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Rudaw

Culture & Art

An American Girl’s Search for Her Kurdish Father

By KANI XULAM 13/8/2013
It was from a woman living in the United States, trying to locate her former Kurdish lover and father of her only child, a daughter.
It was from a woman living in the United States, trying to locate her former Kurdish lover and father of her only child, a daughter.

 

This is the heart-tugging story of a nearly-lost email, a lost love and lost father—and a daughter’s conscientious search for her lost Kurdish father, whose picture she clutches to her heart while sleeping.

The introductory email came through Facebook, but for some reason I didn’t see it until eight months later.  I wish I had seen it earlier.

It was from a woman living in the United States, trying to locate her former Kurdish lover and father of her only child, a daughter.

She had diligently but fruitlessly searched websites such as ancestry.com, not realizing that Kurds were probably listed under Turks, Persians and Arabs. Her last-ditch appeal to me was simply grasping at another elusive, slender hope, another possible disappearing door behind which she hoped to connect with her lost man for the sake of her rapidly-growing-up ten-year-old daughter.

 She had diligently but fruitlessly searched websites such as ancestry.com, not realizing that Kurds were probably listed under Turks, Persians and Arabs. 

I asked for the name of her partner, and if she knew where in Kurdistan he was from.  I could have asked how they had met, where they had lived, and what they had done together, but I was afraid of being exposed to another heartrending story of a broken family with an innocent child.  I was already getting plenty of those stories and more from Kurdistan, and didn’t need another tragic story to do my work well.

Thankfully, my fears were unfounded.  “Grace,” my pseudonym for her daughter, was a love child.  Her parents, an American and a “Greek,” had met at a sea resort where they had gone for some rest and relaxation.  Meeting someone special was also on their minds. 

“Sophie,” my nickname for the mother, needed vodka and grapefruit juice to open heart and loosen her tongue.  The Greek, or “Johannes,” was gregarious by nature and born with an open heart and a smooth tongue and didn’t need anything to approach a woman that gave him palpitations in that heart.


I interviewed Sophie last week to try and help “Grace” find her missing father.  Because Grace is at a sensitive age, we decided to keep her real name private.  We also didn’t think it would do any good to surprise her Kurdish father by exposing his real name in a newspaper.  We hope that he will somehow bump into the story, directly or indirectly, and choose to be a part of his daughter’s life, because she misses him dearly and is anxious to meet him.

Her affection is best shown by sleeping with a photo of her father clutched to her heart.

This was one of the things that came out from my interview with Sophie, who was sensitive to the need for probing questions—if we were to lay out sufficient details to attract the father—but she declined to answer only twice.

I began at the beginning.  Was it her heart or her mind that told her he was a good catch?  Did she ever think it could go so far into the future?  What did her friends tell her about him?  Did anyone predict that he would go AWOL?  What does she think of him now?  Does she know why he called himself a Greek on their first meeting?  When was it that he told her he was a Kurd?  Did his reasons resonate with her?

  I can easily see her dancing on the tables one day.  Tall like her dad, the girl loves her fun and unlike her mom doesn’t need alcohol to get in the mood, so to speak 

Luckily, Sophie is a good conversationalist.  By the time we finished, we were good acquaintances.  I hope you will feel the same after reading her compelling story. I have promised myself to look her up if I ever find myself in her state. 

I want to meet Grace as well. My gift for her will be a poster of Sivan Perwer, the Kurdish poet, writer, musical teacher and performer who lives in exile after fleeing Turkey in 1976 because of his patriotic music on behalf of Kurds and Kurdistan.

But before you picture the poster of Kurdish pop icon on the wall of an American teenager, think first of the seashore beach where these lovebirds meet. 

“I was at one of our state beaches with my girlfriends,” says Sophie. We had played in the water, tanned on the sand, strolled on the boardwalk and were chilling out at a bar when I noticed this olive-skinned tall and handsome man sitting not very far from us.  He saw that I was eying him.  He liked the attention.  He walked towards me.”

As you can imagine, Sophie says with a chuckle: “The rest is history.”

A brief history of Grace: She loves music, dancing and is “definitely the life a party,” Sophie says.  “I can easily see her dancing on the tables one day.  Tall like her dad, the girl loves her fun and unlike her mom doesn’t need alcohol to get in the mood, so to speak.”

After a slight pause, I probe further.  What kind of food does she like?  Is she good in school?  Does she ask for her dad?  What do you tell her when she does?

“She loves spicy food.  My family is not big on spices, but Grace is.  We attribute that to her father side.  Like most children, she has a sweet tooth.  She loves mint chip ice cream.  She is definitely brighter than her mom.  I don’t remember liking school so much.  But Grace does.  She has gotten top grades for spelling.  She loves stories.  She loves children.  She knows how to handle kids.  She is very patient.  I can easily picture her as a teacher one day.”

But how does Grace relate to her father?

“When Grace was about five or six, she started asking about her dad.  I had a picture of us together from our days on the beach.  I gave it to her.  She would sleep with the photo clutched to her heart.  That is when I started looking for him.  When I decided to have Grace, I thought I could raise her alone as a single mom.  My parents helped a lot.  But when she started asking me about him, I began my education, which turned out to be a political one, of Kurds and Kurdistan, for the sake of my daughter.”

I like her use of the words, “political” and “education”—and her desire for knowledge.


I wish President Obama would follow Sophie’s lead—that he would honestly recognize a “political” blind spot and “educate” himself on the horrific plight of the downtrodden Kurds.  We should all, like Abraham Lincoln, want to shed light on our blind spots and, as Lincoln put it, “correct errors when shown to be errors” and “adopt new views so fast as they appear to be true views.”

Surely, longing for freedom is a “true view” in any man’s lexicon.

Surely, the age-old desire to escape the ruthless thrust of the despot’s boot on an innocent man’s neck is a lofty aim in any language.

Surely, hungering for the simple right to eagerly inhale the frosty, bracing air of independence and walk softly on the sacred soil of freedom is a noble goal in any geographic land.

I wish that Mr. Obama—who is often compared to Mr. Lincoln, and rightly so, many feel—would adopt more of Honest Abe’s political philosophy, especially this one:

“To sin by silence when they should protest makes cowards of men.” 

  Surely, hungering for the simple right to eagerly inhale the frosty, bracing air of independence and walk softly on the sacred soil of freedom is a noble goal in any geographic land. 

Forgive my unquenchable passion, but I cannot sin by silence when my compatriots are being brutally muzzled by the crippling fist of tyranny.

Goethe hit the nail on the head, with the unerring accuracy of Old Abe’s ax in splitting rails: “The most frightening thing on the face of the earth is to see ignorance in action.”

I digress from Sophie, but don’t apologize. I can’t help it, when multitudes perishing within reach of freedom, if only the free would only reach out their hand of liberty.

Back to Sophie: I was now all curiosity about Johannes.  Why did he call himself a Greek and introduce himself with an assumed name? 

“He came clean after 9/11,” Sophie said.  “He told me, he didn’t appreciate the extra scrutiny that he was getting at the airports or even in public places.  The natives of the Middle East were becoming a liability in the United States and he didn’t want to have anything to do with them.”

What was he like in his daily interactions with Sophie?

“The first thing you noticed about Johannes was his generosity.  The second was probably generosity as well.  I had money.  But he thought it was more proper for him to pay the bill.  I let it go, thinking it must be a cultural thing.

“He prompted confidence in me even though one of my girl friends thought I should keep him at arm’s length.  I never felt that way.  If anything, I felt like taking him under my wings.  He was like a lost soul. Maybe I was too.”

  She thinks Pascal was right: “The heart has its reasons that the mind knows not of, 

She thinks Pascal was right: “The heart has its reasons that the mind knows not of.” 

Sophie feels that powerful sentiment engraved in her heart and emblazoned in her mind:  “I guess I will be forever grateful to him for gifting me Grace.  I just hope, and pray too, that he will one day appear in her life, be as proud of her accomplishments as I am, and generously share with her a bit of his Kurdish culture that she craves.”

Sophie genuinely hopes, like her child, that her father will, after the wide-ranging international circulation of this article, hear the poignant plea of his daughter to meet her father.

Sophie hopes he will want to look into the enchanting eyes of his charismatic ten-year-old daughter and magnificently unveil for her, firsthand and face to face, her priceless and extraordinary Kurdish heritage that began when she was born on April 17, 2003.

Sophie hopes, as Grace does, that her father, as only he can, unlock the hidden door of Kurdish culture that Grace eagerly yearns to unlock from the dormant side of her slumbering, embryonic Kurdistan soul.

She hopes that Grace’s father will open-handedly grant their child’s firm wish—and allow his daughter to compassionately wrap her loving arms around her father, not just his picture.

Sophie wants Grace to be able to affectionately embrace her father’s vibrant, living self—his warm flesh-and-blood reality against her heart-pounding soul.

  These Kurdish eyes would surely moisten—as would thousands of others. 

She wants him to hold Grace close to his caring heart, courageously invigorating his Kurdish blood that already boldly courses in her tender veins.

Sophie wants, as Grace does—and they both hope her father does—want to kindly communicate to his daughter the matchless, extraordinary and incomparable Kurdish birthright that is justly hers.

Who could resist such a captivating scene?

There would not be a dry eye in the house.

These Kurdish eyes would surely moisten—as would thousands of others.

After Sophie shared her heartwarming story, she emailed me, graciously thanking me for the work I do for the cause of Kurds and Kurdistan, then added:

“I hope you’ll remain dedicated to your cause.”

Don’t worry. I will.

I hope she remains dedicated to her cause—and succeeds in finding her daughter’s father.

Stay tuned.

Comments

 
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manijeh | 13/8/2013
We must pray together, and be positive am sure soon you will get answer
Aj | 13/8/2013
That a sad story...and Grace's dad is a coward. It's these idiots in diaspora that girve Kurds and Kurdistan a bad name. It's obvious this moron was in it just for pleasure and didn't care about the mothers feelings.... Now a young girl will probably grow up without a father and a hole in her heart that will never be healed. Whoever this guy is, shame on you. You're a disgrace to all of us Kurds that live outside Kurdistan and you're a weak soul for doing such a henious act. I hope you live the rest of your days in misery and never find happiness. Asshole.
Partizan | 13/8/2013
What about creating a website where all people with foreign mothers and Kurdish fathers can meet and maybe help each other, and where they get united with their long-gone dads?
hilo | 13/8/2013
Dear Friend, I admire your inspiration to find the father of your child. I am a Kurdish-American and I know that there are thousands of Kurdish people in the United States, and all of the community knows one another and sticks together. I honestly advise you to start from the Kurdish community and the friends that he might have had. Another thing would be to release his name and any information you might know about him, because you never know that someone reading this story might know him or be related to him. There is no doubt that if you do this, that someone will come back with information for you. I pray that you all will be reunited one day! Good Luck and God Bless.
Pearl | 13/8/2013
PLEASE lets not judge whats in another's "soul".Not one of us has that right.Imagine you are "Grace" reading such harsh judgment towards her father,whom she may see as some sort of heroic mystery! for all anyone knows,he may remain that way in her heart for her lifetime.Allow her that,and think before you comment.Please.
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