Hello ladies and gentlemen, dear friends!
I am Mina and Dr. Ghassemlou was my father.
I am extremely honored and proud to be here today to speak about my father. It is also a privilege to be with all of you who knew my father well.
It is said that you have to choose your dreams carefully…and he really did. He had one of the biggest dreams anyone could choose – a free, recognized and worthy Kurdistan with all the human rights that everybody deserves.
And I believe that one day his dream will be fulfilled.
My father used to say “If a nation wants freedom, they must pay the price”. He was right, and unfortunately for him, it was with his life that he paid.
I am not going to talk about him only as a prominent Kurdish leader or politician, but I will also talk about the impact of his political activities on our family.
I spent the first 4 years of my life in Iran, mainly in Tehran, hidden in different houses with his friends while dad was heavily involved in politics and his life was constantly in a great danger.
At that time I could speak Persian fluently.
After those years of living in different places, in illegality, we moved back to Prague 1957.
In 1958, my parents had to go back to Kurdistan to fulfill their duty. They left my sister Hiva and myself with their friends in Prague. They thought they would return in a few weeks, so they did not take us with them.
But it took them more than a year to come back. Hiva and I were placed under state care. Czech became our mother tongue and the Persian language was forgotten.
When I look back today, I can imagine that being separated from both parents for such a long time and not knowing what was happening, must have been very traumatic for both of us children as well as for our parents. I believe that our parents therefore did not want to put any more pressure on us on their return to speak a language we had forgotten. So from that time on they only spoke Czech with us.
Today, I understand the reason, but in any case, I think it is pity.
From 1958 to 1976, when our family lived in Czechoslovakia, I remember we often had Kurdish guests and meetings at our home. My mother cooked lots of Kurdish food, which I really loved, and there were discussions late into the night. But it was only much later that I understood it all was about politics.
My father was involved in Czechoslovakian politics too. He disagreed with the Soviet occupation of Czechoslovakia in 1968 and protested by signing various documents against communist party methods. I think it was one of the reasons for the expulsion of our whole family from Czechoslovakia in 1976, resulting in my sister and I moving to Stockholm, while our parents moved to Paris.
My father did not want us to know about his political mission. Not until later, in my adult years, did he reveal that he wanted to protect us and he did not want us to be exposed to any threat or danger.
On his last visit to Stockholm, my father and I had to ask the authorities to extend his visa in Sweden. The police offered my father protection, but he refused saying, that he was not Olof Palme.
Olof Palme was a Swedish prime minister, who refused protection too and 1986, he was at a cinema with his wife and on his way home he was shot.
My father was murdered in Vienna two weeks after his refusal to have police protection in Sweden.
I would also like to express my great appreciation of my mother`s commitment. She has devoted her entire life to the struggle of the Kurdish people despite knowing the dangers.
In1990, one year after my father died, my family and I travelled to Kurdistan. Our oldest sons were then 11 and 9 years old, while the youngest was only 10 months old.
It was during this trip to Kurdistan that I finally appreciated the achievements of my Dad and his allies. I came to fully understand what a fantastic legacy he left behind him.
My dad always said that whatever you do, you should do it well! That all work is equally important, that you should always do it with pleasure and to do your best so that you don’t have to be ashamed of the result.
And he really lived out this belief.
I realized that what he was trying to teach us at home, he also practiced in his struggle… or maybe it was the other way around? But however it was, he did it with immense success.
In Kurdistan, we had the opportunity to visit the hospital, which was under the leadership Doctors Without Borders and the military school where you could feel the discipline and the energy of proud young students. We also visited the prison, where the prisoners, who were the enemies of the Kurds, were educated to understand what the Kurds really fought for. And I was very impressed by the organization of women's assembly too.
We were able to participate in a radio broadcast, and our sons were allowed to attend a Kurdish school for one day.
None of this could have been easy to build up under those simple and dangerous conditions. I believe it all became possible because there was education, conviction and will.
My father was one of the most well-read and educated human beings I have ever met. He knew that education was the right path to independence, freedom and a dignified life and that this all starts with the family. And Family is the heart of the whole society.
My father wanted to show that with such foundation, Kurds are strong and equal partners amongst the nations, and want to be counted and treated with respect.
Now I will talk about him as our baba, which means daddy in Kurdish. We always called him that even though we talked Czech with him. It was one of the words in his native tongue that we used in our everyday language.
Despite the great burden he carried and the responsibility he held, he was able to laugh and spread a wonderful sense of humor around him, thereby relieving the heavy concerns he and his staff carried.
And you know, he was not frugal in that area at home either. I really appreciated his great human strength, his optimism and humor in everyday life.
For example, it was difficult to know when his birthday month was, as the date of his real birthday was uncertain. As it was snowing at the time of his birth, it was decided that it was in December. He could, however say it was in July as a means of inviting us to a restaurant to celebrate “his birthday”. Yes, just like that.
There were many moments with him that I really loved, as when he walked around the living room reciting Kurdish poetry loud ..... which I didn't understand a word of. But in some way his presentation was so beautiful and compelling that I had the feeling that I understood anyway.
And I loved to hear him to sing. He sang well and loudly. Preferably in the bathroom or in the car. That's how I learned some of the Kurdish songs. I could go on all day with what I loved about him. He was not only clever and funny, but also wise, very generous, inspiring and enthusiastic.
He knew too, that if others have a different opinion, it could be a challenge which could enrich you.
Of course, there were some less positive aspects to him too, but I think that they were far outweighed by his positive qualities.
He was often away from home. You know, politics is never kind to families. But when he was with us, our home became more colorful with all that singing, poetry, smiling and making jokes.
However, his jokes were not always appreciated, even if he meant well.
As when some strange boy approached me in my teens and baba was nearby, and told the boy that talking with me would cost him a couple of camels. I did not like his comment. When I confronted him later about what he had said, he explained with a smile that in Iran, even one camel would have been enough.
I was then very angry with him.
With your blessing, I would like to take this opportunity to send baba this personal message:
There is a lot I didn't tell you, and I know you had so much to give me, but we didn't have time enough to share.
You always treated me with respect and dignity and it was how I tried to treat you too, because I liked your art of communication.
Do you remember? The last summer we spent together, we were in a big group with friends. Everyone wanted to be close to you....and you managed, with your humor, nobility and intellect, to make people feel they are the most important person you had ever met.
You taught me very much, of course, but we did not catch up regarding lots of other things. As for example, how to speak impromptu. It would be so much easier for me in this very moment.
Babajan, there were so many Kurdish people who felt that they were part of your family, and you took care of us all.
You taught us to believe in ourselves so that we could be proud of ourselves. And I believe you would be proud of us too.
As I said, your jokes were not always appreciated. I remember your passing me sitting at the table and tying ied a knot in my long hair, which I then couldn`t loosen.
But you know what? If you came by today and tied a knot in my hair, or wanted to sell me for one camel, or invited me in July for your December b-day party, then I would be the happiest daughter in the world.
You know, when I`m in trouble, I still ask you, what would you have done in this particular instance. Usually, you just smile. That kind of smile saying “you know yourself best”. And then I realize you are right.
Babajan, thank you for being my dad, I miss you very much!
And my children and grandchildren miss you too.