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KES Seminar in Bavaria about Kurdistan a great success

From February 17 to 19, the KES family had finally an exciting premiere. In cooperation with the Georg-von-Vollmar-Akademie e. V., our societies KES, KELS and EES plus the The Kurdish-European Forum (KEF) have organized a weekend seminar with the title “Democracy Development and State Building in the Autonomous Region of Kurdistan as a” “model” for the Middle East”. Situated in the beautiful Alpine foothills and directly on Lake Kochel, the Georg-von-Vollmar Akademie resides in the Aspenstein Palace, which was built between 1675 and 1694 for the monastery of Benediktbeuern. In 1948, the little castle was acquired by the Bavarian SPD and established as a permanent place of learning. Today the academy runs there its educational and a conference center with seminars on political education. The very best conditions for our own seminar, for which a total of seven highly motivated speakers had prepared themselves intensively.

The Friday evening began with a presentation of the academy by Anna Lehrer as representative of the department of Education Management. Her input was followed by a introduction of all the participants. Afterwards, our seminar leader Kahraman Evsen explained the structure and the objectives of the seminar. At the end of these initial steps, the whole group moved to the cozy Bavarian restaurant area to reflect the first insights and to get to know each other better with a glass of wine or a hearty white beer.

The introductory presentation on Saturday morning with the identical title as the entire seminar was held by the NRW regional civil servant and lawyer Daniela Giannone, who is currently working in Brussels. She focused on the current political system of the Autonomous Region of Kurdistan, giving an overview of the historical development and geopolitical situation of Northern Iraq as well as the ethnic and linguistic characteristics of the region. Thus it was explained which religious minorities are represented and how the various Kurdish dialects are spread over the entire Kurdish settlement area. After that she formed an arch starting with the partial autonomy in the 1970s and 1980s, until the consolidation of the Autonomic rights in the years 1992 to 2005. The current political conditions were discussed in detail, which parties with which objectives in the Iraqi Kurdish Parliament Erbil are represented, and why the region is currently in a political and economic crisis.

Following this, Kahraman Evsen gave his lecture on “The Kurdish Question in Turkey since the founding of the Turkish Republic in 1923”. Kahraman Evsen is also a lawyer. His lecture focused on the history of the Kurdish minority in Turkey. He also initially chose a historical introduction and explained the situation of the Kurdish minority during the Ottoman Empire and since the end of the Second World War. From his point of view the most important cause for the exacerbation of the current Kurdish question is the so-called “Kemalismus”, founded by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. This is based on a rigid nationalism which propagates the superiority of the “Turkish race” and largely excludes other groups such as the Kurds or non-Muslims.

The third presentation of the first day entitled “The Kurds in Iran – A Forgotten People” was given by Narin Efe (student of architecture) and Muhammad Akyüz (teacher student). The Islamic Republic of Iran and its governmental system were presented, with a particular focus on the distribution of ethnic and religious groups. With a share of 7 to 10%, the Kurds in Iran are a significant population group, mostly living in “East Kurdistan”, the western part of Iran. The dialects and settlements were discussed, and after that important historical personalities of the Iranian Kurds were presented, who particularly influenced the history of this region: First and foremost Peshewa Qazi Mohammed, who was President of the Republic of Kurdistan in the 1940s and who was executed after the violent destruction of the Republic. Unfortunately, the entire history of the Iranian Kurds is characterized by a brutal suppression of self-determination and assassinations as well as discrimination against Iranian Kurdish politicians and the entire Kurdish population.

The fourth and last lecture of the second day was held by the Essen computer scientist Devran Ölcer, who gave a lecture on “Newroz – the history and importance of the most important Kurdish festival”. Newroz is a New Year’s Day or Spring Festival and is celebrated by all Kurds and many other ethnicities from the Balkans to the Caucasus as far as Central Asia and the Middle East on March 21. On September 30, 2009, UNESCO had included the Newroz Day in the list of masterpieces of the oral and immaterial heritage of humanity, recognizing a tradition of 3,000 years, symbolizing the values ​​of peace, solidarity and reconciliation, and thus cultural diversity and friendship between peoples. For the Kurds, the festival also means the celebration of the resistance to oppression and the struggle for freedom. In his lecture, Devran Ölcer explained the different myths and legends about the origin of the festival very vividly.

On Sunday, Michael Gehlert, a lawyer at the EEC-Essen Economic Development Agency, opened up the third and final seminar day with his presentation on the Kudistan trip, which some speakers had undertaken together in March/April 2016. He first described the preparations and then the different stages of the trip, including the visits to the Kurdistan Parliamentary Union, the Board for Self-Determination, the Parliament, its three largest factions, and the Ministers of Justice and Education. He particularly emphasized the talks in the Christian district of Erbil, Ainkawa and the refugee camp “Mar Elia”, which is supported by the Catholic Church. Another highlight was the group’s visit to the famous ecclesiastical sanctuary in Lalish.

Last but not least, Koblenz-based lawyer Zemfira Dlovani gave the last lecture on the Yazidi in general and about their settlements in Armenia, Georgia and Russia. First, she illustrated the number of Yazidi worldwide and their beliefs. She further explained the history of the Yazidi and emphasized that as a “double minority” (as Kurds and also members of a non-Islamic religious group) had been exposed several times during the last centuries to extreme political and religious persecution. Thus, the story of the Yazidi is characterized by numerous genocides, which found their terrible peak in 2014, when the Yazidi were overrun by the so-called IS in the Sinjar Mountains in Northern Iraq. About 5,000 people were killed, thousands of girls and women were abducted. Disguised as “apostates” by radical Islamists and terrorists, the Yazidi are considered to be lawless for the IS. Most people are unaware that the origins of the Yazidi lie in an ancient Iranian primal religion (about 2,000 years BC). Among other things, the myths of Creation, the doctrine of the angels, and the worship of the sun speak for this thesis.

For our societies the weekend seminar was a great success. Not only the participants, but also the speakers, have learned a lot of new things and expanded their horizons significantly. KES, KEF, KELS and EES are looking forward to further cooperations with the Georg-von-Vollmar Akademie.