Recently the University of Duhok in Iraqi Kurdistan renamed Kalaf Zebari hall to Peshmerga Hall. For those who do not know the Peshmerga are the military that has defended the Kurdish region from both external attacks and internal such as Saddam Hussein’s military and most recently ISIS. Khalafe Zebari on the other was a Kurdish intellectual, who also happened to be a former Peshmerga fighter. This change has caused considerable consternation in the region. While it is understood that it is right and proper to honor the Peshmerga who have sacrificed much for the Kurdish people, why remove the name of an honored intellectual and poet who himself sacrificed for the Kurdish people. Having uprooted himself and his family several times, first to escape the tyranny of the Saddam era then to secure a future for his family in the US. Lastly, he once again uprooted his entire family to move to Washington DC to begin Voice of America Kurdish broadcasts.
This last gave great comfort to the Kurdish people, not only in Iraq but Turkey, Syria and Iran. Bringing news, information and hope to the suppressed people of Kurdistan. Joining him was his wife, Chiman, who in addition to VoA worked with a number of US and international agencies supporting Kurdish and regional refugee programs as well as US government operations in the region. I’ve known Chiman Zebari for a decade and have worked with her closely so I know her loyalty for her people. My interest in this began as I read posts on Chiman’s FB page. While I do not read Kurdish and the google translations leave much to be desired, I understood the gist of the story.
While, as said. it is right to honor those Peshmerga who gave so much. There are a number of ways to do this, and they have been done throughout the Kurdish region. The University of Duhok, being an institute of higher education must not forget the contributions made by the poets and intellectuals. Return the name of this man who gave so much to support the intellectual freedom of the Kurds.