Kurdistan star Dashni Morad has been an outspoken advocate for women's rights in home-country, and along with her experiences of being a refugee in Holland and her activism in the UK, she's quickly becoming an important figure in Europe.
The talented artist started as a TV presenter before moving on to acting and music, and she has become a celebrity and a force to be reckoned in Iraq.
With that in mind, she's dropped a new video that will donate all proceeds to her organization Green Kids, and we're excited to premiere the exclusive video for all of our readers to experience today. We also sat down with the extraordinary talent and activist to learn more about Kurdistan, misconceptions about the middle east, and about her organization, Green Kids.
Hey Dashni, thanks for taking the time to talk to us. Admittedly, a lot of our readers are based in the US, so I'd love to hear a little bit about your background from your perspective first. What were your experiences in Holland like, and how did it affect your beliefs once you returned to your hometown?
It’s great to talk to you guys! Well I was born in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq in ‘86, in the middle of an absolutely ferocious war between Iraq and Iran, where the Iraqi regime was also engaged in a relentless campaign of genocide against the Kurds. Some of my earliest memories are of war and as a refugee in the mountains. By the mid 90s, another war had broken out in Kurdistan, which was when my father decided we should migrate to Europe.
So we made the difficult journey to Holland – not so different to what we see happening today. I was eleven at the time, and it was fascinating seeing all the different cultures and religions. It wasn’t an easy transition however, and sadly my family and I were frequently subjected to racial discrimination. Over time we integrated into Dutch society, and I became increasingly independent, and yearned for the freedoms that my Dutch friends had, which had been denied to me. So I rebelled!
It was like a fire burning within me – I was a feminist before I even knew what the word meant. A decade later I went back to Kurdistan, and having starred in my own TV show in Holland I was somewhat of a celebrity. I was determined to help liberate our youth, in particular young women, from the shackles of Kurdish society. In doing so I managed to shock the nation, making many enemies along the way, including some religious leaders! But they couldn’t silence us, and even today our powerful movement continues to gain momentum.
You are an outspoken voice for feminism in the Kurdish community. In your opinion, what are people misunderstanding about feminism? Why do you think it is such a battle across the entire world?
Feminism is an inevitable process. The world should embrace it, and let it thrive. In fact to fight it goes against human nature. It is built into our DNA, as I have no doubt evolution will prove in the coming millennia. It is commonly misrepresented as some sort of a revolt against man. This is simply untrue – it is merely the correction of an ancient misbalance.
With feminism being a process, it is at different stages in different parts of the world. Looking West from Kurdistan, I can see the benefits that a period of sustained feminism is having on society in the UK for instance. Of course, even the UK has a long way to go, but it is still further along the process than Kurdistan is, and that gives us hope. It needs dedication, commitment, belief and an understanding that there is no compromise.
The world is indeed engaged in a huge battle – probably the biggest it’s ever seen – the battle for gender equality, and we’re all a part of it.
You've released your first UK single, in a country that just voted for brexit, with refugees being a major pressure point in their debates. What message do you wish to convey to those that see refugees and immigrants as a negative aspect?
I think that’s two different questions. Firstly on non-refugee immigrants, I think that data proves beyond doubt that immigration benefits the economy, which in turn means more opportunities and more jobs for UK citizens. And in many cases, the UK needs immigrants to fill certain positions, where candidates may not be available locally. However, I understand that this still deserves a fair debate, as the argument for controlled immigration is not necessarily unreasonable.
However, on the question of refugees, there can be no debate at all. It is inhuman to close your borders to families fleeing a horrific war. It does not make sense that the international community cannot come together to relocate a few million refugees. What the world needs to understand is, they didn’t want this either. These are men, women and children, risking their lives in hope of a new life. And instead of extending a helping hand, so much of the world has decided, through certain political changes or otherwise, to ignore and distance themselves from the problem.
I sometimes feel like the only way humanity will unite is if aliens invade us!
How can we, across the pond and in other countries, actually help those in the middle east that are fighting for feminism?
In order for feminist movements to succeed in the Middle East, we need women in the region to understand the principles of feminism. That requires educational programs, such as awareness and leadership workshops. These can be effective tools in helping to empower women, and giving them the drive to take control of their lives and destiny. Then of course what is important is the on-going support and sense of feminist community, so that they know they’re not alone.
So if you ask me how the West can help, I’d say by providing resources to push these two elements: education and support. I recently gave a three-day female empowerment workshop to a group of Yezidi girls whom escaped from Mosul, having been captured by the so-called Islamic State. We made tremendous progress over the course of the workshop and I can’t wait to do it again.
You are also working on your Green Kids Organization and setting this up in the UK? Why did you hone in on the UK for this and how can people help?
Yes, we’re currently in the process of setting Green Kids UK up. The UK is a great hub for the international humanitarian community. Many NGOs and charities I’ve worked with in the past are based here. Also, the British people have always given a helping hand during a crisis. I remember when I was a refugee in the Kurdish mountains in ’91, a massive fundraising concert was held at Wembley called ‘The Simple Truth’. I remember receiving aid in the mountains and being told about it. So I guess that has stuck with me.
I’m hoping to gather significant aid from schools in the UK, to be delivered to the refugee camps I work within Kurdistan. Especially with the current offensive on Mosul, the situation has taken a turn for the worst, so I need to make sure this happens fast and effectively. The idea is to connect children in the UK with refugee children, so that they better understand the situation. We hope that the children can donate books, clothes, and toys that would otherwise be thrown away.
We’ve already done this in Holland, and it worked very well. When we delivered the aid, the children were over the moon, especially with the toys, so I want to make sure I get as many toys as possible this time. It is amazing how compassionate children can be, and I think we can learn a lot from them. Also it’s a form of recycling, and the environment is of paramount importance in everything Green Kids does.
If you want to support us, please visit: www.greenkids.org.uk