photo: Eddy van Wessel


Saturday, November 16, 2013

A debate about a kiss

What is in a kiss? It is the best known way to show affection. We kiss our parents, our friends, and even their friends. In the West that is quite normal. In Kurdistan men kiss each other. Westerners look at it, accept it and now more and more men in the West exchange a hug or kiss when meeting.

But when in Kurdistan a man and a women kiss in front of the camera, it is not allowed. A kiss of two people who want to show their love - and who at the same time protest against the fact that a sculpture of a kiss, as the symbol of love, was burned in Azadi Park, after many attempts to damage it.

For many of the young generation, this act is seen as an attack on the freedom of expressing your feelings. And on the couples who kiss each other in a park which name is 'freedom'.

Religious politicians and imams are condemning the kiss. The couple is charged with indecent behavior. But what is indecent about two lips meeting to say ‘I love you’?

For the condemners, the kiss is equal to sexual intercourse. Or at least, it leads to it. Kissing belongs in the shadows, in the bedroom, not to be seen by anyone, not even the closest of kin. Most Kurdish youngsters have never seen their parents kiss nor proclaim their love.

Yet they see movies, or travel abroad. And they notice that a kiss is a beautiful gesture of the love between two people. Back home they don’t want to hide their feelings any more.

In Europe this battle was fought long ago. One of the most famous kisses dates from 1950, when a French photographer caught a couple kissing in a busy street. That was over sixty years ago. 

There, kissing outside marriage is not even an issue anymore in the strict Christian quarters, where sex before marriage is prohibited just as strongly as in the strict Islamic society. So why is this kiss, and the development that it tries to speed up, such a big deal in Kurdistan?
Perhaps because it is linked to the shame and honor culture, where a father kills his daughter if people say that she is seen with a boy? Because when you see your world change as fast as it does in Kurdistan, you need something to hold on to – so let it be culture?

Whatever it is, a kiss cannot be haram. It is a message without words, and at the same time a poem for love. And love we need badly, in a society that heads towards modernism that can be cold and individualistic. 

Let’s fight for the kiss, and not allow it to be called shameful. Because love surely is not.

This column was first published in Kurdish in the daily Kurdistani Nwe

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