My dear, dear, Kurdish friends…you may not remember me, but I can’t forget you.
I am that “insane American” who, when hungry, you shared your bread and mason with. You may not remember me but one of your elders may. He is the one who called me crazy because he knew I was an American who left his native land and had traveled thousands of miles into your strange country. Alone. With only one hundred dollars in my pocket. Which, at the time, could buy me a few lemons or oranges.
That winter of 1948 I shall never forget.
What a world. Hitler and his Nazis dead. The war over. Peace on Earth and now the world can rebuild. Thank God the world will never see another war again. What looney of a leader would ever want to fight a war with weapons of mass destruction?
And you believed that Allah was Great and me, an Armenian, believed that Jesus Christ was my Savior.
But, then, we were in the USSR at that time. And we sure needed our gods to get through the hunger and the famine and the informers, didn’t we? Even though we didn’t speak the same languages, we understood each other.
You told your Kurdish stories to me, and I retaliated with hyperbole of America.
The Kurds, you said, believe the circle is the evil work of Satan. That if a stranger quickly drew a circle in the sand around a Kurd, the encircled Kurd would not cross over until one of his tribe erased it so that he could walk away. To leave the circle without the help of a believer would definitely open the door into his house and into his life.
And I countered with…If you worked hard in America, you could own a beautiful house or a farm or an automobile and that bread and milk and honey is plentiful and you don’t have to wait in line to purchase what you want in America. And if I didn’t like America I could go anywhere in the world. Even travel to the Soviet Union.
I don’t think he believed my stories.
I didn’t believe his. But, we remained friends to the end.
There were times I didn’t have a kopeck in my pocket and told Kurdish vendors: “Dangi nyet…dangi nyet.” (I have no money to pay). They would evoke the words of the prophet, Mohammed, that the Koran teaches the need to help their fellow kind, to give alms to those in need. During my early days among the Soviets, the government believed I was a “spy”; I truly needed help to survive.
It was a time that I had time to read and think and pray. And how many times did I read Omar Khayyam”s “The Rubaiyat”. Who can forget those beautiful words:
“Here with a Loaf of Bread beneath the Bough,
A Flask of Wine, a Book of Verse – and Thou
Beside me singing in the Wilderness-
And Wilderness is Paradise now…”
How worlds have changed since that time we shared a cup of Chai.
Let me make it clear that it is no secret to me and my world that the Kurds willingly aided and abetted the Turkish troops in the crime of genocide of the Christian Armenians in 1915. I would not have been born in the United States if members of my mother’s family had not been victims.
The Kurds, with no homeland of their own, were only too eager to drive their neighbors off the land, strip their victims of any wealth and help in the round- up of old men, women, and children for the eventual “death marches” that ended in the Syrian desert. The Kurds are as culpable as the Turks for the massacre of 1.5 million Armenian. Time and yes, even God, can’t ease the pain or change the past.
In the madness of our times, the Kurds apparently have forgotten what they had sown. They have forgotten what happens to minorities living on land ruled by dictators who advocate submission to the ruling class. “Turkey for the Turks,” they had shouted. And blindly the ignorant masses followed. “All Power to the Soviets”…and the workers believe. “Gleichschaltung! Gleichschaltung!” the Nazis shouted…as they goose-stepped to whatever their Fuhrer Adolph Hitler demanded. And his demands lead to millions dying on the killing fields, a world of chaos, destruction in ruin.
It hasn’t changed much, has it?
The Kurds know it, today they are not only fighting against a barbaric enemy, ISIL, but, in the ominous shadows lurk Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who, if the opportunity is given, would order his mighty military troops – not to fight ISIL – but to end “The Kurdish Problem” as his sadist predecessors accomplished in 1915. And, if that is not enough to be concerned with, the Kurds have in front of them Iraq to contend with. Iraq has not forgotten the Kurds and the Kurds have not forgotten “Halabja”.
This generation of Americans will never forget Iraq and our nation should never forget what then Vice President Dick Cheney said when the US launched its invasion of Saddam Hussein’s land because the Iraq president had “weapons of mass destruction.” “We will, in fact, be greeted as liberators.” The vice president would have had more support if he had advocated the invasion because Hussein had actually killed some 5,000 Kurds in the city of Halabja, using poison gas.
Then there is the perverted Syrian President Bashar Assad, who has been literally fighting for his life, but would rather see millions die, his nation in ruins, his people fleeing to foreign shores and countless more dead than give up power. If he is willing to do this, then what would Assad do to the Kurds who want a piece of the northern region to create their own homeland. If Assad, too, was ready to gas his enemies, and it was only by a casual remark by Secretary of State John Kerry that eventually convinced the Syrian dictator to allow the Western powers to dispose of the poisonous gas – what will be the fate of the Kurdish people.
In the year 1915, the Ottoman Turks massacred 1.5 million Armenians.
In the year 2016, will the Kurds become the next victims of a genocide.
Tom Mooradian was one of 151 Americans who traveled to Soviet Armenia to repatriate during the 1940’s. Thought to be a spy by the KGB, Tom miraculously survived 13 years behind the Iron Curtain winning the hearts of the Soviets through his basketball prowess. Filled with political drama, romance, and intrigue, Tom’s autobiography, The Repatriate reads like a novel, and will have you guessing how Tom managed to return to America alive.
The Second Edition is now available on Kindle and in Paperback!