Monday, October 3, 2016



" Handful of Salt' deals with issues of lost homeland. exile, love, betrayal, dedication and corruption. This is a beautiful poetic collection by Kajal Ahmed )                                                                                    
KAJAL AHMED (born 1967) 
" To be Kurdish is to be perpetually in exile." 

"Kurds have genocide, ethnic cleansing, rich history, culture and their unique mother-tongue”

The Kurds are one of the indigenous peoples of the Mesopotamian plains and the highlands in what is now south-eastern Turkey, north-eastern Syria, northern Iraq, north-western Iran and south-western Armenia. The Kurdish people have survived many military conflicts, suppression, persecution and banishments from their motherland. Their domain got divided between Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Armenia, and Syria. The Kurdish ethnic group is the largest in the world without its own country. They have been driven to seek refuge and asylum in many countries including Europe and the US. Not considered full citizens anywhere, they have been demanding “Kurdistan” where they could live in peace and protect their unique culture, ethnicity, traditions, and language.
In their exile, the Kurds believe in creating a sense of nationhood. For this, they turn to poetry. For them, poetry remains a reliable method of cultural continuity and transmission. They take great pride in their language, culture, and literature. 

Kajal Ahmed is a well known journalist, writer and modern Kurdish poet. She was born in 1967 at Kirkuk in Iraq. Her poems have been translated into Arabic, Turkish, Norwegian and English. She is also well known in the world of journalism writing essentially on issues concerning women , war, suffering humanity ,human displacement , exile and refugees . She is known for her modern outlook and beautiful poetic imagery. Her poetry is bold , poignant and modern in every sense. In her poems, Kajal Ahmad finds subtle parallels between her oppression as a woman in a patriarchal society and her subjugation as a Kurd in Iraq. Her writings demonstrate her commitment towards Kurdish culture and its preservation , her motherland and gender equality.

For about ten years, she edited the "Patriotic Union of Kurdistan" , a newspaper that propagated values of nationalism, social democracy and secularism. It was published from Sulaymaniyah ,Iraq .

Along with some female Kurdish poets and writers including Dr Choman Hardi (born 1974 ) , Najiba Ahmad( born 1954) , Nezend Begikhani (b. 1964), and Mahabad Qaradaghi (b. 1966) , she is regarded as a prominent contributor to the development of modern Kurdish literature. She lives and works in Sulaimaniya, Iraq.
In her popular poem Birds , Kajal refers to the Kurds the world over as birds who had to leave their homeland in Iraq under most tragic circumstances and who are always building new nests and flying from country to country. I quote a sample of her poems :-
( Birds )
by Kajal Ahmad
According to the latest classification,
Kurds now belong to a species of bird
which is why, across the torn, yellowing pages of history,
they are nomads spotted by their caravans.
Yes, Kurds are birds! And even when
there’s nowhere left, no refuge for their pain,
they turn to the illusion of travelling
between the warm and the cold climes
of their homeland. So naturally,
I don’t think it strange that Kurds can fly.
They go from country to country
and still never realise their dreams of settling,
of forming a colony.
They build no nests
and not even on their final landing
do they visit Mewlana to enquire of his health,
or bow down to the dust in the gentle wind, like Nali……
(Translation from Sorani Kurdish by Dr Choman Hardi )
(The Fruit-Seller’s Philosophy)
My friend! You were like an apricot.
At the first bite,
I spat out the core and crux.
My old flame! Sometimes
you're a tangerine,
undressing so spontaneously,
and sometimes you're an apple,
with or without the peel.
You're like a fruit knife.
There's never a time
when you're not
at our dinner table.
But forgive me if I say -
you're a waste of time.
Dear homeland, you're like a lemon.
When you are named,
the world's mouth waters
but I get all goosepimply.
You, stranger!
I'm sure you're a watermelon.
I won't know what you're really like
till I go through you like a knife.
(Translation from Kurdish by Dr Choman Hardi )
(Were I a Martyr)
I want no flowers,
no epoch of union,
no dawn of disunion.
I want no flowers
for I am the loveliest flower.
I want no kisses
if for a true wrist
I must hold some knight –
no epoch of marriage,
no dawn of divorce,
no widow's fever.
I want no kisses
if, along with love, I become a martyr.
I want no tears
over the coffin or me, a corpse.
I want no cherry tree of sympathy
dragged to the walls of my grave,
no flowers or kisses,
no tears or miseries.
Bring nothing.
Hold nothing.
I die as a homeland without a flag, without a voice.
I am grateful.
I want nothing.
I will accept nothing.
(Translated by. Darya Ali and
Alana Marie Levinson-LaBrosse)
( In the country of terror
I love the streets more than men)
The street doesn't ask, Where are you now? And where are you
headed, you crazy girl?
The street isn't unjust and commanding.
It doesn't know terror.
Nothing of the street looks like men and
Nothing of men looks like the streets.
It tells me:
Go, cross over me.
Grow up:
Doesn't carry even the smallest load.
The wings of women who fly wilt
When they pass through the neighborhood of loving
An arrogant man of darkness, an ignorant boy.
The jar of life breaks
Without a doubt in the hands of its own heart.
That street —
It was nice to cross it with that someone.
Fate forbid us from loving each other.
My heart flew when I ran with that someone.
He let himself lag
So that he wouldn't pass me, so that I would run ahead of him.
Just one street is enough
For freedom to celebrate and cross over,
For children to cross and go to school,
For boys to look at girls and
For girls to laugh.
A street that carries my name
Should have no sculpture of famous men along its length.
Let it be broad, let it be broad, broad
As my heart.
Let it be empty in the morning and in the evenings
Like the quiet of a poem's house and
Let it be noisy at other times
Like my insides. Lips within lips.
I need a street
Empty of bloodstains,
A street that has never seen
Or known terror.
Let it be flawless, let it be flawless, flawless
Like the sex of these girls that are killed unjustly.
Let it be long, let it be long, long
Like their agony.
On that street,
We are all travelers
But I will remain a traveler.
The quatrains of Nishapur
Will not suddenly trust themselves
And madly drunk with love
Walk arm in arm with me.
( Translation by Mewan Nahro
and Alana Marie Levinson-LaBrosse)
The vague mirror of my time
broke because

it made what was small big

and what was big small.
Dictators and monsters filled its face.
Even now as I breathe
its shards pierce the walls of my heart

and instead of sweat
I leak glass.
( Translation by ..Darya Ali
and Alana Marie Levinson-LaBrosse)
( Avtar Mota )
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