photo: Eddy van Wessel


Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Saying kaka to the king

I come from a country where we say kaka, mister, to our king. A country where equality shows itself in the way we address people. It is years ago that we said ‘Excellence’ to a minister, and that shows the change we went through.

I had to get used to the titles and the status attached to them in Kurdistan. It started with being called mamousta.

In the beginning I thought that everybody who was called mamousta was a teacher, but when someone used it for the old tea-man, I understand it had a second meaning: someone who is respected.

And then there is the word bareszi. My drivers used it at the checkpoints. It took me a while to understand they were just flattering the guard to be able to pass. When the title is used correctly, it is to show respect for someone who is older or higher in rank.

On the level of equality, brakem (my brother) or kaka will do just fine. Perhaps that is why I like the word kaka so much. But it is a nuisance that there is no plural for it, and strange it can also be used for ladies.

There is one title that gives me goose pimples. Kurbanem, which indicates a wish to be martyred for someone. As it is even used for children, it must have lost its original meaning, linked to the violent Kurdish past.

So why did we get rid of these titles in the Netherlands? We decided that money or power do not make someone better. In my country you earn respect. In Kurdistan you can just become the director of an NGO, to be a baresz. But when you quit that job, you lose the title too.

The titles show that the Kurdish society is divided in castes. After the President and the Prime Minister follow their family members, and the ministers, medical doctors, judges and parliament members. Next caste are the professors, engineers and common politicians. Next we might find the school teachers and perhaps the journalists, and then the laborers and farmers. Everybody strives to be in contact with the ones above.
And once you are in a high position, you stay there. Directors, chair persons, general secretaries – they are stuck to their seats in Kurdistan. If you want to leave to do something less stressful, nobody will understand. You only leave if you have to.

Again a difference with my homeland. It is normal to make career changes, and stepping down on the ladder is very common. After a number of years at the helm, it is good to let someone else lead, who has new and better ideas.

That explains why in my homeland people are more equal: because they go up and down the ladder. The only one who does not, is the king. Although he too can step down, as our Queen, his mother, showed recently, to make place for him.

This blog was published in Kurdish in the daily Kurdistani Nwe

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