Thursday, June 5, 2014

Reading to a Full Auditorium-Douglas College, Vancouver

Inspiring the Kurdish Youth

Kurdish House in Vancouver sent out a call to the Kurdish youth in May when they invited Laurie Fraser and I to go and read from our books_ The Word Not Spoken and Echoes from the Other Land_ to the Kurdish community in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

The literary event was held in Douglas College and over hundred-twenty people showed up, many of whom young Kurds who eagerly listened to us talk to them and read them a story.

Fraser has always loved words and has enjoyed making beautiful phrases and poems out of them and she received an award for her poetry.

The Word Not Spoken, her first novel, however was written with a purpose. As previously mentioned in Bas, Laurie married a Kurd in 1990s and witnessed atrocities committed against Kurds. She later promised to join the cause by writing about it.

Her books is read in the West because of the love story and the cultural nuances that Fraser has masterfully described in her book but as she pointed out, readers cannot finish the book without having learned something about the Kurds.

The audience listened attentively and were deeply moved as Laurie read and at one point tears rolled up in her eyes. “There are days in my life that I’d be willing to live over and over without changing a moment- May 18 was one of those,” Fraser says.

I talked about the importance of presenting a multi-dimensional picture of Kurds, of telling the world that we are not just victims. Western media has either ignored Kurds or has portrayed us as a homeless bunch endlessly escaping bombs and seeking refuge. I wanted to read the story of a Kurd, tenderly offering love to his wife—an image in sharp contrast to the recent news of woman-killing—and so I read Diako’s gentle caring for his wife Fermisk who is undergoing chemotherapy.

Nadia, a charming local artist sang two Kurdish songs for us, a patriotic and a happy song to which Laurie Fraser and some other members of the audience danced. Avan Ali, a local poet shared her poem on Anfal. Nisar, a strong, passionate and confident Kurdish girl hosted the event and impressed the audience.

 The youth in the audience observed with great enthusiasm talented people reading, speaking and performing to support the Kurdish Cause. It is important for the young generation to see examples and role models, to be inspired and to believe that despite all the injustice and pain that Kurds have been through, we can still shine.

The literary event was planned and paid for by Kurdish House, Members of Parliament were invited, flyers were designed printed and distributed across the city and in universities, KurdTV broadcasted about the reading, emails were sent out, phones rang and the auditorium was filled.

“What a thrill for me to read to a Kurdish audience!” write Fraser in her blog. “I felt my life had come full circle. After all these years, I was embraced again by a Kurdish community. Eighteen years ago I promised a group of Kurdish refugees that I would tell their story to the world and here I was reading from it to a group of Kurds, many of whom were refugees.

I’ve been haunted by the refugees I met in North Kurdistan in March 1996. I’ve wondered, tearfully, many times what happened to them, if any survived…I remember especially the barefoot boy who fell in the cold mud and his poor mother who didn’t have water to wash him or heat to warm him.”

After Fraser read, the audience approached her to purchase her book and get her autograph but also to share their personal stories. “I lived in one of those tents for 4 years.” “My father was killed, my brothers died in jail…I am the only one left.” “I was a Peshmerga, 8 years.” “I was tortured every day for 45 days.”

“They are miserable words, but to me, to see so many people who had survived, who had made it to Canada…well for me, it was an affirmation of life. I hadn’t been able to imagine how anyone could survive the desolate situation I witnessed,” Fraser writes in her blog.

“The Kurds are stunningly courageous people in so many ways,” she adds.

Planning an event like requires a significant amount of effort, persistence and expenditure. Kurdish House of Vancouver, however, made that possible thus making a memorable night for the readers and the audience. Writing is a lonely business and we writers often wonder if our work would be read and appreciated. Fraser says it best.

“I remember sometimes resenting that my evenings, weekends, holidays were spent in isolation, indoors, working on a manuscript. I didn’t know if it would ever be read by anyone but me. I wondered sometimes if I was wasting years of my life. Other times, there was nothing more important than keeping my promise, nothing more beautiful than the polished words that I touched and touched and touched again. I did dare to dream it would be appreciated…and this past weekend that dream came true,” Fraser’s website reads.

Kurdish community will be empowered through literature and culture and by giving hope and new options to the youth.

The article was originally published at

1 comment:

memo said...

Dear readers
There are some short stories that sediment in your memory all your life . Just like Googush by Ava and the Last leaf by O Henry are two examples