Kurds and the 2010 census in United States of America, Part I
Census is a national campaign to count everyone residing in the United States. It is a U.S Constitution requirement to conduct this survey once every 10 years. The census will be held again in 2010 and the census bureau wants to make sure everyone including every race, ethnic group, citizens and non-citizens, refuges and asylums to be counted. It is important for everyone to be counted because the census will determines the population of each state. Based on the census findings, almost 300 billion Federal dollars will get allocated and the numbers of representatives for each state will be determined. These allocations and representations will affect our states for the next 10 years.
The census bureau has acknowledged the difficulties in counting everyone especially within the Refuge and Immigrant communities due to language barriers, confidentiality issues, and distrust in the government and various other reasons. As a result, the census bureau requested the help of refuge and Immigrant organization, communities and local NGOs in promoting the census and helping inform our communities about the importance of being counted in 2010 census.
As local NGOs and local leaders we need to make sure we inform our communities about the importance of being counted in 2010 Census. The census will affect our communities in both National and local levels. In the national level, our state population will determine the number of Representative we have in congress representing our communities and neighborhoods and will determine how much of the 300 billion federal dollars our states gets each year. In short it will determine the power and money each state will receive in the next 10 years. In addition, in the local level, the census will determine where that money will be spent. For example, it will determine the number of schools and hospitals that will be built and where they will be built. It will determine where the roads and public transportation are developed and improved. The census will also determine how much money is allocated for each district including the money our non-profit organizations receive in helping our communities.
The Census Day for 2010 is April 1, 2010. The hope is to count everyone that resides in a place on April 1, 2010. The census survey will be delivered to each household in March 2010. The census will send replacement surveys in April. If the questionnaires are not received back, households will be visited by Census workers around June 2010. In its effort to count everyone, the census bureau has taken important steps to make this census better count everyone than previous census. First of all, it has shortened the census questionnaire to only 10 simple questions. The previous detailed socio-economic data will be collected by the newly established American Community Survey every year. Also, to solve the language barrier problems, the questionnaire will be, for the first time, printed in almost 57 languages. Finally, the census has taken another drastic measure in making this census different than previous census by allowing an individual to self-identify themselves as more than one race or ethnic group. This is very important to our refuge communities. As a member of the Kurdish community, I know this will help our community drastically. It helps us motivate our community to participate in this census because for the first time, if more than 100 households identify themselves as a certain group, then the census results will categorize them as a different group. This helps communities and organizations to get these data about their communities from the 2010 census for statistical purpose.
Some of the simple things we need to do is to first raise awareness about the census. In addition, we need to reassure our communities that it is a simple 10 question survey that will have great impact on their lives. We need to make sure we reassure them that the census is confidential by law. The law states in Title 13, U.S. Code that information collected is used only for statistical purpose only. The census bureau cannot share the collected information with other federal departments, agencies or law enforcement departments. Based on Census Bureau´s statements, disclosing such information will be a felony and there are penalties for such violations of the law including 5 years in prison and/or fines of up to $250,000.
The census bureau has established a partnership program with local NGOs and communities. As partners, any entity can help the census bureau better inform the diverse communities about the 2010 census. As a partner, any organization will have to provide space for ´Be Counted Sites and Questionnaire Assistance Centers´ and providing space for testing and training census employees.
The Kurdish Community in Atlanta, GA has established this partnership with the Census Bureau. More information will be provided about the Kurdish Community efforts in Atlanta, GA and how other Kurdish communities in other states can implement similar efforts in their home states to make sure that everyone in our communities gets counted in 2010 Census.
After three months of Kurdistan/me time, it is time to get back to the normal life of checking the internet, reading and replying e-mails, checking on friends, checking out news, etc… only the normal life is still in Kurdistan with eyes wide open for all the good and bad things that go on everyday with the outside prospective but at a different angle, THE KURDISTAN ANGLE.
So, is Kurdistan the heaven that mom and dad always portrayed? Or is it the childhood picture we all had of Kurdistan, or the beautiful landscapes that writers and visitors of Kurdistan write about after their two or three weeks long journey to Kurdistan? or is it the hell that the relatives who live in Kurdistan always talk and complain about?
Having had the privilege to stay in Kurdistan for such a long time, I had the advantage to see one of the best and worst seasons of Kurdistan. The hot and beautiful summer that has the coolest breeze in the mountainous areas, where springs and waterfalls make you forget about anything you wish to forget; and some of the hottest afternoons, where you can feel like a fried chicken if you stay under the sun for less than 20 minutes. That might be an exaggeration, but it really feels that hot in those hot summer afternoons where the temperature could possible reach 110-120 degrees Fahrenheit in some areas in Kurdistan.
Kurdistan started the first moment we landed in Amed, but the real Kurdistan that I remember from the golly childhood days started in Akrê where the unique trees covered the city and the high mountains hugged the city in all corners and everything in between. Thanks to the occupiers of Kurdistan and the world politics, there wasn’t much development urdistan started the first moment we in the area and so the city looks almost the picture I had in my mind.
Living abroad means missing Kurdistan especially when reading about the imaginary picture that visitors of Kurdistan draw in their descriptive articles. Coming back to Kurdistan meant going sight seeing, and especially those places where a lot have spoken of and have came to Kurdistan specifically to see such places. Many times, foreigners and tourists from the occupying countries would appraise when they were interviewed or asked as to why they would chose tourist places in Kurdistan for their summer attractions. Months in Kurdistan gave me the chance to see many of those tourist attractions and especially in Southern Kurdistan.
Finally, the reality that the ordinary Kurd lives in everyday, is limited hours of electricity in the 21st century, where life runs by machines and computers in most places around the world. Fortunately, life doesn’t run by machines and computers in Kurdistan; otherwise, life would have to stops for many hours each day.
The reality of limited usage of water effects the simple daily activities like showers, such things that we never even have to think of in our comfortable lives abroad. The luxury of having so much leisure time at hand from the youngest to the oldest people is one of the least favored luxuries in Kurdistan. A place where there is very less to do especially for the younger generations has affected many young people, most of which would fall in the category of depressed if they were seen by psychiatrists. A young person best described his leisure time as “throwing rocks at frogs,” when he was asked what do you do with all this time you have at hand. Then the same person took the joke further by saying “With all the young people in Kurdistan, we are all worried about what we will do after we kill all the frogs.” These are few of the many hardships that every person in Kurdistan has to care about each day they wake up and only those that live such conditions will ever get to understand their complaints.
Perhaps what I have mentioned and experienced in my stay in Kurdistan, not all of us will experience. Yet I am positive that what I have experience is what most people in Kurdistan experience each day in their lives. For those who have left Kurdistan in times of Enfal, Halabja, or the great uprising, all these hardships could be seen small hardships all Kurdistanees felt during the years of oppression under Saddam’s regime or the regimes of the occupying counties. Yet, for those of us who have lived comfortable lives abroad could be seen as meaningless hardships if each one of us gives a harder effort to help the people and government of Kurdistan to further and faster improve the living standards of people of Kurdistan.
I don’t wish that all those of us living abroad will come back to see what I saw, but I do wish that they all come back and observe Kurds and Kurdistan and their living standards. Hopefully, each one will have the chance to pay a visit to Kurdistan, but each one will see less of these hardships. It is important however that each one of us comes back to see Kurdistan at first hand and judge whether KURDISTAN IS HEAVEN OR HELL!!!