Dr. Akram Hawas
Representing the Faylee Kurds General Council
Faylee-Kurds: An Issue of Re-Thinking
I would like to thank the Danish Parliament that offers us the opportunity to address our problems. And from this place I would appreciate and express great thanks to Denmark and the Danish People for receiving Kurdish and Faylee refugees.
I am here to represent an issue, which is not quite known for the majority of the Danes. The Faylee issue has not been popularised in the political and academic arenas, although the Faylees in effect form a great part of the Iraqi refugees in Denmark as well as in all European and other Western countries that have received refugees since the 1970s. That is primarily connected with the fact that the Faylees used to present themselves as Kurds. There is no doubt that the Faylee Issue has always been an integrated part of the Kurdish Question, but in many ways the nature of the problems and the sufferings of the Faylees have been long greater and deeper. While the Iraqi and the Kurdish refugees suffered political oppression and statelessness the Faylees have also suffered historic neglect, systematic deportation and sustained identity deprivation.
As a part of the Kurdish population the Faylees have been the victims not only of the Saddam Hussein regime but also and primarily of the process of nation and state building in the Middle East in the aftermath of the First World War. The Faylees had played a great role under the Islam state and earlier in the history of the Mesopotamia as they were connected to the great religion of Zoroastrianism and the historic Sassanit Empire whose influence extended long beyond the Mesopotamia in the pre- Islam era. Now as a consequence of that undemocratic process of nation-state, the Faylees are been marginalized in fragmented pariah groups that lack essential cohesion.
Dear Chairman and Audience,
The Faylees, like the majority of the Kurds were not pleased by this process that excluded them the right to have their one state, but nevertheless they have played a great role, both intellectually, politically and economic in Iraq and within the Kurdish Nationalist Movement. While they have done that with great interest and commitment, the Faylees and their territories in the East Iraq became arenas of conflicts and bloody wars not only on the borders between the two new-establish states of Iraq and Iran, but of wars of borders waged by all forms of nationalisms and determinisms: between identities, historic and religious interpretations and social divisions: between the Iraqi and Iranian influence, interests and identity, between the Arabs and Iranians, the Arabs and the Kurds, the Persians and the Kurds, between the Sunni and Shiite Islam, and so between this or that political conflicting forces and not least between the despotic state and society.
Being Shiite Kurds with specific historic role and speaking a different Kurdish dialect no one of major population group would recognise the Faylees. They remained in the modern history a question of "others" for all partners. They were Kurds and Iranians in the mind of the Arabs and general Iraqis. The Kurds considered them as Shiites, Persian and Arabs, while the Iranians considered them as Arabs. Most dramatically has been that the Iraqi state considered them as "the enemies" of the national identity and interests. This made this powerless and vulnerable social group a "legal" target for the state operations.
Already by the very inauguration of the state administration in Iraq a systemic process of devaluating the Faylee areas and deporting groups of Faylees to Iran was initiated as if it was an integrated part of the state regulation! Faylees were deported in 1936, 1942, 1970 and finally and essentially effective and tragic in 1980-88. In the latter wave of deportation that was connected with the initiation of the Iraq-Iran war the Faylees paid a huge price in blood, dignity and properties. About 300 000 Faylees were extracted from their beds and thrown over the Iranian border in their night pyjamas while their young men had been detained without any legal reasons. Iran however did not consider them as Iranians, and so remained these Faylees since that time and still living in a high miserable situation suffering enormous social problems and degeneration.
The young detainees never came home again and documents found after of the fall of the regime in April 2003 indicated that these were used in the Iraqi programmes and experiments of the weapons of mass-destruction. This in effect is not the only fact that gives the Faylees a specific status among the Kurds. The Faylee town of Mandali was the first place where the politics of Arabisation of the Kurdish areas was put into practice, while Faylees of Khaneqin and Mandali were the first who experienced replacement, and the Faylee areas became but ruins as they were formed the main frontiers under the Iran-Iraq war.
In the post-Saddam era, the great parties, Kurdish and others, went to the destructed Faylee areas surprisingly not to help the people in re-constructing their homes, but ironically for the purpose of political mobilisation to extend these parties’ influence. On the other hand, all Faylee efforts to gain any respectable position in the new Iraqi political structure have so far not been fruitful.
Democracy and the respect of human rights are the dreams of the majority of the all population in the Middle East including the Kurds and the Faylees who suffered long from dictatorship. It is quite understandable that a multi-party pluralism will offer much better opportunities for all partners in these societies. But a real guarantee for the survival of the minor social groups like the Faylees and others may be seen in an intensive process of democratisation from below, socially, culturally and psychologically. The Faylees have simply been neglected, to borrow Hanna Arendt´s conception, the "right to have rights". Such an essential problematique can not be tackled by a top-down process. It needs an act of culture that also addresses the relations within the structure of the parties, ethnic, religious and whatever groups and forces as well as the inter-relations.
The most successful democracy may be the one that touches upon the life of the people, and the respect of human rights may secure the choice of every individual and group. The Faylee areas in East Iraq and the Faylee communities in Baghdad and elsewhere have been characterised historically and traditionally by a high degree of peaceful coexistence, where Shiite and Sunni Muslims, Arabs, Kurds, Turkumans, Christians and Jews have lived together. The dream of the Faylees is that such a culture of peaceful coexistence will prevail in the post-dictatorship era.
The Faylees would ask the respectable Danish Parliament and Government as well as the international community the support in:
Granting the Faylees full Iraqi citizenship and national identity and securing them positions in the new Iraqi political structure.
Helping the Faylees in Iran to return home, guaranteeing the legal and economic compensation and reparation and granting those who wish to stay in Iran Iranian citizenship and official residency.
The empowerment of the Faylee community in general and offering economic and know-how aid to reconstruct and develop the Faylee areas alongside the Iraqi-Iranian borders.
To include the Faylee areas into the Kurdish territories and help in social rehabilitation and integration.