Sometimes you work a 14-hr day. You get in by 7.30 and get started and by noon you have to pivot and get something completely different ready for a client meeting the next morning. So you grab a conference room, a bottle of water, and plenty of paper and get to work building something from nothing.
Ego goes out the window and you defer to the account lead’s vision as you divide and conquer a 20-page presentation. You bond, joke, and get closer as a team. The fire alarm goes off cutting off precious time you could have been working together. You learn that the guy sitting next to you grew up 2-doors down from your adoptive Jewish mother in DC. You bond some more.
You eat a few meals together, yell at each other out of frustration a bit, and at the end of the day have a solid presentation that is 90% ready. Its 10:30 pm and you are exhausted. You order up an Uber and pull out your notebook to capture a few hundred words to the blog you’ve committed to writing each day. And then your Uber Driver hears that you are American and launches into an amazing celebration of America because of something Joe Biden said to the Iraqi PM about how they (both old men) were going to live to see a free Kurdistan.
He then goes into depth about the 30-yr war that has been raging in Syrian Kurdish lands and how the Kurds have established 3 free and democratic cantons (similar to the Swiss). He talks about how they have been fighting ISIS who controls the land between two cantons. He talks about his cousins who used to live in the Mountains and were given the slur “Mountain Turks” but who now reject that and proudly call themselves Kurds.
He talks about secret deals with Erdogan and Merkel to keep Kurs out of the EU press or else Turkey will release more refugees into the EU. He says “Kurdistan is coming, its a region that doesn’t care about your religion. Where voting is based not on ethnicity but on living there.” He is energized with the pride he feels in his nation and the captive audience he has writing down his every word. He says:
“I eat my pork, I drink my beer, I have my fun 😉 and I don’t HAVE to go to Church.”
He tells me that every family of Kurds in Eastern Turkey has had a loved-one murdered or raped just because of their ethnicity. That this 30 years of violence has WOKE the rising generation who go meet up with resistance fighters as they are fueled by the hatred caused by these murders. – Yes he used the phrase #StayWoke.
He then tells me about the women of Syrian Kurdistan. The YPJ forces. The female battle units who are trained snipers who just this week helped liberate Manbji in northern Syria from ISIS control. One female solider said “It was complicated for us to save civilians from the area, but we did it. Terrorists are now fleeing. We will go after them no matter where they are heading to.” … We will go after them no matter where they are heading to. These are empowered women who, everywhere they go are leaving a trail of women who will #StayWoke behind them.
Women who have seen and survived ISIS and been liberated by other women who, by example show them that they can be strong and don’t have to take it any more. Women who sign up by the hundreds because they “take strength from YPJ fighters when we see them in the battle field.” The women who just this week burned their burqua and men who shaved their beards
The energy and passion and fight for his homeland reminded me of the Israeli women I met when I was in Tel Aviv. My college mate’s cousin who embodied the term sabra or tsabar. The Cactus that will stand there passively, but when attacked naturally fights back hard and tough and aggressive.
Its fitting then that when I looked up the Syrian Kurdish region one of the first articles I saw was about diplomatic channels opening up with the only other secular, democratic nation in the region, Israel.
I guess that sometimes you work a 14-hr day, think its over and then discover an entirely new and amazing story about an inspiring culture from a man so excited to share it. I could have shut down and asked him to instead turn up the radio. Instead I listened, took notes, gained a different perspective on the world and realized I’d been hardly working today.