Books By Women: Love in a Torn Land Joanna of Kurdistan

A little over a year ago now I studied abroad in Istanbul, Turkey and current Turkish politics is my historical niche. My last semester in college I completed independent research on Turkey’s pro-Kurdish political parties and Turkey’s cultural genocide of the country’s Kurdish populations. Briefly summarized, Kurds are a Muslim ethnic group with a majority of Kurds located in Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria. Kurds have been systematically discriminated against and outright killed based on their ethnicity, with Saddam Hussein bombarding Iraqi Kurdistan with chemical attacks in 1988 in the Anfal campaign. There is no separate state of Kurdistan. For extensive information on abuses against Kurds, please check out the Kurdish Human Rights Project.

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My research into pro-Kurdish political parties and the knowledge I’ve sought to join the movement for Kurdish rights globally has led me to begin a historical fiction novel set in Turkish Kurdistan in the 1990s and my research for this novel led me to the book: Love in a Torn Land: Joanna of Kurdistan: The True Story of a Freedom Fighter’s Escape from Iraqi Vengeance. joanna of Kurdistan

I’m not sure how to describe this book. On the one hand, it’s a biography, written by Jean Sasson, who lived and worked in Saudi Arabia and has written multiple books through interviews with Middle Eastern women. But the book is narrated in first person from Joanna’s perspective. The writing reads as if it were a transcript compiled from the various interviews with Joanna, but to be honest I’m not sure how it was written. I’ve contacted Sasson to ask and hope to hear from her soon.

The writing didn’t have a lot of details which would have drawn me into Joanna’s story of growing up in Baghdad, marrying a Peshmerga Kurdish freedom fighter and surviving the Anfal Campaign. Hers is a story of survival, but I had difficulty investing myself because the writing didn’t put me into the scene. I can’t blame either Sasson or Joanna for this. Sasson explains in an interview on her website, that while speaking with Joanna, Joanna was often too traumatized to provide details, making the writing process far more difficult.

The book provided me with some of the cultural and historical information I need for my own project and it’s a great start for readers interested in modern Middle Eastern history who may not have a strong background.  As you read, you learn about Kurds, Iraq, Iraqi Kurdistan, the Iran-Iraq war, and many details people living in the west don’t have access to or wouldn’t think to ask about. And even if you know some of the facts already as I did, having a human perspective is far more compelling and real than all the statistics and academic research you could ever compile.

I’ll keep you updated if I hear back from Sasson! In the mean time, keep reading.

Up next: Dreaming in Cuban by Cristina Garcia.

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“Collateral Murder” and Bradley Manning

When WikiLeaks was all over the news three years ago, I was still in high school and living a delirious life where politics were for grown ups and WikiLeaks was a strange branch-off of Wikipedia. What did I know? What do I know? Until last night I was still blissfully unaware that there are heroes like Bradley Manning who put morality ahead of the law and decide that the American people can be trusted to know when their government commits war crimes.

Bradley Manning is a private in the US army who sent videos of the July 12, 2007 Baghdad Airstrike to WikiLeaks and is being charged with aiding the enemy. I was lucky enough to be directed to an article by Chris Hedges “We Are Bradley Manning”.

Last night I knew nothing about Bradley Manning and less about the infringement of our rights through WikiLeaks. Today, I feel that as a US citizen I am obliged to share this information. The video-“Collateral Murder- is below.

I cannot claim to be an expert on the US military and even as I write this, I feel that I’m not qualified to speak on the subject. But because I’m not an authority is exactly why I need to speak out. I’m coming from the same place as many of you who are only just now receiving this information. There’s time for us to become more fluent with the proceedings of Manning’s trial and the working of the military, but there is not time to debate with ourselves whether our own lack of knowledge will prevent us from sharing the truth.

Those soldiers in that airstrike wanted an excuse to kill those people. They wanted to indulge their own sense of violence under the guise of “national security” and they got what they wanted. They murdered innocent people-real people, with lives just like ours! This is what disturbed me the most: this isn’t fiction and these are real lives we’re dealing with. There was racism in this attack, racism that is learned in America and given wings in the army.

This is immoral and we know it. There is no justification.

I’ve never felt so strongly about something in my life. I’ve never felt so absolutely powerless. This is why I’m sharing this information. If we can get a discussion going and get other voices speaking out, we won’t be powerless in the face of a government seeking to repress what we can know.

Please, pass the article and the video along to your friends and family. Go to bradleymanning.org for more information and ways to get involved further.