photo: Eddy van Wessel


Thursday, November 7, 2013

Let’s clean Kurdistan

“I would set up a Ministry of Waste”, said one of the foreign tourists I took around Kurdistan recently. We were visiting one of the historic sights, the resort of King Sanharib in Khanis, and were disgusted by the rubbish that spoiled the enjoyment of a place this old and special.

As this centuries’ old place is used in the weekends for picnics, lots of plastic water bottles and tins were lying around. Someone even started building on the site, and the Minister of Finance and Economy built a house right above it. We discussed the fact that many Kurds do not understand the value of their heritage.

I suggested that the Kurds should start teaching their kids at school what the effect is of throwing plastic and tins from your car window. An awareness campaign is needed, we agreed.

We had almost forgotten our decision, when only hours later at the only remaining century old gate of Amedi we caught a boy with a tin of spray. The twelve year old had just been putting graffiti on the walls inside the gate. I rebuked him and sent him off, but he returned as soon as he saw us leaving.

Although I was happy to see workers cleaning up the junk at the gate, they did not do anything to stop the boy from further soiling a national monument. The awareness campaign is not only needed for kids.

A foreign aid worker I met recently also had been saddened by the culture of waste she noticed in Kurdistan. Which is not only found in the waste lying around. But also in the toilets, where people often do not flush and just leave their dirtied paper in a corner. It is a culture of not caring for those who come after you.

“Look”, she said, “in Estonia they had a huge campaign to clean up the county. Couldn’t you start something like that here?”

‘Let’s do it’ was the campaign that cleaned up the whole of the European country of Estonia in one day. The whole country was involved, and the level of awareness about leaving junk behind was raised enormously. The campaign grew into the international movement World Clean-up. The list of countries that cleaned itself up in one day is very long and involved millions of volunteers. The last countries for 2013 are Bosnia (October 24) and Nigeria (November 27).

Kurdistan is not on that list yet. So here is my suggestion, to my fellow country men and women in Kurdistan. Let’s join the campaign. Let’s be the first for 2014. Let’s set a date to clean up Kurdistan, for instance on January 1.

Let’s do it together. Schools, clubs, unions, parties, they should all join in. Let’s remove all those bottles and tins, and all the plastic bags, and try to remove the graffiti. Let’s do it, let’s clean Kurdistan!

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

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