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Sädîq's Journey From North Kurdistan to Finland

By: Fargo Bcn "I love my roots. To highlight my identity is something to be proud of as it has been denied for nearly a century, and consequently, many people do not know who we are. That's why I wear my Kurdish clothes, at least the pants (Shalwar), even when walking around the city in Helsinki."

Of the love of homeland and nation and the desire to serve the people through education, Gewran Goyi found himself in a difficult situation when he was terminated from his teaching position in Silopi City (Northern Kurdistan). Having known him for more than a year before he shared his story with OMA, he was already waiting for the result of his entrance examination to determine which university would accept him in Finland. To some who may not recognize his real name, but to his friends, acquaintances, and colleagues, he is popularly known by his nickname, Sädîq. In 2012, Sädîq remembered how happy he was when the Turkish government opened three bachelor's programs in three different universities in his region. It was an opportunity for him and many other aspiring teachers to push through their master's in education for one and a half years. Although the three institutions were established to serve Kurds, Turkey didn't want to recognize or use the term "Kurdish" and called it a "Living Languages Institution." The study allowed the students to become future teachers in the Kurdish language. It was a promising academic undertaking that Sädîq chose to take his master's degree in Mardin City and set aside his former plan to go to Estonia to pursue his higher education.

It didn't last long; the Turkish government gave up. They disapproved of the students as teachers. Since 2013, many have struggled to find a job for a living. Only in 2016 when Sädîq finally hired. Many desperate teachers were waiting for employment. He was so lucky that among the chosen ten teachers, he got one of the positions. Passionate about his love of teaching, he was to have motivated and inspired to do more. But not long after, he received a notice from the administrative office that his job was ending. With no explanation, he was also asked to pay back all the salaries he had earned for three months. Soon after, all the other teachers were terminated from their job.

"My first teaching work experience in North Kurdistan, in Silopi town. At 21, I was growing mustaches, trying to look old just to be treated seriously by my work colleagues."

It was supposed to be a hopeful time after years of the Kurdish movement demanding the right to use the Kurdish language in educational institutions. In 2013, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan introduced a package of reforms to attract Kurdish votes in favor of his political maneuver to revive stalled peace talks with the banned militant group, (PKK) which has fought for autonomy in the Kurdish region for decades. Turkey considers the organization to have influenced the Kurdish people, that have affected workers and even the teachers suspected of the activists' movement to protect the militant group.

With the arising problems in northern Kurdistan, he decided to find ways to pursue his master's education overseas. He chose Finland because he knew statistically that this country has one of the best education standards in Europe. "Coming here has given me a different perspective on life and studies because of the multicultural environment. It allowed me to discover something new more than I expected, academically and socially, " Sädîq explained.

It was not an easy process, but his perseverance in studying the Finnish language helped him find and land a job to support himself during his first two years in this country. That gave him the confidence to find his way to strive better as he quickly better understood his working and study environment and adapted to the Finnish culture.

Knowing to speak different languages such as Kurdish, Turkish, English, Finnish, Russian, and Swedish has given him the edge in finding a better job. It helped him better understand his working and study environment and relationships with international students from different backgrounds. Besides, he can also apply the knowledge gained from the language courses he has earned and his credits from being a teacher.

Preparing for his master's study, he found that his preferred courses are offered in Finland's leading universities. Not wanting to miss any opportunities, he took the qualifying entrance examinations in eight significant universities and passed six. Considering his interests and concentration, he enrolled in the MA degree program in Educational Sciences at the University of Turku (Turun yliopisto).

"My plan for the immediate future is to accelerate my studies. To finish my master's degree, then work full-time for a while, as I now work as a part-time teacher while studying. I need to earn some amount before I push through to my Ph.D. I couldn't afford my study without availing the Oppintolaina or the student loan granted by the Finnish government, for which I'm grateful. Student loans help fund student life, allowing me to focus on what matters the most – my studies."

Sädîq considers work and study as one of the most challenging experiences one can be proud of oneself. Working while studying can be a great way to make extra money and help pay the bills. While it does have its disadvantages, those are usually drastically outweighed by its benefits.

It may not necessarily be the right decision for everyone, and there's a real risk that spending too much time working and not enough time studying might not achieve the desired grades. But to know your priorities and to stay focused is essential. Sädîq went on to say that one of the benefits of working while studying is it enhances your resume. Working while studying shows a certain amount of dedication and a potential employer's desired grades. It's an edge if employers can see that you have the motivation to work and study simultaneously.

"I love my family, and my father has significantly impacted my life. He had always supported me, even when I made the wrong decisions. He encouraged his children, especially my sisters, to study and build independent personalities. Since I could not go to Turkey to visit my family, I had to find a means to see them. We arranged to meet in Georgia one summer. They traveled from Turkey to Georgia, where we spent a wonderful time together for three weeks before I returned to Finland."

His face brightened with a smile when asked about his plans to return to Kurdistan after fulfilling his Ph.D. degree. He happily replied, "I often think of the children in my class back home when I was teaching. Each of them has touched me and has played a part in bringing meaning and inspiration to my life's journey. My desire to return and serve my homeland, Kurdistan, may not be achieved soon, but with high hopes, I look forward to the future when situations are better. Right now, I want to stay focused on my study. I intend to combine teaching and linguistics as my specialization, and I would love to work as an Educational Counselor someday."

(Above photos from left to right) Photo 1: Sädîq speaks with the Rojava Kurdish laborers who work in the Turkish pepper fields. Before the war, they were respected teachers, engineers, administrators, etc. Sadly, the situation changed, and they've found themselves harvesting peppers under 50 C in another country. Photo 2: The picture was taken in a Rojava Kurdish camp that Sädiq and colleagues visited. Just as they were about to eat lunch, the family insisted on joining them. As the mother was busy preparing, the little girl wanted to ensure the guests were comfortable by offering her kind gesture. She picked up a water container and offered to help Sädiq wash his hands before the meal. He curiously asked the girl what she wanted to become when she grew up. She replied that she wanted to be a driver to help those walking long distances under the hot sun without water. It was an immediate response and an honest answer based on her harrowing experience as a young child walking from Syria to Turkey. Photo 3: Picture of refugee Kurdish children from Rojava who came to North Kurdistan (Southeastern Turkey) with some without families as the elderly and children were the only ones sent to the Turkish borders to be with their relatives during the ISIS attack. Photo 4: A visit to a Kurdish village in Sanliurfa, a city in North Kurdistan (Southeastern Turkey). These are Rojavan refugee children desperately waiting for a teacher and a school to be set up in their village. Photo 5: Another Rojavan kid whose family works in the crop fields for 12 hours with a salary of approximately 5 Euros per day. Despite the hard way, they're happy, and the boy creates a toy for himself.


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