Watching the images that flicker up onto Asso Mamzade’s computer screen, one would be forgiven for thinking that there already was a Kurdish nation, an independent country, recognized by the international community with its own central bank and currency. And no longer just a semi-autonomous region and federal state of Iraq.
Mamzade is 28 years old, originally from Bukan, a small mostly Kurdish city in Iranian Kurdistan; he moved to the city of Erbil in Iraqi Kurdistan seven years ago. And his desire is to come up with a genuine Kurdish currency, one that will be used, he said, when Kurdistan becomes a reality. Mamzade has been working on this project - the “kuro” - for ten years now.
The name of his as-yet-unused currency has nothing to do with the euro though, he explained. He had discussed the name with experts in Kurdish culture and history and had decided on kuro because it was one of the names given to Kurds a long time ago. And one day, it will be just as important as the euro, he told NIQASH enthusiastically.
When Mamzade first started designing his Kurdish currency, he worked by hand. He still works in a room filled with sketches of coins and bank notes though now he mostly works on a computer. The process has also involved much research: Mamzade has studied Kurdish history and culture in depth and incorporated historical elements that go back as far as 700BC.
So far Mamzade has three kinds of currency ready for the printing press, should the time ever come that they are needed: 100, 500 and 2,000 kuro notes proudly boasting that they were printed by the currently non-existent Central Bank of the Kurdistan Republic.
The notes feature Kurdish figures such as 14th century poet and historian Sharaf al-Din Bitlisi and the president of the first, short lived Kurdish republic of 1945, Qazi Muhammad, as well as Kurdish nationalist leader and politician, Mustafa al-Barzani, who also happens to the father of the current president of Iraqi Kurdistan, Massoud Barzani.
The other sides of the notes feature fishing, fighting and horse drawn carriages along with various important military events. The colours of the Kurdish flag in Iraq; red, white, green and gold - also have a special place on Mamzade’s banknotes.
The remaining denominations of notes, that have yet to be designed, will have a similarly patriotic bent and feature further important Kurdish figures, Mamzade said.
Even though he has sent samples of his work to representatives of local Kurdish government and not a single important official in the region has shown even the slightest interest in his work, Mamzade is determined to complete the task.
There are still many other paper notes needed and I'm currently working on producing them, he told NIQASH. But I need financial and moral support
So far though, he’s had just the opposite. “The manager of a senior official’s office in the Kurdistan region of Iraq asked me why I was even bothering, that Kurdistan is not a nation and that no one will ever make use of these currency designs! But I will continue with my work,” Mamzade said, “even though officials do not encourage me to do so.”
Then again it hardly comes as a surprise that state officials wouldn’t be encouraging. Iraqi Kurdistan is one of the only parts of what is often called “greater Kurdistan” that is spread throughout Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran, to have an independent government. And despite their relative independence, Kurdish officials have continually expressed their commitment to Iraq, saying that the Kurdish state is part of the nation.
On the other hand, many political analysts say that the Kurdish region already has everything it needs to become an independent nation: a flag, a language and a shared history. Not to mention, military forces, two international airports and huge quantities of oil.
Mamzade considers this reason enough to continue with his currency design project. So what if Iraq’s president, Jalal al-Talabani, who is also Kurdish, has said that an independent Kurdish state is a joke right now. And who cares that the president of Iraqi Kurdistan, Barzani, has continued to emphasize a desire to remain part of federal Iraq. Mamzade will not be deterred.
“My ten years of effort will not be in vain. There is a Kurdish state on the horizon. And everything should be ready beforehand, everyone should do their bit,” he told NIQASH. “This is the kuro currency, this is the currency of the Kurdish nation.”