My Work with The Kurds
By Charles Lingerfelt, a Friend to The Kurds
The 18th of September arrived like any other Fall day and it was warm and a very nice day in the Autumn of the year 2017. The hottest part of the year was now behind us and August was history. The day which I had been planning for had now arrived. It was time to once again make my departure for Kurdistan. This was the eighteenth trip for me since the trip in 2006 and, as usual, I was very excited about going once again to The Land of The Kurds.
The “first leg” of my trip was the long 14-hour flight to Doha, Qatar, which began on the afternoon of the 18th. After a 10-hour “layover” there in Doha, I then made the 3-hour flight to Erbil, the de facto capital city of Kurdistan.
My first trip to Kurdistan was in 2006, when Don English and I went to establish a school teaching American English to the youth in the Northern city of Dohuk. It is a city mostly inhabited by Kurds, who by their own admission, are an indigenous people directly descended from the loins of the Medes. Living within the confines of the city as well, are a sizeable group of Assyrians and Yazidi.
The Kurds are an ethnic group of people in the Middle East mostly inhabiting a contiguous area of land, which spans from parts of Southeastern Turkey (Northern Kurdistan), to Western Iran (Eastern Kurdistan), to Southern Iraq (Southern Kurdistan) and Northern Syria (Western Kurdistan, or Rojava). The Kurds are an ethnically diverse group of people.
Generally speaking, The Kurds live in the mountainous regions of Southwest Asia, known to them and to many others as, “Kurdistan.” Although it does not exist as a nation among the nations, it is always referred to as Kurdistan by the Kurds.
I first met Kurds in 1987, right here in Dallas, Texas. Prior to that time, I didn’t know who the Kurds were. Beside their swimming pool one sunny afternoon, we began conversations and I listened to them and “their story.” I was moved with compassion for them and how the dictator Saddam Hussein had many times “tried to wipe them from the face of the earth.” I believe he was intimidated by The Kurds and “feared” that they MIGHT rise up in power to remove him from his dictatorial powers and his Iraqi kingdom. He murdered them in large numbers, gassed them and even buried thousands of the alive by digging large holes into the ground and having his ruthless tyrannical soldiers push them over into the holes – clothing and all.
Through the years, I studied about them and gained more knowledge of them, and read as much about them as I could. In 2006, I was given the opportunity to travel to Kurdistan and help establish the Kurdish American School in Dohuk. We started the school with 81 students – mostly teens and young adult Kurds. We had two classes: one with 40 students and another one with 41 students. Mister Don and I taught American English in the classes each afternoon for two hours and then we would “flip” the classes so that all the students could hear both teachers and have “the effect” of both men from the USA.
The Kurdish people ALL love the USA and all Americans. We have a very good long-standing relationship with them because we (America) went there and delivered them from the stronghold of the ruthless Dictator Saddam Hussein.
In all my trips to Kurdistan, I have concentrated on meeting as many of them as possible, and building good, strong relationships with them – along with teaching them the Basics of American English, some principles of Democracy as they relate to a Constitutional republic and simply, how to relate to a new democracy.
I believe God opened this door to me and I just “walked through it.” I have been very fortunate as a retired Teacher and Principal to “develop and maintain” these relationships with the Kurds, their families, their leaders, the University of Dohuk, their Department of Education, and the KRG (Kurdish Regional Government). I too, have met many Peshmerga soldiers, slept out on the mountains with them, have eaten with them their meals which they prepared for me, and “identified with them” as a human brother seeking to stand with them in commitment toward their quest for freedom and independence.
God has given me a genuine love for The Kurds and their families; and it is No wonder to me at all, why I keep wanting to return as much as possible to be with all my friends and students. I now have further opportunities to do greater things there in Kurdistan.
In my next article to You, I will tell you more specifically what happened on this most recent trip in September and the first week of October. This time I wanted to “lay down somewhat of a history” for you as to what has transpired through the years.
I want to thank The Northeast Texan for this opportunity to share with you My Story of My Work with The Kurds.