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Survivors:
Family Histories of Surviving War, Colonialism, and Genocide
Edited and with Introduction and Background by Al ...
Table of Contents
Acknowledgments
Introduction
Part One: Wars, From Border Wars to Civil Wars and Revolutions
Background: ...
Background: Vietnam
Vietnam by Matt Emmer
Part Two: Colonialism
Background: Ethiopia
Ethiopia by Beza Kumbi
Background: Na...
Background: Rwanda
Family History by Marie Claire Kayitesi
Part Four: American Indian Stories
Background: Navajo Nation
Th...
Acknowledgments
I would like to thank first and foremost the families of these students for sharing their
stories with us ...
Introduction
History is all around us. I constantly tell my students and readers that all of us, quite
literally, make his...
Northern Virginia Community College serves four of the most northernmost counties of
Virginia, Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun...
One might not think of Virginia suburbs as a center of multiculturalism, but one would be
wrong. Less than two decades ago...
poor, these skilled immigrants are precisely why Loudoun and Fairfax Counties have such high
standards of living.
There ar...
A survivor of the civil war in Burundi turned in a family history describing a relative who
had to flee for their life to ...
independent. We have stories of outright genocide, entire peoples in Cambodia, Greece, Poland,
and Rwanda facing whole or ...
There are today eight very small state recognized tribes in Virginia, collectively less than
8,000 people on less than 2,0...
accounts. Each account also has introductory historical background material on the nation of
origin. The appendices includ...
mind does not record events like a camera or tape recorder. For studying what participants feel
about what they went throu...
younger to see the dramatic differences in women’s lives. Imagine students hearing about the
days when abortion was illega...
Part One:
Wars, From Border Wars to Civil Wars and Revolutions
War- Armed conflict between two or more nations or groups w...
Background:
Afghanistan
All of the names in this first family history essay are pseudonyms, invented to protect the
identi...
Peoples within Afghanistan have fought each other for far longer than they have fought
outsiders. That makes up fully half...
My Family History
by “Zainab Ali”
As a child growing up in Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, I’ve overcome many battles
i...
I am from the Hazara tribal group. Our peopIe speak Hazaragi. Hazaragi is a language
that is a mix of Persian, Turkish, an...
is one of the main reasons that since the eighteenth century they have been greatly mistreated by
Pashtun rulers who were ...
used to live in other great provinces of Afghanistan like Kandahar, Bamiyan, and Helmand. Later
they were forced to those ...
two daughters had passed away while he was gone. People were poor, there weren’t any
developments such as schools and clin...
often denied their rightful inheritance.
In 1993, I finished high school. At the same time the civil war was getting worse...
material lives, and they should take good care of their health.
Bibliography
Bjorklund. Ruth, (2012). Afghanistan: Enchant...
Background:
Bangladesh
Bangladesh lies in the subcontinent of South Asia, surrounded on nearly all sides by
India, except ...
contrast with the stories from Indian and Pakistani families who recall incredible violence all
around them. Her story foc...
The Story of my Mother
By Afia K. Hoque
My mother, Afia Khatun, was born on Friday, August 28, 1963 to Shaira Khatun and
M...
the electricity of some parts of the country will be turned off so that other parts may have some
as well. In these cases,...
Afia Khatun then went on to complete other tasks. A few minutes later the news came that her
grandmother had fallen to the...
also remembers her elder sisters going out to vote during elections. “The women were allowed to
do everything,” my mother ...
there. She saw new plants that she had never seen before and new kinds of people. One of the
things that took her breath a...
Six years after coming to America, Afia Khatun Hoque had her first child. It was a very
happy day. After their daughter wa...
mother, or a parent for that matter, meant that your feelings, pains and happiness would become
an extension and reflectio...
Hopefully if I continue this dialogue with my mother, she might become more comfortable
telling us the many stories that m...
Background:
El Salvador
El Salvador lies on the southern Pacific coast of Central America, the smallest, most
heavily popu...
For most of the twentieth century, the nation was run by the Fourteen Families, a small
number of wealthy elites who treat...
Both stories have the feel of tales told by parents with the aim of remembering, teaching
their children to be grateful, r...
The Journey
By Karen Morataya
My father struggled to remember the tears streaming down my grandmother's face that
Thursday...
coast. You had to travel two hours to get to at least somewhat of a decent city, just to get to a
bank. Who would help my ...
But my father knew better. He kept his mouth shut good and stared at the eyes of everyone
around him. Would he see these p...
But alas, on the fifteenth night, the coyote said that this would be the last night they would be
sleeping in the desert. ...
would be his new home until God knows when. But looking around, unto the vast tall buildings
and beautiful sunset he knew ...
El Salvador
By Tania Velasco
“A heart’s wound can be healed but the scars never fade away; reminding you of the
struggle a...
herbal medicine, among other agriculture that were exported and traded within the country and
outside the country’s border...
could not approach her like any other woman for she was the only daughter of Don Pedro, one of
the wealthiest men in town....
My grandmother’s wounds were caused by the abandonment of her mother, the abuse of
her husband, the deaths of her children...
El Salvador’s civil war spanned over a time frame of twelve years and took over 80,000
lives, including 12,000 in 1981 alo...
Rubidia’s family moved to a town named Ilobasco, best known for the wooden artwork
that is produced there. At the tender a...
two people in front of her. When her brother returned, she was nowhere to be found. He cursed
them both when he found out ...
He was a poor humble man who had children from another marriage, but was able to unfreeze
my mother’s heart and teach her ...
the Salvadoran communities reside in California and Texas but many have also relocated
themselves in Maryland, Virginia, W...
jobs at one time in order to support her boys back home as well as her family. She would leave
around six in the morning a...
heart so that she can live her life with no more pain, but with the happiness of having her family
here with her so that i...
Background:
India
Describing India, the Indian subcontinent, or South Asia, is more akin to talking about a
region or seri...
An independence movement confronted the British continuously. Part of it was Muslim
nationalism and revivalism. By the tim...
`
Family History
by Randhawa Preet
Before I begin my family history and the interview of my grand aunt, I would like to
re...
Pakistan, which back then was India. She was born in 1925 into a wealthy family, where her
father was an officer in the In...
The Kase is the keeping of one’s hair as untouched, meaning without cutting it. It is used
as a symbol of spirituality and...
well. The reason my aunt and her family had to evacuate Lahore was because a group of
Pakistani civilians and gang members...
peace activist that rallied the Sikhs towards starting their own country, called Khalistan.
Khalistan is a movement that m...
Shirin Keen. "The Partition of India." The Partition of India. N.p., 1998. Web. 04 Oct. 2012.
http://www.english.emory.edu...
religion. It was founded during the 15th
century by Guru Nanak, and based its teachings of
accepting others, praising god,...
British soldiers who were occupying the country bullied my grandfather as a child. The
British had occupied India for 1858...
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This is a collection of essays by university students describing their family members surviving wars, colonialism, and genocide. Essays included on Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Cambodia, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Greece, India, Iran, Namibia, Nigeria, Palestine, Poland, Puerto Rico, South Africa, and American Indian tribes.

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Survivors: Family Histories of Surviving War, Colonialism, and Genocide

  1. 1. Survivors: Family Histories of Surviving War, Colonialism, and Genocide Edited and with Introduction and Background by Al Carroll
  2. 2. Table of Contents Acknowledgments Introduction Part One: Wars, From Border Wars to Civil Wars and Revolutions Background: Afghanistan My Family History by “Zainab Ali” Background: Bangladesh The Story of My Mother by Afia K. Hoque Background: El Salvador The Journey by Karen Morataya El Salvador by Tania Velasco Background: India Family History by Gunpreet Randawa Family Tree by Harpreet Randawa Background: Iran Growing Up Iranian by Sarah Ghods Persian Born But American Bred by Sarah Ghods Background: Nigeria Biafra: The Nigerian Civil War by Infeyinwah Onuorah Background: Pakistan Mrs. Karmatay by Saira Din Nani by Sanam Shaikh
  3. 3. Background: Vietnam Vietnam by Matt Emmer Part Two: Colonialism Background: Ethiopia Ethiopia by Beza Kumbi Background: Namibia “For a Better Future, I Shall and Will Suffer” by Vetondouua Karuuombe Background: Palestine Family History by Dylan Crawford Background: Puerto Rico Family History by Kaitlin Jung Background: South Africa My Family History by Nontobeko Masilela Part Three: Genocide Background: Cambodia Family Paper on the Khmer Rouge by Somnang Hua Kim Siek Chhour’s Journey Through the Khmer Rouge by Sally Nguon Background: Greece My Family and the Pontian Greek Genocide by William Papageorge Background: Poland Poland by Arkadiusz Klonowicz
  4. 4. Background: Rwanda Family History by Marie Claire Kayitesi Part Four: American Indian Stories Background: Navajo Nation The Navajo Weaver by Brenda Chevarillo Background: Pawnee Nation Rebuilding a Lost Connection by Carlton Gover/Carlton Shield Chief/La-Wa-Te-Ah-Ku Lak-Ta- Chu-Le-Shaadu/“He also gives Shield Chief” Background: Bolivia and the Quechua Nation Childhood Story by Lineth Cobarrubias Appendices: Consent Form Guidelines to Family Histories Notes
  5. 5. Acknowledgments I would like to thank first and foremost the families of these students for sharing their stories with us all. Of course I also wish to thank the students themselves for their interviews, writing, and research. The faculty and staff of Northern Virginia Community College, at Loudoun campus in Sterling, Virginia deserve credit as well for creating a learning environment that allows for the sharing of such histories. Finally, I would like to thank my family for their support and patience while I am constantly researching, teaching, and writing. It was from my parents, sisters, aunts, uncles, and other relatives that I heard family stories all my life. Like many others, we rely on these stories to tell us who we are and where we came from. For the survivor families in these accounts, remembering is important. It should be to us all.
  6. 6. Introduction History is all around us. I constantly tell my students and readers that all of us, quite literally, make history every day. Our actions, those of “ordinary people,” create the history that will be taught tomorrow. I am a passionate believer in family history, oral history, and genealogy. All three are central to what I teach and the methods I use to teach. For those of us who teach at the college level and especially in humanities and social sciences, there are incredible resources, namely our own students. Like many history professors and historians, I believe strongly in history from below, the practice of teaching, researching and writing from a bottom up view rather the history of elites. Getting students to know their family history and oral history is an important part of my practices. Oral history, and history broadly speaking, tie the individual to their family and community. That community includes both the local area and the nation, both the nation they live in and the nation(s) their family is from. I include nation to mean what Benedict Anderson famously defined it as, a community of like minds united by common language and culture. Nations can be political units, ethnic groups, or some mix of the two. One can speak of nations within nations, such as American Indian tribes. Family histories also remove any sense of history being remote. Hearing stories of family members right in the center of major events, often literally struggling to stay alive, makes issues like war and peace, colonialism, and power struggles between nations or between elites and those struggling to get out from under their domination...suddenly such issues seem very immediate, and so real.
  7. 7. Northern Virginia Community College serves four of the most northernmost counties of Virginia, Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun, and Prince William, essentially the suburbs of Washington, DC. In one study after another, Loudoun County, the one I teach in, is ranked the wealthiest county per capita in America, followed by Fairfax. Average income per family in the county tops $100,000. One might not think of these communities as home to refugees from dangerous and traumatized nations. Such a thought would be wrong. These counties are home to survivors of the most heinous kinds of atrocities. The volume you hold in your hands was largely written by the children and grandchildren of these survivors, often telling the stories of their elders and loved ones describing why they fled brutality of the kind no one should ever have to bear. In most cases, the students did not know of these hardships and atrocities first hand, as they only experienced them from hearing about them from their immediate family member. In other cases, the stories have been passed down, carefully preserved for several generations. In still other cases, these students heard of their family member's experience for the first time because of writing these student papers. While all of these stories are important to preserve, it is the last type I am most proud of having a role in, helping to build ties between generations. There are few places in the US that can compete for diversity with Northern Virginia. That fact surprised me when I first moved here, not expecting to live in a small Virginia town and yet be able to go to Afghan, Burmese, Indian, Peruvian, Salvadoran, and Thai restaurants within a population of fewer than 20,000. I quickly found myself teaching with this incredible resource, students from such a variety of ethnic and national backgrounds.
  8. 8. One might not think of Virginia suburbs as a center of multiculturalism, but one would be wrong. Less than two decades ago, the counties of Northern Virginia were overwhelmingly white, with also a longstanding Black presence going back to the earliest colonial times. It was in Virginia that some of the most restrictive racial purity and control laws were passed after Bacon's Rebellion. Most of the Native presence had also been erased or removed over a century before American independence. In a treaty in 1646, the English took most Virginia land, forcing Indians to pay tribute. The Native population dropped over 90% from war and disease and all Indians legally became subjects of the Crown. Virginia's colonial laws enforced white supremacy. All white males had to be armed, but no nonwhites could be. No white servants or workers could be hired by nonwhites. Natives and Blacks were both classified as “Negroes and Other Slaves.” All white women bearing mixed children were heavily fined, and the children sold into slavery. Most women found guilty could not pay the fine, and so faced a prison sentence instead. All nonwhites were barred from office, testifying in court, and voting, and each racial group could only marry in the same racial category. Some of these restrictions lasted until the 1960s. Other minorities largely were not in Virginia until recently. But today over 160 ethnic groups call Northern Virginia home. One in ten Virginians are foreign born, and one in nine Virginians speak a primary language that is not English. These numbers are likely several times higher in Northern Virginia than in the rest of the state. Having Washington DC nearby has made Northern Virginia a magnet for well-educated immigrants. The medical centers also draw a high number of highly skilled immigrant doctors and other medical professionals. Research centers also bring in many highly educated scientists and other scholars. And contrary to the image many immigrant haters have of immigrants as
  9. 9. poor, these skilled immigrants are precisely why Loudoun and Fairfax Counties have such high standards of living. There are stories of survivors all around us, and their stories are of the utmost importance to tell. The genesis of this book came from a US History I class I taught. I became determined to gather these stories after a young Sudanese student's essay told the story of her grandmother escaping from slavery. Not slavery as in exploitation, or the silly hyperbole of a conservative complaining about high taxes, but literal slavery, an African woman being bought and sold in the late twentieth century, abused and without rights, and finally having to escape in as dramatic a fashion as any Black American slave over 160 years ago. That student, though, declined to have her story included, and ethically we must respect her wishes. About half of the students I approached are not included in this book. Many had moved on in their academic careers after the semester and their college email addresses were no longer in use. Others, for personal reasons, fear, shame, or worry about affecting relatives, did not want the stories they told to become public. Among the stories students told to me in family histories for class, but not included in this collection: A Peruvian student told the story of his uncle taking part in anti-insurgent campaigns, and his uncle’s memories of guilt following his part in the execution in the field of a rebel commander. A student told of his ancestor’s life on death row before being executed for murder, and the family’s shame at being related to him. Some family members still refuse to speak of it many decades later.
  10. 10. A survivor of the civil war in Burundi turned in a family history describing a relative who had to flee for their life to the United States. A Salvadoran student described her father fleeing El Salvador following the civil war of the 1980s. It was after the military dictatorship, so he did not fear reprisals from death squads, but from others in his village for being in the military. A Guinean/Togoan student describing her grandfather’s life as the village leader, married to multiple wives. A Ghanan student described her grandfather being arrested by the British for being part of the independence movement. A Japanese-American student listened to the story of her aunt's experience in the US internment camps in World War II. A student with one Choctaw parent and one Mexican-American described the family traditions on both sides and the prejudice he’s faced. A student from southwestern Virginia describes a small community’s accounts of themselves as Cherokee descendants who had to hide their ancestry from outsiders for many generations. This student is pursuing an anthropology degree, and I strongly urged her to study her own community. Here in this collection we have other stories of surviving civil war, of seeing families torn apart and then reunited, loved ones lost, atrocities witnessed, relatives that had to flee, and the survivors that brought their children and grandchildren to the US. We have stories of living through long periods of colonialism and still uncertainly not knowing if your people will ever be
  11. 11. independent. We have stories of outright genocide, entire peoples in Cambodia, Greece, Poland, and Rwanda facing whole or partial extinction. And finally we have the stories of American Indians here in northern Virginia, who have faced both colonialism and genocide, and whose descendants are still in this land in spite of everything done to the contrary. After almost entirely being driven out of Virginia in colonial times, today one meets similar, if not exactly the same, Native people if one knows where to look. The immigrant stories confound the stereotypes that bigots have of them. Most immigrants to the United States, both the families in this collection or elsewhere, are not from the poorest of the poor. Most are middle class in their home countries. Northern Virginia especially tends to draw quite a few highly educated immigrants, both in the faculty and in the student body and the students’ family members. One frequently meets the offspring of immigrant doctors, business people, and high level bureaucrats. The American Indian stories also confound many people’s expectations of the area. Most of Virginia’s American Indian population began to be ethnically cleansed as far back as the earliest colonial times. Most every Virginian and other Americans knows the (largely false) legend of Pocahontas and her dealings with Jamestown. What far fewer know is that, upon her death and that of her father Powhattan, the English colonists began an ugly war that, along with disease, killed nine tenths of the Powhattan Confederacy in one generation. The Anglo-Cherokee War and the French and Indian War wiped out or drove away nearly all remaining Native people in the state. As mentioned before, Virginia passed a strict series of racial purity laws, the first in what would become the US, barring interracial marriage or even contact, and classified all Indians in a rigid racial hierarchy.
  12. 12. There are today eight very small state recognized tribes in Virginia, collectively less than 8,000 people on less than 2,000 acres. The ranches near where I grew up in Texas each had more land individually than those eight communities do altogether. Yet Natives in Northern Virginia persist and thrive. Most Natives in northern Virginia came to the DC metro area for work, the same as many others. One Lakota I knew in graduate school works in the Department of the Interior, as does a Choctaw student who attended my class. The latter gave me the gift of a White House proclamation for Native American Heritage Month. But the Native population of Virginia is shifting. As in much of the rest of America, the Native population of Virginia is increasingly from Latin America. It seems likely that the largest numbers of Natives in the area are not Mattaponi, Renape, or Cherokee, but Ayamara and Quechua from Bolivia and Peru, Pupile from El Salvador, and Maya from Guatemala and Mexico. If one wants to go to Native powwows, the closest are at Washington DC universities. Virginia state-recognized tribes are mostly further south and east in the tidewaters region or close to Richmond. But the largest Native dances to be seen in northern Virginia are diabladas (devil dances, as the first Spaniards called them) and morenadas (dark skinned dances), both performed by Bolivian and Peruvian heritage groups in the area at festivals in the summer. These celebrations have both mestizo (mixed ancestry) and Indian people, but the latter are by far the majority. Both dances are indigenous to the Andes, though some theories claim the morenada has an Afro-Bolivian origin. The structure of this collection is to group these accounts based on the experience of their family member, war, colonialism, or genocide, plus a separate category for American Indian
  13. 13. accounts. Each account also has introductory historical background material on the nation of origin. The appendices include the release form each student signed, as well as the guidelines give to all students in my classes writing a family history paper. Each student's bibliography is at the end of the essay. In some cases, the essay has no bibliography, reflecting when I had not yet required them for student family histories. There are a number of recurring themes in these essays. One of the most prominent is gratitude that America is a haven for refugees. Another is how many of these students appreciate the struggles and discrimination that their mothers and grandmothers went through as women. Finally a number of these students describe their family member literally facing down evil. In a few cases, the family member largely avoided the great struggles going on in their nation, and that also is worthy of note. More than a few works on oral history point to the limitations of the genre. Someone wanting exact data, of the kind put out by government and other institutions, should not rely on oral history. For analysis at a macro level, an average untrained person does about as well as one would expect. Some interviewee accounts are astonishingly insightful, while others may not know very much. These persons herein reflect very much the societies that produced them, and sometimes an oral history account may even show that person lazily reproducing falsehoods. One example that particularly stands out in this collection is a student's family member's story of “sex slaves” held by a rebel group during the Salvadoran Civil War, likely a government-spread rumor. But for a micro view of personal and societal attitudes, worldview, and detailed daily life, oral history is outstanding. Oral history is often a study of memory, how these events are transmitted and remembered by members of a population, rather than exact reproduction. The
  14. 14. mind does not record events like a camera or tape recorder. For studying what participants feel about what they went through, their perceptions and how they pass them along to family and other loved ones, oral history is ideal. There certainly is room for many more studies like this one. At just one community college, teaching perhaps 1200 students over the course of three years, I found eleven families of wartime survivors, five of modern day colonialism, and five families with members who survived genocide, plus an almost equal number of survivors who chose not to be published. Had I chosen a different focus, there were any number of other collections that could have been gathered. Indeed, I argue and hope that other professors and even secondary high school teachers reading this should seek to gather family histories. Not just of the families of survivors such as these, but also military veterans, activists, immigration histories, studies focused on a particular ethnic group, and women's history are all possible collections that could be gathered by teachers at schools. Ideally, I would like to see the writing of family histories become standard practice in all US history survey courses, as well as other history classes. I could easily see a professor gathering veterans’ accounts either for an antiwar collection or for remembrance of service, or a combination of the two. Ethnic studies certainly could benefit from gathering students’ accounts. Most of the Latin American student essays were gathered in my Latin American classes, as most American Indian essays were in my American Indian classes. Some students chose to share their family experiences with their classmates, making events like the Salvadoran Civil War and Iranian Revolution seem every bit as real as any newsreel. I could also easily see women’s studies courses requiring every student to interview their grandmothers about their lives when
  15. 15. younger to see the dramatic differences in women’s lives. Imagine students hearing about the days when abortion was illegal but sexual harassment was not. Remembrance is important. Teaching about it is even more so.
  16. 16. Part One: Wars, From Border Wars to Civil Wars and Revolutions War- Armed conflict between two or more nations or groups within nations. Border War- A war fought between neighboring countries over territory, resources, or for political advantage. Civil War- A war fought within a nation between two armed sides. Revolution- An uprising with the intent of overthrowing the established political and/or social order of a nation. That wars have played a huge role in American and world history is self evident. What is often less known to much of the American public is just how often the American government, American corporations, or other American individuals played a role in starting or continuing many wars in other nations, often fighting wars by proxy. The irony of that is it is often the United States that many of these war refugees flee to. More than a few of these accounts are passionate in their conviction that America was and is a sanctuary for those fleeing persecution and hardship. Wars certainly bring out the best in American society and the worst in many American elites and that part of the populace that uncritically supports them.
  17. 17. Background: Afghanistan All of the names in this first family history essay are pseudonyms, invented to protect the identity of relatives still in Afghanistan. Afghanistan was little known to most Americans prior to the Soviet invasion in 1979, and got renewed attention following September 11. A final phase of the Cold War, fought by proxy, led to what the CIA calls blowback, unintended consequences resulting in the creation of a Frankenstein monster, a creature turning on its creator. Afghan mujahadeen, trained and armed by the US government, became the Taliban, allies of Al Qaeda, itself created by a former longtime CIA asset, Osama Bin Laden. Afghanistan's history of conflict with the west goes back much further. Both the British and Russia under the Tsars invaded in the nineteenth century and were badly beaten. Even Alexander the Great invaded Afghanistan and failed badly in his attempt to conquer this area of dozens of hardy peoples, tribes that occupy the rugged terrain, high mountains, and valleys that one must be resourceful and strong to live in. This essay by “Zainab Ali” gives us a view from an Afghan minority of the underlying historic causes for conflicts within the nation today. In the United States we rarely hear about Afghan people as other than one solid monolithic group, “Afghans.” The news media usually splits Afghan people into two groups, sharply defined, “US allies” and the Afghanistan government against the Taliban and assorted miscellaneous militias opposed to the US military presence for vague supposed anti-American reasons.
  18. 18. Peoples within Afghanistan have fought each other for far longer than they have fought outsiders. That makes up fully half of Zainab Ali's essay. The essay also comes from a woman describing the daily struggles of Afghan women. The US plays far smaller a role in her life than one might suppose. The lack of rancor towards the US, even while opposing all the violence a US presence worsened, also may surprise some. The first Afghan immigrants to the US probably came in the 1920s, but most arrived as refugees from the 1980s on, coming by way of Iran or Pakistan. Though San Francisco has the largest number of Afghans in the US, Afghans also have a substantial presence in Northern Virginia of over 20,000 people.
  19. 19. My Family History by “Zainab Ali” As a child growing up in Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, I’ve overcome many battles in the fight against discrimination towards my particular ethnic group. I was wondering and wanted to know the reasons why our people were the main target of discrimination compared to other ethnic groups. I became deeply inspired to search for my own historical roots. I remember, my parents were barely talking about their parents and their grandparents’ legacy and their history. Deep down inside me, there was a desire to know my family heritage. Unfortunately, due to harsh political and social uprisings, many Afghans evacuated the country. Our family was one of the many who evacuated; we headed to find refuge in India. Fortunately this research paper and the interview of the oldest members of our family gave me another opportunity to find out more about our legacy. I‘ve discovered that there were three main components to why my tribal group was cruelly discriminated against, including a difference in ethnic/tribal group, a difference in religion and a difference in our language. The ethnic mix gave Afghanistan great cultural variety but also created lots of social and political problems between the groups. There are many different tribal groups that make up the Afghan population. The main tribes include the Pashtuns, Tajiks, Hazaras, Uzbeks, and Turkomans. Pashtuns are the majority, then Tajiks, and Hazaras are the third major ethnic groups. Dari and Pashto are Afghanistan’s two official languages. The majority of the Afghan people speak the Dari language. Educated people often read, write, and speak both languages, Pashto and Dari. About 99% of Afghans are Muslim. There are two major sects of Islam, the two Shia and Sunni. Most Afghans are Sunni, and the Hazara people are mostly Shia Muslims.
  20. 20. I am from the Hazara tribal group. Our peopIe speak Hazaragi. Hazaragi is a language that is a mix of Persian, Turkish, and Mongolian languages. For centuries, the Hazaras have been treated the worst of all the ethnic groups. Many non Hazaras called us the descendants of Chinese and Mongolians because of our facial features. This is one of the reasons that Hazaras have been discriminated against. There were times that Kushans’ and Mongolian’s armies invaded Afghanistan. The ancient Chinese constructed the once large and magnificent Buddha’s statues in Bamiyan province, later demolished by fundamentalist Muslims known as the Taliban. Therefore, Pashtuns and some Tajiks were discriminating against Hazaras and they were saying that Hazaras should leave Afghanistan and go to their original countries such as China and Mongolia. A great Afghan author, Khalid Hosseini, has written captivating stories of the struggles Hazara people have faced in the book The Kite Runner. Historians found out that Hazara people are a mixed group of Mongols, Kushans, Persian, and Turkish armies that invaded Afghanistan throughout its history. Moreover, historians have discovered that the Hazara people are not the only mixed ethnic groups, all other ethnic groups that live in Afghanistan are the descendants of Aryans, Macedonians, Mauryans, Kushans, White Huns, Arabs, and Mongols that once invaded Afghanistan. Another reason that Hazara people are getting discriminated is their culture and language. Historians proved that Hazaras’ cultures and languages are a good mix of Turkish, Persian, and Mongolian one. The third and major reason that Hazaras are discriminated is the religion that Hazaras are practicing. Hazaras are mainly Shia Muslims, which was not welcomed by the majority population of Sunni Muslims. Shia Muslims believe that only a descendant of Prophet Muhammad’s cousin, Hazrat Ali, can be the rightful spiritual leader of Islam. Sunni Muslims accept the authority of Islam’s other spiritual leaders as well (Afghanistan 96). Hazaras and their religion are the minority in Afghanistan. That
  21. 21. is one of the main reasons that since the eighteenth century they have been greatly mistreated by Pashtun rulers who were Sunni Muslims. Before the eighteenth century, Hazaras were living free without being controlled by any other ethnic group. There were many different tribes living in territories of Hazarajat and some other parts of Afghanistan. Each tribe led by a principal chieftain to whom tribute was paid. Unfortunately, the Hazaras couldn’t enjoy their freedom when Pashtuns reigned in power in the eighteenth century. Pashtuns rulers forced Hazaras to pay lots of tax, and follow their laws. However, the Hazara leaders were rejecting Pashtuns’ orders. At that time, Abdur-rahman was in power from 1880 to 1901. He was against Hazaras’ culture, language and religion. Therefore, Abdur-rahman made a plan to destroy Hazarajat, and its people. With the help of some fundamental, conservative Sunni people, he raised armies of Pashtuns. Abdur-rahman and his armies fought against Hazara people, accusing them of being atheist. The Pashtun politicians were persuading all other ethnic groups that Hazaras are practicing a wrong sect of Islam; therefore they deserve to be attacked, killed, and robbed. As a result, the Hazara regions became surrounded by many armies. Thousands of Hazaras have been abducted for slavery to the Pashtuns’ regions. The Hazaras have suffered from years of genocide and thousands of women and girls have been raped by Pashtuns. Consequently, thousands of Hazaras evacuated to the neighboring countries like Pakistan and Iran. Thousands of other Hazaras escaped to the deep mountains of Hazarajat to hide. My great-grandparents and grandparents are the survivors of those massacres; they escaped to those mountainous regions. Since then Hazaras mostly lived among the mountains and valleys of central Afghanistan that called Hazarajat. The climate of Hazarajat was harsh, cold, and dry. The poor soil and lack of water of Hazarajat made life hard for its people. Hazaras
  22. 22. used to live in other great provinces of Afghanistan like Kandahar, Bamiyan, and Helmand. Later they were forced to those Hazarajat regions. The harsh climate, and terrible system of agriculture and irrigation of Hazarajat left Hazaras poor, jobless, and hungry most of the time. To earn a living some families, mostly men, were going to other cities like Kabul especially during wintertime. They were working in low-paying jobs and joining the army. Mr. Ghulam was one of those victims too. He left Behsood for Kabul to find work to feed his family. He was a laborer. He worked as a janitor in Kabul Airport and Kabul Education Ministry. The last ten years of his life he delivered mail, until he came to America in 1990. During the revolution of Pashtun against Hazaras, my great-grandparents “Murudali” and his wife Uzra fled to those mountainous parts of Hazarajat. Murudali and Uzra were from part one of Behsood a city in the province of Wardak. Murudali and Uzra had a small farm of wheat and potatoes; they raised a few animals too. Murudali and Uzra had three children. Two of their daughters passed away as toddlers because of lack of nutrition and medications. My grandfather “Qanbarali” was born around 1920, and he was the only child my great-grandparents had. Murudali and Uzra had a small flat-roofed mud-brick house. They were very poor. At times they starved because they couldn’t get enough food from their farm and their animals. As a young man Qanbarali also learned how to raise animals and work on the fields. Young Qanbarali got married to a girl from the same area. The result of their marriage was one son and two daughters. He moved with his family to Jinjishka to avoid the harsh climate of Wardak province. Jinjishka was a small village in the Province of Samangan, Qanbarali bought some land for farming in Jinjishka. After living for a year in Jinjishka, Qanbarali was drafted in the army, so he left everything behind and went to Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan. However, two years later he returns home to visit his family, he finds out that his wife and his
  23. 23. two daughters had passed away while he was gone. People were poor, there weren’t any developments such as schools and clinics. Medicine was practiced at a destitute level. People were dying of starvation, diseases, and harsh labor. Animals like camel, donkeys, and horses were forms of transportation. My grandfather Qanbarali married Kimya, my grandmother, a year later around 1934. One year later, my father “Moosa” was born in 1935. After that Qanbarali and Kimya had three more daughters, Durdana, Nikbakht, and Ghulbakht. However, Noorali was forced to serve in the army for twelve years instead of two or three years because of his race, language, and religion. Meanwhile, Qanbarali sent “Moosa” to homeschooling to learn reading and writing. At that time ladies weren’t allowed to go to school, my mother was illiterate. Women's rights had been neglected. Women were working in agricultural work, raising children, milking the animals, and some other handicrafts like carpet and felt making. As a result of going to school, Moosa become a teacher, and he started teaching children in that region. Moosa married Masooma, a young girl, around 1955. My mother barely knew anything about her parents, because she was a toddler when she lost her parents. My parents moved to Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, to give us an opportunity to go school. I have three brothers and four sisters. My father stressed the importance of education, made sure we were studying hard. We were fortunate that we went school. There were many other women that weren’t allowed to go school. As a young girl, I loved reading and playing with my friends. Holidays were my favorite time of the year, since we were being rewarded with good food and nice clothes. As I grew older, the society become unsafe. My sisters and I couldn’t go anywhere without my mother. In the city of Kabul, small percentages of women were professional, technicians, and administrators, but still their rights were neglected. Women were
  24. 24. often denied their rightful inheritance. In 1993, I finished high school. At the same time the civil war was getting worse. I grew up during the Afghan Civil War. I have many horrible memories from the war. At first, the civil war leaders were fighting to get rid of Soviet armies from Afghanistan. After the Soviet armies left Afghanistan in 1989, the civil war leaders and their armies started fighting with each other over power. As the war got worse, the discrimination between ethnic groups of Afghanistan got worse too. In 1990, the Pashtuns kidnapped my brother Kamal. He disappeared one day coming from work. My parents were looking all over Kabul for him, bribing the Pashtuns armies to find him. After two weeks of search, we located him in a prison locked with other Hazaras. They had abused him physically and mentally repeatedly until he was released with a population exchange between Pashtun and Hazara. As a result of abuse, he got brain damage. In 1993, the civil war got even worse. My family and I left in November of 1993 for India. We stayed as refugees there for two years and got sponsored by my oldest brother to Canada. I stayed two years in Canada, and got married there and came to America in 1997. Getting out of Afghanistan was a blessing; I got to see India, Canada, and America, my dream land. Right now, all of my siblings are married and have families of their own in Canada or the US. By mid-nineteenth century more than half of Hazara population was killed or forced into exile. Unfortunately, even now there are lots of social and political issues between all the ethnic groups in Afghanistan. I will share my family history with my sons. I will advise them to learn from their family history and embrace their culture and religion. In addition, my advice to my children would be to remain strong in their education, keep a good balance in their spiritual and
  25. 25. material lives, and they should take good care of their health. Bibliography Bjorklund. Ruth, (2012). Afghanistan: Enchantment of the World. Scholastic Inc. Kishtmand. Sultan Ali, (2000). The Historical Events and Political Notes. UK: Jacket Print Loyn. David, (2009). In Afghanistan: Two Hundred Years of British, Russian and American Occupation. Palgrave Macmillan. Monsutti. Alessandro, (March 27, 2009). “An Anthropological Perspective on Rural Rehabilitation in Afghanistan,” http://www.yale.edu/agrarianstudies/colloqpapers/21monsutti.pdf Mousavi. Sayed Askar,(1997).The Hazaras of Afghanistan: An Historical, Cultural, Economic and Political Study. St. Martin’s Press.
  26. 26. Background: Bangladesh Bangladesh lies in the subcontinent of South Asia, surrounded on nearly all sides by India, except a small portion bordering Burma. Historically, the region was called Bengal or Bangla, and for most of its history was mostly Hindu, though often in conflict with Buddhist kingdoms. Islam was introduced to the area by Muslim merchants and missionaries in the twelfth century, eventually becoming the majority religion in the area. A succession of sultanates, Hindu kingdoms, and Portuguese and British colonialists ruled. Upon independence from the British, India was subdivided into India and Pakistan. Pakistan included both a Western Pakistan and Eastern Pakistan on opposite sides of the subcontinent. Discrimination and neglect of the eastern part by those in the western part of Pakistan contributed to discontent. Most of Pakistan's leaders were from the western region. A movement for autonomy was brutally crushed, with at least tens of thousands killed and over a million refugees fleeing to India. In March 1971, the eastern part revolted, later aided by the government of India. In December of the same year, Pakistan conceded defeat and Bangladesh was born. In the US, Bangladeshi immigrants number a bit more than 160,000 as of 2007 and live mostly in Los Angeles, Dallas, Chicago, New York, and New Jersey. In northern Virginia and Washington DC the Bangladeshi community is strong as well, with an annual festival at Northern Virginia Community College's Ernst Center. Afia Hoque’s story is of her mother as a child during the Partition of India. It largely did not affect her except for some memories of warplanes flying overhead. This makes for quite a
  27. 27. contrast with the stories from Indian and Pakistani families who recall incredible violence all around them. Her story focuses instead on the daily life of Bangladeshi women.
  28. 28. The Story of my Mother By Afia K. Hoque My mother, Afia Khatun, was born on Friday, August 28, 1963 to Shaira Khatun and Muhammad Abdus Sattar in Sylhet, Pakistan which is now a part of Bangladesh. She is currently forty-eight years old. She is a wife and a mother of four. My mother is a private person, so when I asked her to be the subject of my interview, she kept smiling out of shyness and told me that she didn’t remember that many things from her past. After telling her several times that it was important that we know her history, she finally agreed, though reluctantly. Muhammad Abdus Sattar, my grandfather, was a businessman who owned a multi- purpose store which specialized in hardware material, groceries, and a small pharmacy. He had been married twice before. Both wives passed away due to illness. After his second wife passed away, he decided to marry again so that his twelve children would have a mother. He married Shaira Khatun, who also had two children from a previous marriage and was now a widow. They had three children together after their marriage. Muhammad Abdus Sattar passed away seven months after his youngest daughter was born. My mother was their second child, so she never got to meet her father. She was two years old at the time her father died, and doesn’t remember anything about him. She also never met any of her father’s relatives. Shaira Khatun remained a homemaker while her eldest step-son provided for his younger siblings. Afia Khatun grew up in a house that was a little bigger than the average homes in Bangladesh. Her family was not too wealthy, but not poor either. My mother grew up with electricity, which helped her family to complete tasks at night. One of the downsides of having electricity was the fact that Bangladesh uses the method of power shedding, which means that
  29. 29. the electricity of some parts of the country will be turned off so that other parts may have some as well. In these cases, they would have to burn several lanterns in order to see at night. My mother started going to school when she was four years old because when she was little she would cry to go to school with her elder siblings. So her mother talked to the headmaster of Kishori Mohan Girls School and they let her start school at age four. She remained at that school until she graduated high school. Her relationships with her elder siblings were mostly out of respect, since there was a big gap between their ages. When she wasn’t doing homework, she played with her youngest sister and her niece. They used to play tag, hide and go seek, and cops and robbers. During my mother’s childhood, her family owned a parrot. She was very fond of this bird because it used to call her name a lot. Like most children who were scared easily, my mother had a fear of spiders and snakes. The Bangladesh Liberation War took place when Afia Khatun was about eight years old. Although no one close to her was hurt, she does remember the sounds of warfare. She remembers seeing the planes shooting and hearing the sounds of missiles flying overhead. “It was very frightening.” she said. When Afia Khatun was about ten years old, her uncle passed away from throat cancer. It was a very emotional time for her entire family. My mother was very sad when she narrated this event to me and my siblings. “He was my mother’s closest brother. They were like best friends. They loved each other very much.” While everyone else around Afia Khatun was grieving, she made it her duty to take care of her grandmother. Afia Khatun would check on her grandmother every few minutes to see if she would need anything. Three days after the death of her uncle, Afia Hoque fed her grandmother her last meal. She went up to her grandmother, who was sitting under a tree, and gave her a plate of fruit. Seeing that her grandmother didn’t need anything else,
  30. 30. Afia Khatun then went on to complete other tasks. A few minutes later the news came that her grandmother had fallen to the ground unconscious, never to awaken. Afia Khatun had been the last one to see her grandmother alive, and it is a memory she still holds dear to her heart. While Afia Khatun attended school, she developed many friendships. One of them was with Bahar Choudry. They were best friends ever since they were little. They were always playing and talking together. They would share everything with each other. They would go to each other’s homes. It was through Bahar Choudry that Afia Khatun would meet her future husband, who happened to be Bahar Choudry's elder brother. My mother was very studious. She would always be one of the top ten students of her class. She was always interested in learning new things. She would always aspire to become a doctor, which was what most of the other girls in her class would dream of becoming. She graduated high school and started college. The role of women in Bangladesh was substantial but largely unacknowledged. Women in rural areas were mostly responsible for most of the post-harvest work, cooking, and for keeping livestock, poultry, and small gardens. Women in cities relied on domestic and traditional jobs, but in the 1980s women increasingly started taking jobs in manufacturing jobs, especially in the ready-made garment industry. The women with higher education worked in the government, health care, or became teachers. Female wage rates were typically ranging between twenty and thirty percent of male wage rates. On an average day in Bangladesh you would see that the markets were mostly filled with men or men accompanied by their wives. It was not typical for a woman to go shopping by herself. Gradually, over time, this changed. When my mother was growing up, she used to see women going to the markets all by themselves in order to provide for their families. My mother
  31. 31. also remembers her elder sisters going out to vote during elections. “The women were allowed to do everything,” my mother recalls. “There wasn’t really any discrimination towards women, at least none that I can recall.” In the Bangladeshi culture it is usual for the family to suggest the spouses for their children. Marriage generally is made between families of similar social standing. Most of the time a woman is to marry a man of a somewhat higher status, be it money, education or lineage. Towards the late twentieth century, the financial standing of a family came to outweigh the family background. While she was in college, my mother, who was nineteen years old at the time, received many proposals for marriage. Since my grandfather passed away, Afia Khatun’s eldest brother took care of all the proposals that came for my mother. One of the proposals came from Afia Khatun’s best friend’s brother. Since both families knew each other very well, Afia Khatun and her family decided that he was the right man. Afia Khatun had finished two years of college when both of the families made the final arrangements. Shirajul Hoque and Afia Khatun Hoque wed on July 2, 1982. Shirajul Hoque had already been working in Los Angeles, California for a couple months before he went back to his country to get married. He applied for a visa for his wife and then six months after getting married, the new couple arrived in America. The first place Afia Khatun Hoque went to was New York, to visit some of her husband’s family. They flew back to Los Angeles, California after a week. When my mother was still in Bangladesh she had heard many things about America. Many people had said that America was a beautiful land and that there was a lot of opportunity. When Afia saw America for the first time in person, she couldn’t believe that she was really
  32. 32. there. She saw new plants that she had never seen before and new kinds of people. One of the things that took her breath away was the sight of how many cars were on the highway during traffic. She hadn’t seen anything like it in Bangladesh. Adjusting to the new country was somewhat complicated. Learning the new language was one of the most difficult tasks for Afia Khatun Hoque. She managed to get by using the most common phrases in English. At first she stayed at home while her husband went to work. After a couple months Afia and her husband started a weekend business of selling merchandise on the beach. Every weekend during the warmer seasons, they would go out to the beach to sell their merchandise. They decided to close down that business and start a dry cleaners agency. While my father worked at his day job, my mother ran the agency. She would take the customer’s clothes and get it ready to be sent to a dry cleaners since there weren’t any washing machines or dryers there. She did this all by herself, day after day, until they both decided to sell the business because my mother was becoming very lonely. On their free time they would enjoy themselves by throwing dinner parties, and going to different tourist spots. Coming to America had a big impact on my mother. She was thrilled to be able to use electricity whenever she wanted to. But the new country also affected her health. After coming to America, she started getting allergies to things that never were a problem in Bangladesh. Family has always been a priority for my mother. After moving to America, she kept in contact with her family by sending them letters on a weekly basis. She also went and visited them. Sometimes she would call them, but the phone bills would be very high. That’s why she would write to them instead.
  33. 33. Six years after coming to America, Afia Khatun Hoque had her first child. It was a very happy day. After their daughter was two years old, the family of three moved to Virginia in order to be closer to some of Shirajul’s relatives, as well as look for better opportunities. They drove for four days from California all the way to Virginia, stopping at hotels along the way to get some rest. When they arrived, the first thing they realized was that there were a lot of trees. They moved into a townhouse, and a month later, Afia’s son was born. While Afia took care of her kids she started babysitting to earn a few more dollars on the side in order to meet ends meet. Three months after moving to Virginia, Afia and her husband became naturalized citizens. Five months after my brother started school, I was born. My dad had to work two jobs in order to make enough money. Afia started to babysit more children so that she could help make money. Eventually my dad resigned from his second job because he received a substantial raise. Three and half years later, my youngest sister was born. When I asked if she could have done something different in her life, she thought for a moment and said, “I wished I had made more of an effort to learn English soon after I came to America.” In my family, my mother always encouraged us to focus and make extra effort in our schooling. She always tells us that she wants us to be better and have better opportunities than she ever did. Not being fluent in English made the first many years in America a bit more difficult than it needed to be, especially when she would be at work. She would have learned the new language sooner, but she was surrounded by people who, like her, would and could only speak in their own native language. My mother is no stranger to hard times. Growing up without a father was a challenge in itself. But when I asked her about the most difficult moments of her life, she said nothing is more difficult for her than witnessing the hardships of her own children. She told me that being a
  34. 34. mother, or a parent for that matter, meant that your feelings, pains and happiness would become an extension and reflection of that of your children. At this point I realized what she was getting at. You see, my older brother has severe allergies. His sensitivity to foods has gotten to the point where he is now limited to just a handful of foods. If he ate anything outside of his restricted diet, his skin would become inflamed and severe itching would ensue. Even with his strict diet, he still itches uncontrollably. It has made things very difficult for him. I can see the sadness in my mother’s eyes whenever she eats something that he cannot. When I asked my mother what the saddest moment of her life was, she looked at me with her watery eyes and said the day her mother passed away. My grandmother had passed away on March 23, 2005 because of heart failure. My mother told me that she regrets not doing more for her mother. “I wish that I had done more for my mother. Sometimes I think about all the small things that I could have done to make my mother more happy and comfortable.” My mother knew that she had done good things for her mother, but she always knew in her heart that she would never be able to repay her mother for going through all the pains of motherhood and raising her. Towards the end of the interview I asked my mother, “What was the happiest day of your life?” She thought about it for a moment and said that the happiest moment of her life was when each of her children were born. The scariest moment of her life was when she and my father were driving on one of the roads on Malibu Mountain, “I kept thinking that we were going to die because the road was open and it was very easy for someone to drive right off the cliff,” she said as she was shuddering at the thought. I really enjoyed having this interview with my mother. Although I can sense that she held off on telling me a lot of things, I found that there was much to learn from her life experience.
  35. 35. Hopefully if I continue this dialogue with my mother, she might become more comfortable telling us the many stories that make up her life. Bibliography Primary Source: Afia Khatun Hoque, Mother The War for Bangladeshi Independence, 1971, http://countrystudies.us/bangladesh/17.htm “Bangladeshi Immigration,” http://immigration-online.org/30-bangladeshi-immigration.html ”Dead Reckoning: Memories of the 1971 Bangladesh War,” http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2011/05/20115983958114219.html ”A Country Study: Bangladesh,” http://lcweb2.loc.gov/frd/cs/bdtoc.html
  36. 36. Background: El Salvador El Salvador lies on the southern Pacific coast of Central America, the smallest, most heavily populated, poorest, and often the most dangerous place in the region. Most Americans know the country, if at all, by the civil war in the 1980s that threatened to draw America into it in a final phase of the Cold War. Such a view ignores more than a few things. Outside interference in the nation goes back quite far. El Salvador was entirely American Indian people for most of its history, and nearly all Native until very recently. It owes its independence to a Conservative Party that opposed the Liberal Party during independence struggles, leading to the breakup of a Central American federation. In 1932, the notorious Matanza (massacre or slaughter) drastically altered the country and its society. A failed feeble series of protests and an uprising by some Salvadoran Indian farmers led the military dictator of El Salvador, Maximiliano Hernandez Martinez, to crush the indigenous people with great brutality. Up to 40,000 were killed in only a few months. The military singled out Indians who wore traditional dress. The US government played some role, apparently knowing of plans for the massacres in advance, and offered to send US Marines to aid the Salvadoran army. This trauma changed the identity of Salvadorans forever. Virtually overnight, most Salvadorans no longer publicly admitted to being Native. Native dress virtually disappeared, and Native language use in public sharply dropped. Today most Salvadorans claim to be mestizos, when likely the great majority are still entirely Indian in ancestry.
  37. 37. For most of the twentieth century, the nation was run by the Fourteen Families, a small number of wealthy elites who treated the nation almost as their personal plantations. In the 1970s, much of the population supported an uprising by the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN). The rebel group is named after of one of the best known indigenous leaders and a martyr of La Matanza. The FMLN included Marxists, perhaps one twentieth of its members. In the thinking of US President Reagan and other hardline anti-Communists, any Marxist presence at all meant the organization was Communist dominated. Thus the US government aided first a Salvadoran military dictatorship and then a corrupt right wing dominated limited democracy trying to crush the uprising. The Salvadoran Civil War of the 1980s killed at least 75,000 people, almost all of them civilians murdered by the military. The US supplied weapons, training, and aid, as well as bombing the nation from US bases in the Panama Canal Zone. Central American wars finally came an end in 1991 with the Arias Peace Plan. Most Salvadoran immigrants in the US today originally fled from the civil war and government atrocities. There are over one million Salvadoran-Americans and resident aliens in the US. Northern Virginia, Washington DC, and its Maryland suburbs have an especially high concentration of them. One of every twelve Salvadorans in the US, over 130,000, resides in the area, making up one of every six immigrants in the area. Both Morataya's and Velasco's stories focus above all on the hardships of entering the US, without papers, by coyotes (smugglers). There is a recognition of the extreme brutality of the civil war. For them, the war was not about surviving between two armies, as anti Communists of the times claimed. It was much more about surviving government repression.
  38. 38. Both stories have the feel of tales told by parents with the aim of remembering, teaching their children to be grateful, reminders of the family's hardships. Morataya's story is one small episode in her grandfather's life, compared to Velasco's as a long dramatic tale of her grandparents' entire lives,
  39. 39. The Journey By Karen Morataya My father struggled to remember the tears streaming down my grandmother's face that Thursday morning in 1977. A war in his native land of El Salvador was beginning to brew. The military infested country was being run by its vicious militia. You couldn't even walk into a grocery store or an innocent candy shop without having confrontation with the army men, who according to my father, loved to take advantage of their position. They would jab or take down anyone they felt needed a good, solid slap in the face. You could've been a crippled old man, but if the militia didn't like the hair style you wore that day, they would give you a pair of scissors and make you chop it all off right in front of them and have you sign some sort of document stating you would never let your hair grow that long again. My grandmother urged my father to leave El Salvador; the land of the sweet mangos, the land of joyous music and happiness, where listening to Beatles and Jose Luis Perales was considered cool. She begged him to leave this bright, sunny land for it had turned into a war zone. The militia fought against the FMLN, a guerilla organization. The country wasn't safe anymore, and my sweet, innocent, loving grandmother told her only son to leave. Knowing my grandmother, I could imagine her choking on these words. It was an unspoken secret that everyone knew, my father had always been her favorite out of her eight children. He didn't want to go. My father had always been a kind man who put his mother before anyone else. His older brother, my uncle, was fifteen years his senior who lived across the country. He was the only boy left, who would be the man of the house? Who would help my mother buy scraps of meat or bring the fruits? They grew up poor, in a remote town near the
  40. 40. coast. You had to travel two hours to get to at least somewhat of a decent city, just to get to a bank. Who would help my grandmother go? She was getting too old to travel that far. Yet, against his wishes and listening to his mother, he was where she wanted him to be. In a remote, claustrophobic room filled with twenty-three others, listening to a man the people call the "coyote." The coyote was a tall, lean man, looked to be in his late thirties. A thick, black mustache covered almost his entire top lip. His eyes were fierce but bored. His speech seemed rehearsed, making my father think, how many times has he crossed the border before? The rules were simple. "Don't fall back or you'll die." At first my dad thought he was exaggerating. But when the coyote began to talk about how they'll sleep in the woods for a few nights and that the animal coyote hunted at night in search of prey, my father began to think otherwise. Another thing that the coyote said had stuck to my father in the most frightening way possible. "If you fall back, oversleep, or get lost, you might as well just consider yourself dead and feed yourself to the animals. I won't be coming back for you. That's a promise." His tone was assertive, just by the way he said it you could tell that he meant every word... as if he left someone before. It felt like my father simply blinked that he was already boarding on a large, brown truck the size of a UPS truck. Fitting in twenty-three other people was a challenge. The air felt tight, breathing seemed like such a hard task. My father could remember pulling his knees close to his chest, trying to restrain himself from flooding tears. Everything he had known, his friends, his family, his school, everything was gone in a matter of minutes as they hit the road. He contemplated asking if he could simply give up, tell the coyote to turn the truck back around and let him keep the hundreds of dollars he paid him for the expedition.
  41. 41. But my father knew better. He kept his mouth shut good and stared at the eyes of everyone around him. Would he see these people again? Would any one of them get lost in the remote, hot desert? Would the lady crouched next to him, with her long, brown locks, be sitting next to him in the next twenty four hours? Would he be alive in the next twenty four hours? He shut his eyes and drifted off to sleep, trying to erase that thought. When he woke up, the coyote was opening the back door of the truck, whispering to everyone that it was time for bed and to pull out something warm to keep them safe from the frostbite they would endure in the dead of night. My father zipped up his coat and pulled out a blanket from his backpack. He couldn't fit a pillow in his bag, so his backpack would have to do. Laying on the cold, sandy ground was surprisingly not so uncomfortable, or maybe he was too exhausted to notice the difference between a soft bed and the hard, cold sandy desert. The next two weeks were the same routine, come pile yourself in the truck, lay low for eight hours, get out, and sleep out in the wilderness. The food was something he had never grown fond of though. He was beginning to miss his coconut juice and pupusas with cheese, but this was not a time to be asking for favors. He had to settle with the three tortillas and medium block of cheese he got. He had also grown used to touching death's fingertips every now and then. He had almost overslept one night and had to run a good half mile to finally see from afar the coyote's cowboy hat. He only allowed himself to sleep three hours a night after that, just to be on the safe side. The journey was only two weeks, but he felt like this was to be his life now, running away from the desert heat, making sure to watch your back from predators, and to keep up with the coyote.
  42. 42. But alas, on the fifteenth night, the coyote said that this would be the last night they would be sleeping in the desert. They would arrive to the border mid-morning, and to Los Angeles by the afternoon, or so that was his goal. My father could feel the relief of the people around him. Luckily, for this journey no one was left behind. All twenty three made it out together. My father says now he only realizes how lucky they all really were. The coyote advised them all to get their rest, but no one could sleep. Excitement had erupted into the air and everyone was beginning to make plans on what they would do as soon as they would arrive to the states. The lady with long brown locks said she would try to find work as soon as possible, to send money to her three children back home. Another man said he heard the construction business gets paid well. He would try to see if he could get a job there. My father turned away from all the chatter and saw the coyote smile and shake his head, almost as if only it were that easy. My father looked down. It wasn't like he hadn't planned on what to do when he got to California. He had an aunt that was going to take him in and help him find work. But the look on the coyote's face made him think that finding a job would be so farfetched. But he had to try, right? The discussions and excitement lasted till morning. Exhaustion from sleep deprivation kicked into my father's system, so he decided to sleep the entire last car ride until the coyote told him it was time to wake up. He woke up when the coyote opened the back doors for the last time and my father crawled out. It was sunset but you could still see the buildings clearly. My father remembers saying he had never seen a place so beautiful. His heart filled with joy and pride? He wasn't sure. This
  43. 43. would be his new home until God knows when. But looking around, unto the vast tall buildings and beautiful sunset he knew he wouldn't mind the least. In the past thirty seconds he had grown to be fond of the new country. He would wait until morning to worry about his next step to his journey, but as of right now, he focused on the breath taking scenery. In the end, he realized, it was all worth it.
  44. 44. El Salvador By Tania Velasco “A heart’s wound can be healed but the scars never fade away; reminding you of the struggle and courage to survive as a Velasco woman.” -Rubidia Velasco These words are not just any words that go through one ear and out the other. These words are words that women in my family live by every day in the struggle to become more than the average Salvadoran woman. We live beyond the words to prove to ourselves that no one can devour us to pieces without us fighting and rebuilding ourselves to become stronger, courageous, independent women. With the grace of God we learn to survive and build our history the only way we know how, through our HEARTS. My family’s history begins in the small Central American country of El Salvador, more specifically in the state department of Cabanas. The state department was named after Honduran politician Jose Trinidad Cabanas, who helped lead the Liberation Party in 1852 (Bernal). El Salvador is the motherland of over 6.3 million people in the year 2000, with a growth rate of 2.1% each year and growing. The main language is Spanish and 95% of the citizens are Roman Catholics. The population is primarily 90% Mestizos, 1% Indigenous, and 9% Caucasian (Superintendent of Documents). After declaring independence from Spain on September 15, 1821, my family’s existence began as true Salvadorans. According to my grandmother, Maria Bernarda Velasco viuda (widow) de Velasco, my great-grandmother Teresa was a servant to the Velasco household. The Velasco family was a highly respected family who owned miles of territories that harvested fruits, vegetables, and
  45. 45. herbal medicine, among other agriculture that were exported and traded within the country and outside the country’s border lines. Teresa was only a servant with a reputation to stain the whitest of white dresses, but was able to catch the heart of my great-grandfather Pedro Velasco. He was the youngest of six siblings and the cherished one of the family. But not even he or his money could tame the wild heart of Teresa. My great-grandparents were never married, but they managed to have four children together before Teresa ran off like a Jezebel to another man and followed him to a neighboring country. She gathered her children in the woods before she left and told them to pick fruit while she was going to go and catch a chicken for dinner. As the day turned to night, my grandmother and her brothers began to feel as if something horrendous was occurring. They gathered their fruits and ran home as fast as their feet could take them. When they reached their home, they saw their father with his head down and smoking a pipe of tobacco in front of the fireplace; and they knew right there and then that they would never see their mother again until years later that loomed like eternity. From that hurtful day, my grandmother’s heart began to break. As a child she was never shown maternal love and was never taught about womanhood. As years began to pass my grandmother Bernarda turned fifteen when she met my grandfather Gonzalo, better known as Chalo. She was smitten and won over by this man who was much older than her by three decades and who had children by other women. Even though we are told as young girls to never fall in love with a man who has children. Even if it hurts you to let go you know in the back of your mind that it is the right decision. But Bernarda couldn’t let go. Chalo was a poor man. He was a father of two young boys, both by other women in his life, when he saw Bernarda from a window and was stricken by Cupid’s arrow. He knew he
  46. 46. could not approach her like any other woman for she was the only daughter of Don Pedro, one of the wealthiest men in town. How could this poor barrio boy be able to provide for the daughter of a wealthy man and renounce his bachelor ways? He decided to man up and ask Don Pedro for the hand of his beloved Bernarda. There was one condition for Chalo to marry Bernarda. That condition was to forget about the other women in his life and reject them so that Bernarda would be the only one for him. He said yes and did what he was told. They were married within a month’s time and lived on her father’s land. Married life was not a fairy tale that Bernarda dreamed of. Something within Chalo changed once they were married. He was no longer the charming gentleman that she met. Instead he began to harden and become distant from her. Marriage in El Salvador is typically informal; usually the man and woman set up a home and have children without a civil or church commitment. Therefore their bond is easily broken when they decided to separate. But now the man has to pay child support. He can no longer abandon his children like in the olden days. Once married in a church, that bond is inseparable (Gomez). My grandparents were married in a Catholic church and after my grandfather passed away, my grandmother never remarried or even thought of being with another man, for that is a crime against the church and the bond of her marriage. I believe that her heart began to heal once my grandfather passed away. In my eyes, I believe that he was a good man, but not a great man that he would earn my praise. Yes, he was a hard worker. But at the same time, he was an abusive man, a raging alcoholic who would raise his hand against his wife and children. He allowed for the older boys to beat the girls and make them put up with their brothers’ nonsense with their many women and mistreatments.
  47. 47. My grandmother’s wounds were caused by the abandonment of her mother, the abuse of her husband, the deaths of her children, the ungratefulness from some, and the life of being just another battered woman in El Salvador. But with the passing of years and her faith she was able to heal most her wounds. But the scars are not only in her heart, but also in her outer appearance and her trips back to her own memories. My mother was child number six out of fourteen children that my grandmother birthed. Her name was Rubidia Velasco. A prideful woman, whose life has been hard with many obstacles that she faced from different abuses, even those that are unspeakable. Unfortunately, all of her sisters have also experienced many of the same abuses that have gone unreported and over time the traumatic events in their lives have taught them to be harsh amongst their own daughters and each other. Rubidia began her life in El Limpo, a small town in Cabanas where she lived amongst nature and her siblings without a care in the world. But that soon changed in the year 1980, when El Salvador had one of the most horrific civil wars known to man. A war that should never be repeated for the sake of humanity was the war that Rubidia and her family lived through. Some of her brothers were military soldiers who fought during the war, while her eldest sister was the reason for the decline of their riches. Her sister Maria Flor was married to a guerilla fighter, and a high ranking one who was hunted by the government and murdered, his body in shreds. The only way to prove he was dead was to identify him by his teeth. Her husband led the guerrilla fighters to Rubidia’s childhood home, searching for the boys to massacre and to rape the women. But the family was warned by an unknown source the day before the attack and was able to flee before blood was shed. From that moment on Rubidia’s life changed in the blink of an eye.
  48. 48. El Salvador’s civil war spanned over a time frame of twelve years and took over 80,000 lives, including 12,000 in 1981 alone. The tactics that they used to terrify citizens were partial decapitations, mutilations, random shootings in busy markets, rape and murder of children and women. It all started in the year 1979 when the FMLN, a group consisting of five subgroups who were tired of the repression against them and who were looking for political and economic rights, gathered together to fight back. The FMLN was now a threat to the military dictatorship. “Archbishop Oscar Romero from San Salvador was a man known for his opinions on military oppression and needed to be taken down before he could influence the peasants,” according to the government. But his influence was much stronger than the military thought because once Archbishop Romero was assassinated during a mass he was conducting, it led to the revolt of the poor and the beginning of El Salvador’s civil war. By 1992, over 40% of the population fled the country and approximately 20% had come to the United States. In 1992, the government and FMLN signed a treaty that produced a cease fire, with the hand of the US overseeing the agreement (Gomez).
  49. 49. Rubidia’s family moved to a town named Ilobasco, best known for the wooden artwork that is produced there. At the tender age of nine, Rubidia would leave her home and catch the train to the capital city, San Salvador, to work as a servant to help her mother take care of the younger siblings that kept coming year after year. She would work from sunrise to sunset, taking the train miles from her home to earn a few coins so that she could buy herself some clothing and food. The danger at that time was high, for she could have been murdered or taken as a sex slave for the guerilla fighters, at the wrong place, at the wrong time. By the time she turned fifteen, she had served many families and survived two deadly earthquakes and long distance travel. She was not cared for as a child and her heart’s wound began to deepen. She witnessed her father beating her mother, her own beatings from siblings and parents, and the reality of poverty. One day she was sewing herself a dress when she looked outside her door and in front of her was the young man who wore white see through pants and oxford shoes. She looked up into his hazel eyes and was shocked when he raised an eyebrow at her. She blushed and looked down quickly. She never would have guessed that in years that that same young man would one day be her children’s father, as well as both her disgrace and happiness. One year she was offered the chance to come to the United States on a work-permit status to be a servant to a wealthy family in Washington D.C. She was too in love that she gave up the opportunity and gave it to her sister Maria Orfilia instead. The second wound was near. After giving up the chance to come to this country legally, she found out she had another opportunity to come. It was a hot day when she and her older brother arrived to the US embassy and only three people were ahead of her when her brother went off to get refreshments. Out of the corner of her eye appeared that young man again and asked her if she was really going to leave him. Her knees buckled and her stomached knotted and she took his hand and left the embassy with only
  50. 50. two people in front of her. When her brother returned, she was nowhere to be found. He cursed them both when he found out what had happen. When Rubidia turned seventeen, she found out she was pregnant and was banned from the house like many of her sisters as well. She went to live with her hazel eyed lover, but knew it wouldn’t last because of the volatile relationship that was between them. He abandoned her and the child, the biggest cut a mother can receive, the rejection of her son’s father towards her son. She had no luck with love. She thought she found love with an older man which we call “B.” He loved her passionately, but there was something holding him back from loving her completely. We say he was a coward, but I think there was an evil force that separated B from my older brother. I dare say that El Salvador is known as the passages of demons and evil spirits according to many who believe in witchcraft and voodoo. There is even a small town close to my mother’s town where rumors swirl of humans that can change into animals and not be killed by human’s hands. Many hauntings and scary things happen after midnight in El Salvador and many rituals are conceived as well. There’s been known cases of people getting sick and when they go to the hospital, there is nothing wrong with them according to the tests. But I know for a fact that evil lives amongst us. My mother had a good friend who was killed with a spell, by a woman who confessed her wrongdoings while the lady was on her deathbed. There was no cure for her, and even a healer said it was too late to reverse the wrong. As religious as we can be, there is always that knowledge that there are people who want to see you worse off by any cause to make themselves feel at a better advantage than you. Rubidia became pregnant again at the age of nineteen. She had two young boys with only a year and a few months between them. She went back to work as a servant and met my father.
  51. 51. He was a poor humble man who had children from another marriage, but was able to unfreeze my mother’s heart and teach her that there are other choices out there. She realized that El Salvador could not give to her what the United States could if she had the opportunity to come and be able to support her sons and one day bring them over as well. That day came at the end of November in 1990. Her sister was able to gather enough money for her to take the long journey over illegally and take the risk for a better life. She was able to gather her strength that fateful night when she departed from her boys, the only thing she lived for and the reason she was crossing the Rio Grande. My brothers were only two and half and thirteen months old when she laid them to sleep and left without seeing them for more than four years. Her eyes tear up each and every time she recalls that night. She seems able to taste her tears and feel the wind slapping her face as she started her journey. Her beloved nephew begged her not to leave for she would forget him. Unfortunately it truly was the last time they would see each other because in the year 1995, he was the first teenage boy to be killed due to gang-related activities in their town. As she started her journey there was a surprise in store for her. She was crossing the border with child. She had no idea that she was pregnant nor that it was a little girl. Just like many before her, in order to cross the border there are normally groups of people traveling together. She was one of the two women who were traveling within a group of sixteen. There was the risk of rape each and every night, the fear of being left behind to die or to be bitten by a poisonous snake. According to data collected by Aaron Terrazas there are over 1.1 million Salvadorians living in the United States since 2008 and the numbers keep growing. About three quarters of the population in the United States were eligible to be naturalized in the year 2008. The majority of
  52. 52. the Salvadoran communities reside in California and Texas but many have also relocated themselves in Maryland, Virginia, Washington D.C, and New York. They work in labor and services including construction, cleaning, and farming. The men’s population is higher than the women’s population of immigrants in the states (Terrazas). With the water up to her waist, she crossed the Rio Grande with her belongings over her head. She was to be picked up in Texas and driven to Virginia where Maria Orfilia resided with her family. Once there, she found out she was pregnant and was taken to an abortion clinic without her consent. While the doctor examined her she felt unease. The doctor asked, “Are you ready?” She looked up, “Ready for what?” “For the abortion, do you not know? That’s why you are here!” “No!!!!” she screamed. She grabbed her items and waited outside for her ride. She swore to God that she would live for her children and that no one will be able to separate her from them. “In our family abortion is murder, no matter how poor you can be an abortion is never the answer. You take that leap of faith and face the consequences head-on. No abortion will be accepted and if you do you are a MONSTER!” Her wounds began to heal the day a little girl arrived in her arms. My mother had me on August 6, 1991 at 7:07PM and I weighed 7lbs.7oz. I am the future for the women in my family. I am the first generation, along with my brothers and cousins. I am the one who carries the sorrow of those before me, the light to their existence for a better world for our family’s women. Growing up as a child I had to learn how to swallow my pride and learn to be obedient. It was not easy for me to spend so much time away from my mother because she worked various
  53. 53. jobs at one time in order to support her boys back home as well as her family. She would leave around six in the morning and wouldn’t come home until ten at night. I was raised to defend myself and to never underestimate my instincts. My mother raised me to be humble, but proud to care for other people in our community, to extend a hand in the time of need. I was and still am the translator of the community, the secretary, the problem solver, and the hope. When I look back to my childhood I am happy to see that my mother’s harsh way of raising me was for the best. I am proud to say, “I’m not a statistic, nor am I gang-banging chola. I’m an educated young lady with values and morals. But yet do not put up with nonsense from anyone at any angle.” I was taught from the beginning that you are to wait until marriage and that no man can keep you back from your future. My mother puts stress on education as if it is the last thing on Earth. “You learn both languages, how to read and write and you go to the university and prove to all that my daughter is the one to watch!” My mother was so proud as letter of acceptances came through the mail, but my choice to attend a community college and earn an Associate Degree and move on to a bigger college made her the proudest. Some days I go back in time and remember the discipline, the screams, the bipolar attitude of my mother, and I smile. For now I know that our bond will never be broken because we are bred to be unshattered. My wounds are not deep enough like others, but with time new ones may come and old ones will heal. The Velasco women are here on Earth to suffer and survive and to fight back those demons and the memories that we want to erase. I will heal the wounds of the generations before me by setting an example about education and living life to the fullest with no regrets. But my number one priority is to fade away the scars on my mother’s
  54. 54. heart so that she can live her life with no more pain, but with the happiness of having her family here with her so that it can grow and she can see the new generations of Velasco women. Bibliography Carlos Bernal. “Cabanas El Salvador.” Elsv.info.elsv.info. October 26, 2010 Background Notes on Countries of the World 2003; Sep. 2003 El Salvador, p.1-9, 9p Julia Gomez. “Countries and their Cultures.” Everyculture.com, 2011 Aaron Terrazas. “Migration Information Source: El Salvador.” Mpi.com, January 2010 Rubidia Velasco, personal interview. Maria Bernarda Velasco de Velasco, personal interview.
  55. 55. Background: India Describing India, the Indian subcontinent, or South Asia, is more akin to talking about a region or series of cultures than the monolithic one most Americans and westerners know simply as “India,” with cliches about convenience store and hotel owners. In terms of diverse cultures, India is more akin to Europe than a single European country. India has dozens of different cultures speaking twenty-two state recognized languages and by some estimates as many as 415 languages and dialects. The Indian subcontinent was a series of many kingdoms and chiefdoms until the third century BCE. A series of empires saw most of the region united. Hinduism dates in the region from the seventh century BCE, and Islam from the tenth century CE. European conquerors first came in the seventeenth century, first Portuguese and then French colonial cities competing with the British East India Company. The failed Indian Rebellion of 1857 led to direct British rule of almost all of India. The French had already been driven out, the Portuguese limited to the city of Goa.
  56. 56. An independence movement confronted the British continuously. Part of it was Muslim nationalism and revivalism. By the time British rule came to an end in 1947, Muslim sentiment in favor of a separate nation was powerful enough to win the concession of the British. Later resentment of the domination of Pakistan by those in western Pakistan would lead to a revolt in the east of Pakistan, successfully establishing Bangladesh. The authors of both essays are from Sikh families from the Punjab. Quite a few Indian- Americans in Northern Virginia are Punjabi, and there is a large successful Punjab Festival every year in Manassas. The Sikh religion began in the fifteenth century, the Sikh Empire winning control of the northern region of Punjab for the first half of the nineteenth century. The British conquered the Sikh Empire in the Anglo-Sikh Wars. Indian immigrants first came to the US in large numbers in the California Gold Rush. A second wave came from Punjab at the start of the twentieth century. The largest waves coming to the US came after the end of immigration quotas in 1965, and then with the technology boom of the 1990s. Asian Indians now number nearly three million, almost 1% of the US population. Virginia has the seventh most Indians of any state, slightly over 100,000, the great majority of them in Northern Virginia. Both accounts gives us a look at a faith most Americans know little about, Sikhism, its basic tenets and beliefs. As Sikhs caught in the middle between Hindu-Muslim hostilities, the families experienced some of the worst of the mob violence during the Partition of India. Both families apparently still hold strong hostility towards British rule more than five decades after that rule ended.
  57. 57. ` Family History by Randhawa Preet Before I begin my family history and the interview of my grand aunt, I would like to remember her at this moment and thank her for all the things she has done for my family and I appreciate her. My aunt actually passed away two weeks ago in India. As I began this paper, it never crossed my mind to think that she would be leaving so soon. But I am proud to have had the opportunity to interview her about her past and my culture as well before she departed. Sikhism is the world's fifth largest religion, but is yet unknown to many people. Sikhs have a very strong background and have endured many events in the past 500 years. Fortunately, its young history has been passed down generation to generation successfully, but has yet to be introduced to other cultures and choice of religions. I interviewed my Grandaunt, Prakash Kaur Virk, since she is the oldest member of my family and has gone through all of the hardships growing up. Kaur is the middle name of most Sikh females, and its meaning is “Princess.” The men, on the other hand, hold the middle name Singh, meaning “Lion.” My aunt was born in Lahore,
  58. 58. Pakistan, which back then was India. She was born in 1925 into a wealthy family, where her father was an officer in the Indian Army while her mother was a housewife and a mother of eight children. She was the second youngest. She did not have any education whatsoever. She only learned housework and prayers. She had the entire Granth Sahib (Holy Book) memorized by the time she was married. She actually devoted herself to God before marriage, which is called Amrit Shakna. Her parents set up an arranged marriage with a well-known priest of a little village nearby in 1942. Her husband, however, was from a poor family but he was respected all through the land. Her role was to attend to her husband and perform all the housework. After a year of their marriage, she gave birth to my uncle and her only child, Davinder Singh Virk, in 1943. In Sikhism, God is one, “Waheguru.” God is also nameless and imageless, meaning that there is no idol or shrine at all to look up to. It has ten disciples who all laid out the foundation of Sikhism and were either from different religions or were Sikh to start with, but spread the religion and fought for Sikhs. It is made up of the Khalsa, a group of Sikhs. There are many universal teachings of Sikhism, but there are the Main Five K’s, which include Kase, Kara, Kangha, Kaccha, and Kirpan.
  59. 59. The Kase is the keeping of one’s hair as untouched, meaning without cutting it. It is used as a symbol of spirituality and simplicity that one does not need to change their appearance for acceptance. A Kara is a steel or iron bangle that is used as a reminder for us Sikhs to restrain any action that requires violence. The next K is for Kangha, which means comb in the Punjabi language. This comb is used as a hygiene tool for the Kase. A Kachha is an undergarment, which is a sign of chastity. The last K is for Kirpan. The Kirpan is a sword that is always worn to the side of the hip and always concealed. This sword symbolizes dignity and struggle against any injustice that has happened in the past. My grandaunt was a victim of abuse from the nearby gangs and the British Raj. In the Sikh religion, alcohol and drugs are prohibited, and so are gambling and stealing. But with corruption it turned the purest into murderers and prayers into words of war. My aunt witnessed the murder of her husband on the way to India. In 1947, India and Pakistan went to war with one another, and coincidentally that same year, the British left the country leaving it for “independence.” This so-called independence only ignited a war between two countries that were once one only because of unclaimed boundaries and religious wars between the Hindus and the Muslims. In India, most of the Hindu population is in the south and in between as well, while all Sikhs are in the northern population. The Muslims are also in the northern part of India and in Pakistan as well. Keeping this in mind, the way these three religions were geographically located, it made it hard for the Sikhs to avoid any violence. One of the Five Ks include wearing a Kara, which means to refrain from violence. While my grand aunt was on the train traveling from Lahore, Pakistan to Pataila, India, she was with her husband and her four year old son, my uncle. The train was beyond crammed, so packed that they could not move their feet since people literally covered the entire train floor and roof as
  60. 60. well. The reason my aunt and her family had to evacuate Lahore was because a group of Pakistani civilians and gang members attacked and set the entire city afire since the majority were Sikhs. Every single Sikh and Hindu was driven out of the city, so they boarded the next available train to India. She and her family had nowhere to go. Back then there wasn’t any type of internet that could alert them to where to live and stay at, so they left it in Gods hands my aunt said. The train was attacked. There was nowhere to run at all. She remembered it like it was yesterday. As she spoke her voice quivered. The details, the visuals, and the emotional cries she heard still bother her after fifty-five years. Her husband was murdered right next to her. She said that the women and children were left alone, while girls were taken away to be sold as sex slaves and raped to death. Upon her arrival to the Patiala Rail Station, she was speechless, with her son next to her side. She had nowhere to go and finally found a deserted farm where she raised her son and taught him what she knew. Not only was she educated in housework, but also in farm work as well. She knew how to plow the fields and, with the scarce food they had, she managed to start up a small farm. She was a widow who was alone with no help at all. As she continued with her story, her voice changed from feeling hopeless and sad to outrage and anger. She claims that the British ran away from their problems, that they caused them. The so-called British Raj took over India in 1858 and left in 1947. They actually came into the picture to save India from the control of the East India Company. But to the people, the hopeless people, their motive was left undisclosed to the public. Soon enough, the British looked at the people as servants. My great aunt was very hostile towards the British. Because of them, her husband was not able to make enough money. Her husband was not only a priest, but also a
  61. 61. peace activist that rallied the Sikhs towards starting their own country, called Khalistan. Khalistan is a movement that many Sikhs follow and some actually believe that Punjab and part of Pakistan is a separate country called Khalistan. The British noticed these revolts and riots and couldn’t do much. By that time, many people had revolted against them and their Raj. While the trains kept arriving back in India with corpses, the British never communicated back with the country. These attacks lasted months, starting with the wintery weather of January 1947 and ended August 1947. The British Raj exited India around spring, according to my great aunt and many other scholars. The country was in the worst state ever and the British Raj never returned. The British claim that they were the ones who got India their independence and that after their exit, India was at a state of peace. Unfortunately, this interview ended earlier than I had wanted it to. My grand aunt suffered from Alzheimer’s after witnessing an argument between her grandsons and how they wanted to split up and live in separate houses. After three nights of talking to her over the phone, I was able to get this much information, but not as much as I wanted to. I would like to let the world know of the injustice the British did to my family. This seems to be the case in many other ethnicities as well, but I’d like to let the world know that independence is only achieved when one’s heart is in the motive, which in this case, the people of India put aside their differences and finally got together to overcome decades of pain. Bibliography Chandrika Kaul. "From Empire to Independence: The British Raj in India 1858-1947." BBC News. BBC, 03 Mar. 2011. Web. 27 Nov. 2012. http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/modern/independence1947_01.shtml
  62. 62. Shirin Keen. "The Partition of India." The Partition of India. N.p., 1998. Web. 04 Oct. 2012. http://www.english.emory.edu/Bahri/Part.html Kuldip D Neelam. "The Partition of India in 1947." The Partition of India in 1947. VBulletin Solutions, 12 Nov. 2009. Web. 04 Oct. 2012. http://www.sikhphilosophy.net/1947-partition-of- india/27499-the-partition-of-india-in-1947-a.html Prakash K Virk. "Life in the Shadows of the British." Personal interview. Sept.-Oct. 2012. Family Tree by Harpreet Randhawa My grandfather has always been interesting to me, but I never took the time out to get to know him and his past. He had left his home and family just to come in raising my sister and I. His homeland is in Punjab, India. He is my eldest family member I have remaining. Its hard to imagine my life without him since has been with me my entire life. I had the gift of interviewing him about his past and being a Punjabi Sikh. The religion of Sikhism is known about by very few people, but is still the 5th largest
  63. 63. religion. It was founded during the 15th century by Guru Nanak, and based its teachings of accepting others, praising god, respecting yourself, and equality of everyone. My grandfather, Kirpal Singh, is a devoted Sikh for 83 years, shared with me his experiences and upbringings. My grandfather was born in Punjab, India November 4th 1930 into a farming family, which isn’t rare in Punjab, who supplies India with 67% of its wheat and 48% if its rice. He was always upper class compared to the other villagers. His parents were a farmer named Kalvant Singh and his wife Surjeet Kaur. He always was ahead of his class during school, prompting him to because a schoolteacher. All through his upbringings, his parents instilled the ideas and beliefs of Sikhism in him. He practiced prayer multiple times a day and studied the holy book, Granth Sahib. While in college at the University of Punjab, he met the love of his life, my grandmother. The irony of the relationship my grandparents had was they both share the same first same Kirpal, except my grandmother’s last name is Kaur. They had three kids, two sons and one daughter. The two sons, being my uncles Kulbir and Billa, were the eldest and youngest of the three. The daughter, my mother Saroj, was the middle child. All children were born 5 years apart in Punjab. Sikhism is a polytheistic religion, believing in a “Waheguru.” He remains nameless because there is no higher individual to praise, rather a spirit. Sikhism is a cross between Hinduism and Buddhism, and is structured on the ten saints who molded the religion. The main points of the religion are called the five K’s; Kaccha (undergarments), Kara (Bangel), Kangha (comb), Kase (Hair), and Kirpan (sword). The Kaccha represents chastity. Kara represents a restraint of violence. Kangha demonstrates hygiene. The Kase is keeping your hair untouched or cut to represent acceptance in ones appearance. Kirpan is used to symbolize dignity and a warrior spirit Sikhs have.
  64. 64. British soldiers who were occupying the country bullied my grandfather as a child. The British had occupied India for 1858 to 1947, when finally India received its independence. Prior to British occupancy, Punjab was forming its own country made for the Sikhs with their own language, Punjabi. When British left, India promised the Sikh people their country that desired, Khalistan, but this promised was never fulfilled. India was now a super country with the additions of Punjab and other similar countries. After being denied nationhood, Punjab was also hit by the partition. The partition was when India and Pakistan had to split the land the British had controlled. This destroyed millions of families and businesses. Families would be separated between the Punjab state of Pakistan, which is dominantly Muslim, and the Punjab state of India, which is dominantly Sikh. While the partition was occurring, anti-Sikh Riots were going on and my grandfather just was becoming a young adult. He had just finished high school the same year and was planning on going to teaching school. The entire state of Punjab was put under curfew. He recalled a particular memory that still haunts him today. He told me he was sleeping at night when he heard large fire works go off. These weren’t fireworks, he said, they were gunshots. They were coming from the house next door. My grandfather climbed a fence to look over and noticed a group of Hindu men invading a house armed at hand and shooting the men of the house. One of those men shot was a good friend of my grandfather. Senseless killings were occurring in Punjab to the Sikhs. An estimated number of 8,000 Sikhs were killed through Oct. 31, 1984 to Nov. 3 1984. These riots occurred due to the assassination of the Indian Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi, by her two Sikh bodyguards. The Sikhs did not approve of Gandhi because she would discriminate the Sikhs. She accused the Sikhs of holding weapons of mass destruction in the holiest site, the Golden Temple and sent an

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