Kurdish Proverb


Philosophers disagree about what makes human beings the best creations on earth.  While most of them believe it is because of our minds, some of them say it is because humans can speak and communicate.  Of course all the animals have minds and communicate with each other but in a limited way.

The tongue is our tool to express ourselves and to deliver our message.  That is why some scholars say the number of languages you know reflects the number of personalities that you have.  A sweet tongue always affects the mind and heart of others.  And the opposite is also true.  A sharp tongue and bad words will cause a lot of problems. 

In a time and place where there is no freedom of speech just saying the truth can cost some one his life.  We Kurds understand this more than any other nation.  For centuries we knew that that even to mention to name of our land, Krudistan, was enough for us to disappear.  Worse than that was when a person was targeted by the government and anything he said was twisted and used against him.  Or his words were interpreted far away from the truth, or taken out of context to give a different meaning from the original intent.

When people know that this will be their situation, and life will be meaningless, and self expression will be difficult, they may do what the Kurds have done from early on – they make a game which they called “QuroQap” which simply means “close mouth”.  When someone says “Quro Qap”, everyone who hears it must stop talking or making any sound like laughing.  A person who needs something must move or “talk” with his hands.  Whoever speaks first is the loser, and the last one is the winner.  To make someone laugh or speak, you can make any funny movement by your face or body.  A child might pass gas loudly to make an adult laugh and lose, or might try to do something to make the other mad and say something.  Sometime hours go by with no sound at all. 

I believe that Kurds made this game because:

1) It is simple and does not require any tools with which to play it.

2) When winters snow traps 10-15 people in a small house, or 5-10 people in a small room with no TV, and no computer, there is no way to spend time and get rest.  The best thing to do is to say “Quro Qap”.

3) To train children not to speak and to be able to remain silent so that when guest come they will not bring shame on the family.  Above all people knew that the best way to save themselves, was to learn to say nothing, since every word they say can be twisted against them.

In fact, Quro Qap has cost us far more than all the words that have been spoken.  When people, especially educated people like scientists and scholars, close their mouths and say nothing against wrong deeds and injustice,  they are not doing good or forbidding wrong, lies will cover everything, and life will become a disaster.  This is exactly what happened in many Middle Eastern countries when the few people who spoke out were all arrested and disappeared.  Then many others chose to “Quro Qap” and we all know the result of that.

I was really excited when I knew that here people demonstrated and said “We will not be silent – Silence must not exist”!  The only way to stop politicians and rulers from taking the people to Hell is to speak out.  It really bothers me that millions of Muslims left their countries and came here to be able to express themselves and speak freely, but most of them had been terrorized and to save themselves from prosecution they remained silent and taught their children “Quro Qap”, even when they are living in the land of freedom and not the Middle East.  In Kurdish culture there are many sayings and proverbs about holding your tongue.

1. Zoban bwaste sar salamata (Hold your tongue and save your life)

It is true that the tongue must be controlled.  We should never allow the tongue to harm anyone, and we should avoid bad words.  But this is not all that the proverb is about.  In Kurdistan they use this proverb to remind people not to speak the truth or to criticize the ruler.  Close your mouth and save your life.  But many times when someone speaks of his outrage he may get into trouble, and people will repeat this proverb.  Many people believe that this proverb came from the Prophet but I believe it is not his saying.  He commanded us to control our tongues but that had nothing to do with not telling the truth.  He never accepted something was wrong, but used to tell his companions, “whoever believe in God and the hearafter, let him say good or keep silent (from bad words).”

Nobody likes people who speak a lot but conceal the truth.  With our tongues we can make friends and affect people’s hearts and minds when we keep our tongues sweet, use kind words and speak the truth.  Many scholars say that this is true magic. It is right to use your tongue to cool down angry people, to give hope to hopeless people, to cheer the sad person, and to help wrong doers to stop.  Kurds were forced to isolate themselves and hold their tongue to save their lives because no one allowed them to say to the dictator that his policy was wrong.  Many people did not agree to keep silent and they paid the price for that.  Our duty is to control our tongues and not to cut it! We must exercise control from saying wrong things, and words that harm others, and instead say always the truth.

2. Bigri mshteka baridai dashteka (If you hold it, it is one hand full – if you release it, it is world wide)

This is one of the guessing stories in Kurdish culture.  People would ask you to guess what is one hand full if you hold it, and will flood the world if you release it.  The two correct answers are either 1) the tongue (speech), or 2) desire.  Only by controlling them can we make them satisfy, whereas if we release them they will expand and put us in a lot of trouble.  Many people lose the rest of their life because they do not hold their tongue and control their desire.  Kurds tell you from their own experience not to be one of these people.  Hold your tongue and keep it in your control so that you will be safe and successful.

3. Ba qsai khosh mar la kwn deta da ra wa  (With kind words you can bring a snake out of its hole)

Living in the mountains and on farms, men faced the treat of snakes.  Many Kurds lost their hands and legs and even their lives from snake bites.  That is why snakes are mentioned in many Kurdish sayings and proverbs and whoever tried to catch or kill snakes knew that when a snake reached its hole nothing can be done to it and there is no way to bring it out.  But this proverb teaches us that nice talk, sweet tongue and kind words can do the impossible – perfect magic as we said before.  It is really sad that many people do not use the power of words and the magic of a sweet tongue to solve their problems and fix their relationships.  Many philosophers think that the tongue (speech) made humans to be the best creation, but how sad when this tool instead of building relations and making friends is used to destroy relationships and make enemies.

Posted May 18, 2008


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May 18, 2008

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