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Laughing Through Tears?
Iraqi Kurdish Make Jokes About Politics, Otherwise They’ll Cry

Maaz Farhan
Some Iraqi Kurdish locals have concluded that satire and comedy are the best way to break through all of the political drama. Behind the jokes, there’s a serious message for their fans.
9.11.2017  |  Sulaymaniyah

Any Kurdish man who has an Arab wife must prepare to give her back, was one of the best lines.

The Iraqi prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, has said he will deal with every young Kurdish man using the Constitution, another joke went. If the young man has two friends, one of them must go immediately to Baghdad.

There is really nothing left to say. Jokes are our only option and this way, ideas will be spread.

And everyone was particularly pleased about the video of the Kirkuk local who said everything was calm and fine and there was no fighting, but he just couldn’t find a beer because the Iraqi army had closed all the alcohol shops. 

That one went viral.

After all that has happened, it’s still good to be a Kurd, Iraqi Kurdish local, Shikha Rasul wrote on his Facebook page. He illustrated the sentence with a picture of a well-known Kurdish pop svengali, who launched the careers of several female starlets in the local music industry. But then, beneath the picture he wrote that al-Abadi had asked the svengali to hand over the pop princesses. Oh, he could only keep one for himself.

Since mid-October, the Kurdish have been pushed back by the Iraqi government to earlier boundary lines. Their zone of influence has been severely curtailed due to the holding of a referendum on Kurdish independence.



But now, after everything that has happened, at least some of the people of Iraqi Kurdistan are turning to humour and satire to deal with the political pain. “Because there is really nothing left to say,” Rasul said of the jokes he had made on Facebook. “Regardless of the seriousness of the situation, there is just a lot of noise right now. That is the political climate. Nobody is going to listen to anything serious at the moment. Jokes are our only option and this way, ideas will be spread.”

Sixurma is a popular Kurdish page on Facebook with over 300,000 fans. It publishes jokes and cartoons and has had a field day with the events of the past month.

The producer of the page, who asked to remain anonymous because of the controversial nature of some of the jokes the page posts, told NIQASH that behind the laughter there was a serious objective.

“We want to show people how their politicians have failed but we are doing it with comedy. Some of the jokes we make should make politicians feel ashamed of themselves,” the page’s editor said.  

While many fans of the page just laugh at the cartoons and jokes, the page’s editor hopes that, at least a little bit, the comedy is making people think.

 “The young people of Kurdistan shouldn’t trust those who deceived them,” the page editor says. “They should not trust those who are living a life of luxury and always travelling, while youths here have barely five dinars in their pockets.”

Some of Iraqi Kurdistan’s comedians believe the time is ripe for making fun of politicians. “These jokes speak of the bad governance here,” says Omar Karim Agha, a well-known local comedian. If there was respect for the way the region’s politicians acted, then nobody would be making fun of their behaviour.

“I feel that we should make comedy that reflects the suffering of the people, it is the only way that we can support them,” says another local comedian, Zaniar Jumma from Kirkuk, who recently participated in a street theatre festival in Sulaymaniyah, during which he criticized authorities for the loss of Kirkuk.

This is satire, explains Goran Ali Karem, a teacher at Sulaymaniyah’s fine arts school. “It’s almost tragic but not quite,” he explains. “It is a kind of mockery of what has happened here.” 


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