Yassin's Writing


            Centuries ago most people were illiterate, especially in poor countries, and particularly in rural villages and mountain areas. Even recently the Kurds lived under the Embargo and had no chance to get an education. In many villages there were no schools at all, but this never stopped the people from teaching their children in Life’s School, using their own experiences as well as poetry, stories and proverbs. Generally they used nature as an example – trees, rocks, birds, wind, snow, rain, the sun, the moon, the stars, springs, rivers, animals… For each of these there are stories, and each is used as a symbol for something. They did not depend on Greek philosophers or Persian poetry or the teachings of Rome. Instead they classified people in terms of animals:

Lion – a strong, clever person;
Sheep – a humble harmless person who always becomes a victim;
Bee – a busy and hard working person;
Singing Bird (‘Bulbul’) – a good looking person with a beautiful voice;
Snake – an untrustworthy and tricky person;
Donley – someone who is mentally slow, a fool;
Wolf – a dangerous, evil man;

            And so on.

             Rewi (Fox) refers to someone who is smart and cunning. There are many such people. There is no need to study Machiavelli, go to college to study diplomacy, or join a political party – Rewi exemplifies all of these!

            Rewi is a quiet, tricky, smart, sweet-seeming and nice looking animal. It is easy for him to find his way out of any trap or difficulty. There are many stories and proverbs about Fox in Kurdish culture. One of the earliest I remember is Fox’s Judgment, which goes as follows:

“Two mice were arguing over a piece of cheese they had found. They saw Fox and asked him to be the judge. They both promised to accept his decision. Fox said, ‘I’ll cut the cheese in two pieces, and you can each have one. He then cut the cheese into two unequal pieces and asked the mice which was bigger. They pointed to one, and so he took a big bite out of that one. Now, he asked, which one is bigger? They pointed to the other piece, so he took a big bite out of that one, and asked again which was bigger. They pointed to the first one again. He took a big bite again. This went on until he had completely eaten both pieces….”

            This is why Kurds say that any unfair judgment is Fox’s Judgment. They say Rewi can’t be trusted, and can’t even be a witness because he will lie and fabricate. As the Kurdish proverb goes: REWI KE SHAYAT TA ALE KLKM – IF FOX IS ASKED WHO IS YOUR WITNESS, HE WILL SAY ‘MY TAIL.’ We use this proverb when someone tries to bring their family or close friends to testify for him or her – they will say whatever they are told to say.

            How is it that someone can pay for witnesses to come and testify for him?

            How is it that a prosecutor himself can act as a witness?

            How is it that a criminal can get freedom by being a witness?

            How can witnessing be considered a favor?

            Close friends, family members, and all of the above types of witnesses are just tails for Rewi. I was shocked to see that in America this is considered acceptable, and the FBI uses its tail for prosecuting and convicting innocent people. They pay the homeless and drug addicts to be witnesses. They intimidate immigrants and threaten them with deportation to get them on the witness stand. They reduce sentences for criminals and even free them if they testify for the government. They pay poor people to be their tails.


They did this in my case when they prosecuted and convicted me unfairly. For the most critical meeting with the informant [a criminal spared prison and deportation by acting as the FBI’s tail] they claim the recorder “fell off” and tried to say what the FBI agent “heard” from outside in his vehicle. Most of their witnesses had been paid for their testimony. It’s a good business. Someone like me must work hard 7 days a week, and it took me three years to make $40,000. But their witnesses can make $40,000 in 30 minutes – what do you expect them to say?!

My illiterate great grandfather in his cave on the mountain would not have accepted such witnesses and such evidence, but in the United States of America in the 21st Century many people who testify for the prosecution are criminals looking to reduce their time! Or poor, homeless or addicted, desperate for money. Or an immigrant doing whatever he can to avoid deportation. Or a phony expert talking for big money. What kind of truth and justice should we expect?! It’s sad when they allow the fox’s tail to be a witness. How will the mice ever get their cheese back if the fox is the only judge?

Another proverb is REWI DAMI NA AGAYSHTA HANGEER AIWT TALA “IF FOX CAN’T REACH THE FIGS HE WILL SAY THEY ARE BITTER” Rewi will never show any weakness. He will keep his pride even when it keeps him from getting something he needs. Fox tried to get a fig but was not able to reach it. When he gave up he was asked what happened, and he said, “It was bitter – I didn’t want it anyway!” He doesn’t want to beg or show weakness; instead he will just say he doesn’t like it anyway. I found that many people do this. For the poor it can be part of daily life. To hide their poverty they will say “I don’t want it.” Many times while I was in the city going to school, my friends went to the store to buy candy, soda or a sandwich. I had no money so I would say “I don’t like it,” or “I am not hungry” to avoid going with them or accepting their offers. When I came to America I was working hard but was not able to save enough to buy a good car or even to make payments on one. So I bought a $300 car. When I became Imam some people were ashamed that their Imam would drive such a car. They wanted me to get a new one and started asking me what kind of car I liked. A van? No, I don’t like them. A Jeep? No, I wouldn’t want one. A Mazda? No, not that. Some offered me money, or offered to make me a loan with no interest, but my answer was always, “the fig is bitter, I don’t like it!” When they would give up, my Dad’s voice would ring in my ears, telling me if Fox can’t reach a fig, he will say it’s bitter and he doesn’t want it anyway… Then I would laugh.

This proverb applies to anyone who does not have the ability to do something, but rather than say he can’t do it, he will say he doesn’t want it anyway. Someone who knows the truth may say to him, “When Fox couldn’t reach the fig, he said he didn’t want it.”


This is clearly a version of Aesop’s Fable, “The Fox and the Grapes”

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May 5, 2008

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