One million thoughts and things to do
1. The world often turns out to be a small place. Yesterday we visited the university here and I ran into a student from my old home in the US: Johns Hopkins University. He is doing his BA up in Baltimore and is translating Kurdish poems into English during the summer. In the library I found a book in Swedish by a fellow (I think) named Stig Blomskog. I showed the book to Emma, thinking it was funny we found a book by a Swedish bloke. She bursted out in laughter: Stig is one of her professors and the one she wrote her thesis for a BA in Economics for! For dinner we went to Revan and in the restrooms a young guy held up the door for me. Without thinking I said "thanks" in Swedish, the guy did not what to say for a second and then replied "varsagod" ("you are welcome") in Swedish. He was here to see his family of course, and it seems quite a few Swedish of Kurdish origin are. Tonight we might be going to yet another wedding involving Kurds who have been living in Sweden. Always fun, but very hot.
2. This is an amazing trip and the political guy in me cannot help popping up all the time. There is so much politics to discuss, so many projects to improve life here that I would like to start. Many things are improving rapidly and you can feel when you are walking on the streets of Suleymani that this is place where people are proud. Proud to be Kurdish, proud about the economic development, proud to show how their every day life is improving almost by the hour. There are many many problems still, though. Small example: The library at the university was not computerized (the old card system was still used, pretty much as I remember it from my childhood library in Kallhall). The books were few and old. Here is one thing S-studenter and KSF could work with in a very concrete way.
3. The Kurdish question will be important during the years to come. First, there is a lot of Kurds in the world (some 40 million). Second, the water basins of the Middle East are partly to be found in areas where Kurdish people live. Third, the freedom the Kurds in nothern Iraq now enjoy is inspiring Kurdish people everywhere. The goal of the Kurdish people here is an Iraqi democratic federation where the Kurdish part also will include the city of Kirkuk. When I ask about the long-term dreams, the polite answer is most often that the Kurdish people in Turkey, Syria and Iran also should have their democratic and human rights respected, as well as their desire for self-governence. It is difficult to disagree with that, but the interesting part is most naturally what the demands will be once that is reality. So far, my impression is that the political leaders I have met here are very committed to the rule of law, democracy and a step by step, peaceful development of Iraq but also in the region. Most naturally, it must be the aim of the center-left in Europe to promote and strengthen the democratic forces we now can see are developing in the Kurdish parts of Iraq. Hopefully, the ambition of S-studenter and KSF to start a project here that will focus on democracy, gender equality and higher education can be one small but important part of such a scenario.
And now a big jump from politics to practicalities: once you are used to western style toilets, it is difficult to adjust to something else... I was afraid it would be too hot here and that I would have huge problems with adjusting to the food but so far everything has been rather smooth. For a while it was not that smooth but Pepto-Bismol (for American readers of this blog) and Imodium (for Swedish readers) did the trick... So, got to run to some more meetings again. Also check out this page for information about the trip!