I live and work in Sulaimania, Iraqi Kurdistan, about an hour away from Iran. I’m an English lecturer at the American University of Iraq- Sulaimania www.auis.org, and during my lunch break this past May I decided to check out the Iranian cultural exhibition taking place at the Red Museum ‘Amnasuraka’.
The Red Museum has a macabre history. During the 80’s, thousands of Kurds were tortured and held as prisoners at what is now the Red Museum. In the early 90’s the Kurdish military, Peshmerga swarmed the former prison as they were recapturing the city of Sulaimania. For years the prison was becoming more and more dilapidated. Then in 2007 I believe, the prison was converted to a memorial museum as well as a cultural center. Since I arrived in Suli one year ago, I’ve gone to a number of cultural shows including art shows and cultural exhibitions, including an Iranian cultural exhibition in mid-May 2010.
I was wandering from stall to stall, looking at the ornately detailed Persian rugs, handicrafts and propaganda-filled publishing companies when I met Muhammed, Ali and Hakim. I started chatting with these three friendly suit-wearing Iranian gentlemen for a few minutes when they offered to recite some verses of the Koran for me. They started the green disco ball, switched on the sound system and for the next few minutes they sang with such emotion and soul. It was indescribably moving. After they sang for me I was interviewed by a man working for an Iranian television channel as Ali translated. Very interesting experience, not what I would have expected.