OPERATION DAGSVÆRK: Two soldiers, an Arab and a Kurd, united through IYN after 21 years

The President of the Iraqi Youth Network and Administrational Director of Al-Salam Football School, Jamal Luaibi, saw a long lost friend, Akram Omar, after more than two decades of separation at a CCPA event in Sulaymaniyah.
In 1974, both of the young men had a dream of becoming musicians in the National Orchestra, and therefore joined the prestigious Music Academy in Baghdad that same year. As the lessons started a small click of 5 men out of 400 musicians became a group and saw each other regularly after classes. In the group was Jamal, a young Baghdadi footballer of Arab descent and Akram, a shy but talented Maslawi composer of Kurdish descent. The other boys from the group were Turkmens and Assyrians who came from other provinces of Iraq, so their guide in Baghdad was Jamal who took them to all of the exclusive places in the capital, which at the time was known as the most modern city in the Middle East.
The mid-70’s were their happiest days, as they spent it on music, performing and boyish pranks; wedding and funeral crashing, pretending to be relatives of either the happy couple or the deceased person. Pretending to be Persian tourists in Baghdad, laughing at the way people try to help them through a mixture of broken English and Persian. The good old taunting of overweight traffic police officers, who cant leave their position, but are to proud to let the insults go by so a shouting match across streets ensues.
In 1977, the fun ended as the Music Academy got militarized under the military junta of Hassan Al-Bakr, and the students went from civilian musicians, to soldiers who were occasionally allowed to play music. The 400 students were then split over provinces, the more connections you had within the Baath Party; the better was their relocation area.
Since Jamal had relatives in the resistance and his other friends were of minorities who despised the Baathees, the whole group was transferred to one of the poorest provinces in the country: the Kurdish Sulaymaniyah, considered a punishment for the students.
Music lessons were replaced by military training, as the boys were thinking that their fate couldn’t get any worse… July 16th 1979, Saddam Hussein led an internal coup in the party and took over the presidency from Hassan Al-Bakr: A year later the Iraq-Iran war started.
Then it happened, what Jamal and his friends had feared the most; in 1982, the whole group of friends were sent to the "Jabha", the front, to fight the Iranian forces.The gruelling war ended in 88′, after some space for breathing, another war started in 90′ after the invasion of Kuwait.
Some friends were lost, others were reunited every now at different fronts, some joined the resistance, and others stayed to fight for survival. By the time Saddam’s regime had reached the year of 1994, Jamal and Akram met one last time after handing in their resignations to the army.
A civil war was now raging in Kurdistan between two rival Kurdish parties and the UN had imposed sanctions on Baghdad, crippling a whole population. They both knew this might be the last time they meet, as they were expecting a worse fate for Iraq.
21 years later, by coincidence, during the summer of 2015 in Sulaymaniyah, the Iraqi Youth Network held a festival for kids with cancer; one of the elder men present, had a grandkid recovering from cancer as a participant. Most of the time, he was observing his kid, until he noticed a big husky bald man with a moustache doing exercises with the kids.
As they noticed each other, the two soldiers were now reunited as old men with 6 grandkids each; kisses, hugs and a millions questions followed within minutes. The Arab, Kurdish and Assyrian youth volunteers ended up surrounding them, wondering why the President of the Iraqi Youth Network, a strong tough and dignified man such as Jamal, was now crying and hugging tightly another elder man.
As they asked Jamal who the other man was, Akram interrupted and said; "This man right here, good God, back in the 70’s he thought all the women were after him because of his saxophone skills, imagine that; receding hairline, moustache and a saxophone. Jamal admit it, you cant lie during the Ramadan, we both knew who had the charm and talking skills in the group."
Jamal; "Really? Remember that wedding we crashed in 75′, you and your Kurdish accent, people thought you were an Iraqi who had lived in France for too long". Akram; "Oh shut up you old fool, I speak better Arabic than you! Kids don’t ever believe this man, especially the stories involving me, always been so jealous of me."
The encounter gave the volunteers an insight on how relations were once between ordinary people of different ethnicities, these young volunteers were born during the wars described earlier in the article, but had always heard stories from their parents on friends from different areas and ethnicities.
The bridges between people were burned down by dictators, but the youth, through their experiences in the Iraqi Youth Network, has realised they are the ones capable of rebuilding them once again and create friendships such as the one between Jamal and Akram, a relationship anyone can be envious off by just hearing these old men’s banter.