The best friends of the Kurds are the mountains. It is a saying that is repeated over and over again, as it was so very true in the time of the Kurdish resistance. And now, every spring Kurds go out and enjoy those mountains. That means picnic, it means going to the mountains with the whole family, it means eating first yaprach and then tikka, it means enjoying the company and the nature.
But it also means a mountain of garbage. Plastic bags, bottles, tins, leftover food: all is left behind. Down goes the string of cars, from the mountains to the cities and villages, and left behind are the spoils of the day.
In the olden days, most products would be cleaned up by nature itself. The birds and the animals would eat what was eatable; the earth would digest the rest. But nowadays most of our garbage is made of plastics. And that takes many years to dissolve. If animals eat it, it will block their digestive system or poison them and they will get ill and die.
Every time I drive through Kurdistan, I see at least someone throwing an empty plastic water bottle, a coca cola tin, some Kleenex or a plastic bag from a car window. And all those plastic bottles and tins remain at the side of the road, as a growing mountain of rubbish.
A month after I was so very happy to see the second Kurdish party PUK conduct a huge clean-up on the ring road of Kirkuk that I even stopped the car to get some pictures, now at least half of the rubbish appears to be back again.
Plastic bags fly in the air and get stuck in the trees, making trees look as if they have been filled with wishing knots as at the grave of a saint, but a lot less attractive. Sometimes I have to strain my eyes to make out whether I see a kite being flown by a child, or a plastic bag blown by the wind.
The authorities have started campaigns where they hand out rubbish bags and flyers to the picnic goers. Late in the day I then see the full bags at the side of the road waiting to be collected, but surely to be opened by hungry animals first. Why not take them home and dispose of them there? Or why don't the authorities put big, closed garbage bins in the area, and empty them regularly?
If the Kurds really consider the mountains their best friends,then they owe it to them to look better after their nature. Rubbish should be collected and destroyed. It should not be left to clutter the country side. It is not only caring for nature; it is also caring for the country our children inherit.
This blog was published before as a column in the Kurdish newspaper Kurdistani Nwe.