|One of the kids pair of muddy shoes|
|Amir's shoes on the tents entrance|
|One of the kids pair of muddy shoes|
|Amir's shoes on the tents entrance|
|Beautiful sunflower fields on our way to Duhok, Iraqi Kurdistan|
Today I went to the Kurdish pediatric hospital in Suleymania. For the past two days I had a bad stomach ache and this had been going on since March, so I thought it was time to check with a specialist. The doctor I met was a pediatrician and he was going to put me in touch with a doctor who specializes in gastric issues for children. When we arrived to the hospital, we asked for Dr. Jamal who kindly came for me into the reception. He took me upstairs and I was surprised to see the huge amount of people waiting, mostly mothers with their children. We passed the crowd and I waited in another room for Dr. Adnan, the second doctor. In Kurdistan is not like in the west, when you arrive to the hospital there is not a big reception. Usually there is a guy or two in the entrance and they just put your name in a notebook. There is no need to fill a lot of registration paperwork, insurance or the like in order to be seen by the doctor, and let alone have an appointment; you just show up, wait and talk to the doctor.
While I was waiting, I was offered tea and water and shortly Dr. Adnan arrived. He asked how I was feeling and I explained that my stomach was hurting, and that I had a history of acid reflux, so after 2 minutes, he agreed to do the endoscopy next morning, (no appointment- no anything) but he advised that I do some testing first. And of course, I didn’t need any referral for the laboratory. Later in the morning, I got the [stool] sample and took it to the laboratory to be analyzed. Showed up at the lab., paid 2500 IQD ($2.00) and voila, my sample was analyzed in my presence. I had to open the flask while the technician pulled some of the “shit-sample”. After the analysis, the lab technician instructed me to see the doctor, and I was thinking, oh-oh, there’s something wrong with my results, so I went to see the doctor. He checked me and again asked me what was wrong with my stomach, after which he proceeded with a litany of medications, most of them I had been taking before. The doctor didn’t mention anything about the results, but he gave me the prescription. When I asked what was E. Histolityc, something that was positive on the results, the doctor said: “Yes, that’s a parasite, but I gave you something for it.” The fact is that if I didn’t ask, he was not going to tell me. That’s how well the doctors inform their patients about the test results and diagnosis. His initial diagnosis was irritable bowel syndrome, but he was treating my bug, without letting me know. I would have been angrier if when I came home and I looked up what was E. Histolityc was, found out that I was not told about the fact that I had a parasite on my s**t!!!!Welcome to Kurdistan’s medical system…..
Today, I went in to my endoscopy “appointment” at 8:00 am. It was in the Teaching Hospital, kind of like the Medical School. Dr. Adnan was there and introduced me to the doctor that was going to perform the study. It took 2 hours of waiting until I got into the room, young boys passing in front of us with buckets and hoses, I was already scared from the size and length of the hoses (for the endoscopy). When I finally made it into the room, I wish you could imagine the setting: 5 medical students staring at me, a young boy who was the technician giving me the instructions on how to get ready in Kurdish, the doctor asking my name, age and other information on the other side of the curtain. My friend Juliana who had come with me was called into the room with the duty of holding my hand, she said ”Breathe like in Yoga” then I realized that there was no anesthesia. The doctor came to the other side of the curtain and the 5 students made themselves comfortable, as if they were going to watch something important. Then the technician placed the mouthpiece –on my mouth- and the doctor started to push the hose in……then he said breathe, but I couldn’t figure out if to breathe from my mouth or from my nose, the hose was a big resistance to my breathing. He said, “Look at the TV”, which was displaying my stomach, while saying: “This looks ok”, as he kept pushing the hose in. When I did concentrate in breathing, I felt my body relaxing, but I could not keep it for long. The whole thing lasted 1 minute, but it felt like 1 hour.
After the process was finished, one of the assistants told me to bring a paper downstairs to reception. The whole study was 20,000 Iraqi Dinars, or $17.00. I even got a CD with my stomach’s 1 minute of Iraqi fame. That was it, the thing that surprises me the most is how complicated we make things in the west. The appointment has to be several weeks in advance, anesthesia and all the effects that come with it. When I finished I was able to go out of the room walking on my own. Recovery time was less than 5 minutes, and I was ready to go back to work!
So this is how I survived the Kurdish endoscopy, I’m not saying they are better, but at least more practical. The best thing is that my stomach is ok. I just have to treat that bug for 10 days and hopes it gets killed by the Syrian manufactured medication. Wish me luck!!!!
Driving south of Duhok, we were curious enough to visit the Lalish temple, the place where the world began and the holy site of the Yazidis. The Yazidis are an ethnic and religious minority in Iraq that is often misinterpreted to be devil worshipers. In actuality many of their religious stories root from the same fables of other more common beliefs. Their stories differ, however regarding their patron angel the Malek Taus or Peacock Angel. They believe that God left the earth in the care of seven angels and told them to obey Adam. The Malek Taus was the only angel to refuse, stating that Adam was created from the soil and the angels were created from God’s light. According to this angel, light could not be at the mercy of the soil. The Yazidis believe that this was the answer that God was looking for, proving that he was the most loyal angel, and made Malek Taus responsible for all humanity. In the Islamic tradition, that angel was Satan, who was punished by his disobedience by being sent to hell.
As Yezidi people enter the village, they stop to remove their shoes, and as they enter the temple; they stop to kiss the entryway. It was noon, the ground was burning hot and I had a sprained foot, but I had to respect the traditions. It felt like a holy place, especially when the Yazidi young guy that was showing us around told us we could not touch the step that was part of the entryway; “It is for angels only” he said. It seemed a mysterious and mystical place.
Yazidis secretive beliefs date more than 4000 years, before both Christianity and Islam. Yazidis have 5 daily prayers. However, most Yazidis observe only two of them; the sunrise and the sunset prayer. The daily prayers must not be performed in front of outsiders and are always performed in the direction of the sun. Wednesday is their holy day, but Saturday is their day of rest. Yazidis cannot spit on the ground, eat lettuce, cabbage (which causes gases), cannot wear blue- the color of the peacock? I am glad I was not wearing blue!!
Lalish temple is either less than 1000 years or as old as time, depending on who you ask. The Yazidis believe that when God created the earth, he first created the temple and all living things sprang outward from its walls. Its labyrinth rooms comprise a series of holy sites. When you enter there are colorful silk fabrics tied together to the many temple columns. You can make a wish as you untie one of them. We entered one of its rooms which contained the tomb of the Yazidi prophet Adi Ibn Musafir, a Sufi whom the Yazidis believe incarnated Malek Taus until his death in 1162. Sheikh Adi influenced the largely Zoroastrian tribe with Islamic beliefs. A set of stairs nearby his tomb lead to a cave from which holy waters of Zam Zam flow, which he named after the spring in Mecca. We could not see the spring, as only Yazidis are allowed into the cave.
The temple was dark even in the heat of the day. The young guide showed us the room where they make candles. I remembered that my friend told me to ask if I was going to heaven or earth. Yazidis try their luck with a series of wishing games. A scarf tossed to perch perfectly at the top of the stone means that one’s wish will come true. A pebble thrown at two holes will show us where our souls will land on the judgment day. One has three tries to toss toward one’s preferred fate. I tried with the scarf, and I wasn’t lucky. I didn’t dare for the second one, I didn't want to know..where I will end up.
Today, the Yazidis serve an important political role in the region. Their numbers in disputed territories could act as a swing vote to sway cities such as Mosul towards the Kurdistan Regional Government over the Central Iraqi Government. Many attempts to define the Yazidis’ ethnic identity (notably the policies of the Baʿathist government in Iraq, which designated them as Arabs) have been politically motivated.
Yazidis were stripped from their Kurdish identity and reclassified as Arabs. Many were forced to leave their villages to be dispersed or concentrated in other territories. Apart from a few Arabic-speaking clans, Yazidi communities speak Kurmanji (Northern Kurdish) as their first language, and their cultural practices are Kurdish. Most Yazidis claim Kurdish identity when it relates to politics and the Yezidi identity otherwise. In Iraq, this view has had the support of the government in the Kurdish Autonomous Region since 1991.
In recent years the threats are mainly from militant Islamist groups, like Al Qaeda who views them as infidels. Terrorism has driven Yazidis from Mosul, where their numbers were once strong. Violence has even reached their smallest villages. In 2007 a set of bomb trucks killed hundreds of Yazidis This current situation affects the Yazidi’s rites and traditions preventing people from coming to Iraq for their required pilgrimage to Lalish.
As part of the Tiziano project, I came across the story of Alia, a Yazidian, who was the first woman to graduate from law school. She is also from one of the highest families in the Yazidi order, but even that has a price; she was forced to close her practice and move with her father in law upon her husband’s death. “Yazidis are quiet and peaceful people, they are very nice and very kind with other people because of the many genocides we have had, but maybe between us, we are not; we are cruel”. “She describes her situation: “Our traditions are very heavy to a woman if she is without a man and also I have no son, so is not allowed for me to work anymore. I am staying at home. I read and write, only this. My world is within my home, really.”
Her loyalty to the tribe keeps her captive; she calls her home a prison. “I belong to Yazidi, I am Yazidian and I am very proud of this, but in my life, I am secular, I don’t believe in religions that could separate people.” There is no way to become Yazidi. Yazidi souls must be re-incarnated into new Yazidis, so there are not enough souls to accommodate new converts. This alsp means that Yazidis cannot leave the group because their souls are Yazidians. To maintain order, the religion upholds a complicated caste system that divides members into three groups by status, which is then in some cases sub-divided by occupation and wealth. Yazidis are only allowed to marry within their caste. Marrying outside your caste or outside your religion is often punished by death.
In 2007, a girl named Du’a fell in love with a Muslim boy in Bashiqa, near Duhok. Rumor got into the community that she had converted to Islam to marry him. The girl went into hiding but was found and dragged into the town’s square, where members of the community stoned her to death.
When we finished our visit of the temple, we had some time to wander around. There were some young people and families having a picnic. The place was quiet and beautiful and I was glad we were welcomed by the Yazidis and they were open and willing to show us their holy place.
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2. http://360.tizianoproject.org/kurdistan/#/213, Yazidi’s Power and Peril, accessed June 30th, 2011