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August 1, 2011

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The Cultural Café in Sulaimani

Kurdishaspect.com - By Falah Muradkhan

On the 19th of April 2011, Kurdish citizens were evicted from Azady (Freedom) Square and many other public places by the use of military force armed with heavy and light weapons. No place was left unoccupied; no place was left for the public to gather and for the different groups of youth, intellectuals and freedom-seekers to discuss the new atmosphere they had created in the space of two months in Kurdistan. The developments in the Arab world in 2011 and the wave of demonstrations in Kurdistan after the shootings of February 17th and the following days on protestors stirred many big questions that required declaration and debate. 

Amidst all this we were yearning for a horizon and seeking fresh place for meeting and dialogue. A new spirit is stirring inside our beings, longing for free forums to discuss justice, governing, rights, music, poetry… A place far from the aluminum and marble halls used for the government’s ceremonies and to burnish the corrupt officials’ faces. A place that you would consider your own, a room where the first rows are not reserved for officials, impaired authorities, greedy political parties and self-interested organizations.

It is the Cultural Café that became this place, another initiative from the beautiful city of Sulaimani, which in less than a month reconciled the public through dialogue and afternoon meetings, over a cup of coffee or tea, while listening or music and poetry, or with a book display in the background. Protest organizers, writers, the father of the murdered 16 years old Surkew, the injured lawyer Karwan Kamal, and other individuals come every day to this place and discuss the new atmosphere. Zmnako, known as the demonstrations’ photographer, continues to take photos quietly, in a way that would make you think he is still in Azady square: the spirit is the same and the photos tell the same stories. Dana and Rizgar and their friends are busy organizing, making preparations, and struggling to provide a dialogue-friendly environment and secure a platform that will accommodate difference of opinion.

 They gather furniture for this new home of ours: shaky chairs from mosques, shabby carpets and rugs and everything else that can come of use. It is their desire to keep this place going and to preserve its nature! Sulaimani is a neglected city that is denied many services, yet it is a city that provides a platform for freethinkers, intellectuals, civil and political activists, liberal media, women and men and modern youth, and proud citizens of Kurdistan. The city makes possible the realization of a new thought every day, the Café is a blossoming flower on the face of the city. To get a grip on today and tomorrow and to hope for a better future this place has become a living vein and an indispensible necessity for all.

Falah Muradkhan is project-coordinator of the German-Iraqi NGO WADI  ( www.wadi-online.de )

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