"My struggle of decades was in vain" – An objection to and an obituary for an old Austrian Kurd

  • KurdishMedia.com - By Sissy Danninger
  • 07/09/2011 00:00:00

All his efforts on behalf of the Kurds over more than half a century had been futile, he complained to his last visitors at the hospital. The pain of his mind and soul was clearly recognizable. But he would not accept any objections or comfort until the end. On September 1st, 2011 Wiriya Rawenduzy, born in 1929 in what is now the Autonomous Region of Kurdistan in Iraq, died in the Austrian capital Vienna four weeks after a severe heart attack.

He must have been the first ever Kurdish refugee in this small European country when he arrived in 1953. At home in Iraq, at that time a monarchy still, he had already got into trouble for his political activities to promote the Kurdish cause and thus was not allowed to continue his study of medicine. Luckily he was admitted at the Medical School of the University of Vienna. In spite of the fact that he had to work hard in order to gain sufficient command of the language in the shortest possible time he succeeded and completed his studies within just a few years.

He became a specialist in internal medicine, married an Austrian girl and settled down in Vienna, opened his own doctor’s practice and worked with the local Red Cross. But he never forgot his origin and his dedication to the Kurdish cause. In a central European country with almost no notion of Kurds and Kurdistan just a few decades ago he relentlessly contacted journalists and politicians – apart from offering his support and medical treatment for free to Kurds in need whenever possible.

By and by journalists started turning to him for background information not only when military, political, social und human crises and catastrophes shook the Kurdish homeland – a region divided among (including the former Soviet Union) five nations, which were and largely still are dominating and suppressing this ancient people in the Middle East.

In the aftermath of the breakdown in 1975 of the uprising in Iraq led by Mustafa Barzani Wiriya Rawenduzy was present as a mediator in Vienna when Austria officially accepted a first group of 100 Iraqi-Kurdish refugees in 1976 after they had fled to Iran before. Many more should follow them from all parts of Kurdistan in the years to come. Apart from their own readiness and determination to become integrated in their new environment there is no doubt that “Dr. Wiriya” played his role in supporting that process on both sides, too.

In return his isolation as a more or less lonely Kurd in Austria was ended by the arrival of fellow-Kurds, and Kurdish-Austrian friendships developed. Last, but not least, home made Kurdish food became available to him and a growing number of curious native Austrians, who learned to really appreciate it as delicious.

By and by interest in and sympathy for the Kurds’ demand for an end to their oppression and prosecution grew among the open minded and interested parts of Austrian society. Yet, further tragedies – from prosecution and wars within (Syria, Turkey) and between their home countries (Iran, Iraq) to the assassination of Iran’s Kurdish leader Dr. Abdul Rahman Gassemlou in July 1989 in Vienna – marked and still mark the fate of the Kurds. Their plight is continuing. But, during the last decades, awareness of it definitely grew not just in the small Alpine Republic of Austria, but internationally. This awareness is an indispensable prerequisite for a potentially better future, and many have contributed their share. Wiriya Rawenduzy’s was not the least.

As a reward he would have longed for the establishment of an independent Kurdish Republic. He did not live long enough to see that, and maybe quite many others will not either. But there is a grain of seed, which may and hopefully will grow and flourish in spite of all the troubles of nation-building: Southern Kurdistan or the Autonomous Region in Iraq. Four years before his death he was invited there in 2007, and he greatly and honestly enjoyed that visit.

Wiriya Rawenduzy was not widely known internationally, but he dedicated his life to the Kurdish cause not so unsuccessfully as he thought on his death bed. The cremation/burial of the ashes will be on Thursday, Sept. 22nd 2011 in Vienna.

  • KurdishMedia.com - By Sissy Danninger
  • 07/09/2011 00:00:00