When I was a child I was hearing this word a lot. it was everywhere. It was mentioned in conversations at least 5 times a day, it became like some sort of a daily mantra. Every day this word was echoing in my mind because Simply I didn’t understand it! my tiny little 5-year-old mind could never comprehend such a word with such diversity and versatility. for a kid, predicting what a word means is a lot easier than asking and searching for the meaning, I had more important stuff to do, such as playing football, watching cartoons…etc.
At first, I thought it has something to do with bravery, due to the similarity of the words “brave” & “free” in my mother tongue Kurdish. they meant “Aza” & “Azad” respectively. So I thought to be Azad will definitely have something to do with being Aza.
It was the freedom operations of Iraq, 2003. As time passed by, these words started to appear more frequently. from the events surrounding me, freedom started to gain a definition of Having the privilege to have supremacy over your own land.the demise of the reign of the dictator Saddam Hussein was like a new day rising on our lands. I thought the sun was going to be brighter and the air will be fresher. no more pains, no more genocides, the dictator is gone, we rule our very own lands and we are free. however, everything seemed unchanged. the air was same so does the sun. the only thing changed was names. and this meant only one thing; I was still too young to understand freedom.
In Primary school, there was a poem we were obliged to memorize. About a bird in a cage owned by a kid who wasn’t devoiding her of food and water. She was singing every day and seemed happy. the owner was feeding, cuddling and playing with her. One day, When he forgot to close the cage’s door, She escaped!! immediately flew to a tree branch and told the kid the remarkable words of my childhood:
My Freedom Can’t be Bought With Even Gold
this was in our Arabic lectures of 4th grade, primary school. teaching us how priceless freedom is.. so the 10-year-old Aji started to think that freedom was being out of a cage… whatever that cage was made of!
During my high school tenure, again in a lecture, (Yes, I wasn’t very social during my childhood, my memories until here is mostly from school). our English teacher asked us to talk about freedom. And what a better way to get strange and unique answers than asking high school teenagers? the first guy rose his hand (wasn’t me of course ) gave a typical nerdy answer from books. the next guy said, “freedom is to do whatever you want, where ever you want, whenever you want!” his answer was as strange as his hairdo, he had no further explanation except this sentence “I want to do whatever the hell I want without anyone or anything to interfere in my territory without asking me why!”. He made an important point with a bizarre attitude. But, kind of cool to be honest.
when I grew up, I went to Iran, to visit some family and friends. while I was walking around and sighting the country, I asked some random guy I met “How’s life? what’s up?! talk to me about your country”. I was very eager to hear what he was going to say but, his answer immediately replaced my zeal with curiosity. “we are not free!” he replied.
his answer was more of brain freezer than a usual reply to a foreigner. because while I was there to enjoy my time and see some places, he was telling me they were oppressed. his words had an implying “why the hell did you come here?” tone. Well, his reply made me have the interest to ask more, which he quite didn’t want, But anyways I asked 😀 I asked him to tell me the reason for their lack of freedom, of his feeling of suffocation and discomfort. his reply was even stranger, “Because here we are not allowed to drink” he said “I’m not religious, and I want to drink, but the so-called laws and constitutions do not let me do what I want”. Actually, he had a point despite me disagreeing. I was against drinking so that law seemed great to me (in 2012)… but, he was right about the eerie reality that some laws out there exist to tie the people in psychological handcuffs and thus, strip them some of their freedom.
Years later, when I became a college student and traveled, for the first time in my life, alone without my family. the new destination of life was Turkey. The people here had a very different mindset about a lot of issues. contrary to my country and, definitely, Iran too. I heard people say, in order to be free, you need honour and integrity. anything that lacks these two is slavery. the idea was, No matter what the circumstances are, having honour and integrity is what you need to be free. freedom is the ability to say No, without fear! at this point in my life, this was what I also Believed about being free.
The contrast of ideas is amazing as the place of the event changes. But, the most satisfying answer I got was from one of my friends the moment he learned that I’m writing about Freedom. he told me, “To be free, is to be happy”. and guess what, He is Absolutely right. The moment you are doing something unwillingly, you are not free. the moment you perform an act that makes you sad, you are not free. the moment you decide to do someone’s job to make them happy, meanwhile it merely puts an unnecessary amount of stress on you. Then you, my friend, are not free. the idea is simple; to be free, just look for what makes you happy!
To sum up, I can tell that I have witnessed a variety of ideas about freedom and what it is meant to be or how it is felt. For me, freedom is being able to stand for yourself. It’s the ability to overcome the people’s judgment and prejudice. Freedom is the ability to choose the best for yourself, not the absence of commitment. Because with the lack of commitment some sort of disorder will appear and prevail, and it will definitely impact the structure and order of the surrounding environment. I came to a conclusion to that, in addition to my friend’s “freedom=happiness” theory, my first childhood assumption was very true. that idea summed makes the disperse whole again. In order to be free, you need to be brave. with this condition satisfied, you’ll be happy. you’ll have no restrictions and you will be doing whatever the hell you want. just remember:
In Kurdish, To write free “Azad”, you must first write brave “Aza”.