Nazar Sharanshi, 40, came to the United States when he was 19 years old in 1996. Originally from Southern Kurdistan (northern Iraqi), he entered the country through an asylum.
He said in 1996 alone, 12,000 Kurdish people moved to the United States. Today, there are well over 20,000 Kurdish people living in Nashville.
For the last 12 years, Nazar has been running an exporting business. Mostly American-made goods, he ships things like cars, toys, heavy equipment and frozen foods to Kurdistan.
“Over there, my family is in the same business,” he said. “So whatever is in the market is what I usually ship to them.”
Along with running his own business in America, Nazar is actively involved in the community. He serves on the board of the Tennessee Kurdish Community Council (TKCC) and is a co-founder of the Kurdish Republican Party of Nashville.
“We do a lot for the Kurds in Nashville,” he said speaking of the TKCC headquartered on Harding Place. “We’re a nonprofit and nonpolitical organization and we provide a lot of events for Kurds.”
Nazar said in the past the TKCC has offered English speaking classes and other things. Now he said the organization is focused more around events like their annual Kurdish New Year picnic in Edwin Warner Park in March.
NASHVILLE or LITTLE KURDISTAN?
Married with three children, Nazar became a naturalized citizen in 2000.
“Nashville is home to us,” he said. “We call it Little Kurdistan. The city is very friendly and the people here are very nice.”
Nazar said he doesn’t see much discrimination in Nashville or people thinking they are from another country.
“We’ve been here for almost 20 years and we’ve never had any problems,” he said. “You might see one person act crazy, but the majority of the people here are good people.”
Nazar said he’s proud to see the city grow like it has over the last few years.
“Every time I see a new project in Nashville it makes me happy. I see the economy growing and a lot of people moving here. There are a lot of new restaurants and new business and that’s good, I like to see people working. It’s totally different from a few years ago,” he said alluding to the Great Recession.
He said during the recession, it was hard to do business because of the economy.
“Everyone cares about where they live, and [my family and I] care about Nashville because it’s our hometown.”
Nazar doesn’t see the city’s future slowing down anytime soon, but he said his biggest concern is the traffic issue. He suggested the city do more to add alternate routes, widen interstates and highways and maybe think about a train system.
Nazar said the Kurdish community is the Nashville community.
“We are all a part of this community and so when I see something that looks bad, it makes me look bad,” he said. “It doesn’t mean everything is perfectly fine, it just means we’re getting along with each other.”
Other than his wife and children, Nazar’s family resides in Kurdistan, and he visits them every few years.
He said right now the security of the community and the education of his children are the most important things to him.
“Thank God, we are in a safe place,” he said. “When the economy was bad and people didn’t have jobs, there was a lot of break-ins, shootings and drug activity but now it’s so much better and so much safer. Thanks to our government.”
Nazar said he the government has done a good job of hiring more law enforcement and tracking crime.
“Twenty years ago, there were only two police cars on Nolensville Road and everyone recognized those two police cars,” he said. “Now there’s many more and that’s a good thing.”
Nazar also spoke openly about the current Syrian refugees situation. He said part of keeping the community safe is not allowing those refugees into the state.
“I feel as though our governor did the right thing,” he said about Governor Haslam asking the federal government not to send refugees to Tennessee. “We’d like to help [the refugees], and I was one of them, but this is something completely different.”
Nazar said he believes most of the Syrian refugees are wanting to come to the United States because they don’t want to fight ISIS or may be a part of it. He also said he believes most of them are wanting to return to Syria when things are better again.
Nazar said the United States should help by sending aid to camps overseas.
“I know there are kids in those camps who need help and don’t do anything wrong, but there are a lot of bad people too so we have to think about that,” he said. “It’s not like here where if you type in their social security their whole background will show up. These people don’t have backgrounds and you can’t track them. You don’t know who’s bad or who’s good.”
Right now Nazar said he’s focusing on having a good future and living in the best place.
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*The views featured in this article are only reflective of the individual and do not represent those of Neat Nashville.
Every Thursday at noon Neat Nashville embraces the community by highlighting an individual in a feature article that tells their story and voices their concerns about the city moving forward. It is our hope to inspire good change locally, to be a force of unity, and support the people we all call neighbors.
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