Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Day of Rage in Sulaimani

Following a few weeks of scattered and uncoordinated turmoil across Iraq, February 25 was deemed a nation-wide “Day of Rage,” and more than a dozen major demonstrations happened across the country, from Basra to Baghdad, from Fallujah to Mosul. Sulaimani, as history would have predicted, was not about to sit back and watch.

Below are some shots from Friday afternoon’s events in the central Bardarki Sara square, in the heart of the city’s bazaar. It was a stunningly beautiful day, the most pleasant and warmest in a long time. While protesters expressed a lot of anger at the current political establishment and the amount of corruption – both major ruling parties were targeted – the atmosphere was generally a celebratory one. Scenes of flags, kids and families, sounds of nationalist songs and chants for freedom (“Azadi!”), contrasted with almost ubiquitous posters depicting one of the teenagers who was killed last week by one of the party’s security forces, reminding everyone present what was at stake.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

#*#*#*#*#*#

Dopo un paio di settimane di sparse dimostrazioni in giro per l’Iraq, questo 25 febbraio era un “giorno di furia” generale attraverso il paese. Piu’ di una dozzina di manifestazioni si sono verificate, da Basra a Baghdad, da Fallujah a Mosul. E Sulaimani, come la storia c’insegna, non e’ tale da restare a guardare.

Ecco delle foto degli eventi di questo venerdi’ pomeriggio nella piazza di Bardarki Sara, nel cuore del bazaar della citta’. Era una giornata bellissima, la piu’ piacevole e calda da tanto tempo. I dimostranti erano arrabbiatissimi con i leader politici, specialmente per l’alto livello di corruzione, ma l’atmosfera era generalmente una di celebrazione. Da un lato bandiere, bambini, famiglie, canti nazionalpopolari e cori in favore di maggiore liberta’ (“Azadi”!); dall’altro i poster omnipresenti che raffiguravano uno dei teenager uccisi settimana scorsa dalle forze di sicurezza di uno dei partiti, come per ricordare alla gente cosa c’e’ veramente in gioco in questi giorni.

I have to praise you

It was mid December, and I had just left Sulaimani to embark on my winter break trip. I was headed to Southeast Asia! In order to fly to Kuala Lumpur, I had to depart from Erbil, the capital of the Kurdish Region. After the 3-hour drive in a shared taxi, I arrived at the airport…. four hours before take off. It wasn’t all my fault: Gulf Air, whose wings were going to take me to Malaysia, advised its customers to show up four hours before departure when leaving from Erbil. Not knowing much about the Erbil airport or Gulf Air, I decided to follow the advice. Result: I had more than three hours to kill at the very bland and boring departures terminal.

During the taxi ride that took me from Suli to Erbil, passing through the cities of Chamchamal and Kirkuk, I began thinking about what kind of video I wanted to do over this two-week trip across countries I had never visited before. “It would be nice to do something kind of like my Beirut road trip video,” I thought to myself as the driver and the other three passengers spoke and laughed in Kurdish. “It would be nice to make the video to a song.”

Therefore, after having ordered a (bad) coffee and with three more hours to kill at the depressingly somber cafe’ near my gate, I began browsing my iPod for a nice song to be the theme of my future summary video. Then I thought, “why not pick a song that would be relatively easy for people I met along the way to… sing themselves.” And that’s when my rotating-wheel exercise shifted slightly: I now needed a positive, upbeat song that also had somewhat repetitive and simple lyrics.

The Doors had some interesting suggestions; Another Brick in the Wall met the repetitiveness requirement but didn’t quite have the right mood and tone. A few departure announcements later, I ran into my Fatboy Slim collection. Shortly thereafter, I had found a winner.

Once I arrived in Malaysia, I had to start putting my plan into action. In addition to the b-roll I was already filming (using my Canon digital camera), I needed some singing. At first it was a little hard – a certain variety of shyness in approaching near-strangers with this weird request might have played a part. But once I got the first few clips of barmen, hotel owners, servers and new friends, it almost became instinctual, and I proceeded to gather clips throughout Malysia, Thailand and Cambodia.

Enough background. I worked over the past four weeks to put it together, and I’m glad to finally share it. Here’s the final product. Ladies and gents, My SE Asia Trip to Fatboy Slim’s “Praise You”

*Because of (very strict) Youtube copyright rules, users in Iraq, among other countries, cannot see the video. Users in the U.S., Italy and most other Western countries should have no problem viewing it.

#*#*#*#*#*#

Era meta’ dicembre, e avevo appena lasciato Sulaimani per cominciare la mia vacanza invernale. Stavo andando nel sudest asiatico! Il mio volo per Kuala Lumpur partiva da Erbil, la capitale della regione curda, e dopo tre ore di ‘taxi comunale’ (condiviso con sconosciuti), sono arrivato all’aeroporto… quattro ore in anticipo. Non era tutta colpa mia: Gulf Air, le cui ali mi avrebbero portato in Malesia, avvisava sul suo sito di arrivare quattro ore prima del decollo quando si partiva da Erbil. Non conoscendo molto ne’ l’aeroporto di Erbil ne’ Gulf Air, avevo deciso di seguire il consiglio. Risultato: avevo piu’ di tre ore da passsare in quel terminal estremamente blando e noioso.

Durante il viaggio in taxi che mi aveva portato da Suli a Erbil, passando per le citta’ di Chamchamal e Kirkuk, avevo iniziato a pensare a che tipo di video volevo fare durante queste due settimane di viaggio attraverso paesi da me mai visitati prima. “Sarebbe bello fare qualcosa come il video sul mio viaggio verso Beirut”, pensavo tra me e me mentre il tassista e gli altri tre passeggeri parlavano e scherzavano in curdo. “Non sarebbe male farlo a ritmo di una canzone”.

Quindi, dopo aver ordinato un caffe’ (non buono) e con ancora tre ore rimaste al barino abbastanza deprimente vicino al mio gate, iniziai a navigare il mio iPod in cerca di un pezzo per il mio futuro video-racconto. E poi pensai, “perche’ non scegliere una canzone che sarebbe abbastanza facile da cantare per le persone che incontrero’ per strada”? E da li’ iniziai a cercare un brano positivo, divertente, che avesse anche un testo piuttosto ripetitivo e semplice.

I Doors avevano delle proposte interessanti; Another Brick in the Wall era si ripetitiva, ma un po’ troppo cupa. Un paio di annunci di decollo piu’ tardi, arrivai alla mia collezzione di canzoni di Fatboy Slim. Pochi minuti dopo, sapevo di aver trovato la canzone giusta.

Una volta arrivato in Malesia, dovevo iniziare a implementare il mio piano. Oltre ai paesaggi che stavo gia’ filmando (con la mia macchina fotografica digitale Canon), mi servivano delle persone cantanti. All’inizio non era facilissimo – dovevo domandare a stranieri di cantare, e un certo tipo di timidezza a riguardo rendeva la missione un po’ piu’ difficile. Ma dopo le prime performance registrate, e’ diventato quasi un istinto dovunque andavo: ho finito per filmare persone che cantavano la mia canzone durante tutto il viaggio, in Malesia, Cambogia e Thailandia.

Quest’introduzione e’ fin troppo lunga. Ci ho messo quattro settimane a montare questo video, e sono contento di farvelo finalmente vedere. Signore e signori, Il mio viaggio nel sudest asiatico al ritmo di “Praise You”, di Fatboy Slim.

Business as usual today in Suli. Salem Street, one of the main roads in the city that stretches from the outer western loop to the central bazaar, and the theoretical host of the demonstrations, was bustling with cars, buses, and shawarma stands — not people holding megaphones and provocative signs.

Understandably, therefore, there hasn’t been much international news coverage of the non-chaos going on here. The AP ran a story on Sunday about Gorran’s call for government resignation, but that’s been pretty much it.

I’ll let you know if more protests, demonstrations and big changes don’t happen here.

#*#*#*#

Niente di strano oggi a Sulaimani. Salem Street, una delle strade principali della citta’ che connette la parte ovest della circonvallazione piu’ esterna con il bazaar centrale, e sede teorica della manifestazione organizzata per oggi, era occupata da macchine, pullman e negozi di shawarma — non da persone con megafoni e cartelli provocatori.

Comprensibilmente, quindi, non ci sono stati tanti servizi internazionali sul caos e l’incertezza che non si sono verificati qui. L’ Associated Press ha pubblicato un articolo domenica sulla richiesta del partito di opposizione curdo Gorran (“cambiamento”) di dimissioni del governo, ma niente da allora.

Vi terro’ aggiornati su qualsiasi altra manifestazione che non succedera’ qua.

Interesting to see Kurdish authorities, parties and young professionals react to the wave of demonstrations sweeping the region.

The main opposition party in the Kurdish region, Gorran (“change” in Kurdish), has tried to raise its voice. They scheduled a major protest for Monday morning, and it has already been deemed illegal by the government (under the new law requiring demonstrators to register beforehand). Several local NGOs, who were already planning to protest electricity prices, government salaries and a few other partly unrelated issues, decided to pull the plug and postpone their demonstrations, in an effort to stay out of these party skirmishes. But Gorran might very well go ahead with its own.  

Here’s an email sent today by a Gorran official to journalists and supporters:

From: ZYX
Subject:
To: XYZ
Date: Sunday, January 30, 2011, 12:41 AM

Dear XYZ,

I hope you are well, I would like to furnish you with some of the main
points of Gorran’s statement to the citizens of the Kurdistan region.
(roughly translated).

1. Bringing an end to KDP & PUK leadership interference in the areas
of Government, Civil Service, Parliament, Courts, Security forces
(Asayish) and the Peshmerge.

2. Bringing an end to the interference of Ayaish, both intelligence
services (zaniyarî and parastin) and Peshmerge in the political
affairs of citizens and activities of the population. replacing the
heads of these organisations with people who are independent and
professional.

3. The dissolution of the current government and formation of a
technocratic independent caretaker government.

4. The dissolution of the current parliament.

5. Call new elections for the Kurdistan parliament that are free and
fair within the next 3 months.

6. The return of property of the state that has been taken over by
political parties and politicians.

7. withdrawal of the proposed regional constitution and all
legislation relation to the governance of Kurdistan until the
formation of the next parliament.

Bold demands, no question. How are the ruling parties reacting? Check out Qubad Talabani’s view, he’s the Representative of the Kurdistand Regional Government in the U.S. Here’s an excerpt:

No one is doubting the need to improve governance and the delivery of services in Kurdistan. But it is unfortunate, that rather than use the political process, Gorran’s leadership and a few of their supporters from outside of Sulaimani want to take advantage of peoples genuine complaints, and use this opportunity to sow trouble and attempt to destabilize the city of Sulaimani. 

People are genuinely concerned that because [sic] Gorran has failed to utilize its position in Kurdistan’s politics, and is losing credibility with its supporters, that their only hope now is to try to foment instability and try to benefit from it.

Let’s see what happens on Monday. It’s raining like hell here in Sulaimani, to add to the drama…

What I love about living in the Middle East is the opportunity to visit places that were previously out of my (reasonable) reach. Taking advantage of the university’s generous winter break, I embarked on a 13-day trip through Southeast Asia. Why not, right?

I flew in and out of Malaysia, and explored Thailand and Cambodia along the way. It was interchangeably fun, relaxing, delicious and eye-opening. You can catch some pictures here.

#*#*#*#

Un grande vantaggio del vivere nel medio oriente e’ l’opportunita’ di visitare paesi e regioni che erano prima troppo lontani. Approfittando del generoso break invernale dell’universita’, sono partito per un viaggio di 13 giorni attraverso il sud-est asiatico. Perche’ no?

Sono atterrato e ripartito dalla Malesia, e ho visitato la Thailandia e la Cambogia. E’ stato un viaggio divertente, rilassante, delizioso e interessante. Potete vedere delle foto qui.

A teacher in pleasant exile

Here’s an interesting piece about being an American professor teaching Iraqi students, written by my friend and colleague Jim Owens. It’s his first semester teaching in Suli and he’s had a tremendous experience so far.

#*#*#*#*

Ecco un pezzo interessante, scritto dal mio amico e collega Jim Owens, sull’esperienza di un professore universitario (americano) in Iraq. E’ a Sulaimani dall’estate scorsa e, fino ad ora, gli studenti iracheni lo hanno proprio colpito.

As promised, here’s a video account of my recent trip through Iraq, Turkey, Syria and Lebanon. It’s composed of various short videos I shot throughout the journey – therefore excuse me if it’s a little diced up. I decided to leave the original sounds instead of adding background music in order to give a fuller sense of the places I was visiting. Enjoy.

#* #* #* #*#

Come promesso, ecco un video-riassunto del mio recente viaggio per l’Iraq, la Turchia, la Siria e il Libano. E’ composto di vari corti filmati catturati nel percorso della mia avventura. Ho deciso di lasciare per intero i suoni originali, invece di metterci sopra della musica; spero questo aiuti a dare un’idea piu’ completa dei posti che ho visitato. Enjoy.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.