15 November 15 2012

by Pat Thompson

The chill of the night was kept at bay by the constant
shuffling and stamping of feet on the short grass and the rhythmic shaking of
our shoulders. 

We were dancing, Kurdish style, a long semicircle of
men and women holding hands, exchanging cheers, whoops and shouts.

Soon the single semicircle became two, then three, with
dancers twirling and hopping between them. Kurdish, Turkish, Arabic, Assyrian
and Persian dancers, Christian, Muslim and Yazidi, shuffled and twirled to the rhythms
of the drum and the oboe’s melodies.

Politically, the situation in and around Kurdistan is
difficult, complex: warfare in Syriahunger strikes and military action by Turkey, threats of war against Iran — not to mention the struggle for an independent
Kurdistan. The politics, fueled by money and power, racism, xenophobia and old
militaristic alliances, has little to offer common people, yet it controls
everything. Business is done, the fires of war are stoked, accusations fly, and
the people suffer.

But here, under the common bond of music and movement,
politics gave way to relationships built on mutual respect for each other’s
gifts, talents and passion, and the struggle to push their talents to the

The Ranya cultural festival brought music and dance
from throughout the region — two nights of bright lights and camera crews,
aimed at a stage providing young performers an opportunity to entertain more
than 5,000 people. They all reveled in the opportunity and did not disappoint.

But it was the after-show party, the after-hour
activities, that really showed the spirit, joy and passion of this diverse
group. Performers gathering to entertain themselves no longer performed; they
played and played and played into the wee hours, sharing songs of love and loss,
of life and death, dancing, clapping and stomping to the beat, or holding back
in solemn silence as a Mamosta (teacher)
shared an unaccompanied ballad that touched the heart of every soul in the

Politics is complicated. It creates unachieved aims, unmet
deadlines, unfulfilled promises and unreal budgets, all of which become the
other side’s excuse to do the same. These politics stand in the way of peace.

As dancers we
stood shoulder to shoulder, smiling, laughing, tapping our feet to the music.
We danced — Kurds, Turks, Persians, Arabs and me, the British man — and there
was peace.

Our peoples have struggled against each other for
centuries, oppressed and oppressors, fighting for money, power and control. Yet
here, as the music played, there was peace.

In the end, it doesn’t matter who has the power, who is
president or prime minister or which party has control. In the end all they
want is your vote, your okay, so they can stay in control, line their pockets,
satisfy their interests. Real change, change that moulds history, never comes
from the top but from the people — musicians, poets, artists, dancers,
singers, appreciators, people of joy, passion peace and love.


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