Slemani, Kurdistan Region-Iraq

Berivan Omer: Architecture Teacher & Advocate for Child-friendly Cities and Communities.

The high mountain in front of our house has my history because, whenever I was happy, when I succeeded in my wishes, or I was sad about their loss, it was my nest of peace. From the mountain, I could see a city, proud like the long ranges of mountains surrounding it, beautiful and pleasant as the faces of the people who live there. Throughout this city, you can notice the craftsmanship, construction, hard work, and immortality in every corner, street, and market. Slemani city was founded in 1784 and located in the south of Great Kurdistan and the east of Kurdistan Region in Iraq. I love my city, so I call it “MY PLACE”.

The mountains surrounding our city have always influenced me. Similar to the peaks and valleys of the mountains, my life has always consisted of ups and downs. I spent my early childhood away from my land. Since I came from a patriotic Kurdish family, my father did not accept the oppression of the Kurdish people by the Iraqi regime in the 1980s. He stood against them. Then my family was arrested, tortured, and expelled to southern Iraq. 

Wanting to achieve more and climb the ladder of success, I studied abroad for a Master’s degree in Urban Design at an international university. I met many people from diverse nationalities and different cultures. Most of the time, we discussed the differences between the lives of children in our countries. Then, I decided to research child-friendly cities and communities. I realised the lack of attention given to children in my country and the absence of children’s participation in architectural and urban design decisions. I have found many differences between children in Iraq and western countries in terms of architecture and urban design. Since then, I have decided to work for children in my country and started by teaching them about architecture and design as the first architecture teacher for children in the country, managing and preparing programs and workshops for them to learn and be aware of their environment. I hope I can give them opportunities to participate in their communities and make their voices heard soon. I am optimistic about that.