Meet Kurdish Saint Valentine: Seven Decades in Solitude

14/02/2018 - 06:15 Published in Reports

ERBIL — Known as ‘the man in love’, he attracts thousands of visitors around the region every year who wish to meet a man in his love solitude for nearly 70 years. He has become the symbol of true love, sacrifice and patience across the Kurdistan Region.

Ali Abdullah, better known as Ali Ashiq, is from a tiny village on the famous Hamilton Road which connects capital Erbil to neighbouring Iran. He was in his early 20s, as he recalls, when he found himself deep in love with a girl from the same village. “Our love was just like Layla and Majnun’s,” he says.

A week before Valentine's Day, I decided to visit Ali Ashiq and write the story of his life and his love. I travelled through towering mountains to arrive in a deep valley where the government of Kurdistan has recently built a cozy house for the man who has added something to the fine reputation of the Kurds in the Middle East. He warmly invited me in and accepted to tell me more about his past.

I asked him how he ended up there unwilling to leave the valley for decades. “I spent my whole life here alone… I decided to live with her memories until a day comes and we finally can be together,” he said while gently touching his white beard.

After the family of his beloved girl rejected approving their marriage, Ali Ashiq left the village, hoping that his beloved would follow him and they can escape together. “I’m still waiting,” he sighted.

“I think nobody can be as patient as I am… But I had to do it, I just wanted to prove her that I am loyal to the promises I made, and I didn’t lie when I said I’m not going to love anyone else after her.”

I also spoke to people from his village to find out what has happened to Ali Ashiq’s beloved. They said that she was forced to marry another person who had her father’s approval. But she is widowed now.

“Yes, I heard that she is alone now… Just like me,” Ali Ashiq answered when I asked him if he knows what happened to his love. “But I had got used to this loneliness from the beginning. I don’t remember my mother as I was very young when she passed away. A few years later my father died and I was left on my own.”

He further explained that in 70s and 80s, before local and international media introduced him to the world, many people had thought that he is mentally ill. “They thought I am insane until 1991 when some foreign journalists interviewed me and I told them my story.”

Time was ticking, but there was one question I could not skip. I noticed bunches of dried red roses and red scarfs in a corner of his room. I asked if they were gifts he had received from visitors.

“No, people brought these here after they faced the same fate I had with my beloved,” he said, pointing out that the roses and scarfs are gifts the people received from their loved ones, they cannot throw them away and they cannot keep them with themselves for ever.

“So I keep these memories for them,” he smiled proudly.

I asked him about Valentine’s Day as my last question. He said February 14 is a special day for him because many people visit his place and take pictures with him. “I only give them one advice: don’t give up on your love…!”