Community mourns after loss of Jalal Azizi in drowning tragedy

The tragic drowning of a young Kurdish man occurred on the sunny afternoon of Wednesday, March 28th while swimming with friends in Carrick On Shannon County Leitrim. This tragedy added to his family’s many trials over the last 33 years dating back to 1979 when they were forced from their native home in Iranian Kurdistan - a continuous exile until they found refuge In Ireland in 2006.

The tragic drowning of a young Kurdish man occurred on the sunny afternoon of Wednesday, March 28th while swimming with friends in Carrick On Shannon County Leitrim. This tragedy added to his family’s many trials over the last 33 years dating back to 1979 when they were forced from their native home in Iranian Kurdistan - a continuous exile until they found refuge In Ireland in 2006.

By Saman Karimi

Jalal Azizi was born on the 27th of October 1990 and died on the 29th of March 2012. Jalal came from a family of Kurdish origin who had to leave their homeland during the Iranian Revolution in early 1979 due to the political conflicts and the ‘holy war’ proclaimed by Ayatollah Khomeini (the Iranian religious leader and politician) against the Kurdish people of Eastern Kurdistan who have been oppressed and forced politically to be a part of Iran which has always been governed by anti-Kurd regimes.

The Azizi family sought shelter in Iraq after they had to leave their home in Kermanshah, Kurdistan; they temporarily resided in one of the refugee camps in the Iraqi part of greater Kurdistan until 1982 and from then on they were sent by dictator Saddam Hussain’s government to a desert camp called Altash in Al-Anbar province located in the western region of Iraq.

Jalal was born in Altash camp, a place where the exiles were deprived of many basic human rights, for instance being provided with neither a National Iraqi birth certificate nor an Iraqi identity card and even prohibited from leaving Al-Anbar province. In 2003 during the Iraq War, the family had to seek safer shelter in order to protect their children from the conflict, especially from the bombardment between Iraqi and American forces; therefore they migrated to one of the Jordanian refugee camps which were opened for the people who had left Iraq as a result of the war. Jalal was one of the child refugees who had to suffer the new life in a waterless and desolate area of desert in Jordan. After three years and a half years living in despair and under the shelter of tents with very little facilities, Jalal and his family along with other Kurdish families were invited to Ireland and granted refugee status under a decision made by the Irish Government in 2006.

They were temporarily located in Ballyhaunis, County Mayo, later they moved to Carrick on Shannon County Leitrim and have permanently resided there since. Jalal continued his education in one of the community schools in Carrick on Shannon.

It is normally hard for a person who is new in a community with a different language and customs to integrate, to get to know a new culture and to attract people towards themselves, but that was not that hard for Jalal as he was a happy, loving and enthusiastic person. He was on last Wednesday, March 28th strolling with some of his friends near the river in Carrick on Shannon. As it was a sunny and enjoyable day, at about five o’clock in the evening they were lured by the unusually warm weather and they decided to swim in the river but tragically Jalal got into difficulties and he drowned. After an extended search, his body was found on the next day by the Garda divers. After the body was found on 29th of March 2012, his body was brought to Sligo General Hospital for medical examination; the body was then returned to the family on the 30th of March. The burial ceremony took place in Ballyhaunis, County Mayo on the same day. A huge number of people including his friends, classmates and teachers took part in the funeral, placing their flowers on the casket containing the body of their young friend. The people of Carrick on Shannon stood respectfully in the street as the funeral procession made its way to Ballyhaunis, Jalal’s first residence in Ireland and sadly also his final resting place.

The writer wishes, on behalf of the Irish Kurdish community to express heartfelt gratitude and appreciation for all who came to dear Jalal’s funeral and shared their feelings of loss and love with us.