Kurds Don't Steal by Larena Amin

Kurds Don’t Steal by Larena Amin with Ocan and Meera Shakti Osborne. 

Part of the department of Unruly histories by Meera Shakti Osborne.

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Audio transcription:

Meera: Kurds Don't Steal by Larena Amin, part of the Department of Unruly Histories, which is a project ideated by myself, Meera Shakti Osborne.

Larena: A department of Unruly history's collaboration with 11 levels entitled Kurds Don't Steal. Emotionally curated with conversation, music, and a bit of a rant. 

*Song Inglan Is A Bitch - Linton Kwesi Johnson*

Larena: Things that we want: free school meals,

Meera: Free education,

Larena: Free childcare,

Meera: A universal wage, 

Larena: Affordable rent and social rent, social housing, 

Meera: Secure housing, 

Larena: Secure housing. No police, no prisons. More gardens and allotments.

Meera: Yeah, more trees. 

Larena: Generally. Biodiversity that's relevant to where we are ‘cause why are all the trees giving us deadly hay fever. 

Meera: Mm-hmm. I've heard so many different theories about it. 

Larena: Me too. I heard that they're all male trees. 

Meera: I've heard that they're stressed. 

Larena: Oh oh. 

Meera: Late club licenses for all clubs.

Larena: Late cafe licenses for all cafes. 

Meera:Yeah, exactly. I'm often trying to get a hot chocolate in this city and it is difficult after 8:00 PM. 

Larena:It's so sad looking through the window of a cafe that's closed.


Meera: Better subjects being introduced to school curriculum in state schools..

Larena: Mm. I only got to do classical civilizations in sixth form because one of…My sixth form was made up of four schools and one of them was a Church of England school and that's the only reason I got to do it cuz they had the funding.

Larena: Free up the heating!

Meera:Free up the heating.

Larena: Free up the heating. So angry. I think a sentiment that we need to push more is to abolish all these incompetent Tories. ‘Cause sorry. How are you in charge of, you know, like a G12 country?

The name was inspired by the memory of a post shared with me by a few people in 2020. It was a photo of an unattended money seller stall in my hometown, Slemani. Wads of cash left to sit on a stand or table while its carer goes off to have lunch or run an errand in full peace inspires potential. I want us all - Kurd or other - to remember the collective joy in safety and respect and the strength that solidarity inspires despite endless regimes and vicious groups emerging from vacuums. They look the same. An exclusive group, homogenous in its background or ideology, imposing what simply does not feel right onto a suppressed and neglected larger population. Embezzling, corrupting, stealing. So when we're resisting across forms and across fronts, it's worth remembering KDS. 

Kurds Don't Steal was ideated mid 2022 with recording plan to take place later in the year. The time of recording coincidentally was situated only weeks after two prolific, ambitious state-sanctioned killings. Both were instances wherein sects of state policing acted without any sympathy for human rights, nor individual freedoms fueled by prejudice and blood thirst.

Larena: On the 5th of September, Chris Kaba, who had not been a suspect of a crime, was essentially stalked home by a police car without its lights or sirens on before he was shot dead by a firearms officer. On the 16th of September, Jina Amini, a Kurdish woman visiting family in Tehran had been beaten to death by the so-called morality police for allegedly wearing her hijab incorrectly. Chris Kaba had been a member of UK Drill group 6 7. The musicians experienced strict artistic censorship by the UK government around 2017. The theme surrounding such policies add further layers to the discrimination enacted by the UK on its black citizens. His execution ignited protests across the country. The grief was palpable. Time and time again, the UK government and its police force make black and brown mothers bury their own children. Kaba's mother still calls for answers, justice and closure. Her voice is potent. In Eastern Kurdistan less than a fortnight later we found out Jina's original Kurdish name because of a widely circulated video of her mother weeping for her at her grave. No martyr is unexpected nor random within movements. The grief experienced and the push to keep legacies and memories alive immortalizes loved ones. To the British and Iranian government's dismay the people will never forget nor forgive their crimes and the war against state terror will be won by mothers.

*Waves Crashing*

Larena: Whilst mothers are seen as so emotional and we understand that as being a feminine trait that's kind of frowned upon and not, that doesn't have a place in a professional or yeah, in a professional world, we've seen it create so much change time and time again, it's a historical catalyst. But mothers should never feel that much pain. I'm a firm believer that mothers should never bury their children. And it's the same people time and time again who are having to. So big ups all the mums. 

*Song Merziyeh Fareghi - Le Yarewe*

Larena: The following conversation you'll be listening to was recorded on the 25th of September. Time keeps passing and we keep thinking about our intentions moving forward within this project. Meera approached me as a potential collaborator with the department of Unruly Histories. We ideated Kurds Don't Steal several months ago now, and I think my intentions are still the same, reflection, conversation and thinking about moving forward. I'm not a fan of telling people how to receive media that they consume. I wouldn't go as far as to say I'm creating art here, but I think when listening to the piece at your own pace, maybe. taking everything with a pinch of salt because no one's ever 100% right.

Ocan: Hello everyone. It's Ocan here and I'm Kurdish as well. I'm an accountant from North London. I've been a Londoner for over 30 years now. I'm in good company right now and it's great to be a part of this exchange. 

Larena: Yeah. You are from Marash?

Ocan: I am.

Larena: All of my Kurdish friends are from Marash. I mean, I grew up with, with who? You know, where my parents are from, who they are. Obviously I had a lot of Bahshurian Rajalati Kurds from South and Eastern Kurdistan around me, but also like quite a few, like, you know, Iranian Iranians. But as I've gotten older and kind of developed my own Kurdish network, Kurdish friendship groups, so many of them are from Marash. Part of my thought process in kind of curating this piece was looking at obviously, you know, I try and keep up to date with ongoings back home, and it's unavoidable, like these stories of how Kurds are brutalized by police- policing, and militarized policing in in Iranian and Turkish occupied Kurdistan in particular.The stories are particularly brutal, but also kind of, you know, really held up by these structures that I felt in some ways mirrored the ways I've seen policing carry, be carried out in, in Britain, in London in particular. And, you know, on my, on my street alone in southeast London I think last summer I stopped. I had to stop a number of stop-and-searches being carried out literally on, on, on black children, like really young. I think the youngest might have been like 9 or 10 years old. And you know, very luckily, I'd prior to these instances been attending stop-and-search intervention courses, anti-immigration raid workshops, so I felt comfortable enough to do so, but also like really enraged by what I'd seen. You'll see police acting illegally so brashly, and they know they are, they are comfortable to do so because they're protected in doing so despite it being against the codes and regulations that they are supposedly trained under and supposed to uphold. And so within this ongoing system and increasing power, I've become…I dunno. 

The threads are really strong and really wide-spanning, and you can apply it to so many countries and so many marginalized groups that I think we need to decide collectively where it stops, who is our enemy? Realistically, as strong a word as it is, who is our enemy and what is our ideal setup? What are our solutions? Because we know very well that like the solution will never come from the oppressor. We can never ask. We don't ask people for what it is we need because if it was universally understood we needed these things, it would've been a given.

Song *Warzone ft Headie One - M Huncho.*

Larena: So obviously we're separated, partitioned into kind of well within four sovereign states that occupy Kurdish land and people within the Kurdish region of different faiths and backgrounds. People have been coming to Europe from Kurdistan for like decades now, and I think under different, under different roots kind of …

Ocan: Conditions, circumstances, yes…

Larena:…conditions physically, but also, you know, legally under, under different jurisdiction. We know individuals who kind of came around the sixties and seventies to study in the UK or you know, across Europe, Germany, to work or, you know, but also even until now, through in quotations, illegal passages that are determined by hostile environment and Tory policy. And so dreadfully, we're having Kurds from, from my region from Bashur washing up on shores because of you. the number of things that can go wrong when crossing the channel in a, in a, in a dinghy.

Ocan: I'd just like to expand on the movement section. Like as Kurds, we have never felt the warmth of the states we've been occupied by or colonized by. And dispersed across Iran, Turkey, Syria, and Iraq. Their policies have been epicentered around assimilation or annihilation for the Kurds for over a century now, alongside genocidal implementations torture and mass incarcerations, forced migration or deportations are also part of their, you know, their policies to subjugate us: either stay or go. And, actually that's a, there's a saying in Turkey and it's imprinted on Yalova Mountains in huge… like the Hollywood sign: “Love or leave it.” 


Some Kurds, Syrians, and Iranians and a couple Afghans who were on a dinghy on their way to, well, they wanted to go to Italy but the engine failed and the captain fled, and so they were kind of trapped somewhere like near Greece on the sea. And the police just kind of the Greek police didn't really aid them and said, you know, we're, we're just trying to let the wind blow you back to Turkey. So they were on, they were in the sea for like days. Luckily, I don't think anyone died. So it was really, you know, they landed, they ended up landing in Turkey and now, you know, they have like no clothes, no passport.

Yeah. And for the, yeah, for the Syrians and Kurds, they're massively scapegoated. And it's not the beginning of the journey. You land and currently in Britain, of course, you're met with hostile environment. You're met with unfavorable representation in the media or just none at all. I think they're at a point of preferring to not highlight anything at all. I dunno if that's good or bad at the moment. You know, I'm looking at policing as well and the introduction of acts or you know, the reinforcement of acts with more powers now for the police across areas in London that many Kurds have settled, made community for themselves across decades, but also are now kind of introducing newer asylum seekers to, and it's worrying because I'm aware that not much has changed and I dare say things have gotten worse. When we kind of look at the brutalization and incarceration of Kurdish men, Kurdish men from across Kurdistan, across the regions, across the languages we speak and homogenous kind of centers of identity we exist in across London. Relationships with or against the police - the Metropolitan police - in London have been, have been really varied over time. I remember, of course, like some of my earliest memories are of protests, whether it be against like, you know Ahmadinejad, or the invasion of Iraq, or just for like Kurdish Liberation, Kurdish Women's Liberation. Of course, these things have to be organized with police presence and police knowledge so that you can have safety in numbers. And also, you know, Kurdish protests are often met by Turkish counter protests or Iranian counter protests. And so I find that living within the structure of, you know, I think we can definitely, you know, safely say a police state, having to navigate the relationship of communication, but also struggling against is proving and has always proved really difficult because now the nature of protesting is in a sphere of criminalization. But we still need to, we need to protest all the time. We need to protest so many things for countries, but also protesting injustices that take place towards ethnic minority people in Britain, in London, even if they're not Kurdish.

*City engine sounds* 

Larena reads a poem: 

back home | at home | call home | re-home 

one yard to the next flat

multi-lingual, multi-hyphenated, dual-citizen.

*City engine sounds* 

Ocan: We were at the Halkevi in Dalston a couple of months ago. I can't pinpoint the date now, but sat there we got the news of an immigration raid a couple of streets on the other side. We were the first on that scene. Brazilian, I think there were Brazilian guys with or without papers or something along those lines. They'd been cornered on their peds by the police, something brute, we wanted them to hand them over to us. We tried to prevent that immigration raid and within 15 or 20 minutes, I think we had half the police in Northland on Kingsland Road and many arrests, many people hurt on our end. And we are still in a bid to fundraise to pay for their legal costs. And it was scary. Coming down to the police. Okay. They're, they're there when your bike's got, your bike's getting nicked, you can call them or something, but they, they also turn up trailing an immigration raid van for two guys. Scores of police. Is this what we are paying you for through our taxes? As an accountant, I'm saying this as an accountant: no. Or as students, when student fees go up from three to nine thousand pounds, it will impact your kids as policemen as well. How can you come and batter students there? Kettle them? Hurt them?! I was amongst those arrested then. I was arrested earlier last year during the Sarah Everard protest: you have used your police powers to rape a woman. And I'm adamant if there is no dissent, that they will do it again. The amount of sexual misconduct in the police forces around the UK is a crazy level. Now, let's say if you're a Kurdish woman, come in. Kurds can resonate with that because they're Turkish soldiers in Kurdish regions supposed to be securing the region from what we don't know. But again, sexual misconduct. And there, there's a, a blanket is thrown over it. Most of them are released or not even tried. And when we see the same thing happening here we can again resonate with the other fellow Londoners or other women. Again, the police, depending on their relations with our occupying nations or state, with our colonizers, the police force is quick to change its stance during demonstrations. It was okay. When we were fighting ISIS, it was okay. When we were clearing the world of this dreadful, horrendous group. The police were very welcoming. We hardly had to register to protest, but prior to a state visit by Erdogan and prior to a state visit by then Prime Minister Boris Johnson to Turkey we're getting battered again. The rationale for our demonstrations are pretty much the same. Our mission is still the same. We're fighting for the same thing, but this takes away the thing, but whereby the police are not…their actions are not determined by politics. No. This shows that their actions are determined by politics.

Larena: And especially, Within the context of understanding Erdogan's, funneling of money and resources to ISIS. Of course, you know, we always chant: Turkish state is fascist state, Turkish state is ISIS. So of course, as you say, the agenda, if you will, of the protests remains the same because you know, the opposition is the same. It's an ongoing history that I think Britain feigns ignorance towards. I think, you know, well those in power or those within academic and political spheres claim they know so little about the region, but really, Britain has been involved in, in Kurdistan, in our...

Ocan: For over a century now…

Larena: For, you know, whether it was for the partition post-war mandates

Ocan: From Sykes-Picot, the Sykes-Picot agreement until today the British have been heavily involved


Larena: When looking at parties in power and asking ourselves what has changed. The people no longer around us says a lot. Who has died? Who is in prison? And who has disappeared?

*News Report: “Data obtained by the BBC through a freedom of information request shows that from those young people placed in hotels, 116 children are missing. That's more than 25 times the number missing in July last year, which was four.”*

*News Report: Now, England's care regulator, the Care Quality Commission in a report to be published tomorrow. Is expected to raise serious concerns about the use of do not resuscitate orders during the pandemic. Families and charities say that the orders which can deny people potentially life-saving care have been wrongly placed on elderly and disabled people over the past year at unprecedented rates*


Larena: Off camera, Meera said something beautiful regarding maintaining hope in order not to lose one's self within, within struggle, within political progress. And you know, the everyday system we sometimes partake in, sometimes have to push through. So I think it would be nice to take a moment and throw in ideas of what our ideal communities look like, some of the everyday freedoms we want to, to uphold and experience that we feel aren't sanctified enough in our current societal setup. 

Ocan: We are en route to a bad place if we don't come together. We are not seeking charity between people. Just full on solidarity, even if it comes to charity. Support for the marginalized, support for the disabled, support for people who can't speak the language. An upgrade to education in poorer areas, access to art. We need some normalization constantly fighting different battles, both in our homelands and in host countries. Art, music - a respite from all of this - is essential to our wellbeing.

Larena: I think knowing our strengths as individuals and knowing how heightened this can be in numbers is one of the most powerful things we can see in human nature. When you see marches of tens of thousands, when you see the Kurds and the Persians and the like, Azeri's and everyone, and Balochi's and Lori's in Iran, pushing back the security forces to, to liberate themselves from, from a tyrannical regime. We can all do that. And I think that's…that's where our hope can lie.

*Song Merziyeh Fareghi - Le Yarewe* blend to *Warzone ft Headie One - M Huncho*

Meera: My name is Meera Shakti Osborne. I'm the editor and curator of this work. I am responsible for the shape this piece has taken. Part of the process of creating this work has been exploring ways to tell stories, make an archive that feels generative and inclusive. Everything you have heard is what the participant and myself have chosen to share with you.

We welcome feedback and encourage you to visit www.duh. world. To see the rest of the archive and to get in touch with us. This work has been funded by Arts Council England Project Grant. Thanks for listening.

Music  included:

Inglan Is A Bitch - Linton Kwesi Johnson

Warzone ft Headie One - M Huncho

Merziyeh Fareghi - Le Yarewe

Shash Papula - Marzia Fariqi

Koma Berxwedan - Bilind Apo

Audio mixing and mastering by Alex Sushon

Transcription by Sarah Maher