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SERWAN ZANGANA: In Many Ways, Kurdistan Is Safer Than Roanoke City

After 16 years, I returned to Kurdistan-Iraq in June of this year to visit some friends and relatives. With a different perspective than I had in the past about life, I visited some areas and spoke to people to learn and experience the life changes in the region. I also reunited with three of my long-time friends, one of whom I had not seen since 1991, and the other two since 2006.

There are many positive stories in the world that can easily be covered by social media and news channels to give people in the U.S a clear idea about other cultures and lifestyles and beliefs. However, I was flabbergasted by what I saw in my native Kurdistan. Namely, the calm way the Kurdish people were working and routinely running around the streets of the cities conducting businesses while carrying thousands of dollars in plain sight without fear of robbery.

I asked one young man who was standing next to his booth trading currencies and counting about the equivalent of US$20,000. “How is it possible to have no fear of being robbed or the money being snatched?” His explanation did not surprise me at all. “We don’t steal, no one can steal, and if someone snatches money and runs, which has not happened, the crowd on the streets will jump on him and catch him.”

I heard the same testimony from a couple of store owners as well. At last I spoke to some police officers in the open markets, and they added more to the same testimony from the people. They explained that, first, people are not willing to create problems, and thus they do not steal. Secondly, if someone snatches money or robs a store, he will not have an easy life when he gets arrested. There are serious consequences for some crimes. In such a secure place, the feeling of safety was as refreshing and similar to the breeze of spring.

On the other hand, reuniting with long-time friends brought back many memories which led to some deep intellectual and ideological conversations. But this time my view was not based on the written idealistic ideology of socialism and leftism. Unlike the past, now we all are realizing the promises of “freedom and equality” that socialism promises are just a hoax, and we are accepting the fact that the bright words of Marxist theory are not able to survive on the ground of reality to feed the hungry.

Obviously the structural development and the roads of the cities in Kurdistan were not completed by groups of socialists and in general there was no interest in socialism among both the politicians and people in the region. Americans need to be reminded that every socialist system has impeded the advancement of the society in which it was tried. The great irony, of course, is that some politicians and lawmakers in the U.S government are advocating and pushing for many socialist agenda items even though they belong to the millionaire class.

Back to the issue of safely, I was impressed to observe such an improvement of security in the region of Kurdistan compared to the time I lived there in the 1990s. As I was wandering around, one question kept rising in my mind: what will it take to make Roanoke a truly safe city – as it surely once was – and what are the factors that are preventing the city from progressing in this area?

Like other typical politicians in the nation, Roanoke City officials are pointing to guns as the core problem rather than identifying the reasons and analyzing the environment that causes the violence per se. For many years, Democrats have been leading Roanoke City and the violence has not decreased. There are undoubtedly only few violent individuals but they are still able to cause a majority of the people to live in fear – especially in certain areas of the city.

Obviously, none of the members of Roanoke City Council acknowledges his or her own culpability in finding a solution to stop such violent individuals. Therefore, the citizens of Roanoke should set an expiration date for the members of the City Council and its Mayor.

– Serwan Zangana supported Operation Iraqi Freedom as a U.S army translator before coming to the U.S from Kurdistan, Iraq in 1997 to seek political asylum. He was granted asylum status and years later proudly became a U.S citizen. He currently serves as a correction officer in Roanoke.

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