April 22, 2011
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Catastrophic Flashbacks in Choman’s Escape Journey, 1988 - By Chia A. Berwari

While I am writing this article, I have noticed that previous atrocity was committed by our hostile neighborhood nations. But as history repeats itself, the only difference this time, it is in Kurdistan region, and is being committed by our own.  
Kurds have suffered a great deal of anguish and torment in the late 20th century. They were mass graved, subjected to sex trafficking, put in frontier lines during Iraqi-Iranian War, executed under Islamic iconic names, confined in dungeon, exposed to Anfal (Genocide is the appropriate term, Accordingly, Anfal is a big violation against Holly Qur’an if committed against Muslims.) …. Flashbacks are along four stanzas in Choman’s Escape Journey, 1988. Nevertheless, those flashbacks are not Nostalgic, they are highly sentimental which makes one feel sympathy toward an innocent being, who is forced to climb gigantic mountains for survival.

The voice of narrator is an individual, first person, but it can be the voice of any Kurdistani. It reflects the agony of all Kurds who went through appalling hardships at the end of the 20th century. From the very beginning the reader feels this impression “They force you to crawl, these mountains” (1.1). In this very first line, the perpetrator is indirectly identified, if not by giving their names, but one can understand that the perpetrator is the despot ruler and his ruling regime in Iraq. The despot here is void of humanity. He has become a killing machine, since the exterminator does not recognize between children, adults, and old people “Even if you are only 14” (1.2).

In the second stanza, the first two lines tell readers about the fearful journey. When people smuggle goods from one country to another, they are usually in a state of confusion. They are sure about nothing; they might be caught at any moment, either from this side of the border, or the other side. The writer wants to show us the same feelings. Since Turkish government and Iranian Government are not friendly to Kurdish nation. A clear ideal example is: in Iran they still hang people in public like Zaman Al-Jahiliyah which was much better than the current Iranian, Arabic, and Turkish world. So what a catastrophic flashback here, neither the writer, nor the readers want to be part of that past. The only objective is to speak up and introduce such flashbacks to a wider range of audiences and readers. Mules here is a symbol of power and stubbornness, and it is used in a negative way to be more expressive about being tiresome in this journey. But as the Chinese proverb says “where there is life, there is hope” in this poem, where there is journey, there is life.

One may notice that this journey is not peaceful. From the title it is apparent for participant to take to consideration all types of terrible outcomes. Noticing the middle lines in the second stanza, it reminds me when I myself passed through an escape journey in 1991 where there were tenth of dead bodies of different animals down the way, because they couldn’t make it through such a perpendicular way. At the end of 2nd stanza, the participant in this journey reaches a point where it is safer to walk sideways than riding the mule.

The third stanza starts with “and from high up, I can see the white valley.” 3.1, the use of white color is symbolic here. It indicates that there will be a new beginning for the participants of the journey. Though, it is yet not clear how is that new beginning. Then by reading it 3rd stanza further, one will realize that authors intuitions are close to optimistic than pessimism. So the readers will realize later that white valley is meant to be snow. Snow is a symbol of purity and innocence.
But one may not forget that in general, snow symbolizes coldness in emotions and death as well. A very explicit example would be; due to the lack of good nutrition resources, bad weather conditions, barbaric attacks made by Iraqi regimes this escape journey and other journeys which Kurds made, put an end to thousands of Kurdish lives including (infants, children, young people, and old ones). Then at the end of this stanza, the author is willing to reach that snow, and is willing to listen to the rushing water. Here the readers are almost hearing the starving spirit for peace and the difficult breathing of the participant to get relaxed. Because usually rushing water gives human peace and stability.

The final stanza reiterates abusing human rights. A child usually has to have fun and enjoy his childhood. While here, it is void of all types of enjoyment. They are replaced by chemical weapons, barbaric attacks, and lack of life resources. Where peace becomes an image of a dream and stability becomes snow that covers top of mountains. But as the famous saying continues (life is tough, but I am tougher), the participant’s father has been there before, could survive and this is another survival journey for participants


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