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Kurdish Supplement, 22-29/10/00


*  Britain says Iraqi Kurdish area is an example to Saddam
* Barzani, UK Foreign Office Minister Hain Hold Talks
* KDP's Ankara Representative Interviewed on Ties With PKK, PUK [Interview
with Safin Diza'i, Ankara representative of the KDP. Very informative.]
* PUK Concentrates Forces Near PKK Positions, Situation Tense
* Kurds battle daily for ethnic survival {quite useful general account of
situation in Turkey]
* Film Notes [A time for drunken Horses, by Kurdish film director, Bahman

*  Britain says Iraqi Kurdish area is an example to Saddam
by Sajid Rizvi

LONDON, Oct. 24 (UPI) -- Iraq's Kurdish-administered northern region has set
an example President Saddam Hussein should follow to ease the suffering of
his people, Foreign Office Minister Peter Hain said Tuesday.

Hain spoke after meeting with Kurdistan Democratic Party leader Mas'ud
Barzani, who is in London to drum up support for his group. Barzani is being
urged by Western governments to reconcile differences with rival Jalal
Talibani and his Patriotic Union of Kurdistan.

Hain said the United Nations oil-for-food program had worked to improve food
supplies and attend to health care in Iraqi Kurdistan, an area inhabited
primarily by Kurds but with Assyrian/Chaldean, Turcoman and Yazidi
minorities and administered by a Kurdistan Regional Government.

"Health and nutritional indicators are much better in the Kurdish-controlled
areas of Iraq (than in the rest of the country)," Hain said. There is no
reason why similar improvements could not be achieved elsewhere in Iraq."
But, Hain said, " the problem is Saddam."

The meeting between Hain and Barzani was part of a wider diplomatic effort
to consolidate peaceful coexistence between the rival Kurdish factions since
the conclusion of the Washington Agreement between the KDP and PUK on Sept.
17, 1998. A cease-fire between the two sides has largely held and enabled
the Iraqi Kurds to restore some order to their lives.

The KDP controls the northern area of Iraqi Kurdistan that borders on Turkey
and has profited from a trade in Iraqi diesel oil sold in Turkey and Turkish
goods brought into Iraq. The PUK controls the Kurdish area to the east that
borders Iran which offers much less in the way of trade. Part of the dispute
between Barzani and Talibani is over the division of revenues.

[Whiskey and cigarettes]
* Barzani, UK Foreign Office Minister Hain Hold Talks
Kurdistan TV, 24 Oct 00

In the course of his visit to Britain, [Kurdistan Democratic Party, KDP]
leader [Mas'ud] Barzani today met the Foreign and Commonwealth Office
minister of state, Peter Hain. Peter Hain expressed his and the his
government's pleasure at leader Barzani's visit to Britain in response to
the invitation extended to his excellency.

The British minister also reaffirmed his government's support for the
Kurdish people's rights within the framework of a democratic, federal and
united Iraq.

The two sides discussed the issue of reconciliation between the KDP  and the
Patriotic Union of Kurdistan [PUK] and the implementation of the Washington
agreement [signed by the two sides in September 1998 under the auspices of
the US administration].

Peter Hain expressed his government's readiness to assist in overcoming the
obstacles that prevent the implementation of the agreement. In this context,
leader Barzani put forward the KDP's stance regarding the peace process and
reaffirmed its commitment to the implementation of the Washington agreement
in the form it was signed. Peter Hain considered leader Barzani's efforts
for the implementation of the agreement as positive.

At the end of the meeting, the British minister and leader Barzani  attended
a news conference, during which the British minister reaffirmed the British
government's support for the Kurdish people. Later, their excellencies 
answered journalists' questions on the situation in the region.

* KDP's Ankara Representative Interviewed on Ties With PKK, PUK  
[Interview with Safin Diza'i, Ankara representative of the KDP, by Kemal
Avci, Yeni Gundem, 16 Oct 00 ]  

In addition to Talabani, KDP [Kurdish Democratic Party] leader Barzani also
visited Turkey at a time when the PUK's [Patriotic Union of Kurdistan]
attacks against the PKK [Workers Party of Kurdistan] have intensified.  
Furthermore, Turkey began to develop its relations with Iraq during the same
period.    Turkey's first plane carrying "humanitarian aid" landed in
Baghdad at a time when there is intensive tension in the south.     Later,
the newspapers reported that the border gates and the Karkuk-Yumurtalik oil
pipeline will be opened.    We talked with KDP's Ankara representative Safin
Diza'i about these reports, which continue to be of concern, and about
Barzani's meetings in Turkey, as well as about the relations between the KDP
and the PUK, between the KDP and the PKK, and between the KDP, Turkey and
Iraq -- and the recent developments in the region.

Safin Diza'i was born in Erbil in 1963.    When Iraq launched attacks
against the Kurds in 1974, Diza'i and his family went to Iran as
refugees.    He went to Britain in 1977 and lived there till 1992. In
February 1992, he was appointed as the KDP representative to Turkey. He has
been in Turkey for the last eight years.

[Avci]    Honorable Diza'i, Turkey sent a plane carrying medical equipment
to Iraq and decided to appoint an ambassador to Iraq. How do you evaluate
the relations Turkey has recently established with Iraq?

[Diza'i]    As Iraq's neighbor, Turkey has a natural right to establish such
relations. Despite the fact that they are members of the United Nations,
many countries have taken similar steps.    If Turkey establishes closer
political relations with Iraq, the Iraqi administration will regard Turkey
more favorably in the future.    If the embargo that is imposed on Iraq is
removed tomorrow, Iraq may grant Turkey certain tenders.    From our
standpoint, we do not view this rapprochement as dangerous.    There are the
UN resolutions, however.   Iraq has to comply with these resolutions.    I
hope that these relations will serve our interests as well as the interests
of the Iraqi and the Turkish peoples.

[Avci]    There are rumors that Turkey will open a new border gate other
than the Habur Gate in order to exclude the KDP from the fuel oil trade
between Turkey and Iraq.    Is it possible to take such an initiative when
the embargo is still in effect?     What will your position be in the face
of such an initiative?

[Diza'i]    How will they put this into practice?    In order to open a gate
that is 20-30 km from the Syrian border, the Turkish Army will either have
to occupy this region or the Iraqi Army will have to return to this
region.    The Turkish Army cannot enter this region.    This runs counter
to international laws.    Under the current conditions, the Iraqi Army
cannot return to the region either.    Currently this scenario cannot be put
into practice.

[Avci]    There are also rumors that the Karkuk-Yumurtalik oil pipeline will
start operating at full capacity.     Do you support this plan?

[Diza'i]    According to the UN resolutions, Iraq is allowed to sell $ 5.200
billion oil per year.    The Iraqi Kurdistan's share is 13 percent of the
total sale.    Currently, the oil prices in the world have increased to $
32.    If the Karkuk-Yumurtalik oil pipeline operates at full capacity, this
will reduce oil prices.    We look favorably at such a possibility.    Our
share should be guaranteed, however, and Iraq should use the money provided
from oil sales for the good of its people.

[Avci]    Do you get your share in cash?

[Diza'i]    No, we do not.    It is provided in services such as
infrastructure projects, food, medicine, health, and education.

[Avci]    Barzani recently visited Turkey.    He held meetings with Prime
Minister Ecevit and other officials.    You accompanied him during these
meetings.     What were the issues on the agenda?    For example, it was
reported that you demanded support for the establishment of a federation.

[Diza'i]    Our solution for Iraq focuses on a democratic and a federal
Iraq.    The sides exchanged views with regard to the current situation in
Iraq during the meetings.    Issues such as KDP-PUK relations, the PKK,
security, and the economy were put on the agenda.

[Avci]    Did Turkey support the solution of a federation, which you propose
for Iraq?

[Diza'i]    They did not make any statement with regard to this issue.    
They said: "The Iraqi people will choose their route.    We do not interfere
in Iraq's internal affairs."

[Avci]    There is a rapprochement between the PUK, which has launched an
attack against the PKK, and Turkey.    Does this rapprochement make you feel

[Diza'i]    This has not disturbed us at all.    We are in favor of
establishing good relations with all our neighbors.    We always advised the
PUK to establish good relations with Turkey.    We even acted as mediators
between 1994-1996.

[Avci]    What demands did the Turkish officials make with regard to the

[Diza'i]    There is an historic situation in this region.    For better or
for worse, we are ruling over three-and-a-half to four million people.   
There is an administration there. There is a government and a parliament.   
We will not allow the PKK or any other force to spoil this.    The KDP
provided great support for the PKK until 1986-1987.     After 1991, however,
the PKK intensified its forces in Iraqi Kurdistan.    Pursuing the PKK,
Turkey launched many operations, which have actually continued until
recently.    Our people died. Some 400 villages were destroyed.    There was
a cooperation with Turkey as a result of these problems.    If these
problems continue, we will continue to cooperate.

[Avci]    How are your current relations with the PKK?

[Diza'i]    There are no clashes between us.    It is very quiet.    There
have been no confrontations other than some minor contacts.    We do not
have any political relations with the PKK, however.

[Avci]    The PKK has made certain strategic changes.    Within this
framework, it has laid down its arms and made the democratic struggle its
priority.    How do you evaluate this?    Do you think that the current
position of the PKK constitutes a threat to you?

[Diza'i]    Currently, we do not view this as a threat.    We do not deny
that there are some PKK groups located in the regions bordering on the KDP
region, but they do not have any camps in this region.    The PKK talks
about peace and dialogue.    We also think in the same way, but the world
has changed.    Peace and dialogue have replaced armed struggle. If you do
not achieve any results today, you will do so tomorrow.    Therefore, peace
and dialogue are the strongest weapons.

[Avci]    How do you evaluate the recent clashes between the PKK and the

[Diza'i]    Armed struggles are not pleasant -- particularly among the
Kurds.    The PUK made an agreement with the PKK in 1992 and within the
framework of this agreement, it gave the PKK certain old camps in Zele.   
Currently, the PKK has taken control of certain places in this region.   
The PKK has persuaded certain PUK cadres and members to join the PKK.    The
PUK feels uncomfortable with the fact that the PKK is getting stronger in
this region.    The PUK is very sensitive regarding this issue and
therefore, it launched an attack against the PKK.    This is why there were
clashes between the sides.

[Avci]    Has the rapprochement between Turkey and the PUK contributed to
the clashes?

[Diza'i]    Of course it did.    There is no doubt that honorable Talabani's
visit to Turkey and the fact that the PUK wants to develop its relations
with Turkey have contributed to this situation.    Three PUK delegations
visited Turkey prior to the attacks.     Two delegations visited in February
and May and honorable Talabani visited Turkey in June or July. Efforts are
being made in order to enable a rapprochement between the PUK and Turkey.

[Avci]    Is it possible that the clashes were directly connected to these

[Diza'i]    I do not know, but most probably they were.

[Avci]    Turkey has recently bombed the Kendakor region.    How many people
died as a result of this operation?

[Diza'i]    It was revealed that in this case, Turkey's intelligence
information was in error there.    This was a major and a terrible
mistake.    They thought they were bombing PKK camps and instead, they
bombed the villagers who were going to their fields.    During this
operation, 38 people died.

[Avci]    What was the KDP's reaction to the operation?

[Diza'i]    The next day -- 16 August -- was the 54th anniversary of the
establishment of the KDP.    Honorable Barzani issued a very clear
statement.    He condemned the operation and demanded an immediate
investigation.    He also demanded compensation for the families of the dead
and the damage.    Turkey is making efforts to pay the compensation fee.

[Avci]    It is well known that the KDP has proposed the establishment of a
federation in Iraq.    Have you already determined the timetable for this?

[Diza'i]     The infrastructure is ready.    Iraq officially acknowledges
the Kurds.    With the 1971 Autonomy Agreement, Iraq accepted the Kurds'
demand for autonomy and included it in the Iraqi Constitution.     The
current central government does not acknowledge this.    If this government
or another government accepts this in the future, the Kurdish leaders will
immediately start a dialogue.

[Avci]    Do you expect any change in the position of the Iraqi Government
in the near future?

[Diza'i]    We put great emphasis on ending the internal clashes, on holding
new elections, and on establishing a democratic environment.    When people
live in democracy in our region, this should be reflected to the center and
the south of Iraq.    The Iraqi citizens are saying:    "The Kurds live in a
democracy in the north, in the Kurdish region.    Why should the people in
Baghdad and Mousul not live like that?"    Maybe this will assist them in

[Avci]    Barzani called upon the PUK to unite.    Was this a tactic related
to internal politics?

[Diza'i]    This was not a tactic at all.    As a matter of fact, it is
impossible for these two groups to unite.    Honorable Barzani's recent call
was issued for the implementation of the Washington Agreement.

[Avci]    Both sides declare that the Washington Agreement has reached a
deadlock. What do you think are the reasons for the deadlock?

[Diza'i]    The Washington Agreement notes that a new government will be
established following the 1992 elections.    As the KDP received the
majority of the votes, it could have established a new government or a
coalition government.    After 1998, the PUK put new items on the agenda.   
It said:    "This runs counter to the 1992 agreement.    The parliament and
the government should be established on a 50:50 basis."    Later in October
1999, honorable Talabani declared himself the leader of the region.    
There is no doubt that this did not reflect reality.   New talks were held
in Washington in June 2000.    During these talks, honorable Talabani noted
that he accepts the formula of "51 percent for the KDP and 49 percent for
the PUK."

When he returned to Kurdistan, however, he demanded that a PUK member be
appointed parliament speaker.    Later we put forward a new formula.    We
proposed that the first parliament meeting should be held in Erbil and that
the parliament speaker should be elected from the KDP -- and that the second
parliament meeting should be held in Al Sulaymaniyah and that a KDP [should
this be PUK? ­ PB] member should preside over that meeting.    We insisted,
however, that the third meeting should be held in Erbil and that a new
parliament speaker should be elected. We presented this formula to the
PUK.    A new meeting will be held in London in the future.    If the PUK
accepts this formula, the parliament problem will have been resolved. We
have to make preparations for holding elections later, however.

[Avci]    Do you think that the Washington Agreement is adequate in order to
establish a lasting peace?

[Diza'i]    Our problems are not new.    Our problems started when honorable
Talabani deserted the KDP in 1975 and established the PUK, which is a
further left party.    The truth is that there is a power struggle.    Some
of our problems cannot be resolved with a written agreement.

[Avci]    How do you perceive the Kurdish problem in Turkey?

[Diza'i]    Unfortunately, there has been too much bloodshed.    War and
violence can not resolve the problem.    We expect the problems to be
resolved through peace and dialogue. With God's will, this problem will be
resolved in the months and years ahead of us.

[Avci]    What do you have to say with regard to the position of the Turkish
Government regarding this issue?

[Diza'i]    It is important not to hurry.    There is a new situation in
Turkey.    Maybe this is not enough, but certain positive steps have been
taken recently.    There are certain criteria for Turkey's membership in the
EU.    Turkey has to comply with these criteria.    We hope that the problem
will be resolved within the framework of democracy.

[Avci] How are your relations with the Kurds and Kurdish institutions in

[Diza'i]    We have good relations with some and moderate relations with
others.    In general, however, we have good relations.

* PUK Concentrates Forces Near PKK Positions, Situation Tense
by Saman Nuh (Dohuk) Al-Zaman, 21 Oct 00

The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan [PUK] continues to concentrate its forces
opposite positions held by the Workers Party of Kurdistan [PKK] amid a tense
atmosphere pointing to the possibility of a new outbreak of fighting at any

The inhabitants of Raniyah, Qal'at Duzah, Qindil, and Qardagh north and east
of al Sulaymaniyah say that the PUK has pushed its forces and heavy weapons
to their areas, a sign that a new round of fighting is in the offing.   
Meanwhile, the PKK continues to fortify its positions in nearby mountains.  
The inhabitants say that any new round of fighting will result in great
losses to them and cause an exodus from the region.

A source close to the PKK said that tension is high all along the contact
lines and that the battles could resume at any time as the PUK continues to
mobilize hundreds of its fighters. The PKK is partially withdrawing its
force from several positions in Mamand and Shakhawi which it controlled
during the battles that took place last month.

The source said that over 160 PUK fighters were killed and 250 wounded in
last month's fighting.   The PUK also suffered heavy material losses.   The
PKK is keeping a number of prisoners and is releasing them gradually.   The
PKK intends to release all the prisoners in the event the cease-fire holds
out and the PUK adopts a more positive attitude toward the PKK.

The PKK stresses that its efforts to prevent a return to fighting are being
met by a negative attitude on the part of the PUK, which rejects political
dialogue to solve problems.   The PUK is under the influence of some
regional parties, which push it to continue to fight the PKK despite the PUK

The PKK notes that its desire for peace has prompted it to pull out its
forces from several areas it seized last month and to release several PUK
prisoners.   The PKK will release another batch of prisoners.   But the PUK
is preparing for a new attack and does not pay attention to the PKK's
peaceful gestures.

The PKK's presidium says that it is not opposed to any Kurdish party and
that it does not ask the PUK to implement things beyond its capability.   It
adds that the Kurdish parties and intellectuals must act for peace and
prevent a renewal of fighting, which might break out at any time.

* Kurds battle daily for ethnic survival
By Tod Robberson, Dallas Morning News, October 20, 2000

Ismet Aksuıs tiny basement apartment seemed anything but a hotbed of
terrorist activity the day the police entered his living room in April and
took him away for questioning. At the time, Aksu, a Kurdish fruit vendor,
was sitting on the floor beside his wife and six children, describing the
difficulties of survival in the big city.

The family arrived in Istanbul three years ago, he was explaining, after
government troops set fire to their village in southeastern Turkey and
forced all its inhabitants to flee. ³We were involved in the Kurdish
political struggle,² Aksu said. ³For that, the soldiers burned our houses.²

Like the residents of an estimated 3,400 other Kurdish villages and hamlets
forcibly evacuated since 1984, the Aksus found themselves homeless, stripped
of their property and abandoned by the state ‹ all in the name of fighting
terrorism. Such an experience is hardly exceptional in the Kurdsı long
battle for ethnic recognition. Still, it is a story that Turkeyıs government
apparently will go to great lengths to keep hidden from the outside world,
even if it means sending police into Kurdish living rooms. Police justified
Aksuıs detention because he was speaking to foreigners in his apartment, an 
activity they labelled ³suspicious².

Tanzer Ozkut, spokeswoman for the prime ministerıs office in Ankara, said
the government would not comment or permit any interviews with officials
regarding the Kurdish conflict. She said the government regards the entire
subject as ³insulting and provocative².

Dwarfs Kosovo

For the millions of Kurds who inhabit this region, it is often hard to 
understand how the nationalist aspirations of Palestinians, Kosovars or
Chechens can dominate so much of the worldıs news coverage, while the
Kurdish conflict receives so little attention.

³This is a situation that actually dwarfs whatıs going on in Kosovo,² said 
Mike Amitay, director of the Washington Kurdish Institute. About 25 million
people, mostly Muslims, identify themselves as ethnic Kurds, with sizable
populations straddling the borders of Turkey,  Iran, Iraq, Syria, Russia,
Armenia and Azerbaijan.

The Kurds speak a distinct language that bears little resemblance to 
Turkish, the Farsi spoken by Iranians or the Arabic spoken by Iraqis and
Syrians. ³No one disputes that they are the worldıs largest ethnic group
without a state of their own,² writes Jonathan C. Randal, author of a 1999
book about the region known informally as Kurdistan.

The low-intensity war the Kurds have been waging in the Middle East tends 
to garner major headlines only when their conflict intersects with some
other form of regional upheaval, such as the 1991 Persian Gulf War. After
multinational forces ousted Iraqıs army from Kuwait, the U.S. government
spent millions of dollars in a campaign to persuade Kurds to revolt in
northern Iraq, with an eye toward ousting President Saddam Hussein from
power. Hussein retaliated by sending tens of thousand of troops, tanks and
artillery to northern Iraq.

For months after the end of the Gulf War, the world watched as up to 2
million Kurds fled into southeastern Turkey and northern Iran. The refugee
crisis recalled another mass exodus in 1988, after Husseinıs forces attacked
the northern Iraqi city of Halabja with poison gas, killing what are
estimated to be thousands of Kurds. Both spectacles were ironic considering
that many of the same Kurdish refugees had fled into Iraq to escape attack
by the Turkish military. Other campaigns have been waged against Kurds in
Iran and Syria.


The father of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, was adamant that 
unquestioning loyalty to the state, without regard for ethnic or cultural
distinction, was the only way the new Turkish nation could survive.

Academics say the Turkish government has spent up to $179 billion to fight 
the nationıs largest rebel group, the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, which
the government blames for the deaths of thousands of soldiers and civilians.
Eleven southeastern provinces, inhabited overwhelmingly by Kurds, have been
under various states of emergency martial law since 1987. Officially,
though, Turkey does not regard itself as having been in a state of war
during the 16-year effort to shut down the PKK.

Abdullah Ocalan, the PKK leader and military commander, was captured in
Nairobi, Kenya, in February 1999 and has since been convicted of treason and
terrorism. He faces death by hanging. Since his arrest, Ocalan has renounced
the Kurdish armed struggle and called on the PKK to give up its weapons.

The 30,000 to 40,000 people, mostly Kurds, who have died in Turkeyıs Kurdish
conflict are described by the government as victims of ³PKK terrorism². The
estimated 500,000 to 2 million Kurds who have been forced from their
southeastern villages over the last decade are not war refugees, a
government official in Ankara said, but ³economic migrants².

³The government has always seen the issue as socioeconomic, rather than
ethnic,ıı said Metin Heper, a Turkish political scientist at Bilkent
University in Ankara. To suggest otherwise in public is a potential criminal
offence punishable by imprisonment, as numerous politicians, journalists,
human rights activists and Kurdish refugees have discovered.

³You pay a high price for your work,² said Zeynel Abidin Kizilyaprak, a
Kurdish journalist who has spent six years in prison for articles he
published about the Kurds. ³There are three things you never do: First, you
can never say or write the word ŒKurdistan.ı If you write, for example,
ŒNorth Kurdistan,ı you go straight to jail,² he said. ³Second, you never
criticize Ataturk or the system he put in place. Third, you can criticize
the government, but you cannot ever  criticize the Turkish state.²

References to Kurdistan, Kizilyaprak said, suggest support for a Kurdish
nation. Radio and television broadcasts in Kurdish also are banned. The
Kurdish language is prohibited in government buildings, schools or official
statements. The use of any red, green and yellow colour combination also is
forbidden in public, because those are the colours of the Kurdish flag.

At least 24 government agents or policemen, most in plainclothes, were
assigned to follow the two Dallas journalists during their three-week trip
across Turkey. In the southeastern city of Mardin, seven plainclothes
policemen accompanied the journalists to an interview with a monk in a
monastery. The policemen insisted their presence was for the journalistsı
protection. Police demanded to know all interview questions in advance.

Photographs showing the heavy presence of military installations, police
stations, arms, tanks and armored vehicles were forbidden. Also prohibited
were photos or visits to rural homes burned by Turkish soldiers or Village

Since 1984, the PKK has planted bombs that maimed hundreds of civilians,
earning the rebels a place on the U.S. State Departmentıs list of
international terrorist groups. The army has evacuated villages to reduce
logistical support for the PKK. It has installed thousands of the
pro-Turkish Village Guards to bolster the government military presence.

³This level of violence has separated the Kurds from the Turks, maybe
permanently,² said Kani Xulam, director of the Washington-based
American-Kurdish Information  Network. ³I donıt mean to say the Kurds are
angels. Theyıve made their mistakes too.² Ocalanıs rebels have been known to
kill entire Kurdish families, including children, in retaliation for one
family memberıs decision to join the Village Guards. The PKK also has
attacked tourist sites and killed foreigners as part of its campaign to
destabilize the country.

In Diyarbakir, Kurds must obtain a police permit to hold a wedding
reception. To speak out publicly in support of Kurdish nationalism is to
risk imprisonment. ³Letıs say I give a speech next week. If I use the phrase
ŒKurdish societyı in this speech, I will be imprisoned for three years. I
can say ŒKurdsı but not ŒKurdish society.ı² said Kemal Pekoz, Istanbul
chairman of the political party Hadep. ³If I say ŒKurdistanı to refer to the
southeast, I can be imprisoned for 15 years.²

Another Hadep senator, Leyla Zana, is serving a 15-year sentence for
speeches she made in support of Kurdish rights, an action that courts deemed
as providing support for the PKK. ³You can plant bombs, set fires, shoot
machine guns and kill lots of people,² said Zanaıs lawyer, Yusuf Alatas.
³Or, you can simply write an article. Either way, you can be convicted of
being a terrorist.²

* Film Notes [A time for drunken Horses, by Kurdish film director, Bahman
by Michael O'Sullivan and Desson Howe Friday, October 27, 2000

BAHMAN GHOBADI may be the best Kurdish filmmaker in the world. He may also
be the only Kurdish filmmaker in the world, but who's counting?

"The first and only," says the Iranian-born director, managing to sound,
through an interpreter, more plaintive at that state of affairs than

When his debut feature, the moving, Dickensian "A Time for Drunken Horses"
played at this year's Cannes festival, it shagged the Camera d'Or, sharing
that honor with another film out of Iran, Hassan Yektapanah's "Djomeh." When
it made its U.S. premiere at the Telluride Film Festival this past Labor Day
weekend, "Horses" couldn't pick up any awards (none are given out at the
exclusive Colorado festival), but it quickly became a sentimental favorite
of audience members touched by the heart-wrenching, quasi-documentary slice
of life set in an impoverished Kurdish village on the border between Iran
and Iraq. Like many other films made in Iran, it also stars a cast of
impressive young non-actors. ("To my amazement," says Ghobadi, "the
nonprofessionals are easier to work with than the professionals," who, he
explains, are often more concerned with their close-ups than their

His own experience in Telluride was a stirring one. He gets choked up just
talking about how the view of the San Juan mountains from his plane reminded
him of the rugged terrain of Kurdistan, a geopolitical designation for the
land that some 25 million ethnic Kurds living in parts of Turkey, Iran,
Iraq, Syria and the former Soviet Union call home. And Ghobadi calls the
Telluride audiences "the most positive" of his festival appearances.

Still, his American reception was no match for the welcome this past spring
that the 30 year-old film-school dropout and son of a cop got from his
countrymen. Upon his return from Cannes, Ghobadi--whose stated mission is to
use film to bring the plight of his stateless (and often persecuted) people
to the attention of the world--recalls that, "people drove 30 or 40 miles to
meet me," as is the custom for greeting travelers returning to their
villages. "All around me," he says, "there were 300 to 400 cars, people
holding me, hugging me, they wouldn't let me go."

"Before that," he continues with obvious emotion, "all that the world knew
of my people was guns and wars. This is a different way of showing
Kurdistan, with art and literature." There once was a time in his hometown
of Baneh when people would say, like parents everywhere, that they wanted
their kids to grow up to be scientists or doctors. "Now," says Ghobadi, with
astonishment as much as pride, "they all say they want their children to be
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