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October 12, 2011

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Drawn by The Man in Blue Pyjamas 

Kurdishaspect.com - By Niga Jalal

Two weeks after it was published, Jalal Barzanji’s memoir “The Man in Blue Pyjamas” made Edmonton Journal’s best sellers list for October 2 2011.  This is not surprising considering the powerful message that Barzanji offers its readers. Barzanji’s memoir offers readers a detailed portrait of life in the “ancient Kurdish city, in prison, he grounds readers with his ability to find moments of compassion and humanity amidst the relentless assault of Saddam Hussein regime against Kurds”. 

While reading the book, Barzanji is able to connect to readers as if they are part of his story, part of his life. He takes readers on an emotional journey that is filled with instants of compassion, sadness, as well as extreme relief and happiness. Readers witness injustice and brutality as he is forced out of his own home, into a dreadful jail cell. His crime is not only being a Kurd, but also a writer with a peaceful message. His descriptions of his time in Saddam’s prison in 1986 leaves readers with astonishments about how Barzanji is able to remain peaceful and compassionate in the face of unimaginable punishments.  His physical and psychological punishment includes the times he was blind folded and severely beaten for his writing, the times he was forced to watch as his elderly mother get physically and verbally assaulted by prison officials.  He is forced to watch his 2-year-old daughter walk away from the jail cell disappointed because she was unable to hug her father, or join him in prison. Moments of compassion as a father break down into tears as he is forced to burry his Peshmerga sons after battle, and another fathers regret for not kissing his kids while he was free. Nevertheless, Barzanji remains strong by finding an escape to write on smuggled pieces of paper about challenges, wishes and dreams of him and his fellow prisoners. 

As Barzanji states, “the style of my book must be in small pieces, as my life has been in pieces”. I believe Barzanji is pointing to ways in which his memoire takes readers to various times and places in order to introduce readers to characters that have remained voiceless. Barzanji honors their stories, and retells them in a way that demands reader’s attentions. It is not just a prison memoire, but also a testimony of innocent lives that were disrupted by those whose wish is to kill the beauty of life. 

Instead of passing judgment about the oppressors, he allows readers to make their own judgments and conclusions. However one message that is clear and resonates throughout the memoire, is one about a common human desire to live in peace. 

 * The Man In Blue pyjams, is available on Amazon .com

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