Photo Credits: OYW
“I was a toddler when I first came to Sweden. I left my home of Kurdistan Iraq when the Iraqi forces launched the "Anfal Campaign" against the Kurds. Our towns and villages were attacked by chemical weapons, and many women and children were sent to camps where they lived in appalling conditions. I lost both my uncle and grandmother as a result of this.
As the war continued my parents decided that Kurdistan Iraq was no longer an ideal place to raise a family in peace. My father, a Peshmerga -the Kurdish word for someone who faces death- worked and saved so we could move to Europe. He knew smugglers and people who would illegally get us across borders. With their help we eventually arrived in Sweden. My childhood in Sweden included everything a child could ask for after having witnessed the conflict of war.
Our frequent family trips to Kurdistan allowed us to remain familiar with our mother tongue, our traditions, our history, and never forget our roots.
However, each time I visited Kurdistan I experienced the significant division of genders. I found it very strange to see how dominant the men were and how big their role was in Kurdish society. I made the decision to return to Kurdistan a few years ago to work on the issue of women’s rights, despite the fact that the war with ISIS had just broken. I knew that I had to reach out to young girls here.
I realized quickly that human rights were lacking and I could impact and influence people my age. Despite all the obstacles, my determination was not weakened and today I proudly run my own foundation, I work at refugee camps, I lecture about women’s and refugee’s rights and I share stories of women who have been former sex slaves to ISIS; I finance integration projects in Sweden and much more. I have simply found my passion in life.
The kids in my class used to make fun of me for being Kurdish and previously a refugee. I often heard things such as “Go back to where you came from, wherever that is now as it is not on the map.” Or “You are stateless, Kurdistan does not exist so you do not exist.” Or even “There is no such thing as Kurdistan, you are an Iraqi whether you want to admit it or not.” I was eventually bullied to the point where I changed schools or classes. This caused me to question my identity and it paved the way for me to start denying my own background.
I love and have always loved my life in Sweden. I owe this country so much and all that I have today is due to the fact that they took me and my family in when we were fleeing a war.
Having lived in two different countries with very different cultural and traditional backgrounds, I have learnt to accept cultural diversity and how to communicate effectively with people from all over the world.
My country is the earth, and I am a citizen of the world. Kurdistan is home to me because it’s where I was born, but so is Sweden and so many other places on earth. I have been fortunate enough to travel a lot with my work and have been to amazing parts of the world. Each country has given me things in terms of knowledge and experiences, that have molded me to the person I am today. Home to me is a certain feeling. To me it means safety, it means knowing that wherever I am in the world, whatever money, food, or possessions I have to my name, I have a place to return to. Home, to me, means I’m never really lost.”
Taffan is a Social Entrepreneur and Lecturer, and a One Young World Ambassador. This story was provided by i am a migrant's partner, One Young World.