ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Rafiq Hilmi was born Rafiq Salih in 1898 in Kirkuk to a military family. Right from the start he demonstrated a more than average degree of intelligence, strength of character, command of languages and a logical and well-organised approach to life. He acquired the Hilmi surname as an honour for excellence while studying in Istanbul.
His only surviving brother Shafiq, an officer, died fighting for Turkey at the beginning of the twentieth century during or around the war years (exact date and place uncertain).
Hilmi went to Istanbul at a very early age where he studied mathematics and engineering in the Military School there. That was when he met Kurdish patriots from all comers of Kurdistan and witnessed the early years of the First World War and saw for himself the excesses of the British and French occupiers in the city and the effects of the Capitulation Law imposed on the Turks as a result.
Realising that the war presented a unique opportunity for the weak and oppressed nations to gain some form of self-determination he decided to dedicate his entire life for the service of the cause. His excellent education, systemic thinking and training prompted him to document the events and collect all sorts of relevant information about everything which was going on around him.
This also drove him to study and research history, geography, philosophy and politics which later helped him write many books on the history, language and politics of the region.
The contrast between Hilmi and his background and surroundings, suffering from centauries of ignorance, oppression and backwardness could not have been greater in addition to being probably the first political analyst in Kurdistan ever. Later he established and led the very first and only Kurdish political party founded on a modem style and principles as well as spending a great part of his life educating and teaching his people.
The Woodrow Wilson 14-point declaration and Lloyd George’s announcements promising a new world order based on fairness, freedom, development and liberty for the oppressed nations and a better world, were exactly similar to today’s dubious claims made by George Bush and Tony Blair. Then as now the intention was pure and simple hegemony and exploitation and the Kurds were among the outright losers.
Be that as it may many a prominent Kurdish politician and statesman was educated under Hilmi and coached by him in politics and analytical logic. The famous Barzani, Mustafa and Jalal Talabani were among his disciples at one time or another, even though they both took diverse roads from his advocated line. Hilmi believed in self-reliance and the full right of the Kurds to self-determination and kept his principles right to the grave. Perhaps that is why he died penniless and in debt.
Rafiq Hilmi’s Memoirs (Yaddasht) were, first published in Kurdish in 1956. It was the based on documentation of the events of the years surrounding the First World War and their repercussions and effect over the Kurds and Kurdistan as well as over Iraq and the Iraqis.
In the last days of the Sheikh Mahmud era Hilmi was sent back to Ankara on horseback with a special mission entrusted to him for negotiating the Sheikh’s requirements of the newly-formed Mustafa Kamal administration but his mission ended in failure and he managed to get back to Slemani by the skin of his teeth. The round journey took more than a year with no news of his situation until he got back to his then small family. The seventh booklet (to be published later) describes that journey in detail.
Rafiq Hilmi as we shall see was right in the middle of events and he recorded everything honestly, objectively and in great detail. His was not the history read from books but experienced in full in person and everyone who has read his Memoirs has vouched that it is the fullest and best account of the period and events in question.
After the foundation of Iraq and in the late thirties Hilmi established the Hiwa (hope) party with a group of young patriots who had previously been involved in left-wing politics along international lines copying from the Italian political scene. The Hiwa (Kurdish for Hope) party took the Kurdish political scene by storm and its ideas spread like wildfire.
Almost everyone became a paid-up member to such an extent that all the educated young men, army officers, tribal leaders as well as city traders, government employees and rural community chiefs joined it which made the British extremely worried about its growing strength and influence. That is why they resorted to double-crossing and plotting against it until its eventual break-up in 1946 and the establishment of the Kurdish Democratic Party.
After that Hilmi worked mainly in education in a topsy-turvy way, reaching as far as Director General and Inspector of Education, passing through Education Director in several govemorates in Iraq, and plain teaching jobs at other times. Hilmi was promised that if he kept away from politics there were no limits to his professional prospects but he was not the kind to do so.
Besides his own family he kept a much larger population as his own family and helped thousands and thousands to find their ways to development and success financially as well as morally and physically. In 1954 he was appointed Deputy Governor of Baghdad among whose most important achievements was the building of the embankments on the riversides of the Tigris to save the city from seasonal flash floods which previously used to cause havoc and great casualties.
Finally in 1959 he was appointed Cultural Attaches representing Iraq, back to Turkey where he only remained for one year because of his overt pro-Kurdish activities. In Iraq however Hilmi is well known for his services in education in both Arab as well as Kurdish areas.
Rafiq Hilmi passed away in 1960 aged 62 but with a larger-than-life record of achievements the envy of many in Kurdistan and Iraq.
About this book
Before his death Rafiq Hilmi managed to publish just six booklets some of which was also translated into Arabic. They have now been translated into Persian and Turkish without permission from the family and reprinted several times. The seventh booklet was published in 1992 by his eldest daughter the Late Professor Pakiza in Baghdad.
This first English edition of the first 5 booklets presented in two volumes is to be followed by Volume 3 as soon as the translations are complete. Unfortunately the biggest and most important part of Hilmi’s eventful and exciting life has not been compiled and remains in loose form, perhaps never to be published. His second eldest daughter Nahida has gathered some of all that and recently published in Kurdish part I of Rafiq Hilmi’s life with part II still under print (for 4 years now) courtesy of the Kurdish administration which has been dragging its feet quite noticeably.
Thus, the compiled and published Memoirs are composed of three volumes consisting of seven booklets.
Volume 1 consists of parts 1 and 2 (booklets 1-2)
Volume 2 consists of parts 1 to 3 (booklets 3-5)
Volume 3 consists of parts 1 and 2 (booklets 6-7)
This book contains Volumes 1 and 2 and is subdivided into 70 sections while Volume 3 is being translated to be published later.
De 'ja' vue
In 1998 i.e. one century after the Birth of my father I published the English translation of Volume I of his Memoirs (Yaddasht) promising the rest at a later stage. It was not intended that that stage will be 9 years. However a number of unfortunate events and reasons meant that I could not complete the job until now.
Besides this, many momentous events and upheavals have occurred since 1998. The attack on the World Trade Centre towers in New York, invasion of Afghanistan followed by that of Iraq, and the horrendous murder and mayhem which have been committed for the past four years have added great urgency to the need for telling the story describing the first British invasion of Iraq at the beginning of the First World War.
The reader may be well aware of the goings-on in Iraq today; all the lies and deception; the fraudulent “elections”; the declared “humanitarian” aims to justify Genocide and highway robbery of Iraq’s resources; the threat of the lurking evil from which the country has to be “saved”; the “liberation” of occupied and exploited colonies from their populations by the greatest colonial powers ever, and the puppet governments created and being created repeatedly, one after another to sign contracts, agreements and treaties to tie up the country in highly detrimental, (to Iraq), pacts and finally the Jewell in the Crown of the invaders: an Oil Law which is about to be stuffed down the throat of the Iraqi nation effectively passing ownership of Iraq’s oil to the huge multinational companies controlling the world today.
What the reader may not know, however, is that, all that has been tried in Iraq during the first visit of the colonialist’s right down to the threat of dividing up the territories along ethnic and even sectarian lines. For nearly 4 years they encouraged the Kurds to demand their own state and even sent their agents to Turkey to incite revolts there in support of independence. Of course they had ...