Bury me here
Bury me here, directed by Lana Askari, 2020, Kurdistan Region in Iraq, 3:11min.
I had taken my camera with me when I went to visit my grandfather’s grave with my grandmother, Halaw. As my grandfather was buried in his birth village in Iraqi Kurdistan, Halaw, who is from the same region, immediately started recounting her life as a child there: how she had worked on the land, how they cooked small fish in their wooden oven and how they had visited family members in other villages on foot. Not an idyllic life however: daily routines were often quelled by Iraqi army forces trying to eradicate Kurdish guerrilla fighters hiding out in the villages. My grandfather’s grave was on the side of a hill, a few hundred metres from a fenced area with four graves of young men who became martyrs fighting the Ba’athist regime. Higher up on the hill were hundreds of anonymous gravestones. Old graves that almost disappeared into the natural scenery. Between the older and newer graves were burned shrubs and trees. A fire had caught the land a few months before. Turkish bombs. And now a new layer was added: my communist grandfather who decades earlier had fled the region in fear of retaliation. As I filmed my grandmother’s and family’s reflections on the different graves, it seemed that in that moment and place, all of Kurdish history had become inscribed into the landscape.
I have often encountered moments where Kurdish history from the four countries, Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria –frequently presented as four parallel worlds – became intertwined. In one of my previous documentaries, Bridge to Kobani (2016/2019), Mihemed, a Kurdish refugee, was burying his mother. She had fled Syria after losing many of her family members to IS, and died of a heart attack. Mihemed was coming to terms with having to bury his mother in Iraqi Kurdistan instead of her home in Kobani, Syrian Kurdistan. They had fled from war, he said, ‘but in the end Kurdistan became a graveyard (Kurdistan bu ba qabristan).’
Lana Askari is an anthropologist and film-maker. Her research has explored experiences of migration, youth, the future and urban planning, and her ethnography in Iraqi Kurdistan has documented imaginations of the future in times of crisis. She is the director and producer of “Bridge to Kobane” (2016) and “Future Factory” (2018). Lana holds a PhD in Social Anthropology and Visual Media and she is an alumna of the Granada Centre for Visual Anthropology. She currently works for the Dutch Ministry of Foreign affairs where she researches the human rights and security situation in countries in the Middle East and is a Teaching Fellow at the University of Amsterdam.