Born in Saqez, Kurdistan (Iran) |
Bahzad identifies as Kurdish. The Kurds are the largest ethnic minority in the world without a recognized state. Kurdistan is divided between Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey – and the Kurds have faced centuries of political, social, cultural and ethnic oppression. In Iran, studying Kurdish is prohibited, Bahzad explains, and as a result, he says that he has difficulty writing and reading in his mother tongue. Bahzad’s father was a political labour activist who organized worker’s unions in opposition to the ruling authority in Iran – a country where Kurds are largely banned from exercising any form of political activity that is contrary to the ruling Islamic state. Bahzad’s father was subsequently subjected to imprisonment and torture – so out of fear of execution, and with the help of the United Nations, the family sought refuge in neighbouring Turkey. They would live in Turkey for five years, eventually resettling in Toronto. For Bahzad, the safety he feels in the city is important. He also feels privileged to be attending a great university like York. Soon he will graduate with a Bachelor of Arts with Honours with a double major in Political Science and Law and Society – and is working at the Faculty of Liberal Arts and Professional Studies as an academic advisor. Starting next year, Behzad will be pursuing a Master’s degree in Political Science, and plans to attend law school, specializing in refugee and immigration law.
Toronto as Home
Historically, the Kurdish people have had difficulty with getting a decent and affordable education in Kurdistan, and because of this, Bahzad cherishes the opportunities he has had here. As a refugee he was unable to attend school for five years. While at York he has spent a lot of time at the University’s Scott Library, making up for the lost time. He is proud of the fact that he is now working as an academic advisor and helping other students succeed in school.
Connection with the Past
Bahzad is holding a map of Kurdistan as an independent state and pointing to the area he is from. The idea that the Kurdish people have basic human rights, and the ability to live free of oppression is something Bahzad longs for. Although minor progress has been made to resolving the “Kurdish Question” as of late, a lot of work still needs to be done to secure a safe future for the Kurdish people.