An Interview with the Kurdish Feminist Writer and Poet Mahabad Qaradagh



April  17, 2007 An Interview with the Kurdish Feminist Writer and Poet Mahabad Qaradaghi

Dr. Showan Khurshid conducted the interview and wrote the introduction

No doubt, there is a depressing atmosphere hanging over most Kurdish intellectuals. Besides suffering from the lack of services equal, in this regard, to the rest of the Kurdish public, they have also to suffer at every turn of the hand from the insolent Kurdish officials demanding complete subordination. 

Perhaps, many of the problems of Kurdistan need far greater length of time to put right, considering decades systematic neglect and destruction at the hands of the previous successive regimes. However, there are other sources of concern, for which only Kurdish officials and Kurdish political culture are to be blamed. The most pressing of which are the lack of genuine democracy, the lack of accountability, and perhaps, most importantly from my point of view, the lack of democratic means to change the situation or to change the leadership. All these have engendered a staggering level of corruption.  

Understandably, the dissatisfaction is so intense that many intellectuals move to the extreme and refuse to acknowledge any positive development or any positive contribution of certain individuals in the leadership. Perhaps, for some intellectuals, the refusal is due to their perception that the positive developments are far outweighed by the negativity. However, for some others, it might also be due to being intimidated lest the intellectual is also marked as turncoat. 

Considering myself, I had a feeling that, although suffering from the aforementioned problems, the areas under KDP might be, nevertheless, doing relatively better than the areas under PUK. I also felt this might be due to Nechirvan Barzani, who, energetic and young, seems to have different priorities to most others. One source of information, I thought of, to assess my assumptions, was Mahabad Qaradaghi, a known feminist writer and poet, who was also an advisor to Nechirvan Barzani on equality issues until she resigned. Mrs Qaradaghi kindly answered. And she expressed her appreciation for the role of Nechirvan. However, in the course of exchanginh emails , she has also told me that she is currently living in Kurdistan. More questions jump into my mind. So to make answering these questions more bearable to Mrs Qaradaghi, I suggested an interviw format , which she also kindly agreed upon. However, as an interview more questions were needed, especially, when it coincided with her recent publication of a novel.

Tell us about your imprisonment. 

Mahabad Qaradagh -  In 1980, I was imprisoned in Kfry, Baquba and Baghdad. I was sentenced by the Revolutionary Court [of the Baathist Regime]. At the time of detention, I was only fourteen years old. It was because of some revolutionary poems and some memoirs that I had written in my diary. 

I have written the details of the imprisonment and the torture in a book called A Year in Hell. It has been published in Kurdish and translated into Arabic, (is under publication). I will try to get it translated into English in the future. I know the experience that I have had as a Kurdish girl will draw the world's attention.

Tell us about your new novel.

Mahabad Qaradagh -  My novel has been made available to the readership this week. It is called 'Resonance'. The message of the novel is my lifetime concern, which is for equality and justice. I have subjected all the masked practices within  Kurdish society to questioning. The Protagonist of the novel is a female writer, called Anavin, who creates a world whose criteria are justice, modern norms and laws. In the novel, I made use of a technique which benefits from the idea of reincarnation. Accordingly, Anavin represents not only one life, but hundreds of lives in different eras. Anavin had lived 300 hundred lives, with each life in a different country and different society, before her last one in Kurdistan. I focus on this particular life in Kurdistan; regarding how she will be able to obtain a happier life; and how to remove the obstacles preventing equality and justice. 

Is the condition she creates a utopia?

Mahabad Qaradagh -  No doubt, what she suggests is like a utopia, because in the Middle East, the culture of violence is at its zenith. Anavin, by means of hypnosis, goes to God and makes a pact with God regarding how to work for justice and to convey the message of peace and love . 

What has life abroad taught you?

Mahabad Qaradagh -  I learned to compare. I observed hundreds of different phenomena. By making the comparisons, I could tell what it is in our tradition, conventions and culture that should be left behind, and what we should change. In Sweden, particularly, I learned a new method for struggling for equality, through new means and new foresight. 

What is your message to the Kurds in exile who would return to Kurdistan, and whether they will be able to live freely without subjugating themselves to some Kurdish official?

Mahabad Qaradagh -  The exiled Kurds, specifically those who benefited from the developed countries by advancing themselves culturally, scientifically, socially, economically, and those who made some economic or intellectual capital, can be a great asset for this country, and it is necessary that they return and employ their capacities in Kurdistan. However, there is a fact. Not all our official are alike. Some of them are modernizers; they look into the future, urge progress, urge the Kurds to go back, and are willing to support them [the returnees]. An example of them is Nechirvan Barzani, who participates in and supports the developmental projects. But there are others who try with all their power to block out the exiled Kurds and the examples of this sort are, unfortunately, many.

Regarding those who leave Kurdistan into exiled?

Mahabad Qaradagh -  I would say, every human being is free to choose her life and her lifestyle, but for the [current] circumstances of Kurdistan, people, who are resourceful and can support their society are needed. They need to think about the future of Kurdistan. My hope is that people would return in droves as they have once left to exile in droves. However, the number of those who are coming back is very low. 

What are your intentions or plans in Kurdistan?

Mahabad Qaradagh -  I came back to Kurdistan for the principle of equality. For one and a half years, I worked as an advisor on equality issues to the prime minister. After leaving this job, I involved myself in writing projects. My books are also concerned with equality and women's issues. No doubt, there is a need for a hard struggle, and that is why in the future all my potential projects will be concerned with these issues. 

Tell us about the circumstances of women in Kurdistan.

Mahabad Qaradagh -  Since the uprising [in 1991], women's struggles have passed through a number of stages. But since the collapse of Saddam's regime, since three years ago, a good opportunity has arisen. But on the other hand, there are also those reactionaries and religious or fundamentalists movements, who want to undermine these opportunities. Moreover, the leadership of the Kurdish parties are still 100% men. Women are not in positions of decision-making within these parties, so women have no autonomy in decision making. What I want to say is, in short,  that owing to the changes in the world, the region and Kurdistan, opportunities for women have arisen, but these opportunities haven't been made use of yet. 

Are you hopeful regarding the prospect of progress in Kurdistan despite all that corruption? 

Mahabad Qaradagh -  I am hopeful regarding improvement in Kurdistan. Although, I know that corruption has crept in everywhere. The conditions for hope are that hundreds of loyal women and men returned back from exile and cooperated with thousands of loyal individuals who are in Kurdistan, to present the good leaders with reform projects. 

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