When we say we ‘hate’ the French / Scots / Welsh / Man U supporters etc....
However, all the trouble in the
Middle East just lately has
reminded me of a story from many years ago which sort of illustrates just how
things can get out of hand and how dehumanizing full blown hatred can be.
I used to work with a bloke from
Kurdistan – he was studying for a
PhD. Now the Kurds have had centuries of appalling treatment at the hands of
the Turks and the Iraqis, in fact I found out recently that they have their own
‘Ministry of Genocide’ such is their awful history of persecution. So, perhaps
not surprisingly, Kurdish people don’t especially like Iraqis. It’s fair to say
they really do hate them and I don’t mean in the same way that Norwich
fans hate Ipswich fans.
My Kurdish colleague was a really nice guy, very loud and slightly wacky. His English wasn’t the best and at the time I thought this accounted for his often inappropriate sense of humour. He was very keen on accusing people of “Masting” at every available opportunity or “MAAAHHHST-TING!” as he pronounced it. This was his version of ‘masterbating’.
“Ahhh, you are MAAAAAHST-TING!!!!” he’d cackle. I think this was a literal attempt at calling someone a ‘wanker’ in that blokey, bantery sort of way as in, “Ah, you are masterbating!”. He hadn’t quite got the hang of it but it was highly amusing in any case.
Every so often, he’d mutter “Iraqi bastards” or similar under his breath so we knew his feelings on that score. One day though in the Common Room, he regaled us with some stories from his time in the Kurdish 'army'. They started off as amusing keystone cops type stories about clueless middle-aged blokes charging around with rifles but they slowly got darker and darker.
Out of nowhere came the story of how him and his colleagues came across a hapless Iraqi conscript, a very young man by all accounts, and ‘captured’ him. Lapsing into bouts of hilarity, he then proceeded to detail how they stripped him naked and took it in turns to beat, torture and urinate on him. My Kurdish colleague’s brainwave was to sit him astride an office bureau and dangle his genitals into one of the drawers. They then took it in turn to slam the young soldier’s wedding tackle in the drawer.
The Kurdish guy was helpless with laughter describing the poor bloke’s screams of agony. We were all absolutely mortified and sat in a stunned silence….
The point is that he didn’t feel bad about it, not one bit. I’m not judging anyone or saying who’s right or wrong but it does make you realize the deep seated resentment and hatred in that part of the world and I sympathise with anyone having a go at peacemaking out there and wish them all the luck in the world. Conventional wisdom goes on about ‘to forgive and forget’ and ‘putting the past behind you’ but not quite that easy in the real world, is it?
I often wonder what my Kurdish friend is doing now. I imagine him being manager of the Baghdad branch of ‘Staples’ with a secret soundproof basement full of office furniture for his ‘special’ customers…