IRAQ/KURDISTAN — I was born in Sabunkaran Alley, one of the three ancient alleys built in 1784 by King Ibrahim, the Emperor of Baban in Sulaimaniya City. It was the home of the great poet Tawfeq Mahmoud Hamza, also known as Piramerd and, through the years, it has become the heart of the city center.
When my father grew up there, it was a place of different religions. Muslims, Jews, and Christians were neighbors and they stayed together during both happy and bitter times. Their children played and went to school together there.
When I took my first breaths of life, I became one of the residents of this great alley, where I lived for 23 years. It is full of the memories of my life – there is no place in Sabunkaran that hasn’t been touched by my feet; every corner in Sabunkaran tells me a story of my childhood. It was a very popular place, but I felt the reality of life there.
My first step towards education was in Sabunkaran at the Mahwe primary school. This name refers to one of the greatest poets that lived during the Baban Empire, who had an enormous influence on the authority through poems and prose. My first job as an apprentice in a mini-market was also in Sabunkaran. Later, I fell in love with a girl from Sabunkaran, who is now my dear wife. Together we have a three year-old son, Elyas. But I could never stay far away from Sabunkaran, it is a part of me.
And I will never forget that sorrowful spring day in 2010 when we left our apartment in Sabunkaran and moved to a new alley of the city. My family and I were crying so much, and the neighbors cried with us because all of them had also grown up in Sabunkaran Alley. There was a real feeling of respect, love, loyalty, and beauty between us, but what we could do? This is the nature of life. Sometimes it makes us leave our dearest friends and relatives. I have never felt any pain like the pain of leaving my birthplace.
From 2010 until this today, I have never missed an opportunity to visit Sabunkaran Alley. When I go shopping in the city center, before doing anything else, I go to Sabunkaran’s highest point and send a special “hello” to every corner – to my school, to the closed mini-market, to the public bath where my mother used to take me when I was a little child, to the grocery shops and to the ancient houses that are great symbols of the city’s culture.
If you mention the name Sulaimaniya, everyone will understand that you are talking about Sabunkaran, Malkandi and Kani Askan alleys. Sabunkaran, I miss you, I bow my head to you and hug you.