Monday, March 31, 2014

Iran Takes Abduction, Killing of Border Guard to UN

The Iranian guards abducted by Jaish al-Adl. Photo: Radio Farda
The Iranian guards abducted by Jaish al-Adl. Photo: Radio Farda
TORONTO, Canada – In a letter to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Iranian authorities called for an investigation into the abduction of five border guards, one of whom was assassinated. 
On February 7, 2014 five Iranian border guards, in the area between Pakistan and Iran, were abducted. A militant Pakistani group named Jaish al-Adl claimed responsibility for the abduction.
In his letter to the UN, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif called the Jaish al-Adl an “extremist, terrorist group.” He also pointed to the possibility that other guards also had been assassinated. He declared that Pakistan should be held accountable for the death of the Iranian soldier, who the group said had been killed. 
The Jaish al-Adl asked Iran to release 50 of its members in Iranian prisons, 200 civilian Sunni prisoners and 50 other prisoners in Syria allegedly held captive by Iranian forces.
Iran, which is run by a Shiite clerical government, has demonstrated little tolerance for its small Sunni minority, which suffers grave discrimination and lives mainly in the poor border regions.
Last Thursday, Iran’s Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani announced that Tehran has had “positive conversations” over the release of the soldiers. At the same time, Iranian authorities maintain they would not converse with terrorist groups and will only deal with the government of Pakistan. 
The death of Jamshid Danaeifar, who was among the abducted guards, was announced on Twitter by Jaish al-Adl on Sunday.
Ali Asghar Mirshekar, the governor-general of Iran’s Sistan-Baluchistan province, confirmed the death. 
Iran’s ethnic Baluchis live in Sistan-Baluchistan, which borders Pakistan. They are subject to discrimination in Iran over ethnicity and religion. The province is impoverished and underdeveloped.  
Pakistan’s foreign ministry spokesperson, Tasnim Aslam, announced that a thorough search to find the group had failed.
This latest incident further aggravates the complex relationship between Tehran and Islamabad.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani told Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif by phone that he expects “serious, quick and practical” action from Islamabad, according to Iranian media reports. Sharif reportedly reassured Rouhani that Pakistan would do all it can to find the abductors.

Friday, March 21, 2014

For Many in Iran, Newroz Means More Worries

Kurds in Bokan celebrate Newroz in 2013. Photo:
Kurds in Bokan celebrate Newroz in 2013. Photo:
Toronto, Canada – For many Kurdish families in Iran, where economic growth is stuck in a ditch and inflation is running wild at 40 percent, Newroz is not a welcome celebration: It is a time to worry about how to afford the added expenses of the New Year holidays.
“Over Newroz, I have to tie a scarf around my forehead, turn the lights off and pretend I am sick, so my son won’t know we cannot afford guests over, let alone go on a trip,” says 45-year-old Soraya, who has a 15-year-old son and works as an elementary school teacher.
Her husband, a full-time employee of the Kurdistan School Board, tells Rudaw that sometimes his wife walks home from work because she cannot afford a bus ticket. 
Newroz celebrations in Iran include buying fruits, pastries and dried nuts and entertaining guests. New clothes are also traditional, as is changing the furniture, for those who can afford it.
For the masses who cannot afford such luxuries -- in a country that is oil-rich, run by a clerical Islamic regime and whose economy is crumbling – Newroz is a dread, especially in the Kurdish regions, which remain among Iran’s poorest and most neglected.
Families, which until a few years ago were middle-class, have been pushed under the poverty line. These are mostly farmers, teachers and clerks whose salaries have eroded as inflation has galloped ahead.
Every year prices soar over Newroz, not only for goods and utilities, but also for gasoline and other fuels.
Iranians, particularly Kurds, have not seen any sign of the economic improvement promised by President Hassan Rouhani, who took office in August. Nevertheless, authorities continue to send hopeful messages to the public. 
Ali Taibnia, Iran’s economy minister, proudly announced that fiscal growth is zero, in the year  1392 on the Iranian calendar. He hopes for better next year, but many Iranians are worried this will not happen.
M. Heidari, a 50-year-old from Mariwan, tells Rudaw that many Kurds struggle to make ends meet. She  believes that “Rouhani is under a lot of national and international pressure and can only do so much with so little support.”
R. Naghshbandi, 35, from Sanandaj, says that, “Not only do prices suddenly soar near Newroz, the store keepers become very rude and at times aggressive, as they see people have to shop anyways.”
Shaho S., from Saghez and a 25-year-old graduate student at Kurdistan University, says sarcastically that inflation has been good for him: “When I asked for a loan to start my business I was truly frightened that I may not be able to pay my monthly installments. Over the last two years, inflation has been so high that my monthly payments no longer look scary.”  
Last Newroz, the now former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad ordered a one-time payment of roughly $25 in the bank accounts of many Iranians. This year, Rouhani tried to give away food baskets, whose implementation created a fiasco and led to his public apology.
“We thought things would get better,” says Ako H. from Bokan. “We are losing hope in the future and I don’t know what a young person without hope can or should do.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Toronto Kurds Commemorate Halabja Massacre

 The speeches were followed by songs, drama and poetry, performed by Kurdish artists. Photo: Ava Homa
The speeches were followed by songs, drama and poetry, performed by Kurdish artists. Photo: Ava Homa
TORONTO, Canada – Kurdish-Canadian organizations united Sunday to mark the 26th anniversary of the poison-gas attack on Halabja by Saddam Hussein, which killed an estimated 5,000 Kurds on March 16, 1988. 
The Kurdish League against Genocide, Kurdish Community Center and Kurdish House together held an event at Toronto’s North York Civic Center with the theme, "We will not Forget! Never Again!"
In the closing weeks of the eight-year war with Iran, Saddam ordered an aerial bombardment of mustard gas and nerve agents on the Kurdish town of Halabja, to punish rebels accused of siding with Iran. Saddam’s so-called “Anfal Campaign,” targeting mainly Iraq’s Kurds during the 1980s, killed an estimated 180,000 people and is being internationally recognized as genocide.
Dilan Batgi and Dara Faraj hosted the Toronto event in Kurdish and English. Edris Mustafa from the Kurdish League against Genocide spoke in honor of Halabja, his talk followed by Sartip Kakaee, president of Kurdish House, who reminded the audience of the importance of their gathering on such an important day.
A movie about Halabja showed images of dead bodies with blistered faces on the ground huddled everywhere, in the streets or sheltering against walls. In a video message Dr. Aran Ahmed, Minister of Martyrs and Anfal Affairs in the Kurdistan Regional Government, called on the audience not to forget Kurdistan and reminded them of the work still to be done.
Canadian members of parliament, university professors and student representatives also spoke at the event, reiterating that this atrocity against the Kurds must be told generation to generation, to ensure it does not happen again.
Dr. Reza Moridi, a former MP and currently serving as Ontario’s Minister of Research and Innovation, recounted the story of one of Saddam’s followers, who was later a witness at the dictator’s trial.
The witness recounted that he was forced to shoot a baby boy whose parents had been killed in the Anfal genocide, because “he was a boy and would become a Peshmarga in future.” When the soldier put his gun in the baby’s mouth, the infant started sucking on the weapon, because he was  hungry. After a few minutes, the child’s brains were splashed against the wall. The soldier, who had always blindly followed Saddam’s orders, testified that was when he realized, “We committed a crime!” 
The speeches were followed by songs, drama and poetry, performed by Kurdish artists like  Hemin Rauf, Jabbar, Assad Ahmadzadeh and others. 
So far, only Sweden, Norway and the United Kingdom recognize Anfal as genocide, but more European countries are considering following suit.
The United States provided $500-million in agricultural and manufacturing credits to Iraq, as Saddam was destroying thousands of Kurdish villages and gassing Kurds, writes Samantha Power in “A Problem From Hell: America and the Age of Genocide,” which won the Pulitzer.
Britain and France, among other Western countries, are suspected to have manufactured the weapons and sold them to Saddam.  Immediately after the attack, the US administration at the time downplayed the atrocity, and the world turned a blind eye until years later when the US invaded Iraq in 2003.
Besides the thousands killed, the sufferings of Halabja continue to show up in birth defects and other serious illnesses.
“The chemical weapons used on Halabja are well known for their effects on nucleic acids in the human body -- specifically DNA, which carries the genetic blueprint not only for the current generation but for future ones as well,” says writer and editor Steve Plata.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Echoes from the Other Land, a stirring account of author's life and the persecution facing Kurdish people

Echoes from the Other Land, a stirring account of author's life and the persecution facing Kurdish peopleBy Darren Lum

Tears welled up and silence prevailed among the audience members while a Kurdish author described the cultural genocide of her people.

Ava Homa, author of critically acclaimed book Echoes from the Other Land, gave a stirring account of her life and the persecution facing Kurdish people during the Friends of the library annual general meeting held at the Minden branch on Friday, April 27.

It’s a good day when you don’t hear the names of loved ones as a list of the dead is announced on the radio, she said. In her lifetime, all of her uncles and many neighbours have been arrested and tortured for simply being Kurdish.

Contrary to public perception, torture is not meant to kill so much as break you, she adds.

Tension permeated the air when she described how her life changed forever at six months old.

That was when her father, who was reported by neighbours to the authorities, was arrested for having two banned books.

When he did return he was never the same, holding fast to “invisible injuries.”

He was full of hate for the injustice paid against him.

Her talk was accompanied by evocative images of pain and beauty, whether it was illustrating government-sanctioned firing squad killings, the majestic Kurdistan landscape or the resilient Kurdish people.

With educated parents, she pursued her studies, even teaching English in Iran at 17.

Despite a prevailing attitude in society to have women focus more on housework and to be married off by puberty than education, Homa persevered with her studies of English and literature in Iran.

Although life for Kurds in Kurdistan, which is bordered by Iran, Syria, Turkey, Armenia and Iraq, has its benefits of being in their ancestral country, there are random arrests and government-sanctioned firing line killings for suspected terrorists, Homa said.

She points out Kurds are regularly being suspected for terrorism since the fight for independence from the Iraq government continues.

The Iraqi government authorizes the Kurdistan Regional Government to govern Iraqi Kurdistan. However full autonomy is desired.

There is a constant struggle for independence by the Kurds in disputed regions. Rebellion suppression has resulted in horrific results such as the 1988 chemical gas attack by a Saddam Hussein’s Iraq government on a general population of people, which left 5,000 people dead in five minutes.

Over the decades many countries have used Kurdistan for its natural resources such as oil, she said. This has left the Kurds alone in the world, unable to gain the attention of the world’s media.

Homa, married, has spent the past five years in Canada, exiled.

She knows if she returns she will be arrested and hopes to one day be reunited with her brother, who she has not seen since she left Iran.

Now she is a George Brown College teacher, translator (Farsi/English) and a writer-in-residence for the Minden Hills Cultural Centre.

The strikingly beautiful author, who arrests people equally with her exotic beauty and her unflinching accounts of the struggles of her people, escaped Iran with a student visa to take advantage of an academic scholarship to Windsor University, completing a Masters in English and creative writing.

Her book, Echoes from the Other Land, was nominated for the 2011 Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award and earned a sixth in the top 10 of winners for the CBC Reader’s Choice Contest for the Giller Prize.

The book is a collection of short stories that focus on the woman’s perspective in Iran.

For more information on Homa see her website (

Source: The Minden Times

Friday, March 14, 2014

Activists Call Iranian Authorities to Punish Violence Against Baha’is

A destroyed Baha’i house of worship in the city of Babol, northern Iran. Photo:
A destroyed Baha’i house of worship in the city of Babol, northern Iran. Photo:
TORONTO, Canada – A group of human rights activists, journalists and student leaders in Iran has signed an open letter to the Iranian judiciary, asking for an investigation into violence against the country’s small and persecuted Baha’i religious community.
In the letter to judiciary chief Sadeq Larijani, the authors have asked Iran to respect that part of the constitution which guarantees just and humane treatment of non-Muslims. The letter is signed by well-known activists and lawyers, like Nasrin Sotoudeh, who was recently released from prison. 
Noting a worsening of oppression against Iran’s Baha’is, the letter asks Larijani to investigate the recent attacks on followers of the Baha’i religion, which originated in Iran and where the largest population of Baha’is live. Some Iranian clerics accuse Baha’is of apostasy, which is punishable by death in the Islamic Republic.
Over the last few months, Iranian Baha’is have experienced greater oppression. Last month, a group of masked burglars, in an apparent hate crime, stabbed three Baha’is at their home in Birjand.
In addition, 14 Baha’i homes in Abadeh were raided by government agents in the Fall of last year, according to reports by the Baha’i international community. Their books, CDs and computers were confiscated and the families were told to leave the city. They were warned that otherwise “their children would be stabbed on the streets,” according to reported incidents.
Last August, Ataollah Rezvani, a well-known member of the Baha’i community, was shot in the city of Bandar Abbas. He had been receiving threatening phone calls and was pressured by intelligence officials to leave the city. 
Also, 136 Baha’is are reportedly in Iranian prisons, including seven Baha’i leaders charged with “disturbing national security” and “spreading propaganda against the regime.” International human rights organizations have condemned the imprisonment.
More than 500 Baha’is last month wrote a letter to Iranian clerical authorities, reporting the recent spike in violence against their community and asking that the perpetrators be brought to justice.
The United Nations and Amnesty International have repeatedly reported on the persecution of Iran’s Baha’is, who are denied higher education, employment, civil rights and liberties. They have been subject to unwarranted arrests, torture, execution and confiscation of property.

With Costumes and Music, Toronto Kurds Celebrate Women’s Day

Kurdish costumes and dances were featured at the event. Photo: Ava Homa
Kurdish costumes and dances were featured at the event. Photo: Ava Homa
TORONTO, Canada – The Kurdish community in Toronto celebrated International Women’s Day on Sunday with Kurdish costumes, songs and folk dancing, with the occasion also used to honor three Kurdish activists assassinated in France more than a year ago.
Participants at the event, at the city’s Montecassino Hotel, heard a women’s day message by Abdullah Ocalan, the leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party who has been jailed in Turkey since 1999.
In his message, Ocalan said that every day should be women’s day. “It must be one of life’s indispensable conditions that every day is a day for women and for freedom,” he said. "A society cannot be free when women are not free. A revolution is not a revolution if it cannot liberate women,” Ocalan said. “I think of the brave women who have lost their lives in the struggle for freedom.”
Guests signed a petition calling on the French government to fully investigate the killings of the three Kurdish women who were shot dead in Paris in January 2013. Sakine Cansiz, a founding member of the PKK, was found dead together with two Kurdish political activists, Fidan Dogan and Leyla Soylemez. After more than a year, there remains a swirl of mystery around the murders.
Sunday’s event showcased Kurdish women’s costumes from different regions of Kurdistan, together with clothes and choreography done by Fethi Karakecili, a PhD Candidate in dance at York University who specializes in Kurdish folk dancing.
Krakecili is also founder of the Dilan Dance Company and was one of the main performers at the women’s day event. Iana Komarnytska, a professional belly dancer, teacher and choreographer, performed a Roma dance with Karakecili, and later did a solo Gilaki number. 
A representative of the Tamil Women’s Association spoke at the event, bringing a message of solidarity with Kurdish women and pointing out that the Tamils of South Asia have also been massacred and displaced. 
Rozerin Kahraman, a well-known Sweden-based Kurdish singer, was among the featured performers. Dressed in traditional Kurdish costume, she played her instrument and sang romantic and patriotic songs, at an event that went into the wee hours past midnight.

ای تو همیشه در میان

همیشه در میان

 نامدگان و رفتگان ، از دو کرانه ی زمان
 سوی تو می دوند ، هان ای تو همیشه در میان
 در چمن تو می چرد آهوی دشت آسمان
 گرد سر تو می پرد باز سپید کهکشان
هر چه به گرد خویشتن می نگرم درین چمن
اینه ی ضمیر من جز تو نمی دهد نشان
 ای گل بوستان سرا از پس پرده ها در آ
 بوی تو می کشد مرا وقت سحر به بوستان
 ای که نهان نشسته ای باغ درون هسته ای
 هسته فروشکسته ای کاین همه باغ شد روان
مست نیاز من شدی ، پرده ی ناز پس زدی
از دل خود بر آمدی ، آمدن تو شد جهان
آه که می زند برون ، از سر و سینه موج خون
 من چه کنم که از درون دست تو می کشد کمان
پیش وجودت از عدم زنده و مرده را چه غم ؟
 کز نفس تو دم به دم می شنویم بوی جان
 پیش تو ، جامه در برم نعره زند که بر درم
 آمدمت که بنگرم گریه نمی دهد امان
امیر هوشنگ ابتهاج

Thursday, March 13, 2014

The World’s Focus on Nuclear Questions Overshadows Iran’s Violation of Human Rights

The civil war in Syria is nearing its third year. A war that Stephen Hawking has called an “an abomination, one that the world is watching coldly from a distance,”a war that questions human’s collective sense of justice.

Iran, however, is not merely watching; it has actively supported and continues to support the war and destruction.

According to Reuters “Iran has stepped up support on the ground for President Bashar al-Assad, providing elite teams to gather intelligence and train troops.”

What connects Iran and Assad is the sectarian proxy war of Shiite against Sunni Arab states, an agenda that brings Hezbollah in the loop.

Iran sends billions of dollars to Assad while Iranian people, especially those living on the borders, flounder.

Hassan Rouhani, Iran’s new president whom many hoped would bring about change, spoke about the importance of keeping “peace in the region” in his talk at the World Economic Forum. He delivered this speech despite Iran’s continuous support of Assad.

Rouhani is the man whose approach to fight poverty in Iran was to give out food baskets to the poor, a strategy that ended in chaos and humiliation.

In addition to supporting the war in Syria and ignoring the people’s economic struggles, capital punishment is surging in Iran.

More than 10 people per week have been executed in Iran since the beginning of 2014.

When Rouhani was elected in September, a dozen prisoners were freed, among them the well-respected lawyer, Nasrin Sotoudeh. None of the released prisoners belonged to ethnic groups.

That act created glimpses of brief hopes that Iran may have to consider paying attention to human rights, while trying to improve relationships with the West.

Rouhani and his foreign Minister, Javad Zarif, secured an interim deal with World Powers over nuclear power in November. Matters of war and execution were never even briefly mentioned.

Soon after Rouhani’s talk at the World Economic Forum, French and Turkish business owners rushed to Tehran to benefit from the lucrative market of consumerist Iran. The US warned the executives of corporations that the deal with Iran is temporary. Companies responded that US is after the market too.

Recently, another negotiation with Iran was done and both sides showed satisfaction with the talks. Once again world powers turned a blind eye on the violation of human rights in Iran.

This important matter is ignored while the United Nations reports that at least 176 people have been executed since the beginning of 2014. This is a noticeable surge in the use of the death penalty.

Between 500 and 625 people, including at least 28 women and two juveniles were executed in Iran last year, most killed by hanging, UN reports.

Ahmed Shaheed, U.N. special investigator for human rights in Iran, has never been allowed into the country.

Hundreds of interviews, however, have reported grave violations including executions and torture.

Among the charges that the Iranian government use to kill people, is the vaguely worded charge of “Enmity against God.”

Hadi Rashedi and Hashem Sha’bani Amouri are two minority Arab Ahwazi men who were forced to confess to “acts against national security,” a confession that was broadcasted on TV. The men were executed soon after in January 2014.

Many Kurdish prisoners are also held captive and put on death row under unfair situations.

Muhammad Sediq Kaboudvand, the Kurdish journalist and founder of Kurdistan Human Rights, is still in prison under brutal conditions. He has been held captive since July 1, 2007 and was sentenced to 11 years imprisonment. His crimes were being the editor of the banned weekly Payam-e mardom-e Kurdestan and chair of the Tehran-based Kurdish Human Rights Organization (RMMK).

Adnan Hassanpour is another Kurdish writer, journalist and human rights activist who is jailed in Mariwan, the Kurdish city in Iran. He was arrested on January 25, 2007 and was sentenced to death. This sentence was reversed on September 2008 and he is now serving a 15-year prison term.

For as long as the West’s only focus is on nuclear power and human rights is ignored, Iran will happily continue to execute activists, women, children, and minorities.

Friday, March 7, 2014

My Piece Published in Write: The Magazine of The Writers' Union of Canada


Photo of Ava HomaBy Ava Homa
(This article originally appeared in our Fall 2013 issue of Write: The magazine of The Writers' Union of Canada)

Every time I looked at the weals carved onto my father’s back, I felt as though a cold sliver had pierced my stomach. But I never talked about it. The horror he had lived in the nefarious Evin prison was unspeakable, and so was the pain I felt when I watched him carry the visible and invisible injuries, staggering and stumbling through a healing process that never ended, or perhaps never really started.
Mother simply could not come to terms with the stranger that had walked out from behind the bars, who had nothing in common with the freedom-dreamer he was before he was tortured.
I grew up in Sanandaj, a city located on the eastern edge of the broad belt of mountains that separates Iran and Iraq; though the territory is now controlled by Iran, it is part of the traditional homeland of the Kurds, Kurdistan, which runs all through those mountains in an arc north and west, ending only midway through Turkey. Today Kurds are known as the largest ethnic group in the world without a state of their own; the land we called home for thousands of years is now divided between Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Turkey. The governments of the nations in which we found ourselves still see us as outsiders, a threat to be dealt with, sometimes by intimidation and harassment, sometimes by bombings, hangings, and gassings.  
Seeking means to deal with such geo-political and domestic tyranny, I found a salve and a shelter called literature. From an early age, escaping into story books, making up my own tales, and reciting poetry allowed me to imagine a kinder world — in spite of the odds. I majored in English and as a graduate student in Iran I began to find my voice as a writer. My fiction writing instructors encouraged me to send out some of my stories for publication in Iranian literary magazines. But the forbidden topics of women’s rights and the political situation meant that my work was to be censored. Around the same time, the newspaper I had been contributing to was shut down and the editor and many more were arrested. I left school and stopped publishing my writing.
It became obvious to me that staying in Iran would eventually bring the destiny of my father upon myself and the generation after me. Even though chasms have yawned between us, I have always felt close to my father, close enough to feel the whip lashes on my own back, to see how his imprisonment trapped me too. But, what could I do? Applying for refugee status meant an illegal escape through the mountains, meant years of waiting for the United Nations to decide whether to accept a case that did not include physical torture and, if accepted, another indeterminate amount of time to wait for a country to admit me. I would be on my own, a vulnerable woman who had learned to view men as predators. When the government of Iran became too busy closing down more papers and arresting journalists to pay attention to minor insurrectionists like me, I returned to school to catch up with my studies, still searching for a way to get out before it was too late.  
Looking up Canadian universities became my daily escape after I graduated. I was teaching English at a university where the clothes I wore, books I taught, and words I spoke were closely monitored. I needed peace, freedom, and safety and Canada could provide that, a country known for being relatively more accepting of newcomers than many others. I thought I could deal with the harsh weather of Canada better than the harsh treatments I was likely to receive as a “brown” woman in other Western countries. Although I made my selection mostly based on assumptions and generalizations, I am glad I chose Canada. I love this country and its people.
Thus, fed up with my situation and dismayed by my future, I applied to Windsor University, despite the super slow and expensive dial-up internet and heavily filtered web, and received admission as well as a scholarship and an assistantship.
I condensed my life into two suitcases and bid farewell to my land and people. On departure, I left behind a part of me, a small but significant part of my being and my identity. In August 2007, I posed as an international student and entered Canada to get another Master’s Degree, this time in Creative Writing; at heart, I was an asylum-seeker. Later I found out that, because of my age, work experience, language fluency, and education, I was qualified to apply for residency in Canada as a “skilled worker.” Little did I know how hard it would be to find a job in Canada!
At the University of Windsor I began to write and publish freely once more. Writing in my third language has been like climbing a mountain with crutches: it’s slow, painful, and difficult — my armpits are bruised — but I grow in this journey. Learning to speak and write fluently in English is a never-ending project, one that has taken up a tremendous amount of time, determination, and expenditure, it’s an hourly struggle. Still there have been successes. The stories that were suppressed in Iran were published by TSARbooks in 2010 in a collection called Echoes from the Other Land. The book was nominated for the 2011 Frank O’Conner International Short Story Award. Since then, I’ve published in the Windsor Review, Toronto Quarterly, Literary Review of Canada, Rabble, The Toronto Star, and others. In August 2013, I completed a three month residency at Joy Kogawa House in B.C. where I got to focus on the manuscript of a historic novel called Many Cunning Passages that I had been working on for over three years. These days, I am writing the memoir of a Kurdish woman: an extraordinary odyssey winding through the tortured streets of Sanandaj as it is bombarded by the Iranian army, four years in prison, a desperate journey across the Turkish frontier and to the UN office in Ankara, and finally, her arrival in Toronto and ther discovery of a career as a refugee activist helping those who, like her, have fled violence and intolerable conditions in their homelands.  
Doing anything that comes my way, including part-time teaching at George Brown College, tutoring, freelancing, translating (English-Farsi), I pay my bills and when that’s done, I write and I read voraciously. When I look at the future, I have to admit that I have no idea if the Canadian publishing industry has any room for me and my like, if claiming difference is a source of excitement or alienation, if the industry sees me as a “contributor to the diversity of CanLit” as advertised or just another foreigner to be shunned. What I do know is that writing was my friend when I had no other and it is still my best friend. I am hooked on the joy of writing and will continue to write for writings’ sake.
Ava Homa is a writer, freelancer, teacher and translator. She has a Master’s Degree in English and Creative Writing from University of Windsor and teaches Communication at George Brown College.