Monday, June 30, 2014

Kurdish Prisoner in Iran Going Blind

Photo: Amnesty International
Photo: Amnesty International

TORONTO, Canada—A female Kurdish prisoner in Iran who has reportedly been tortured and is now going blind is being denied proper healthcare, activists say. 

Zeinab Jalalian’s eyesight has been deteriorating over the past several months and her physical and psychological health is diminishing, human rights activists say. Jalalian, 32, is serving a life sentence in Kermanshah prison for enmity against God, for allegedly belonging to the armed rebel, Party of Free Life of Kurdistan (PJAK), a charge she denies.

Prisoners have access to healthcare under Iranian law, but activists say prison officials are refusing to let her see an eye specialist outside of the prison. She has suffered torture, serious intestinal issues and eye problems since being imprisoned, “possibly as a result of blows to her head” Amnesty International reported.
Iranian and international human rights groups are calling for Jalalian to receive immediate medical treatment and for a new trial to be held. Amnesty reported that her trial in 2009 lasted only a few minutes and that she did not have a lawyer.

Jalalian was originally given the death penalty, but her sentence was reduced to life imprisonment in 2011. She has frequently gone on hunger strikes and has not been allowed family visits for over a year, according to Amnesty International. 

Jalalian is from Maku, a town in the West Azerbaijan province of Iran. Human rights activists including the World Organization Against Torture have called for Jalalian’s release, noting that she did not have the right to cross-examine witnesses or have witnesses testify on her behalf.
US-based Kurdish activist Soraya Falah has called on Nobel Peace Prize winner and prominent Iranian lawyer Shirin Ebadi to advocate on Jalalian’s behalf.

Though vaguely worded, enmity against God, is no small crime in Iran. Kurdish prisoners including Farzad Kamangar, 32, Ehsan Fattahian, 28, and Fasih Yasmani, 28, were among those hanged for the crime, which human rights activists say is often politically motivated. 

Other Kurdish political prisoners are living under dire conditions in Iranian prisons including Muhammad Sediq Kaboudvand, a Kurdish journalist who was convicted in 2007 of breaking numerous laws including “acting against national security” and “widespread propagation against the system.” He is serving an 11-year sentence.

The article originally appeared at

Friday, June 27, 2014

Want to Get Published?

I officially started my position as an editor in the fabulous Boularderie Island Press, run by the brilliant author Douglas Brown. If you have a well-written fiction or non-fiction manuscript you want to get published, visit the website:

Boularderie Island Press (pronounced bull-en-dree for those who don’t live here) consider ourselves a community of interest for writers, readers, and event organizers. We are not a trade publisher and we are not a vanity press.

This is my profile as one of the editors:

Ava Homa

DSC_8650 (1)Ava Homa is an omnivorous reader, a deeply curious and passionate bibliophile. As an editor, a teacher and a writer-in-residence, she has given feedback to literary fiction, memoire, non-fiction, children literature, drama, young adult, and commercial fiction, written by aspiring and emerging writers of various ages and backgrounds. Homa has a Master of Arts in Creative Writing, another in English Language and Literature, and a postgraduate Editing Certificate. She is a faculty member at George Brown College in Toronto and a freelance editor, offering manuscript evaluation, substantive editing (structural and stylistic editing), copyediting and proofreading services.
Homa’s collection of short stories, Echoes from the Other Land was nominated for the 2011 Frank O’Conner Short Story Prize and secured a place among the ten winners of the 2011 CBC Reader’s Choice Contest, running concurrently with the Giller Prize. Her stories, book reviews, and journalistic pieces have appeared at Windsor ReviewToronto StarLiterary Review of CanadaHerizons, and PEN Canada among other places.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

My Page in the Writers' Union of Canada Website

So I finally got the chance to create my page on the Writers' Union of Canada website:
This is what it looks like. If you have feedback, please send them my way.

Ava Homa is a writer, teacher, speaker, and editor. Her collection of short stories, Echoes from the Other Land (TSARbook, Toronto, 2010), was nominated for the 2011 Frank O’Conner Short Story Prize and secured a place among the ten winners of the 2011 CBC Reader’s Choice Contest, running concurrently with the Giller Prize. The book has been translated into Kurdish and Farsi.
Homa’s stories have appeared at Windsor ReviewToronto QuarterlyOffSide and Reorient. Her book reviews, features, and other articles  have been published by numerous periodicals including the Literary Review of CanadaRabbleHerizons, PEN Canada Blog, Write Magazine and Toronto Star. A regular contributor to Kurdish media that publish in English–Kurdistan Tribune (UK-based), Rudaw (Canada-based), and Bas (Kurdistan-based)–Homa is well-known in the Kurdish diaspora and at home. Her writing on Kurdish women’s issues has served as a basis for discussion at various schools and universities.
Homa has a Master of Arts in Creative Writing, another in English Language and Literature, and a Certificate in Editing. She is a faculty member at George Brown College in Toronto and works as a freelance editor, offering manuscript evaluation, substantive editing (structural and stylistic editing), copyediting and proofreading services.
A Writer-in-Residence at Joy Kogawa House, BC (2013), George Brown College (2012), R. D. Lawrence Cultural Centre (2011), and the Open Book Toronto and Ontario (2011), Homa has offered speeches on writing, Kurdish issues, women issues, media literacy, freedom of speech and other similar topics. At different settings, Ava has promoted her work, has taught Creative Writing workshops to writers from diverse age ranges and backgrounds, has been a jury to short story contests and has organized literary events.
Her latest story, “Lullaby,” was published by Novel Rights, a Human Rights Literary publisher, and translated into German and Italian; it is availableHERE.
Homa’s story “A Rose for Raha” was published in 2012 in London, England, in an anthology entitled Still. This is a collection of short stories inspired by award-winning photographs of vacated spaces.  It is available at
Services offered:
Ghost Writing
Manuscript Evaluation
Structural Editing
Stylistic Editing
Public Speaking
I am an omnivorous reader, a deeply curious person. As a teacher, editor, and writer-in-residence, I have given feedback to literary fiction, memoire, non-fiction, children literature, drama, young adult, mystery, romance, and science-fiction  written by aspiring and emerging writers of various ages and backgrounds.  
Education: Master of Arts in English and Creative Writing/Editing Certificate
Teaching Experience: George Brown College, Toronto Public Library
Writer-in-Residence: Joy Kogawa Historic House (BC), Minden Hill Cultural Centre (ON), Open Book Ontario
Freelance Editing (Manuscript Evaluation, Substantive Editing, Copyediting and proofreading)
Freelance Journalism

Monday, June 23, 2014

Through Medicine, Politics, and Writing, Tara Fatehi Raises Kurdish Flag

First one, the one with the white dress is Tara and the Governor General of South Australia at the Multicultural Awards in 2013. Photo courtesy of Tara Fatehi
Tara Fatehi and the Governor General of South Australia at the Multicultural Awards in 2013.
Photo courtesy of Tara Fatehi

TORONTO — At just 24, Tara Fatehi has emerged as a passionate advocate for Kurdish youth and women in Australia as well as one of the top young community organizers in southern Australia.
Born in Sina in Iranian Kurdistan, Fatehi was 3 years old when her family immigrated to Australia. Growing up in the city of Adelaide, the capital of South Australia, she saw how the most talented and successful Kurds raised in the Diaspora were isolated and had little support. The least fortunate ones became involved in gangs, ended up in jails or were killed on the streets. 
“We had a community that was drifting further apart and a youth community that was becoming very detached and disconnected with their roots. In the process an entire community of talented and mindful Kurds were losing their voices to become advocates for their own rights,” Fatehi told Rudaw in an email interview.
The community’s challenges inspired her to establish the Adelaide Kurdish Youth Society to connect the Kurds in Adelaide and in Australia. The organization promotes empowerment, leadership skills, health, education and social justice “to give the youth a chance to lead the community in preserving and promoting the Kurdish culture and identity.” 
Fatehi, a medical student focusing on women’s health, also co-founded the Kurdish Health Project and works for a number of other charities. In 2014 she was awarded State Finalist for Young Australian of the Year.
Fatehi is a vocal advocate for Kurds, and raises the Kurdish flag in public events. Still, organizing immigrants — as well as pressing women’s issues — has been challenging both inside and outside of the Kurdish community.
“I knew going into it that I had to give it my all,” she said. “I had accepted that I would probably become very isolated and criticized with everything we tried to do but I just knew it had to be done.”
Fatehi’s medical research focuses on Kurdish women’s health issues such as childbirth, but also more controversial topics such as suicide and female genital mutilation. 
“Medicine for me was a passion because my biggest goal in life was to make a difference to as many lives as I could in the small amount of time that I have,” she said. “I passionately believe that if a nation, society or community has good health, they have the necessary means (like education) to fight for their own selves and communities.” 
About 10 years ago, Fatehi visited Iranian Kurdistan. As she climbed the Awyar Mountain of Sina, she had an epiphany, a moment that she felt she discovered her purpose in life. 
“I had the most life-changing experience and learnt a lot that I sometimes wish I never knew,” she said. “I walked up right from the town center to the top of Awyar and while looking over Kurdistan and its beauty, I was faced with the glorious mountain tops of Kurdistan crying for freedom. It was then and there I promised my mountains that I would dedicate my life to them. No matter where I was, what I was doing, I would be doing it for them.”
Fatehi, who said she wants to one day return to work in Kurdistan, strongly identifies with Kurdish women and their long history of sacrifice. 
“I come from a nation of lionesses, women who have fought generations hostility towards their gender and their ethnicities,” she said. “I come from a country of angels of women and girls who have given the ultimate sacrifice for their fight and for my right to be a woman. That plays in all my work. I am only a daughter and sister of female warriors.”   
Politics, medicine, and gender issues intersect in Fatehi’s life. They are inseparable, too intertwined to be distinguished. 
“I believe politics is involved in everything that we do, whether we know it or not. For me politics is my way of being involved in the decision making of my world in relation to all things that affect the Kurds and Kurdistan. It is my way of understanding decisions made in the past, present and future. It goes hand in hand with my passion for social justice and international campaigning for the Kurdish cause.” 
Her father once told her that “being Kurdish itself was a political statement.” 
Despite her achievements and awards, Fateh doesn’t see herself “as an activist or anything other than simply a Kurd. I will work the rest of my life to serve my people,” she said. 
Although they are scattered geographically, Fatehi feels she is part of the global Kurdish community of professionals, artists, writers and activists who contribute to the Kurdish cause. 
“I am incredibly honored and humbled to be part of a generation of both Diaspora and homeland Kurdish youth that have taken to the books and the minds of people to fight for their nation,” she said. “I know Kurdistan is in good hands. Just keep doing what you’re doing.  I cannot stress enough: every little bit counts. Just. Keep. Going.” 

This article was originally published in

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

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

A Review of "Lullaby" my short story published by Novel Rights

“Lullaby” by Ava Homa- a review of the short story tribute to Farzad Kamangar

Lullaby is a short story written by Ava Homa and published by Novel Rights (literature re: human rights).
“Lullaby” is a moving account of Farzad Kamangar’s last days spent in Iranian prison. The influential Kurdish teacher and writer was executed 4 years ago. I found this story to appear deceptively simple, when, in fact, it is full of portent information- the state of political prisoners in Iran, the impotent judge and the human guard, the passing of the days and the exchange of goods with visitors.
Although the situation is certainly an overwhelming one, Ava Homa manages to share the emotion and the prisoners’ tactics for managing the impossible place they are in, without crushing her readers with pain.
This is mature writing that admits things are never black and white, and attempts to balance the characters, who are human enough to be complicated. Lovely prose too, that draws parallels with counting and delights us with chocolate. Absolutely a fascinating account and eminently readable. Homa has paid tribute to a stubbornly brave man who moved many with his integrity and words. May he never be forgotten.
With Homa’s permission, the story begins like this:
“The call rings out. I tell myself the students are still learning, in secret, the history of the Kurds. The call for prayer echoes through Evin Prison. It turns me cold with fear.
Footsteps! I know the sound of those heavy boots. I know them well. My pen falls down from my bed and I curl into a ball, shrinking with fear. The pain in my head and face, legs and back, stomach and ribs becomes much sharper. Clutching at the pillow does not stop me from shaking. The footsteps stop before they reach my ward. “Hands up,” I think, and almost say it out loud.
“Hands up,” the old guard says.
I know what they are doing in the other cell. The blindfold, the click of the handcuffs, and the guards take Ali out, pushing and kicking him.
I toss and turn and follow them in my head as Ali is taken downstairs, dragged nineteen steps to the right, down nineteen stairs and delivered to the interrogators. Under his blindfold, Ali will count the pairs of shoes in the room: four, six, eight . . . black, formal shoes that are thick with blood, polished by blood. The whipping will start soon after the curses. If the man they call “Mongrel” is there, the interrogation will last longer and be much more painful. Every Kurd knows that man’s strange voice, an unusual mixture of high and low. In his vocabulary, “fucking murdering savages” means “Kurds.” It is rumoured that Mongrel’s brother had been killed in Kurdistan thirty years ago during one of the uprisings. Five, six whiplashes and Ali will think about concentration camps, pyramids, the Great Wall of China, but he will not feel the whipping anymore. I hope.
The number of cracks on the wall is three hundred and five today. I sneak a pen out from under my mattress and take some paper, folded four times, out from my underwear. “My dear students,” I write, lying on my left on a stinking army blanket. “All I have been able to do for you is to secretly teach you our Kurdish alphabet, our literature and our history. Please, children, remember your heritage and pass it on. Dear little ones, never allow this knowledge to steal from you the joy of childhood. May you keep the joy of youth in your minds forever. It may be the one and only investment you can use later when the agony of earning the ‘bread and butter’ dominates you, my sons, and the sin of being ‘the second sex’ overpowers you, my daughters. When you are picking flowers in the valleys to make crowns for your children, tell them about the purity and happiness of childhood. Remember not to turn your backs on your dreams, loves, music, poetry and Kurdistan’s magical nature. Get together, sing the songs and recite the poetry as we used to do.”
***      want to read more? 

                                      1 COPY ONLY €1.99

By Buying “Lullaby” Novel Rights ePUB Short Story written by Ava Homa, You will help us to create more HRL (Human Rights Literature) short stories and produce many more events around the globe promoting literature that supports human rights values.