Mosaic Community Essays

"Being a Kurd is the Hardest Job in the World"

I think most people will find the title of this article exaggerated and many will reject it. I was 7 years old when I first heard this phrase and I did not understand what my uncle meant. Over the years, it’s become real to me. Who were we? Why was it so difficult to live and have a Kurdish identity?

The history of the Kurds goes back thousands of years. Unfortunately, the history of the Kurds is full of pain. The Kurds are the largest stateless society in the world. 

 While children in western Turkey dreamed of bicycles or vacations for the summer months, we dreamed of seeing our father again. Our fathers had to go to the west of the country as seasonal workers for 6 months each year. This situation caused us to live in a state of constant longing. We also lived in fear. War and politics were common words used during my childhood. We grew up longing for an environment where we could play games on the streets, but we did not live that way. 

The Turkish government doesn’t recognize a nation called Kurdistan. In the last 100 years there have been many genocides of Kurdish people in Turkey. 

At the end of day we are just human beings. We are constantly reminded of our Kurdishness and although we have other identities, the only thing that seems to matter is our Kurdishness. We are constantly trying to prove ourselves, our humanity, the richness of our language and culture to other people. And this makes us tired as human beings. 

 Millions of Kurds are forced to leave their homeland and emigrate to western countries. In order for a person to feel at home, we must have our own language, culture and social habits from the area we lived before. Immigrants who emigrate from their homeland also carry their language, culture, music, food and politics to every country they settle in. Just like a turtle, we create a new living space for ourselves with our homes on our backs. 

My name is Selahattin Sep, I am a Kurdish artist. I was born in Northern Kurdistan, which is officially southeastern Turkey. I have been living in Rhode Island for the past 4 years with my wife and two children. I completed my masters degree in visual arts. During this period I met my wife and we decided to get married. Our first son was born in Turkey. Our American journey began after our other son Azad Tigris was born. 

Although being away from the land where I was born creates a serious loneliness, the respect for my work and me in this country makes me happy. During my first year in America I focused on my art production. I produced nearly 80 works of art in a year and took part in six solo and five group exhibitions.

In 2019, I started Tigris Handmade. We wanted to continue the shoe-making culture, which is a family tradition. We wanted to add a touch of color from our own culture. We started to produce our handmade leather shoes, which are made with a 700-year-old technique. After two difficult years, our shoes are finally gaining recognition. Local media outlets started writing about our business. 

This gave me hope.

An American Kurdish generation growing up in America that can turn obstacles into opportunities. In my opinion, this generation will change both America and Kurdistan in its own right.

To find out more information on Tigris Handmade, go to www.tigrishandmade.com

—Selahattin Sep
Kurd
Bristol, Rhode Island
Jon Lavieri
Sean O’Connor

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