I had an Iraqi teacher from Mosul whose husband was Kurdish. And he had a storyteller’s heart. He would get us rolling at his description of Kurdistan. So entranced were we, that we could not help but to clumsily understand him. And if we struggled with his Iraqi dialect, we could gist it from his wild gestures.
He would volunteer one of us (usually me, grrrr, for some reason) to be his punching bag. Then, he would place me into his stories which he struggled to keep family-friendly. But as young, resourceful Sailors, we had already come up with a slang dictionary of our own. So when he wrestled with the term used to described a girl of a certain type, we were quick to offer him زبالة في صندوق- which we had gisted as funk-in-the-trunk and which may not translate so directly. But usteth (our teacher) knew where we were coming from and thanked us for the colorful direct translation.
When he spoke to us in Kurdish, it sounded like Arabic and Russian. Exotic and vaguely eastern. I could understand his Iraqi, which sounded like Arabic with a Polish influence. (There is even an –itch ending for the Iraqi feminine. Does that not sound Polish?) But his Kurdish was alien to me. (Kurdish is an Indo-European language, while Arabic is Semitic.)
I have a special respect for Kurds due to my dealings with usteth and others from his Kurdish family, roughly numbering 32 million people. And I’m not alone, the New York Times foresees an independent Kurdistan in the future:
To Iran’s west, Iraq remains on the brink as American forces withdraw and the political center in Baghdad remains fragile. As Syria descends into civil war, the entire post- World War I map of the Middle East may need to be redrawn. Rarely in the Kurds’ 3,000-year history has the possibility of an independent Kurdish homeland been closer than today. The Kurdistan Regional Government of northern Iraq is by far the country’s most stable sector, flying its own flag and cutting energy and infrastructure deals on its own with Exxon and Turkish firms.
I forget the latest US position on Kurdistan, but my personal belief is that it is long overdue.
Update: As I note in the comments, I am not advocating nation-building. But we should support their self-dertermination should it appear. Walter Russell Mead has an interesting look at the big Kurdistan picture. . .