VIDEO: "Sadness has become my food and my clothes"

Iraq, February 1, 2011

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Over the course of the week and a half I've been in northern Iraq so far, I've seen — and heard — a lot about Kurdish culture. It's extremely hospitable, thoughtful and fiercely passionate. I've listened to a lot of stories over the last several days and sometimes, in between the words of those I'm talking with, sensed something held back. Sadness, maybe. Longing.

But, last week during the writing and photography workshop, two Mercy Corps staffers were able to capture what often goes unsaid. We were in a small village near Kirkuk, and they were interviewing an older Kurdish farmer. He told them that he was a singer — fairly famous in the area actually, he said. And so they not only asked him to sing, but got the song on video.

Here it is (below). And here are the words to the traditional Kurdish poem he's singing:

Let me die on this land,
Let me cry for myself.
I feel like a stranger and alone.
I'm always living in sadness;
Sadness has become my food and my clothes.
I have nobody left.
Until I pass, this sadness will stay in my heart."

In the late 1980s, this village was demolished by Saddam Hussein's army — the traditional houses knocked down, the crops in the field left to perish. This farmer, his family and neighbors were displaced for nearly a generation.

So this land is indeed very special to him; he's lost it once. Today, we're helping him reclaim it by providing barley and wheat seed. The sight of tender green growth on his crop fields makes him happy — but sometimes, often, other feelings remain deep down.