Testimony

NOTE: We recently found out that Meran's village, Bigdowdi, wasn't near Nazdur at all, but directly north of Amadiya or Amedi on some maps. Amadiyah is an ancient city, on a plateau, supposedly going way back like Mosul (Nineveh)...

The map above shows a portion of the northern-most section of Iraq where the Kurds live. In particular, it shows the area that my son-in-law Meran and his family came from. They lived in a small village named Bigdowdi. Several of Meran's uncles were Peshmergas, or guerilla resistance soldiers against Saddam's regime.

In March 1988 Saddam began campaigns against Iraqi citizens, beginning with  Halabja; later in August, Meran's village was also targeted.  

Meran's mother and father were with his family when they first left for the mountains for safety. However, they realized that in the rush to escape, they had left important papers. Despite the risk, they felt they needed to go back and retrieve them. Their oldest son, Shabban went with them to assist. They never made it back.

Later, after the family felt it would be safe, they went back to try and find them. They eventually did, but it was sad news. The gas had overcome them on their way back. They had safely retrieved the documents, and were on their way back, but couldn't quite make it. They had to bury them there, and continue on their way.

During the next 4 years, they lived as refugees in Turkey. My daughter told me their camp was near Mardin, Turkey (see map above, on left...) They were fortunate enough to be sponsored by Lutheran Social Services to come to the United States in 1992. It was here in Fargo, ND that my daughter met Meran...

In January 2003, Meran was recruited by a DoD contractor as a translator/interpreter for the U.S. Army. He passed all the security checks, going to Washington, D.C. for initial orientation. Despite heavy discouragement by Eva as well as his sisters, Meran decided to take the job. He left for Fairfax, VA in March, then went on to Fort Benning, GA in April. He was deployed to the part of Kurdistan located in Northern Iraq in May, and was initially posted in Mosul.

He was there when Uday & Qusay were killed. In late August, he transferred to Zakho, even further north, then on to Dohuk. He was are not far from Bigdowdi, the village where he grew up. Bigdowdi no longer exists, being one of the villages destroyed and razed to the ground by Sadam. While in-country, Meran was featured on Kurdish satellite television, shown translating for an American general. We never knew exactly what he was doing beyond the basics. He told Eva he cannot do so due to security reasons.

His initial contract ran through April 2004. After a year and a half, with limited opportunity for communications home, he came home on May 10, 2004, for a well-deserved holiday with his family. Eva wished him to stay, but he took the option of renewing the contract since the money was very good. He was satisfied with the job and the conditions. There's also the fact that he felt strongly about doing something positive for his country and people.

In May 2005, Meran returned home for good. Since then, he has contemplated private-sector consulting jobs that would require him to return to Iraq, but has not made a final decision to do so. For now, he works in a family-owned business in the Nashville area.

Eva and their three sons went over to Iraq for an extended visit on October 2, 2003. Eva took a camera and camcorder equipment with her to interview relatives and other survivors of the gassings, as well as collect general oral history. During her time there, her goal was to document and preserve, with a documentary coming out of the raw data. She's eager to put her broadcast journalism degree to use for not only private family history reasons, but to share with the world at large the story of her husband's people.

In late August 2006, she was offered the chance to take a position as a "...Public Awareness Coordinator to counter the anti-immigrant movement in Tennessee, and to increase public awareness of the positive contributions that immigrants and refugees make to the state. The person filling this position should have strong organizing skills and experience; a capacity to work with a variety of civic, community, religious, business, farm, labor, immigrant rights, and racial-ethnic organizations; good media relations skills; and a fundamental commitment to building coalitions. The position will encompass a broad range of research, education, training, and organizing responsibilities and opportunities, in cooperation with the aforementioned constituencies." - Just up Eva's alley!