentioned how he can't wait to take us there and have us there so he can see him more often. It gave me the motivation and strength to take all three of the kids down there
Eva/Nirgaz says:
the post office
Eva/Nirgaz says:
There are special ones, not every post office has them, maybe two or three in each city
trishymouse says:
I see. Yes, I've seen a station at the main Fargo post office where they do that, too...that's right...
trishymouse says:
Well, I'm glad you didn't give up. I think all of you will be glad you didn't.
trishymouse says:
You MUST keep in touch, if nothing else, then letters. I want to hear all about what's going on over there after you go...that's an order from your old mother...!!
Eva/Nirgaz says:
It is kind of cool though, I have always had in mind that I wanted to see the world, didn't know it would be this way, but hey, at least I will be going
Eva/Nirgaz says:
Yes, m'am (salute)!
trishymouse says:
There are many interesting places over there many of us probably have no idea of either. Maybe you'll be lucky enough to have knowledgable local people show you around to some interesting sites, eh?
Eva/Nirgaz says:
yea, but I am most looking forward to seeing and taking pictures of Meran's village, Bigdowdi and the village where his parent's died Ekmole
trishymouse says:
It would be cool if you could audio tape interviews or videotape some things, too...Didn't you say you might take this as an opportunity to do some freelance documentary making?
Eva/Nirgaz says:
I want to take black and white film and color film with me. yes, all forms of media, I love them all so I will dibble dabble in them all: film, audio, and video.
trishymouse says:
I think what you come up with, will be very special. I look forward to it. I think Meran, his family, and your kids will be proud of your efforts, too.
Eva/Nirgaz says:
I really want to interview all the older people, I have a passion for the stories of the elderly. Their stories are so vibrant and full of color.
Eva/Nirgaz says:
They really remember what it is to truly live as a Kurd, sad to say much of kurdish culture today is westernized or arabized.
trishymouse says:
Same is happening to the young in Iran, from what I read. Most of them have no clue what it was like during the last revolution in 1970's. It's not to say it isn't OK to reconsider things, but I think it's just that people tend to throw out everything, good with the bad...
Eva/Nirgaz says:
yea, and the only thing being passed on to the Kurds here in America, is dancing, Music, and language, I would like to share more with my children about who they are. Also they will know my heritage too. I think all of it is important.

Sunday, July 13, 2003

Eva has had problems with her computer off and on. Not to mention she is VERY busy with 3 little boys! So, I'm taking it upon myself to post things she writes me...
I was planning on posting a letter I recieved from Meran yesterday, took a month to get here, but he sent some pics too. It was a very nice letter, he misses me a lot. And when he misses me he writes very romantically. He sent a pic of him in Romania, and two of him and his uncle Issa in Duhok...
Alas, I have never received the scanned photos to post here yet. I'll keep working on her...!!

Tuesday, July 01, 2003

I Know.....It has been a while....but for anyone who still cares :), here is an update on Meran:

He called last Thurday morning. At that time he was on the border of Syria and Iraq, close to the Kurdish city of Mosul. He said that he was doing great and was busy with his translating job (he is translating Kudish/English and visa versa).

As for the kids and I....

We might be traveling over to Kurdistan in the Fall. Meran and I have discussed it and thought it might work out better for us all that way. Right now I go with the intention of just visiting for a couple months....If I like it I will stay until Meran gets done.
Also I am looking into getting some kind of job over there.

Monday, April 07, 2003

A note from Meran that arrived today 4/7/03:
To my lovely wife Nirgaz

I love you forever, I missed you already. Take care of our children in the best possible way and save the money that we get so that we could pay off the house. I trust you Insh'Allah with my life. We are going to leave for Georgia (he has now arrived there) tomorrow afternoon.

I will keep in touch.

I love you again and again and again.

Tell everyone hi for me. XXXXXXXXOOOOOOOO

(Just a small note, keep it in a safe place, read!!!!!! :)