Love across the Divide

February 16, 2017 at 10:13 am

Love across the Divide

26-year-old Hawkar Muhammed’s marriage with Shaima Ali was one of the biggest challenges in their lives. Regardless of the opinion of Hawkar’s relatives who first refused the marriage and told him constantly that “Shiite Arabs will not become close to us,” Hawkar managed to bring two families from two different backgrounds close to each other.

Hawkar is a Sunni and Shaima is a Shiite Arab, they decided to get married two years ago regardless of the ethnic and racial barriers, and now they live in Rahimawa neighbourhood in Kirkuk.

Romance breaks down ethnic barriers 

Hawkar said, “My family and my friends used to tell me that Arabs do not become my relative, but it turns out that they were wrong. The relationship between my family and the family of Shaima is very good and we are so happy about this.”

Their marriage was coincident. After Hawkar saw Shaima, he asked for her hand from her family and with the consent of the relatives of both, they got engaged. Hawkar said, “we have not had any problem so far, we have a simple life and we have a child.”

Through their marriage, Hawkar and Shaima proved the coexistence is possible between the different components of Iraq’s “disputed territories”.

24-year-old Shaima Ali have never lived with Kurds in the past, but she speaks Kurdish fluently now. She told KirkukNow that, “it is true that I’m a Shiite Arab and Hawkar is a Sunni Kurd. But having different ethnicities and creeds have no impact on our life, and we live a happy life.”

City of Coexistence

Despite differences in views and political divide at the level of administration between the political parties and politicians in the province of Kirkuk, but these differences did not affect the coexistence and friendly ties between the different ethnic and religious groups, not even the marriage between the people of the components. Kirkuk is home for Sunni Arabs, Kurds and Turkmen, Christians and Shia Turkmen and others.

Srud Muhammed, head of the Iraqi Hope Association for Human Rights told KirkukNow that, “coexistence in Kirkuk has a profound history, and the continuation of marriages between people of different components and creeds ensures the continuity of co-existence between the components of the city.”

March 2013. Lailan sub-district in Kirkuk province. The opening of a special exhibition of culture and coexistence between ethnic groups.Photo: Muhammed Al-Haj

Sharmin Ahmed, a 34-year-old Kurdish and Mamad Suleiman, Turkmen have been married for nine years, and they live in Arafah Neighbourhood of ​​Kirkuk.

Sharmin said, “Life is respect, love, and morality, there are all these qualities in Mamad, so I do not care about ethnicity.”

Sharmin said, “Kirkuk is the city of coexistence, my parents have a good relationship with Mamad’s family and they visit each other every week.”

Mamad has many friends from different ethnic and religions components. Sharmin said that, “we visit Mamad’s friends and they also visit us, and these visits between people of these ethnicities and religions make me feel happy and it has a special meaning to me.”

Over the past few weeks, a meeting of the Kirkuk provincial council was postponed due to differences between the representatives of Arabs, Kurds and Turkmen. The meeting was planned to compensate Kurdish families who have been displaced..

Mamad, 37-year-old, told KirkukNow that, “we often see and hear about the conflict between politicians and officials of Kirkuk, and we see that there are people who work for their personal benefits, and this is a source of concern to us, but it does not affect peaceful coexistence between the components of  the city.”

Mamad works for the Iraqi Northern Oil Company, and he told KirkukNow that, “Marriage between two individuals from different components has a special meaning, and it expresses the peaceful coexistence between people of Kirkuk.”

Together we overcome the threats

The Islamic State, ISIS, attacked Kirkuk on October 10th, 2016, which resulted in clashes lasting for a week. The clashes let to the death of a hundred people from civilians and security forces, however, different groups of Kirkuk society were united and they faced the threat together.

Srud Muhammed said “she believes that the incidents of last year were an example of the coexistence can be seen among the components of Kirkuk. “We all have seen people from all groups in Kirkuk took up arms against ISIS and defended the city.”

Srud said, “Kirkuk owns a rich habit and tradition of coexistence between the different components. We as civil society organizations work intensively to maintain that coexistence among all groups.”

Elaf Abdulrahman, 43-year-old, is a Turkmen, and she has been married to a Kurd for 14 years. She told KirkukNow that, “Life would be meaningful if there is respect among the different ethnic and religious components.”




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