Retraumatizing memory – map 2

A Kurd from Sulaimani, Dr Rozhen Kamal Mohammed-Amin, is the Director of the Digital Cultural Heritage Research Centre (DCH) and Lecturer at the City Planning Engineering Department, Sulaimani Polytechnic University (SPU). As Rozhen was telling her story, she pictured an image that collided with a distant memory of the Kurdish uprising in 1991, where a bullet entered her mother’s bedroom door, the same room the family took refuge in at the start of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, in Sulaimani. Trauma in Rozhen’s map traverses time more than spatiality.

Rozhen remembers:

I feel that we already had our fair share of civil war in Kurdistan between the PDK and PUK in 1996 leading to 2003. Even though the two parties reconciled, you are still able to distinguish between the PDK green zone and PUK yellow zone. Still, the Kurdistan Region has been and is still enjoying relatively much higher stability and order. I think that has to do with having fewer variables in comparison to the more complex equation of the rest of Iraq. Yet all of this did not shield us from the fear of the unknown especially after the fall of Baghdad in 2003.

Images and memories in my head that will never be forgotten of my mother’s bedroom, the television, the home-made masks (referring to coal wrapped in cotton cloth appropriated into face masks in case of a chemical attack by Saddam’s regime) bring back floods of memories of violence of the Halabja massacre in 1988. Seven (six sisters and a mother) of us spent a long stressful time in that room. In this heightened sense of distress, there was a sense of intimacy. We were all huddled together.

I am looking at the bullets on the door (now fixed) of my mother’s room in the house we evacuated in April 1991, and my memory takes me to the many items stolen from our house, and a bloody army jacket that was left in our living room by an intruder. The worst thing I and my family discovered when we returned to our evacuated and intruded house was learning that many of the clothes of my deceased father (who died on duty a month earlier during the 1991 uprising) that we were keeping in his memory, were stolen too.

Despite the trauma caused by the Iraqi Army soldiers, I have a strong image and pleasing memory of how when the second Kurdish uprising happened later in 1991 (which was then protected by the UN security council’s no-fly zone) my mother helped a fleeing wounded Iraqi soldier (passing by our neighbourhood) with a first aid kit, food, and water despite strong objections and condemnation by many of our neighbours.