Tuesday, January 15, 2013

2 Poems by Nazand Begikhani: A memorial to 3 Kurdish women assassinated in Paris, Jan. 10, 2013

In response to the murder last week of 3 Kurdish activists—Sakine Cansiz, Fidan Dogan, and Leyla Soylemez—in Paris, After Shocks poet Nazand Begikhani emailed two poems to the Poetry of Recovery blog with these words: “Could you please publish the attached poems in memory of the three women assassinated in Paris on 10 Jan 2013. They were great women and strong advocates of peace and dialogue.”

Mass Grave

The earth has stood up yet again
it stood up as a desert
with its face covered in red
holding a skull in its hands

The earth stood up
to speak of a child smiling
while shot to death

The earth stood up
to speak of the screams of a girl
about to be raped

The earth stood up
to speak of the prayers of an old man
being scorched

The earth stood up
to speak the words of a poet
while his tongue being cut

The earth stood up once again
It stood up to break the silence
around the burning body of Kurdistan

Nazand Begikhani
Spring 2006
From Bells of Speech (Ambit Books 2006)


Two Tongues in Fight
After Sujata Bhatt

I grew up with two tongues
in perpetual fight
My mother tongue was a butterfly
in turquoise flight
over a valley of light
singing a melody for life
I still remember the song:

و ه ره بۆ لام بفڕه به باڵ
(Wara bo lam bfra ba bal)
من و تۆ ده بینه هه ڤاڵ
(Mn u to dabina haval)1

My alien tongue was a snake
invading me
slithering into my body
and roaring:

امه عربیه واحده
(Umma Arabiyah wahidah)
دات رساله خالد ه
(Dhatu risala khalida)2

My mother tongue was too high to fall
too vibrant to be silenced
My alien tongue
moved into my days
my school books
It devoured my alphabets
and occupied the white space of my childhood
A chilly wind started to blow

My mother tongue was uppermost
too vibrant to be silenced
it flew to the Zagroz3 mountains
gathered an army of butterflies
and besieged the snaky tongue

The tongues went into perpetual battle
A battle that became
the history of a nation
striving for a voice

Nazand Begikhani
London, February 2006

1 From a Kurdish children song: “Come and fly towards me, You and I will become friends.”
2 A pan-Arab slogan of the Ba’sth patry that ruled Iraq from 1963 up to 2003: “There is one Arab nation, it has an eternal message”
3 A chain of high mountains across Kurdistan.

Both poems reprinted by permission of the poet.

A note from Nazand Begikhani:

“I have known Sakine and Fidan as two advocates for human rights. Fidan had grown up in France and was involved in organisational work. Sakine was the figure of resistance who endured years in Turkish prisons. She was admired by all those who had known her, even by her jailers, for her courage and her soft but powerful character. It is unfair and absurd to categorise her as a "terrorist"; she was a peaceful activist, stood up against state violence, defending millions of Kurds whose basic rights have been denied by the Turkish state. She believed in dialogue and a peaceful solution for the Kurdish question, this is why she was targeted at this crucial time when negotiation between the PKK [Kurdistan Workers’ Party] and the Turkish government had just started. If Sakine were not Kurdish, she would have been elevated to the grade of a world hero meriting the Noble Peace Prize. She will live in us and will be remembered in history.”

Blogger's note:

The three women, who were all shot multiple times in the head, according to news reports, were Sakine Cansiz, Fidan Dogan, and Leyla Soylemez. Cansiz, a founding member of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the first senior female member of the organization, was a political refugee in France since 1989 after being detained and tortured in Turkey for great part of the 1980s. The second victim, Fidan Dogan was a representative in France of the Brussels-based Kurdish National Congress. The third woman, Leyla Soylemez, was a guest in the office at the time of the murders. The French police are still investigating the crime.

The Kurdistan Workers’ Party has sought to create an independent nation state of Kurdistan, consisting of some or all of the areas with Kurdish majority, Recently, it entered into negotiation with the Turkish government for a peaceful solution of the Kurdish question. Other Kurdish nationalist groups campaign for greater Kurdish autonomy within the existing national boundaries or autonomous Kurdish regions where Kurdish people currently make up a majority: Eastern Turkey, Northern Iraq, Northwestern Iran, and Northern Syria.

Nazand Begikhani was born in Kurdistan, Iraq, into an educated and militant family in the cultural city of Koysinjaq, Iraq. She has been living in exile (Denmark, France, and the U.K.) since 1987. She took her first degree in English language and literature at the University of Mosul. Then completed her M.A. and Ph.D. in comparative literature at the University of Sorbonne, Paris. She published her first poetry collection Yesterday of Tomorrow in Paris in 1995. Her other collections were published in Kurdistan by Arras and Ranj publishing houses. They include: Celebrations (2004), Colour of Sand (2005), Bells of Speech (2007), and Love: An Inspired Absence (2008). Bells of Speech (Ambit Books 2007) was her first collection written in English. Her collection Colour of Sand was translated and published in France (L'Harmattan, Paris 2011), and her second collection in French, Le Lendemain d’hier, will come out this year (Maison de l’Amandier, June 2013). In March 2012, Ms. Nazand received the Simone Landry Poetry Prize for 2012 in France.

Ms. Begkhani is a polyglot who translates her own poetry into French and English, and her poems have also been translated into Arabic, Persian, and German. She has also translated Baudelaire and T.S. Eliot into Kurdish. Ms. Begikhani is a founding member of Kurdish Women Action Against Honor Killing, which later became Kurdish Women's Rights Watch. She is currently a senior research fellow at the University of Bristol. She created the first pioneering Gender and Violence Studies Centre at the University of Sulaimaniya, a project funded by the British Council. She has represented Kurdish women at the United Nations, and she presented Kurdish women’s demands to the U.N. authorities in 2000. Her work has had considerable influence on action and strategy to address honor-based violence in Kurdistan. She has published academic work in Kurdish, English and French. She received the UK-based Emma Humphrey’s Prize in 1999 for her advocacy and action against honor crimes. Since 2009, she has served as the Editor-in-Chief of the Kurdish language edition of Le Monde Diplomatique.

Three of Ms. Begikhani’s poems from Bells of Speech appeared in the anthology After Shocks: The Poetry of Recovery for Life-Shattering Events. Those poems will appear in this blog at a later date.

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