Sunday, March 18, 2012

Why we should be hopeful of this generation

Thanks to Facebook, Twitter and other social media networks, this year we could commemorate the Halabja Chemical Bombardment in a very different environment. Whenever I logged in to facebook, I was seeing a bunch of my 420 friends changing their profile pictures to a photo of Halabja under bombardment, a sketch of Omer Khawer – the symbol of the genocide of Halabja or a black page referring to 16th March 1988 in red color.

one of the most common photos published on social networks to commemorate Halabja.

On Twitter, we could make the trend #HalabjaNeverAgain standing 4th on 16th March 2012 among other trends worldwide. Tens of videos of the moments of gassing Halabja or of national anthems, songs and poems written for Halabja from Youtube were posted and shared. Up to here everything seems normal.

#HalabjaNeverAgain placed 4th on twitter trends worldwide. 
What I want to stress out is that, this year, commemorating Halabja unified the Kurdish youth from all parts of Kurdistan, regardless of their religious and political affiliation. Political parties who are sharply divided in Kurdistan, usually influence their audience to stay away of interaction with people who have different political affiliations. This time, thanks to national spirit of the youth, political parties were reluctant.  In all the Kurdish groups and pages on Facebook, you could see Kurdish youth (youth are the most users of social networks in Kurdistan) with all their different affiliations sharing the mourns and the pain which Halabja left in their hearts.

From Facebook. Halabja memorial graveyard (left) and the symbol of Halabja chemical attack Omer Khawer (right). 
The story was different among the politicians. The opposition parties and those in power were as usually divided even in commemorating what they all agree to call "the biggest tragedy in the Kurdish history". In the town Halabja itself, the opposition parties boycotted the ceremony of commemorating the chemical attack and turned the event into a political one. On the other hand, there was a remarkably low turnout among the ruling political parties in the ceremony. While March 16 should be marked by crowds of top Kurdish officials gathering around the memorial graveyard in Halabja, reiterating support to the victims and sharing their unhealed pain, only the out-going Prime Minister Barham Salih and few ministers of his resigned cabinet were seen in the commemoration ceremony, with no traces of Kurdistan Region's president as usual (he is rarely seen in Halabja).  

   KRG's outgoing PM Barham Salih standing a moment of silence for the victims, with Iraqi Shi'a leader Ammar Al-Hakim (left) and KRG's former minister of Martyrs Affair (right). Where is the mass of other Kurdish officials?           
While this indicates how sharply divided are Kurdistan’s political parties, who can’t even unite around their common tragedies of the past, Kurdish youth on social media portrayed an opposite image of the politicians. The unity of Kurdish youth marks a new era in Kurdish history, which is carrying the message that the youth are no more blindly and unreasonably companying and following the acts of their favorite political parties. This is a new developing attribute in the Kurdish society, and need to be taken into consideration. Educational institutions such as primary schools, social and psychological institutions and advocates should work on this attribute and develop it, so as to create social harmony and unity among this and the next generations. Kurdistan can’ afford further domestic divisions. I agree with the US Consulate General in Erbil who in the last week stated that local disagreement among the Kurds has always been the key reason for their being invaded and ruled by others. This is a positive sign which brings too much hope for anyone who wants to see a harmonized, well-educated and united society to become the basis of a bright future for Kurdistan.