Mohammed, Rania Youth Center Director
When one looks into
the eyes of Khalid Qadir Mohammed, one cannot help but see the passion and love
for his people.
Born in 1975 in the
city of Rania, Khalid is the oldest of eleven brothers and sisters. “My generation was born into a troubled
political time. Under the
Ba’athist party,” he told CPTers. “Many
Kurds were murdered, hurt, arrested and disappeared…Because I am the oldest, I
was responsible for my brothers and sisters especially since my father became
ill while I was still young. I
tried to educate them and I left school to make money for my family by selling
cigarettes. I loved to read even
though there were few books written in Kurdish but there were books written in
Arabic and many Arabic newspapers and I read as much as I could.”
In 1989, Khalid and
his friend Omer were abducted at gunpoint by Saddam Hussein’s soldiers and
taken to two different prisons; first in Kirkuk then in Baghdad. “I was taken through seven doors
into the basement of the prison and there I saw hell,” he told CPTers. Khalid spent one year in this hell.
Released from prison
with an order to join the Ba’athist military, Khalid hid in the mountains until
the day of the 1991 uprising. When
the uprising failed, Khalid made the long trek towards Iran where he saw many
people die along the way, mostly old people and children.
After the U.N.
established the northern “no-fly” zone, Khalid and his family, returned to
Rania. Determined to do more than
just make money, Khalid started the Rania Youth Center with the support of
Kurdistan Save the Children.
“We started out with one room and some broken down furniture that
the government donated to us,” he said.
“We started one English language course and then a course in
tailoring. Then we got one
computer and we had fifty students learning Word Program on that one
Khalid is now the director
of the Rania Youth Center, which serves about 200 youth a day. The Center offers fine arts classes,
computer programming, music, and sports. It has a library and puts out a weekly newspaper.
Khalid recognizes the
importance of remembering where his people came from in order to make a better
future. He is determined that the
Kurdish people will not be erased from history. He is also
trying to connect the hands of his people to the hands of the international
community. These are still
uncertain times for the Kurds. “There are still extremist groups that believe the
Kurdish people have no right to live,” he said. Khalid knows that the Kurds still have a fight on their hands
for their very existence. “However,
this fight will not be with guns or weapons,” he said. “This fight will be through discovering
ourselves and rebuilding and the youth should be leading the way.”
(A video interview with Khalid Qadir Mohammad is available at https://cpt-iraq.blogspot.com/2010/05/khalid-qadir-mohammed-rania.html )