A Thousand Sighs, A Thousand Revolts: Journeys in Kurdistan
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Though the Kurds played a major military and tactical role in the United States’ recent war with Iraq, most of us know little about this fiercely independent, long-marginalized people. Now acclaimed journalist Christiane Bird, who riveted readers with her tour of Islamic Iran in Neither East Nor West, travels through this volatile part of the world to tell the Kurds’ story, using personal observations and in-depth research to illuminate an astonishing history and vibrant culture.
For the twenty-five to thirty million Kurds, Kurdistan is both an actual and a mythical place: an isolated, largely mountainous homeland that has historically offered sanctuary from the treacherous outside world and yet does not exist on modern maps. Parceled out among the four nation-states of Iraq, Turkey, Syria, and Iran after World War I, Kurdistan is a divided land with a tragic history, where the indomitable Kurds both celebrate their ancient culture and fight to control their own destiny. Occupying some of the Middle East’s most strategic and richest terrain, the Kurds are the fourth-largest ethnic group in the region and the largest ethnic group in the world without a state to call their own.
Whether dancing at a Kurdish wedding in Iran, bearing witness to the destroyed Kurdish countryside in southeast Turkey, having lunch with a powerful exiled agha in Syria, or visiting the sites of Saddam Hussein’s horrific chemical attacks in Iraq, the intrepid, insightful Bird sheds light on a violently stunning world seen by few Westerners. Part mesmerizing travelogue, part action-packed history, part reportage, and part cultural study, this critical book offers timely insight into an unknown but increasingly influential part of the world. Bird paints a moving and unforgettable portrait of a people uneasily poised between a stubborn past and an impatient future.
then taking place in the region, with local religious leaders arguing that the PKK and traditional politics had failed, and radical Islam was the answer. Yet curiously enough, of the approximately five hundred journalists, human rights activists, and professionals indeed believed to have been murdered by Hezbollah by late 1993, all were actively pro-Kurdish, and none of their killers have ever been found. Many Kurds and outside observers believe that Hezbollah and the Turkish state were working
Iraqi peshmerga and Iran. In the previous few months, Iranian troops had captured strategic sites along the Iran-Iraq border and penetrated deep into Iraqi Kurdistan. But instead of retaliating with focused assaults against the Iranians and peshmerga, Hussein methodically began destroying Kurdistan. On February 23, he launched a colossal air and ground attack, using conventional and chemical weapons, against a peshmerga-held region to the east of Suleimaniyah. Seven other equally massive Anfal
thought, Dr. Loqman. Though they had all lived and relived this story thousands of times, it was impossible not to. “Others have cried, too, hearing our story,” a woman said, watching me, “but why is the world listening only now? This happened many years ago.” THAT AFTERNOON AND the next day, Dr. Loqman took Mr. Saleh, Jula, and myself on a driving tour. We visited a small carpet factory and drove along the Greater Zab, lush with poplar trees and flanked by jagged peaks, in which once had
where lines of men in baggy pants or caftans sat cross-legged against the walls and in a neat double row in the center. Some wore white or embroidered caps, and all were chanting “Ya, Allah” over and over. On the walls above hung banners embroidered with the names of Allah and the Prophet Muhammad, while up front sat a round, white-bearded shaikh in a bright green turban, a dagger at his waist, leading the zikr through a microphone. We joined the shaikh at the front and watched as believers filed
killing many others. Thereupon, Keghan declared her debt to Fakih Ahmad for saving her life repaid, and she returned to her city. But lovelorn Fakih Ahmad followed her there, to rescue her once again, this time from marriage to a brute who beat her for being “dishonored,” and the twosome happily returned to Kurdistan. A fractious family, the Babans were often at war with each other and with their rivals, the Ardalans, who lived on the other side of the Zagros Mountains in today’s Sanandaj, Iran.