by Hani al-Gamal – Cairo
History runs as quick as a flash inside Seydê Rachid Dîkê’s mind. A native of the northern Syrian city of Afrin in his early sixties, Dîkê remembers the times he spent in Afrin and other parts of Syria before he settled permanently in Egypt.
A grandson of renowned Afrin resistance figure Seydê Dîkê Agha, Dîkê is one of many Kurds who decided to make Egypt his second home. Agha was one of Afrin’s noted chieftains. He led the resistance against the French mandate. He and his comrades once forced a train carrying French troops to stop. They then turned the train over to prevent the troops from advancing.
Agha’s tribe was known for its resistance against foreign control of Afrin. It fought against the Turkish occupation of the city when Mustafa Kemal Atatürk asked his troops to wear the clothes of men of religion to deceive locals. This was, however, quickly discovered by Agha and his children who were fully armed. They forced the Turkish troops out of the northern Syrian city.
All these events are still vivid in Dîkê’s mind. He says he remembers every detail of his family’s history every day. “This history was full of heroism”, Dîkê’s told MedyaNews.
Life in Egypt
Dîkê used to work in farming in Afrin before he moved to the northern Syrian city of Aleppo where he worked for a grain company. Nonetheless, he left everything in his country almost 23 years ago and came to Egypt. In this populous Arab country, Dîkê joined many other Kurds who decided to settle permanently here. He opened a clothes factory in 6 October City, a sprawling new urban community on the desert outskirts of Egyptian capital Cairo.
He then opened a number of clothes workshops, together with his nine children. “Things change quickly here”, Dîkê said. “I had to cope”. He is a grandfather. Dîkê, his children and his grandchildren speak Kurdish only at home. He got married to three women. He and his three wives work on preserving their Kurdish traditions and passing these traditions onto their children and grandchildren. Dîkê, his wives, his children and grandchildren also wear traditional Kurdish clothes all the time, especially at home.
The last time he visited Afrin was two years ago. Unfortunately, it was not easy for him to visit all parts of the northern Syrian city. “There are security restrictions wherever you go in the city”, Dîkê said with pain. One of Dîkê’s daughters is married and continues to live in Afrin. Another is married in Lebanon, whereas two of his sons live in Germany. The rest of his family lives in Egypt.
When the Syrian civil war erupted in 2011, tens of thousands of Syrians fled to Egypt. The presence of Syrians in Egypt makes Dîkê and his family members feel not so far away from home. “Nevertheless, my mind and heart continue to be in Afrin”, Dîkê said. “Egypt has been very generous to us, but one’s home is one’s home”.