A New Region

Slemani has always been known as the city of rebellion and the capital of culture. It was and still is a crucial place for Kurdish nationalism and thought. It prides itself of how strong and capable its youth are and what they can achieve. Although a relaxed city in terms of culture and societal richness, it has been the centre of opposition towards the Kurdistan Regional Government. When the KRG decided to stop civil workers’ salaries and make itself less transparent, it ended up becoming one of the most corrupted institutions in the region. They stop providing common folk with basic necessities of life and rule of law. The province of Slemani in general was heavily affected by these irreversible actions and this initiated many protests among civilians.

With current developments, the disunity between the Erbil and Slemani is at an all time high. While many stress for one total administration to run things, it is evident that such program never took place. Political parties like Gorran have not been able to execute all its rights and projects, instead were blocked from doing anything that they vowed to do. A call for a separate region headed by a joint government of majority voted parties in Slemani, Gorran and PUK, will prove to be a very beneficial move. For one reason, these parties can go about their own governing without the corrupt hand of KRG interfering in their politics. This new region would also play a much better and recognised role in democratic talks with Baghdad. It could also work towards more economic plans that could help its situation become better. None of these things can be reached with Erbil holding all the power and not sharing it amongst other cities.

Many are against this move, fearing the Kurdish dream of statehood will die with it. I will be one of the first people to stand behind this move, as I can firmly understand this is actually a new road towards independence. With the current failed government, not Baghdad and not any other country are serious about talks for independence. Baghdad is not even willing to implement Article 140, because they fear the government will practice racist ideology and break apart Kirkuk’s diverse community. Economically speaking, if such region were to emerge, it would be a marvel. Rich in minerals, historically the main producer for wheat in all of Iraq, it could regain its status as a powerful province. A new region would also prevent another civil war amongst Kurds, as then it would be two totally different administrations dealing more naturally with one another. It is high time a move like this becomes a reality, so we can determine a better path for our people who have been suffering for long. The current government has been ailing since 2003, it is time for a reorganisation and a new approach to governance.

Participation over Opposition

Over the past few years in the Kurdistan Region, certain political parties and organisations have established themselves as voices of opposition and their politics have been based around one point: to unite a mass of people in opposing today’s non-transperent and highly corrupt government. This is a noble approach to reforms, very democratic in itself, and could have made some real changes up until now. But here’s my question, why not unite a people in participation rather than opposition? Why not have them united in being informed rather than being told a different version of the story?

The government has already exercised its fair share in programs of youth and elderly alienation, having them think politics and nation-building is something very difficult and can be done by only a few…but they are wrong. The construction of a nation and its systems requires an all out effort from each of its citizens or in this case, workers. Why haven’t any of these new political organisations focused on the participation of citizens and not their opposition? Why focus on their disgust and hate?

Imagine if these new parties invested all their might on establishing youth and elderly councils who would work together and collectively to set out plans, initiatives, and projects. They would be having a revolutionary change in motion with all citizens being able to perform their own share of civic duty.

This move would regain public trust, as well as public interest. A people united in participation for the betterment of their nation means only positivity and forwardness. It is definitely the time to break party barriers and determine a new path, one that includes all genders, ages, and thinking to help build a better place.

The Art of Collecting Art

Art is a beautiful thing, a very human thing as well, something that brings us together. It rids us of our egos and misconceptions, tears our philosophies down one by one. It amazes us, relaxes us, and even instills a quality of smartness one wouldn’t normally get otherwise. It is truly the centre of all our doing, our expressing, and our lives. It is through art that we acquire a sense of societal importance.

A few days ago I turned my own little interest in art into a long-term hobby. I decided to set up my own personal collection in where I obtain art that I liked. Now, there’s buying art and there’s collecting art, two very different things. The latter requires great intelligence, patience, and enjoyment. Why collect art? What is it good for? Can’t you just look at some art and find joy in it without owning it? Yes, you can and you would if you didn’t think about the endless opportunities it gives you and the millions of doors it opens.

By collecting art, you are establishing an image for yourself. An image that is filled with love for culture, education, and art itself. You are letting yourself become part of a lost tradition. You get to meet all sorts of people who you can learn from. You learn from the art that you collect. Thus, we understand that collecting art is a tool to become smarter and more cultured, it is a tool to be more social, and last but not least, it is a happy escape from a depressing world. Overtime, your collection becomes a visual representation of you and your values. It becomes you. It will show itself in the level of sophistication you want.

My aim right now is to obtain as much artwork as I can, of course art that I like and that expresses my values. And in the future it is then a goal to open up exhibitions throughout Iraq and the UAE to let others be part of my joy and for others to get inspired by the collection. So, you see, collecting art is in itself an art to master.


Dinner at Sultan’s

On Tuesday, the 5th of December, I was invited over to Sultan Al Qassimi’s house for dinner…the rest is history.

I had gotten the invitation only when I personally reached out to him through Instagram and asked for advice on a project I was starting. The project had to do with collecting art and knowing of Sultan’s background, he is quite the art enthusiast. He replied back quickly and asked where I was based and that there was a dinner happening soon at his home and he’d invite me over to talk about the works he had collected as well as chat about my project. Being an avid reader of his articles and a follower of his organisation, Barjeel Art Foundation, I knew this was an opportunity that I couldn’t miss.

It is then Tuesday, where I had readied myself for the evening and went on my way. On the car ride, I had all sorts of thoughts about what I was potentially walking into. Being a film student, I had imagined more than ten ways how my meeting with him would work out. Scenario after scenario, at last, I had reached his home. Being escorted in, I was told Sultan was upstairs sitting down with another guest. As I was walking up the stairs, an intrigued voice gently shouted, “Who is it?” and I hadn’t prepared myself for a premature greeting on the stairs, so I said “It’s Shad. It’s me. The guy from Instagram”. When I finished my rather long walk up the stairs, there I saw Sultan and his guest, Abdalla Al Ustath, and greeted them both in Arabic. I had worried about the formalities continuing in Arabic, because my speaking is quite elementary and I didn’t want to get into the whole “I’m a Kurd, but I’m Iraqi too, I was just raised in the North” situation. I found out that Abdalla and I were the youngest to attend the dinner of 40, yes 40 people.

We later on went down to what I presume was the guest room and we saw the coming guests. Sultan was in a very cheery mood and his guests were all happy to see him…again. I had realised I was probably going to be the only newcomer that night, when I saw many of the guests were already well informed of the situation, the dinner. But something happened and I owe this all to the host himself, I put a stop to my overthinking as I was introduced to the others by Sultan. It was almost as if I was invited to a great party and I was afraid of going inside, but the host would be like, “Nonsense!”.

The variety and diversity of the people there, it was surely a hint at how culturally rich the night was going to be. I noticed as well, the immense collection of art hanging on the walls of the house, from artists I adored and took joy in. As introductions were over, everybody stood up to talk more with each other and I fell in conversation with many, all inspiring people from different backgrounds that opened doors, gates, and windows…you name it.

When dinner was being served, I was quite eager to get done and roam around the house looking at more art. Sultan guided a few of us to a small tour of what he thought were the most important art pieces he had collected. I was quite happy when I found out most of them were from Iraqi artists and the way he was explaining them, it was as if he was with each artist while they were doing their art. He was truly fond of his acquisitions and didn’t think to miss a single detail out, even if it didn’t mean anything. This was the same kind of commitment I wanted for my art collection.

As the night was coming to an end, I was once again playing scenarios in my head. This time, I was visioning how the night was going to be after I had actually went there. It was a combination of every great thing I had read, seen, or heard. It was the accumulation of all the things I loved and respected and the surprising element of mystery. I met some of the most fabulous people in Dubai, I enjoyed great food, and I was a young student among a rather large group of teachers…but that was the joy of it all. Age and nationality didn’t collide, instead they were elevated. It was my first attendance of a cultural saloon and probably the best one.