This is the Kirkuk Kaffe. It's a restaurant that tries to represent the Kurdish culture. The atmosphere, the food is in the Kurdish tradition. Do a lot of Kurds come here? No, it's mostly Italian customers. When they come, they like the atmosphere very much and they like the food very much.
Can you cook the same dishes as they serve here?
Some of them, yes.When I was at university for 4 years, I was far away from my home city so I learnt how to cook many things.
What did you do after university?
I was a teacher of English. When I was teaching, I used to work 4 hours in the morning, then in the afternoon, I used to work for about 3 or 4 hours in my fathers garage. 2 jobs and about 8 hours a day.
Is this a kind of meeting place for Kurds?
Sometimes, about once a month they come here, but it's not like something special. It's a Kurdish restaurant for the Italians. Anyway, there's not many Kurds here. There's more in Milan or Venice. If they meet together here in Torino, it's usually in someone's apartment. Most of the Kurds who are living in Italy arrived here in 1980, 20 or 22 years ago. There's much more Kurds in Germany. I think that in Italy there are no social services for immigrants, but in Germany, they pay for you every month. They give you somewhere to live, everything. That's why many Kurds who arrive in Italy leave for Germany.


When I first arrived in Torino, I came to this street, Via Carlo Alberto. because I had the address of my Brother in law. I remember the day when I arrived here. I felt so relieved.
What were your reasons for leaving Kurdistan?
When I finished university I did my job as a teacher. The Iraqi army wanted me to go to the Kurdish part to bring news for them. I refused. They wanted me to inform for them like a spy. But I refused. They threatened me. First they put me in prison. Then they threatened me, saying they would kill me. After some time they invited me again to do this job for them and again I refused.
Were you afraid for your life?
Yes I was afraid. I spoke with my father and he helped me. He gave me money to get out.
How did you leave?
You know, in Kurdistan, there are many shops for travelling people. You just go in and say "I want to go to Turkey". You can even shop around to find which one is cheaper or safer. Maybe this one has a guarantee and that one not. You pay half of the money before you leave and the other half when you arrive in Turkey. The first part of the journey from Iraq to Turkey took about a month. I paid some people to lead me there. There was a big group of us. Someone led us from Kurdistan to Iran then gave us to the next man and we walked over the mountains from Iran to Turkey. It was cold.
Can you imagine doing something like that again?
No, never. It's very dangerous. You are risking your life. Because for one example you are walking at night and if the soldiers from the Iranian part see you, they can imagine other things and start shooting. It has happened. We spent about a month in Turkey then we were in a truck on a ship.There were about 20 of us. When they let us out, someone said "this is Bari". I asked them to help me to get to Rome so that from there I could get up to Torino because I knew my wife was here. So he helped me get a ticket. The whole journey from Kurdistan to Italy took about 3 months. When I arrived here, I felt like I was born again. I could have a new life. I could finally lay down and relax.


This is because I take the tram to travel in the city.
Had you taken a tram before?
No because in Iraq, we don't have trams.
Is the public transport system very different?
Yes, In Iraq, the bus only leaves the first station when all the seats are occupied. There's no timetable.

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This is Porta Palazzo. I only wanted to show a difference, in two pictures: before and after. Do you imagine that this is the same place? This one and the next were both taken from the same place. It's where I sometimes go to buy food. It's the cheapest market in Torino for buying food.
How do you feel when you go to Porta Palazzo?
The markets in my country are very similar to this. The stalls. It reminds me of my country. There are many immigrants in Porta Palazzo, some are good people, and some are bad people, but the Italians tend to see all of the immigrants as evil. I don't like this.They think that most of the people in this area are taking drugs and stealing. That's not true. Sometimes I can see in the way that they look at me, that they discriminate against me and think that I'm bad just because they can see that I'm a foreigner. But they don't know my reasons for coming here. They don't know that I am a political refugee.
Once I heard a woman in Via Carlo Alberto shouting at some people who were talking loudly and laughing in the street, "Excuse me, this is not Porta Palazzo!"

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Is the food good quality compared to your country?
I don't think so. We have better quality fruit and vegetables. They don't taste so good here. I think that in Italy, the fruit and vegetables are better than in other parts of Europe, but in my country, no, it's better.

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This one is of the river. It reminds me of my country. We have many rivers like this, mountains and green land. It's a part of the park in Parco del Valentino.


It's a big park. A very big park. It's where I go on a Sunday with my wife and child.
Is the life here very different for your wife?
No, no. She's very happy here. She was alone for some time, but now I am here too.
Are your family in Kirkuk happy for you?
They are happy for me but they want me to come back, especially my father and mother. But they can understand that I can't go back again. When I call them sometimes, we can talk about these things. Did they get into any trouble because you left? Yeah, sometimes they come to my house and ask my father "where is your son?" He just says that he doesn't know. Sometimes I call them but I have to be careful because they can listen in to the phones. When someone goes back to Kurdistan, every three months I give them something to take.
Maybe the internet gives a better possibility than phone to communicate with them without being monitored?
You can't use the internet in Kirkuk. There's nowhere to go to use it. Maybe somebody has it in Iraq but I've never seen it.


We have a lot of parks like this in Kurdistan, with all the flowers formally arranged. We are well known for these kind of red flowers. How did you imagine Europe before you came here? A beautiful place. A democracy. Liberation, freedom, all these things.
Did you find these impressions to be true?
Yeah. I found many of these things.
You haven't had any bad experiences since you've been in Torino?
Once I was ill, in my stomach. I was very tired.
Could you go to see a doctor?
Yes, I was in hospital for two months. But now I'm OK. I don't like to see hospital buildings because, it's not a nice place to be.
Are there any places that give you a bad feeling in Torino?
The Police building where I have to go there every year to renew my papers. They take your papers back for two months until they decide whether to allow you to stay longer. They only give you a paper which says that you are waiting for your permit of stay. You not only have to renew that but also your medical book. If you take this paper to your doctor, he'll say "no, it's not enough", so, during these two months, so you have to stay well and not be ill. For many things, they want to see the original papers. For example when you want to buy a mobile phone, they don't accept a copy of the papers.


How is Kurdistan affected by the sanctions imposed by Britain and America against Iraq?
You know the sanctions where they don't allow medical supplies into Iraq with the effect that thousands of children are dying because of lack of adequate health care. The Iraqi regime are liars and they are exaggerating many things. Now they deal the oil with the United Nations, with the 'Oil for Food' agreement. There are people who since 1995 are living in good situations because of this. There are medicines, many medicines, but they are not distributing them. When I was in Kirkuk, when you go to buy some medicine in a pharmacy, they won't give it to you. They say they don't have it, but when you go outside the pharmacy you find some people in the street selling the same medicine. They come to you and say, "what medicine do you need?", you say "I need this kind of medicine" then they say "come with me I'll give it to you". It's a deal between the pharmacy and those people because when you buy it in the pharmacy, it's very cheap, but outside, no. So, they are liars.
Is this really simple medicines?
Every kind of medicines. When you go in the pharmacy, they say, "we don't have this because of the sanctions. The medicine has not arrived"
Why do they open the pharmacy then?
They give you things like cotton wool or syringes, these simple things. It became like a trade. At the moment there's a lot of talk from the British and American governments about 'restarting' a military campaign against Iraq.
How do you feel about that?
We have heard many times in history these words from America. The important thing is to change the regime, not to bomb many places.
Kurdistan is in the north of Iraq in one of the 'no fly zones' that America and Britain have been 'protecting'. It doesn't really get reported very often in the British press but these patrols frequently fire missiles at the ground - of course only at 'military targets' and in retaliation for attacks from the ground - but often end up terrorising and killing Iraqi civilians. How do the Kurds feel about what is being done in their name?
As you say, they are protecting the North of Iraq, the Americans and the British. The people in Kurdistan, they are happy for that. But if they don't bomb the place of Saddam Hussein itęs all for nothing, because the problem with Iraq is the regime, not the people. If Saddam Hussein was killed do you think everything would change? If they brought in a man who could take charge of Iraq like they did in Afghanistan maybe things would be OK, but if his son comes in next, things could be worse. I remember reading that the planes that fly over Iraq "to protect the Kurds" fly from the same base as the Turkish planes that fly over the Kurdish part of Turkey and are repressing the Kurds there. It's a bit ironic that America talks about protecting the Kurds in Iraq but at the same time sells military equipment to Turkey knowing that it will use that equipment to repress the Kurds in Turkey. The Turkish consider the Kurds in Turkey as "terrorists". You know the Americans are now fighting the terrorists. I don't know but they are not terrorists. The only thing is they are Communists. They are not terrorists. It's easy now for states to call anyone that doesn't agree with them and tries some method of resistance; "Terrorists". September 11th made it very convenient to justify a lot of oppression. They are defending themselves. They are defending their land. They are not terrorists. Like the Kurdish in Kurdistan of Iraq. They were fighting the Iraqi regime. Now they are protected by the Americans and British. Maybe one day we can be independent.
Can you imagine there being an independent Kurdistan that includes the other Kurdish regions in Turkey, Iran and Syria too?
At this moment, no, because the conditions are not ready to make this great change.
Is there a strong identification with the struggle of the Kurds in Turkey or do they have quite separate identities?
No, because the Turkish will not give the right to make an independent Kurdish part. Also Iran and Syria, they will not allow it. In the Kurdistan of Iraq, it's possible. There is some federal government but as it is now they are still under the regime of Saddam Hussein.
If it would become independent or a federal part of Iraq, would you be interested in going back?
Yes. I would prefer to live there than here. But only when everything is OK.