March 11, 2011

South of Kurdistan: New Revolution and the Role of Novelists and Poets - By Mufid Abdulla

As Kurdistan boils over, its novelists have a vital role to play in explaining events to worldwide audiences. However, the question should be raised as to whether it is the job of novelists to take an active part in the revolution or whether politics and art should remain separate. Writers, novelists and poets have survived in different situations. The fall of Saddam Hussain gave rise to a new Kurdish defector state striving for independence. But since then our great hopes striving towards the end of tribal rule have been dashed by several outside factors. Novelists and poets who have supported liberation movements have soon found themselves censored, imprisoned or even killed. Why is it these individuals have begun to criticise these native despots? Why have these native despots been able to rule them?  To survive you either have to censor yourself or go into exile.

The uprising started on 17th February 2011. This was when young blood started to shed on the soil of Sulaymani; the city of revolution and centre for their culture and ancient history. In the last three weeks this city has been transformed into a political landscape, with what the protesters have called a non-violent revolution. These events have become an amazing opportunity for novelists and poets finally to join the protesters and to be heard clearly, both in their own land and inside Azadi Square.

So, can novelists such as Bhaktiar Ali, or poets such as Shirko Bekas, or writers such as Mohammed Othman give a real portrayal of special inside encounters at moments like this? I am slightly sensitive towards the romantic view that the writer interprets the emotion of the people during great national upheaval. What is the use of stories and novels if you can be silenced at any moment? Reading poems or talking to these protesters are both revolutionary acts. Changing one person’s view of the world is also a revolutionary act. It is one thing not to fear death. I salute them and praise them. Many authors I know have now regained their self-confidence and pride. They have recovered their voice. Poets can bring down governments, as claimed by Reza Aslan, the Iranian–American editor of table and pen. Reza Arachnid wrote a poem comparing the Shah chef’s torture with Genghis Khan; his words were charged by the demonstrators who brought down the Shah in 1979. Bhaktia Ali has described the KDP as a Saddamist force. In this case though, the pen has proven mightier than the sword. Of course other writers, historians, novelists and others have sold themselves to the two ruling parties for cash, houses, cars and villas; otherwise where are they in relation to their people in this painful days?


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