Thursday, September 29, 2011

Ava Homa interviews Fethi Karakecili

‘Mem U Zin’ on stage in Toronto, Canada on October 2

Fethi Karakecili
Interview with Fethi Karakecili by Ava Homa:
Fethi Karakecili – an artistic director, dancer, choreographer, educator and scholar – was born in Urfa, Northern Kurdistan. He received his Bachelors degree in Folk Dance at the State Conservatory in Turkey and completed his Master’s in Dance at Istanbul Technical University – Social Science Institute. He taught for 7 years as full-time faculty at Gaziantep University and Istanbul but moved to Canada in 2001 and completed his second Master’s at York University, Dance Studies.  Currently he studies PhD in Ethnomusicology at York University. He has also been teaching at York University – Dance, Music and Cultural Studies Departments since 2006.  For his PhD dissertation, Fethi is working on an Ethnographic approach on Kurdish wedding rituals, dance and music in Kurdistan and Diaspora. Fethi is the founder of the Dilan Dance Company
Ava Homa: What does being a Kurd mean to you, Fethi?
Fethi Karakecili: I want to say it means being a human being like others in the world.  In addition to that, the term Kurd has associations: survivor, unhappy, unaccepted, state-less, land-less, sad, refugee, war.  In the Middle East and in the world.  But after all of this, Kurds live their lives with honour, integrity, courage and success.
Ava Homa: True! Being a Kurd is a mixture of pride and pain. Why did you choose Mem U Zin? What’s about this book that personally appeals to you?
Fethi Karakecili: I grew up with the story tellers.  I was 7 years old when I first heard this story from Hino. She was an uneducated folk-story teller from Urfa region.  She was living in Adana with us.  Adana is in the south of Turkey, but I was born in the city of Urfa in the Kurdish region.  Back in 1977 the neighbourhood I was in didn’t have electricity- we didn’t have television or radio.  Listening to the story teller was our only entertainment and I heard Mem U Zin from her.  Later on I started to investigate to see what was behind this story: was it real? who wrote it? I was curious.  Then my curiosity in Kurdish folklore became a danger for me, because in Turkey this was banned.  Some Kurds, regardless, had hidden old books and I gained a chance to read the great philosopher/poet, Ahmed Xani, author of Mem U Zin. This epic was written in 17th century in a poetic, romantic style. That was when I promised myself, I will one day stage this great work of art.
Ava Homa: Very interesting, Fethi! Kurds indeed have great story tellers and I believe it is vita to document our oral literature before it is forgotten. Do you believe dance, or art and literature in general, can make a difference in a nation’s fate? How?
Fethi Karakecili: Dance and Art are important parts of a culture.  Dance has spirituality and rituals behind all movement, gestures and postures. Most folk and traditional dances focus on love, harvest, grief, weddings, happiness and war.  If people’s freedom or access to culture is limited then people are highly attached to their cultures.  Also art and culture is part of national identity.  It represents who you are, how you act in society and how you present yourself.
Ava Homa: It’s ironical that when you deny people access to their culture, they value it higher. In Canada, students are encouraged to study their mother-tongue in addition to English language and they rarely appreciate this freedom. But, who is your targeted audience and what is the effect you are trying to achieve?
Fethi Karakecili: To begin, this project involves artists from different backgrounds, cultures and dance styles.  The main idea is to be a human being and share different cultures on the same stage.  Our target is basically ‘Torontonians’ – everyone.  We want to show them the lovely Kurdish story of Mem U Zin and let them enjoy the vibrancy of Kurdish culture through the representation of rituals and ceremony (weddings, Newroz, etc.).  As an Academic and an artist I would like to take this performance outside of Canada and perform it for other audiences in the world.  So far there has been interest from within Canada; and from Europe, USA and the Middle East.
Ava Homa: Fantastic! What you are doing is priceless. Mainstream media either refuses to cover Kurdistan news – such as the recent attacks to Qandil Mountain – or, when they do cover the news, they only offer a one-dimensional view.  By putting a human face to the Kurds’ struggle you heighten awareness and interest.  How has the response been so far and what do you expect the turnout to be?
Fethi Karakecili: We have had an excellent response from the public and media.  I have been surprised by the wideness of response and requests for information.  I have been interviewed the Telegraph (UK), Radikal (Turkey), Toronto Star (Canada), ANF (Kurdish network, Europe) and more than 10 local newspapers in Turkey. Also most of our tickets have been sold to multicultural community (not just Kurds). We are getting response from Academics and professional artists.  It appears that we might come close to selling out on the performance day.  We developed a Facebook page and an on-going blog that have been well received.
Ava Homa: Fethi, we, the Kurds, value you and your arts and appreciate what you are doing for us. We will certainly support you. What is your message to the Kurds?
Fethi Karakecili: I want to tell my nation to make sure we always cherish our rich history and celebrate it. Empower yourself and your nation through work, education and unity. With solidarity we will reach acceptance and peace.
Ava Homa: Thank you! Is there anything you would like to add?
Fethi Karakecili: Mem U Zin is the first Kurdish dance performance (ballet dance theatre) ever in the world.  This is very significant and important.  It is also unique in using three different dance styles (folk, contemporary and ballet) with dancers of different backgrounds and disciplines.  The project includes live music led by Dr. Irene Markov.  It is also a multicultural band with players from different parts of the world.  In both the dance and musical performance I have endeavoured to include artists of many different backgrounds and colours.  You will see touches of other dance styles (East Indian, Capoeira, Afro-dance) in some of the individual performers.
Mem u Zin, the world premiere, at the Isabel Bader Theatre, 93 Charles St. W., 7 p.m. Oct. 2. If you live in Toronto or Ontario, make sure you enjoy the dance and support your fellow artist. 
Ava Homa, a Kurdish-Canadian writer is author of Echoes from the Other Land which was nominated for the the world’s largest short story award Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award and Giller Prize. Ava has two Masters’ degrees: one in English and Creative Writing, another in English Language and Literature. Echoes from the Other Land has a running theme of resistance by modern women.  The stories are told on a universal scale, depicting human endurance, desire and passion. Ava’s writings have appeared in the Windsor Review and the Toronto Star.  She was a writer in Iran, and university faculty member. In Toronto, Ava writes and teaches Creative Writing and English in George Brown College. For more information please visit


Tuesday, September 6, 2011

It's Time You Speak

Leyla Zana, Writes to Obama and Ban Ki-Moon

Diyarbakir MP Mrs Leyla Zana, WKC Founding Member, Writes to Obama and Ban Ki-Moon 28.8.2011

DIYARBAKIR, The Kurdish region of Turkey, — Diyarbakir deputy Leyla Zana has sent a letter to the U.S. President Barack Obama, NATO Secretary General, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, President of the European Parliament, Jerzy Buzek, President of the Council of Europe, Herman Van Rompuy and Turkish President Abdullah Gül regarding the most recent policy implemented against the Kurdish people.

While Turkey's air strike continues in southern Kurdistan, Diyarbakir deputy Leyla Zana, in a letter to the leaders of the world, criticized the silence over the growing attacks against Kurds.

Deputy Leyla Zana's letter is as follows;
Prominent Kurdish MP Leyla Zana says to world leaders: it is time you speak. While the world is going through a very fast process of change and transformation and the Middle East is witnessing new developments, our people who are deprived of the fairness of the history still continue their struggle for “existence” at the cost of their lives.

When it comes to the Kurds and their political status, the world opinion keeps remaining silent and condoning the right and boundary violations, bombings on villages, houses and people, regardless of women, men and children, cross-border operations and the ongoing aerial operations. This situation is greeted with great astonishment by our people and considered difficult to understand.

The constant attack position of these powers and their intention to destroy all the values of Kurds do not comply with the character of the 21st century and the principles of fairness in the world.

The latest aerial attacks on Qandil, which have killed a civilian family in the region, are defended by Deputy Prime Minister of Turkey which is currently trying to set an example of a “model country” to the Middle East and conducting negotiations to be a member of the EU. In a statement to a national newspaper, the Turkish Deputy Prime Minister, saying that “the operations are legitimate and true”, didn’t abstain from defending the attacks which target civilians. (Bülent Arınç/Cihan News Agency/22.08.2011)

I would like to express my regret that the Prime Minister of the Republic of Turkey is increasing the policy of violence against Kurds as the Western world is holding up him as an example to the Middle East. I am greatly worried that we may face a modern dictatorship while the dictatorial regimes in the Middle East are falling down. The state’s attitude which forces the whole society to think the same with itself and the closure cases against the worldwide multilingual Roj TV need to be accepted as a sign in this regard.

In brief, the military, political, diplomatic attacks launched against the Kurds and most importantly, the boundless attacks on our civilian people are in front of the eyes of the world public opinion. It is possible to foresee how the destruction of an oppressed people’s children will deepen the deadlock.

All efforts of the Kurdish side are intended for finding a democratic and political solution to this problem. Although Mr. Ocalan has many times silenced the weapons since 1993 and created opportunities for obtaining the rights of the Kurdish people on a democratic ground as well as convincing his public that the problem can be solved in this way,www.ekurd.netthe state has negated all these processes with a negative attitude and turned a blind eye to these opportunities. Resisting extraordinarily about defining the problem, the state has at every turn considered and applied violence as the single method of solving the Kurdish problem.

Mr. President,

In the testimony of the whole world’s humanity, the geography which has been in a conflict environment for two hundred years is now expecting peace and quiet.

Kurdistan's geography should not be a second Paletsine and the Sri Lanka simulation shouldn’t even be associated with the situation in Turkey. Otherwise, a social chaos and an ethnic war among the peoples will be unavoidable, which will no doubt drag the world peace and humanity into more disaster.

I expect and wish that you will meet the requirements of your both conscience and position.''

Leyla Zana: Who in 1995 won the European Parliament's Sakharov human rights award, and several other Kurds were elected to parliament in 1991, but lost their seats in 1994 after their party was outlawed for links with the PKK. In March 2003, Zana and her co-defendants were allowed a retrial after their original conviction was condemned as unfair by the European Court of Human Rights in 2001. Zana and three colleagues spent 10 years behind bars for speaking Kurdish in the Turkish Parliament and for collaborating with the rebels. She was the first Kurdish woman to be elected to Turkey's parliament. They were released in June 2004

Review of Room by Emma Donoghue

The word “Best Seller” is usually a turn off for me. I tried reading some of them and they turned out to be really shallow. One of them, by a very well-known author, was all about cake and sex! They are, of course, parts of life, but just part, not all. In a world where so many atrocities are going on, the least we can do is to be aware of what people go through_ although knowledge is painful as opposed to the pleasing cake and sex, but our awareness can help stop crime. In a world that Turkey can kill civilian Kurds and their crimes are overlooked in the media, you can’t be all about cake and sex. It’s just degrading for human being, I believe, to be drawn in triviality while Somalia children are starving.
I picked up Room, an international best-seller, however, because it won Writer’s Trust Prize. I am a voracious reader and every book I read, I learn a few writing techniques from. Even when the books are not powerful, I try to figure out what didn’t work in the book. Room, however, taught me a lot about writing. I can talk about a few points.
1.      The book was very coherent and details were mainly significance. If at the first part Ma has a bad tooth, that tooth keeps appearing in the story and playing a role. This is not easy to create in a story.
2.      Globe and Mail says what makes the book distinguished is that Emma was brave enough to write the story form a 5-year-old point of view. I agree with that. A kid’s point of view sets a lot of hurdle but it also adds sweetness, innocence and humour to the book. It also creates irony because readers know more about the character than Jack himself.
3.      Room is original. Although the story of kidnap and rape is not new, by continuing the story Emma proves she is a deep, intelligent writer. The details of Jack and Ma’s life in the room prove the writer’s powerful imagination and the TV show scene shows her observation and critical thinking ability.
4.      Emma can create a variety of human relationships. Story gets a lot more powerful when we see Grandma, Grandpa, Steppa, Paul and his family.  Subtly and powerfully, the writer gives us some insight into the life of people who call themselves “free” as opposed to the trapped Ma and Jack.
5.      I loved how we never know Ma’s other name. It emphasises how being a mother was a greater part of the character’s identity and what saved her. Also, the 5 year old kid, the narrator, would not want “Ma” to be anyone else but Ma.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

CBC Books - The Scotiabank Giller Prize

CBC Books - The Scotiabank Giller Prize

Clara for Echoes from the Other Land by Ava Homa

Vancouver, BC

My choice is Echoes from the Other Land by Ava Homa. Her work has a fresh vision and her words speaks to both western and eastern audiences. I really appreciate Ms. Homa's candid exploration of relationships. She is eloquent and articulate.

Friday, September 2, 2011

CBC Books - The Scotiabank Giller Prize

CBC Books - The Scotiabank Giller Prize

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Enrique for Echoes from the Other Land by Ava Homa

Windsor, ON

It brings the reader behind the veil of a society ignored and misunderstood. A woman's perspective with bold insights into traditions and sexuality, the west needs more books like this to help us understand better the middle east.