Why I never celebrate my birthday

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By: Diary K. Marif

The other day, my friend, Zoma, mentioned that her birthday was on November 17. I told her that it was the same day as mine. She was delighted and suggested celebrating together. “I’m not interested in celebrating,” I answered. Several times my friends and acquaintances asked me what I would like to do for my birthday, but how do I explain that I have never enjoyed it.

The reason I have never celebrated my birthday is that I am not sure where and when was I born. According to my Iraqi passport, I was born on November 17, 1984, but my parents registered me several years later. This was to protect me by not disclosing the date and place of birth, which was during the Iraq-Iran war between 1980 and 1988. They dwelled in a shelter in Sharazur Plain in Sulaymaniyah governorate, Iraq and could not approach government offices as most of the administrations were occupied by military personnel.

Besides this, the Kurds tried to hide the males’ identities in order to avoid them being forced to join the Iraqi army. Also, the Iraqi government did not favour recording newly born Kurds to ide the real number of the Kurdish population.

To have clarity, I asked my parents when and where I was born, but they were not sure. They only remembered that I was born during the Iraq-Iran war. My mother told me I was five months old when the Iraqi Ba’ath party murdered her middle brother Abdul Kareem. However, my father remembered that I was one year and four months old when my mother’s second brother Hassan died stepping on an Iranian-made landmine near the border. They only remembered that I was born sometime during the war and between the deaths of my uncles.

My story is just one of many born in my generation and previous generations — most of the recorded births were recorded as (July 1st). We lost not only our birthdays, but our land, culture, and language – in one word, our “Identity.” It was not our fight, yet it was fought on our land. Forces clashed, and we paid the price innocently.

Consequently, we were granted negative labels. Our neighbours started to call us “Mountain Turks,” and some even refused to admit our existence. Each tried to date us back to their origins that lost the path half-way. Despite all this, many Kurds continued to tolerate others, knowing that these were just opinions of the ruling elite, not the ordinary Turks or Arabs.

My friend’s and my birthday are in the third week of November. Because of all that transpired, and the events of today, I am not sure I can celebrate. I am happy my friend is celebrating her birthday with all this joy, yearning for another year full of adventures, but I am still trapped – both in the history I witnessed and the one I see these days, where parts of my country are still under fire, fighting to survive.

(Diary Marif is a Kurdish political analyst. Marif has a M.A. in History  from Pune University in India. His writing has appeared in the Pasewan, Awene weekly, Daily Hawlati, Lvin, KNN TV, and other outlets. He is currently based in Vancouver, Canada. You can follow him on Twitter:@diary_khalid)

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