On International Youth Day 2021, Mareen Asaaf Younes from Karamles, a graduate of the Engineering Department at the University of Mosul, shares her experiences participating in CREID heritage gathering programme in Iraq.
For Iraqi youth who have experienced conflict and displacement amidst the destruction wrought by Daesh, as well as the ongoing challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic, this work has helped to connect them with their communities and landscapes, as well as providing opportunities for work experience and income generation. Connecting youth with their heritage acts as a way of resourcing them for their futures. As part of the CREID programme, the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) has been working in collaboration with the University of Mosul and University of Dohuk to support young people from religious minority communities in the collection and preservation of their heritage. [Introduction and translation by Sofya Shahab]
Chaldean Christian Heritage in Karamles
I was very proud to have joined the project to collect the Chaldean heritage of the village of Karamles, which is located in the Nineveh Plains. This area rich and diverse in heritage with its unique history and culture.
Heritage is an integral part of our identity. This has been informed by the histories and practices of our communities, which has spanned several generations with some of these being passed down and others being lost or changed.
This heritage links together families and communities through ties which cannot be broken and works to differentiate these communities from other societies. Respecting our differences and celebrating unique diversity by preserving what is left of our heritage after the occupation of the area by Daesh is a cultural and humanitarian duty.
Since young people are the leaders of the future, and heritage is an integral part of their identity and community, I think it is vital for us to seek to know about our heritage and to become familiar with it.
It is also our responsibility to shape this heritage by preserving it and passing it on to future generations.
This is because it is our duty to nurture and prepare a generation that is aware of its surroundings and appreciates the knowledge and practices of our ancestors and follow in their footsteps in perseverance.
Through this project, I conducted many interviews on a variety of different topics to know the nature of life previously, which I touch on below.
Most of the people from my community that I interviewed as part of the project spoke about how beautiful and happy their life had been despite its simplicity, and what caught my attention the most was their patience and cooperation under all the conditions they were living in at the time. It was the simple things which created their greatest happiness.
Two areas of my heritage that I have learnt about included: 1) traditional wedding customs and 2) traditional medicines and healing practices.
Celebrating weddings in the past
It is customary for the betrothal to take place between children from the same village (relatives and neighbours), so we notice most of the married people of the same clan are linked by the same lineage or from other Karamles clans.
The groom’s family proposes to the girl, and the engagement often takes place on Sunday, because it is a sacred day for Christians when they stop their work. The groom’s family go to take yeast from the family of the bride and then make a dough using this yeast, to symbolise that the two houses become one. They then bake this dough and distribute the bread to those close to and invited to the wedding, and celebrations take place in the courtyards of the houses or on the roofs of the houses.
Traditional medicines and healing practices
Due to the lack of pharmaceutical medicines in the people relied on the natural herbs that grew in the areas they lived which they would collect, dry, grind and mix with other ingredients.
There were people who were relied upon to make these herbal medicines that treat most diseases. This medicinal knowledge was passed from one generation to another at that time, so the son learned from his father, the father from his grandfather, and so on. For example, they used incense for fractures after grinding it and mixing it with alcohol and placing it on the broken area and fixing the fracture with sticks of wood and then twisting it to fix it.
The importance of this experience to me
After graduating from the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Mosul in 2020 during the Covid-19 pandemic, it was challenging to find work amidst lockdowns and due to high unemployment resulting from the economic crisis.
However, because I love research, reading and writing in all areas of life I was pleased to join CREID’s heritage collection project. It was a great opportunity to review, blog and gain information about my heritage and community that I had not known before.
As Henry Ford said, anyone who stops learning is old, whether he is twenty or eighty years old.