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Kurdish kolbars

We were privileged to encounter a Kurdish man in his 20’s. He stayed with us for a few months while an asylum seeker. He’d been put on a flight to the UK by his uncles for his own protection. During the asylum claim, there was a time when he became homeless, at which point we were asked by a friend to put him up in our home. 

It was a time of learning for all of us, him as much for our family of four. We learnt about the remote town at the Iraq-Iran border where the only work to hand was being a shepherd or a trader carrying goods over the mountain. It was the latter occupation of working as a ‘kolbar’ was that landed him in trouble with the authorities.


 Beauty mixes with horror
Armed police raid house to house
       neat rows with large enclosures
Eighty homes are turned upside down
Posturing and threatening, harassing and hassling
They question Hassan
They check cupboards and surfaces
       but no papers are found  
What shepherd or kolbar leaves papers around?
Maybe they’ll return and check again.
What if they go to the pen or the feeding trough?
Telephone numbers or names on a page
Anything written can be evidence of crimes never committed
A shopping list is evidence
A family’s supply list is evidence
They only have to find something written  
Hassan himself can barely read
They will be no better
His uncles decide after the raid
       that the time has come for him to flee
A friend close to his heart is no more
He’s fallen victim to target practice
For Kurdish kolbars are just that
        shooting practice for the government troops
        who needed to practice killing skills
It took more practice than dropping bombs from a plane
      to gas whole villages
This slaughter is sterile
       sudden and painless, at least for Barzan
But not for Hassan, for Aram and all the other shepherds
Happy memories are wiped out in an instant
        but the pain is there to stay for a lifetime