KSC FOUNDER: HERO IBRAHIM AHMED
I don’t recall at which early point of my academic life I was in, but tonight a girl’s name from that specific period has entered my mind, a name that I have never forgotten, Zuhra. Zuhra was the smartest girl in our class, however one day she just vanished out of sight, it was soon after that I learned Zuhra was a student who came from poverty and was unable to finish her education due to her family’s poor income. The reality of Zuhra’s poverty and absence hurt me a lot, to the point that in class I daydreamed of finishing my education and opening up school’s by the river close to where Zuhra and many other like her lived. In my daydreams, I would see myself in those schools volunteering to help students who lived in poverty finish their education.
Life became mixed, my harder days became more vivid and my problems multiplied to the point where I began to lose myself until soon after the Al-Anfal campaign. During my hard times, I suffered in pain mainly because I found myself outside of Kurdistan and out of reach of its people. A pain that one could never forget, it was possible that maybe if I was in Kurdistan during the time of such heartache I wouldn’t have felt so helpless, but I was far and I felt depressingly helpless.
My sister was also in a state in regards to the news coming out of Kurdistan, in addition she was also suffering from a personal agony. In my own current state, my soul was grieving for her at the same time. Upon my visit to my sister’s side, I came across her sat crying beside a framed photograph of an African child around 8-9 years old. I asked her, what the matter was to which she explained to me how charities in the United Kingdom were helping children in Africa. I realised that she had sponsored a child in Africa through a British charity and the child in the photo frame she was holding had passed away. I didn’t waste any time, soon after this I began to chase the aspect of creating a charity for children.
It wasn’t long before my husband called me back to the Kurdish border (near Qasima Rash), without much to do I kept myself occupied with photography. On my journey to a camping site I came across an unordinary view; men were dressed well in smart thick jackets and their children were dressed in thin clothing. Such a sight left me heartbroken, I approached a man asking if they had received any aid in the shape of clothing for their children?
The man replied with yes, they had received coats for their children but they had sold them because they needed the money. In addition, he told me not to worry about the children being cold in winter as they run around most of the time. The concept of Kurdistan Save the Children was born during this heavy hearted moment in time.
I tried really hard to put my thoughts into actions and create a charity but during this attempt I hadn’t succeeded. I wanted it to be Kurdish because in my opinion, one of the greatest tragedies is to witness innocent children become spoils of war – which they were in the Kurdish region.
I am thankful to god for allowing me to continue being dedicated to my vision of setting up a charity and allowing me to do so. The children who were looked after and supported by KSC were far away from becoming spoils of war, just like KSC itself – they are distanced from politics. When our children grow into prosperous adults, it is then that they are able to fully grasp the concept of which path to take in life and which political ties to represent.
Our grief and heartache caught up with us and once again we fell victims to Intifada (Raparin). I lost sight of my project and found myself outside of Slemani city once more, Slemani fell into the hands of the then dictator Saddam Hussein. One of my dearest friends, Roonak Rash came to visit me during a time when we were staying in an old ruined house that once had belonged to Saddam’s armed men who had fled during the Intifada.
During a conversation with my friend Roonak who had travelled to see me from Syria, I began to express my desire to launch a Kurdish charity again to which she replied, ‘well why don’t you start again now?’ I told her I wasn’t sure of which path to take to start up the project again. However, with my dear friends words of encouragement and ease, I was reassured that with patience, a clear plan and a great logo KSC could take off again. My vision and programme for KSC had been severely delayed because of war but with patience, it soon began to find its feet again and slowly we got back on track.
I approached a peshmerga by the name of Ako from our ranks who was also an artist to help me create a logo, a logo inspired by aiding children. Ako ventured into to Slemani and soon returned with the the KSC logo which had been then designed and created, unfortunately to this day I still do not know the name of the individual who created the final design of our logo.
In a mobile hospital set up after the events of Raparin, a man by the name of Dr Kurmanj who I had met previously in a PUK office set up in Mawat was working as doctor helping those in desperate need of medical attention. It was during this time that many members of the public were approaching me in desperate need of my help, I turned to Dr Kurmanj for assistance who then introduced me to Mr Yaseen (Pepula Magazine), Mr Wurya, Mr Soran (Computer) and the two ladies both by the name of Roonak. I must apologise before I go on any further if I have missed out any members of KSC who started with me so long ago.
With only 20,000 Iraqi dinars, a photo copying machine and an old house in Qala Chwalan, we set up Kurdistan Save the Children. Myself and the team would often buy second hand clothes in the market and hand them out to children in need, besides from clothing if there was anything else families and children were in need of – we would also work towards aiding them; our volunteers who were with us then have mostly continued with us today.
As we begun to launch KSC in Slemani, my sister Shanaz who was based in London was working towards registering us in the UK to help us broaden our causes and to help with funding. When Slemani was liberated from the Baa’thi’s, the idea of Pepula Magazine blossomed in my mind with the help of many creative friends like Mr Omer Ali Amin. The first edition of Pepula (educational magazine for children) was ready for launch during Newroz of 1992, with my own hands I had delivered Pepula to UNICEF for them to print for us in Beirut, Lebanon and return to us. Unfortunately, they did return the original copy to us but were not able to print copies for us due to border issues however soon after UNICEF themselves printed our first edition for us. In those days, there was only one publishing house in South Kurdistan which was located in Hawler, which is where we printed our second edition of Papula – as funding was extremely low we could not continue with Papula, so we froze the magazine for a duration.
Busy in Sweden, Roonaka Rash was actively looking for donators and sponsors and in Kurdistan we began working closely with EU, UNICEF and Save the Children (UK) to provide a humanitarian aid in Hawler, Koya, Halabja and Dohuk. We began to open up offices and grew our team and volunteers across the region. Day by day, our work load would multiply until 1996 when sectarian war broke out in the Kurdish region, we were once again forced to flee again and leave everything behind. When we returned to our headquarters in Slemani we realised that unfortunately many of our staff members had left Kurdistan with U.S troops and took off to serve in Guam, USA.
One late night, I returned the keys to the KSC offices and by the next morning myself, Mrs Aheng, Dr Kamal Xoshnaw, Mr Yaseen and Mr Warya re-opened the doors to the public in need. Soon after, Mr Dana, Mr Kamaran and other KSC staff members began to strengthen our approach to helping children in need. From the beginning, when KSC was just an idea, a hopeful dream, we had faced many struggles and obstacles to open our doors to those in need.
It was the love, dedication and willpower from KSC staff and volunteers that allowed us to keep persevering every time we were knocked back; at KSC, helping those in need is a passion of ours which is why we have been able to be there for the children of Kurdistan for 24 years.