Citizen Historian of the Month:
Hakar Ismael Shukri
Tell History relies upon a network of dedicated citizen historians to collect important stories–stories that are all around us, but need to be collected, preserved and shared. Every month we recognize one of our amazing citizen historians who make the effort to save stories and fill the gaps in history.
This month, we celebrate Hakar as our Citizen Historian of the Month. As Camp Manager for the Barzani Charity Foundation in Kurdistan, North Iraq, he has been collecting some incredible and hidden voices at the camp. We are all honored that we get to hear these people’s stories and thank Hakar for making this possible. We talked to the 24-year old NGO worker to see what inspires him and why he is recording these stories.
Were you previously interested in history? What made you get into it?
I got interested in history after reading a book about Kurdish history, and how our leaders, Mulla Mustafa Barzani, wanted to keep the Kurdish national movement alive. Their tremendous efforts got me interested in studying history and connecting it to my daily life.
I had studied history at school but it was hard for me to understand all the stories/events that happened in the past, but eventually I could manage and started to understand that we are going to all be part of history one day!
I studied history for 8 eight years at school, and although there were different types and periods of history that we covered, the focus was mainly on Kurdish history in different areas such as: politics, religion, demography, arts and archaeology.
Hakar – what is your favorite area of history?
My favorite period of history is around the 4th millennium BC which is when recorded history started (as far as we know). Some of the major changes in human culture occurred during this time such as the dawn of the Bronze age and the invention of writing, which played a major role in starting recorded history.
What about family history? Would your family share stories, photos, documents, or other ways to explore history?
Yes, they would. In fact for the time being on daily basis I am asking my parents to narrate some stories in their time there was no such facility of the well being of life. And usually their stories are incredible because with they did not have such facility like technology and they were happier and more productive. I always provide time to listen their stories.
What made you start using Tell History?
Because it’s easy and helpful to share your story to friends, colleagues and many other people in the world who you may not see in person for some time.
What is your favorite aspect of Tell History?
The Politics, Society and Culture criteria.
Do you think there are people, groups, or historical events that don’t get enough attention?
History is full of politics, religion, art … stories etc, but the movement of people from one place to another is almost always missing and it’s very rarely recorded.
What kind of stories have you been collecting at the Baharka Camp?
The stories that I have been collecting are related to the the background of people in the Baharka camp and stories about where they came from.
Why are you collecting these stories in particular?
I am motivated by three main reasons. First, the life conditions of these people is beyond our imagination–we can’t imagine what they’ve been through–but I want to show other people that these people still live peacefully and with grace and that they are part of history. Second, I want to encourage others to come and do their part to make their life better and liveable. Thirdly, hearing these unforgettable stories from those people will make you realize that we must be satisfied with what we have and who we are. Any one of us could suddenly find ourselves in their position.
And I think that these stories are beyond importance, because what they have been through is something that very rare in the history of humanity. These are the innocent victims of a truly terrible thing. I myself have learned a lot from their incredible stories.
Can you describe the camp to us?
There are people from so many backgrounds there – really a diverse history- and the Baharka Camp is the finest camp in Kurdistan if not whole Iraq. 95 % of the people are from Ninawa (Mosul) and surrounding areas, but the interesting thing is that people are from different backgrounds. In the camp we have more than five different ethnic and religious groups such as Kurds, Kakai, Shabak, Turkoman, and Sunni and Shia’ Arabs. And even different nationalities like Palestinians who had been refugees in 1948 and later become internally displaced people (IDPs) after the fall of Mosul in August, 2014.
Bringing all these different people with diverse languages, religions, and traditions was not an easy task, especially during the emergency situation we find ourselves in, with major issues to worry about such as providing shelter, food, medical treatment, and basic life necessities. At first we experienced many social and psychological issues because of their diversity, and they could not accept each other as neighbors. But after two years of hard work, finally we have found a way for the camp to live together peacefully in a democratic way.
Are there any stories would you like to collect, but have not been able to so far?
I would like to collect those stories that can be a turning point for each one of us based on the reality. By comparing other people stories with yours, especially those people who are in need basic things in life.
In the future I would really like to revisit the people who have shared their history — when those people from the camps went back to their hometowns I want to visit them and record their stories once again!
I think once they return their kids will be happy to hear these amazing stories and they will share with other as well.
Is there anything that you have found surprising or something you’ve learnt as a citizen historian?
I have surprised by two things: Firstly, the effects of history is much clearer for me as well as certain things that we can achieve through the study of history. Secondly, I am amazed by the work of Tell History, they could brought all kind of people all over world from different countries and to share different stories in this short amount of time!
Thank you, Hakar, we appreciate all your work and the new voices you are giving a chance to be heard by the world!
You can see the collection of stories that Hakar is building from the Baharke Camp here.