Dr Meryem Kaya - Most Successful Kurds in Britain Awards Jury
I was born in Istanbul in the 1980s to Kurdish parents from Elbistan, Northern Kurdistan. I went to primary school in Istanbul for 3 years and was successfully assimilated to a Turk. Having lived 3 years apart - my mother, sister and I joined my father in London when I was 8 years old. I learned to speak English and had three identities to associate myself with, Turkish, Kurdish and British. Being assimilated into a ‘Great Turk’ I was ashamed of being Kurdish. It didn’t take long to realise I was Kurdish but it took a long time to say I was Kurdish with no fear and with confidence.
I worked hard at school at the advice of my mother who wanted me to live a better life than she had. I managed to get decent GCSEs and A-levels and got into Medicine at Imperial College, London. Coming from a working class background and insecurities as a Kurdish migrant my university years were filled with many personal uncertainties. I love reasoning, science and working closely with people and love my job as a doctor.
After seeing a surgical publication from Sulaimaniah (South Kurdistan) teaching hospital I decided to undertake a surgical attachment there. As well as gaining extensive operative experience, my visit to Sulaimaniah allowed me to witness freely spoken Kurdish and ‘free’ Kurds generally; it was a life changing experience when I felt confident as a Kurd.
As a result of my personal experience and in an attempt to create a positive outlook of Kurds and being Kurdish I co-founded Kurdish Professionals Network. We have held various events to allow networking of professionals as well as work with community centres and schools to introduce Kurdish role models as well as inform parents of the education system in the UK and how they can help their children.
To achieve change we can all do our bit; one small act may lead to a series of changes.