Kurdish Proverb

Ema zido kuzi mrdo parsteen

“We ignore and neglect our people
till they die”

Many of us don’t understand or realize the importance of the people who live with us, until they leave us. If each of us would take some time to think about the beloved people we have lost, we would feel sorry and regretful for not taking more advantage of their presence. We could have learned more from them, had more fun with them, shared more time and ideas with them, and served them more before they died. But it’s too late now, and we can’t bring back either them or the time to do that. It is amazing that we don’t learn from our mistakes, and it’s not acceptable to most of us that we repeat the same [patterns] over and over. And so we lose the opportunity that we have to make a difference with those who are still with us now!

We do not know the importance of many people around us: we don’t know who they really are, and we do not put them in their right place [in our lives]. If we feel sorry for not having done enough for our parents, let us use the opportunity that we have to do for our children whatever we didn’t do for our parents. And if our parents are still with us, let us either take more benefit from them, or else use the opportunity we have with our children to do for them whatever we wish our parents had done for us.

We feel sad when we remember our beloved friends who left us, but that should not make us do anything differently with those friends who are still with us now!

As a nation, we Kurds never got the chance to balance our relationships and organize our time, because of the hardship and the situation we lived in. In fact, many of us worried only about saving our own lives, and it was not possible to think about people around us. That’s why we say we are Ema zido kuzi mrdo parsteen, which literally means, “We kill those who live with us, and then after their deaths we worship them”! I have no doubt that many Kurds were forced to behave like this because of their difficult lives and troubled situations, which did not allow them to lead normal lives. In a time of fear, hunger, conflict, and trouble, no one can think clearly and see things perfectly.

If a person doesn’t have anything to eat, how can he take care of his neighbor?

If a person doesn’t have a job, how can he find a job for his friend?

How can someone sponsor an orphan while his own children are hungry?

In a situation like this, it’s very hard for people to balance their lives. It’s true that a nation’s history and memory will keep the great people alive, but while they’re alive why do we not recognize them, understand what it means to have them, take as much as we can from their wisdom, appreciate them, serve them, and show them how important they are to us? This would make them happy and encourage them to do much more before they leave us.

       How many of us learned from a scholar? And how many of us now feel sorry for not getting more from, or doing more for, that scholar, whom we used to know but now is gone?

       How many of us wish that our parents had spent more time with us, and that we would now have more memories of [time with] them? But how many of us are now encouraging our own children to have the same [sad] wish?

       How many of us learned from those who lost their parents and who now regret that they did not serve them more or take better care of them? But how many of us now take advantage of the presence of our parents and do whatever we can for them, so that tomorrow we will not have the same regrets? We need to take advantage of our health, wealth, power, and life to do the best we can for them before we lose them. Our time is short, our life is limited, and it will soon be gone. If we do not use it wisely, we will be losers.

       One day Imam Ali visited a graveyard with some of his friends. Then he said, "O people who are in the graves, do you want to know what has happened after you left? Let me tell you: your wives are remarried now, your wealth has been inherited, and your homes have been occupied by others.” Then he said [directly] to the graves, “Do you want to tell us your news?” and he turned his face toward his friends and said, “Do you know what they would say if they could answer? They would say, ‘We should do more good, when we die we will take nothing with us, we will leave money, wealth, and property, but of all that we had, only our good deeds will remain with us.’" 

       I still remember when they assassinated Dr. Qasmlo.* One day I was talking to one of my friends about it, how sad it was and how it was going to affect the Kurdish cause. While we were talking, another friend came in and told us about the new tape by Razazi** and his beautiful song for Qasmlo. He had the tape with him, and we listened to the song "O Lalo,"*** which was really heartbreaking and beautiful. But my friend got mad and started to criticize Razazi.

       I told him that the song was very good and Qasmlo was worth more than that, that this was just part of Razazi's appreciation for what Qasmlo had done for our nation.

       My friend said yes, I was right, but he said it in a disapproving way…then he said, “But why did Razazi not appreciate Qasmlo before his death? For a decade Razazi had been talking against Qasmlo and cursing him for not being a real socialist, but now after his death Razazi cries for him and calls him uncle!”

       I smiled and said, “This only proves that Razazi is a real Kurd and is showing his patriotism.”

       My friend looked at me in a strange way and asked, “How?”

       “Because,” I said, “we are Kurd zido kuzi mrdo parsteen (“We Kurds ignore our people till they die"), and Razazi is still a Kurd, so he can’t be an exception!” Then my friend laughed and agreed with me.

       In Kurdistan we use this proverb when someone praises or cries about or does anything in the memory of the dead one, especially when we know he was not appreciated while he was alive. If a person doesn’t listen to his dad, doesn’t obey his mom, doesn’t respect his brother, argues with his teacher, doesn’t go to any poetry seminars, doesn’t attend any philosophers’ lectures, and doesn’t ask or learn anything from a scholar––what’s the benefit, when he loses them, to cry for them after they’re dead? Whoever does this, we say this proverb to him! 

*Abdurahman Qasmlo was a Kurdish writer who wrote many beautiful books about Kurdish history. He was one of the most modern and honest of the Kurdish politicians and leaders. When he was assassinated in Prague, the Czech capital, he was head of the Iranian Kurdistan Democratic Party.

**Nasiri Razazi is a famous Kurdish singer with a very nice voice. Most of his songs are patriotic, and like many other Kurds he left his country (Iranian Kurdistan) because of his political ideas, and is now living in Sweden.

***Razazi’s song about Qasmlo is called "O Lalo," which means, “O Uncle.” This is what I can remember of it:

When they killed you
perish their hand
O uncle, O uncle
you are not dead, still alive

They know you are the Kurdish eyes
they know you are Qandeel, Piramagroon and Halgoor [names of Kurdish mountains where the peshmerga were active]
you are the rain of glad tidings
for the new life and season

O uncle, O uncle
sun is your path
nergs [the Kurdish flower] is your eye
you are like the blood in our bodies
you are not dead, still alive


Posted November 29, 2008

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