Savan Abdalrahman – Iraqi Kurdistan
Amir and Zana are two experienced millers in Kurdistan who earn their living in an old gristmill. The gristmill is one of the traditional ways of making flour out of wheat and grain. Few people in Kurdistan are aware of the existence of the gristmill that they work in.
Rebaz Majeed, a photojournalist from Iraqi Kurdistan, visited this gristmill and captured the astonishing efforts of the Kurdish workers in the gristmill. Zana Khidr, who works in the gristmill, was born in 1978 and says: “This gristmill was established by Hajy Kak Amin Salhi, my grandfather. Construction began in 1927 and it was completed by1928. A British company built it, as far as we know. The gristmill still works perfectly. After Hajy Kak Amin’s death, it was left to my father Kak Khidr who is known as ‘Khidr the grist miller’”.
Zana Khidr added: “My father worked on the gristmill from 1942 until he passed away in 2019. My brother and I have been working in this gristmill for nearly 35 years as well”. Zana described the machines and the way the gristmill works: “This machine was built to be fueled with black oil, but now we use it with gas because we don’t have black oil. These types of machines are very rare in Iraq, where there were reportedly only two: one in Baghdad and one in Erbil. After these types of gristmills, the fire gristmill was established”.
“Years ago, the gristmill used to function late at night and then it became every day and night. There were years that it wasn’t turned off for four or five months. But now, due to the modern age, our work is less than before”, he said.
Today, people bring sawar, ganma kutaw, brwesh, rice, nisk, grain, wheat and qarakharman and the workers grist it. Sometimes, the customers grist their own wheat due to a lack of workers. Zana explains: “We open the place from 6:00 am and stay open until 11:00 pm. We also open on Fridays because some people have time to come on Fridays and grsit their wheat here”.
Amir Bakr is currently a teacher but has been working at the gristmill since childhood. He said: “The gristmill is older than I am. Back in the days when the British came, they established this gristmill and they brought workers from Mosul to teach people here how to use it. Then, when Uncle Khidr learned how to use it, he supervised the gristmill”.
Amir said: “The workers were Christians back then, but now people do their own work here. There’s not much need for employees. Even when it breaks, they fix it themselves”. People in the district, both men and women, often visit the gristmill to make flour out of their wheat. The machine remains the same as a hundred years ago because the people working here have kept the machine clean and well-run. Unfortunately, due to the coming of the modern age, people are using the gristmill much less and they instead purchase exported products: “Back then, this place was very crowded”, noted Amir Bakr.