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Dr. Soraya Fallah; VOKRadio interview چاپ ارسال به دوست
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Dr. Soraya Fallah; VOKRadio interview

Interviews with Kurdish Writers Series

soraya_fallah_062018.jpg
June 7, 2018
Exclusive; VOKRadio, Los Angeles

In honor of the Kurdish Women Writers, Voice of Kurdish American Radio for Democracy, Peace, and Freedom, from the U.S, in collaboration with the organization World Women for Life (WWFL), conducted interviews with women identified writers from Kurdish decent. In this series, we learn about the lives and work of these talented writers, as they share with us the inspiration behind their work and contribute their insightful wisdom on working as Kurdish writers in today's world. In these interviews, we learn about the writer's backgrounds, interests, their role models, motivations, the role of mother tongue and relationship to other languages, as well as their take on feminism in their writing, experiences of gender-based discrimination, and misogyny.

These writers work in diverse fields and span different genres of writing. Some are accomplished authors of novels, while others work in journalism, poetry, and non-fiction. 

Interview with Dr. Soraya Fallah, a writer in the research arena

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Please introduce yourself the way you would like to be introduced to our audience.

My Name is Soraya Fallah, I am a researcher and a graduate scholar with a doctoral degree in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies concentrating in Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CLD) population, Disabilities, and immigrant families from the Middle East, North Africa, and Southwest Asia (MENASWA).

I attained Master's degree in International Relations and law, and I concentrated on Women's Rights. I am also a women and Human Rights activist for gender equality and the empowerment of women around the globe emphasizing on Iranian and Kurdish Women and currently I am UNWomen-LA chapter's ambassador.


As a career, I am a social worker, who provides services to a very volatile population of elderly immigrants. I have been working as a social worker and supervisor for more than a decade. In these years, I have trained and educated many social work interns and graduate students from different universities. One of my other primary duties have been to educate immigrants and help them navigate the various challenges they face as they try to integrate into an entirely new country. I strive to combine activism with academia to give a voice to underprivileged children and their families.

 

Please introduce your books or any published work that you may have.

soraya_with_books.jpgI have a few published books, chapter book, and participated in a few book project as a subject matter expert. I published several books in Iran and my articles in English, Farsi and Kurdish are regularly published in several international media outlets and magazines.
My books and chapter book are in premier reference sources. Just for purpose of your readers let's clarify what premier reference source per my publisher, IGI Global entail:
"Authored and Edited Monographs include highly-descriptive chapters detailing progressive research in a broad range of topics and concepts. These publications are developed by international scholars and experts across a variety of disciplines and delve into various researches pertinent to those studying in the field. Premier Reference Sources are essential resources for libraries, academicians, researchers, professionals, practitioners, instructors and students of both the undergraduate and graduate level"( IGI)1. 

My latest publication(2018) isa chapter of a book called Social Justice and Parent Partnerships in Multicultural Education Contexts, which was edited by Katherine E. L. Norris, Shartriya Collier.(see the you tub)2 The book is a critical scholarly resource that explores the importance of cooperation between parents, teachers, and administrators to create valuable support systems that will promote student success through strategies using social justice. Featuring coverage on a wide range of topics, such as parent collaboration, bilingualism, and community-based partnerships, this book is geared toward academicians, researchers, and teachers seeking current research on the importance of cooperation between parents and education professionals in encouraging positive student outcomes in multicultural learning environments.

Name of my chapter book: Challenges and Strategies for Establishing Strong Partnerships: Special Education and CLD Families, which I co-authored with Dr. Wendy Murawski.
The objectives of this chapter are: 1. to identify the key issues for CLD families of children with disabilities, 2. to review the literature and research on the partnerships between schools and these families, and 3. to recommend specific strategies for parents and educators as they strive to improve their collaboration on behalf of students.

If the readers like to see the link to my/our latest publication, please see the reference 3,4

My older published book is an exploratory resource based book under a bigger project for dissemination of information about different countries, ‘Green Book Project Series'. I was able to publish about History and Politics of Hungary, Green Book. The publisher of this book was The Institute for Political and International Studies (IPIS) Tehran 1990 (Farsi print)

I also published 4 reference books "Investigation and Summary of the Promotional Theses of Experts from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Iran during the Period of 1979 to 1996, Volumes 1,2,3, 4, Reference Book Set, IPIS, Tehran 1996 (Farsi print).

The book project by other authors that I was contacted as a Subject Matter Expert(SME)were:
-Chapter Book Review: Human Rights and National Security, Ralph David Fertig,2017;
-Inside Syria: The Backstory of Their Civil War and What the World Can Expect,
-Prometheus Books , 2014; No Child Execution, "Tale of Two Nazanin" HarperCollins Publisher, 2012
Moreover, I should let you know that as a researcher I spend big amount of time on writing articles for educational journals. My latest journal article was published on Feb 2018 on The Journal for Special Education Apprenticeship (JoSEA). The article's name is "The Importance of Developing Cultural Competence in Working with Families of Students with Disabilities from the Middle East, North Africa, and Southwest Asia." However, due to the process complexity of article writing, Dr. Wendy Murawski from CSUN-CTL and Zaniar Moradian as data analysts were involved as well.

soraya_fallah_dr._murawski_062018.jpgThis article describes the importance of developing cultural competencies when working with families who come from culturally and linguistically diverse (CLD) backgrounds. Using a mixed methods study, the experiences of 125 families from Middle Eastern, North African, and Southwest Asian (MENASWA) descent who have children in the U.S. Special Education system were analyzed. The intent of the research was to determine if specific demographics impacted the experiences and perceptions of these families, most specifically their perception of a school's cultural competency. Survey responses and interviews resulted in numerous suggestions and recommendations that can help educators and administrators to better serve this under‐represented population. If your readers would like to see the article please see the reference 5.

If writing a dissertation and thesis counts in your category, my dissertation is 340 pages, "Giving voice to an invisible population: The experiences of families of students with disabilities from the Middle East, North Africa, and Southwest Asia (MENASWA) in the United States special education system" and my Master's thesis was on "The Role of the United Nations in the Progress of Women's Rights". 

Who are/were your role models in writting? Who motivated you?

Role model for writing; my role models rises from who I learned from when I was a child, a teenager, younger, and now. Reading philosophical and theoretical books, and literature from different authors and genres helped me to be familiarized with different cultures, styles and ideas. I got familiarized with Russian literature, writers such as Anton Chekhov, Leo Tolstoy, Maxim Gorky, Fyodor Dostoevsky, French writers like Romain Rolland for his love to human dignity, Victor Hugo, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Latino literature like Gabriel García Márquez for his magic realism.

Thanks to the Iranian and Kurdish literary translator, Mohammad Ghazi allowed us to learn more about what was happening outside of the box we lived in.
Defiantly Iranian mainstream writers like Samad Beharangi, writers like Mahmoud Etemadzadeh (Behazin), Sadegh Hedayat, Ali Ashraf Darvishian, Ghodsi Ghazi Noor, Mahmood Dowlatabadi influenced my mind and ideas so much.


Poets like Ahmad Shamlou, Hushang Ebtehaj, Siavash Kasrai, Forough Farrokhzad and modern contemporary poets in Iran were and still are part of my generation's favorites.
I can't deny the powerful effects becoming part of social activism community where along with my comrades we had to read book to stay in that circle also helped me to become familiar with many writers and books in Iran and Kurdistan.
Spending most of my youth hood writing personal journals, reading literature, resource books, and science books and being encouraged by my immediate family members like my older sister , my uncle and aunt (from my mother side), and my father for my systematic book reading and writings, BOOK became big part of my life.

In my teen age time, there was no appreciation and celebration of women writers, as such most of the books and translation, were by men. However some of those men had very soft hearts and I replaced them with women. I remember seeing a book, by Jane Austin and reading it, poets like Forough Farrokhzad, Simin Behbahani, and ...made me proud and inspired. For instance I was not a fan of Masturah Kurdistani(Ardalan) 's writing, but knowing that a woman was one of the first historian and poet in 19 century offered me a sense of pride and hope, although could not relate so much with classic poems.

Later on I learned that reading realism strikes me more than idealism. I liked to read books that represent subject matter truthfully rather than the preeminent value of imagination. I think that's why I started with daily journals

soraya_fallah__andisheh_tv.jpg

and writing about books I was reading. Meeting some of them was a great deal in my life.

I was encouraged by my immediate family, relatives and teachers from a young age. During my undergrad I started working in IPIS, and Dr. Asad Ardalan Legal Expert in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Iran motivated me. Lateron in Diaspora my immediate family and my dissertation advisor and mentor, Dr. Murawski, encouraged me to write "WRITE LIKE THE WIND!".

 

Overall I was motivated by my surroundings and the issues that created questions in my mind. My husband is one of my most encourager to publish my ideas and writings.

 

My motivations and undeniable drives are what helps me to share my knowledge with the world, add to the literature, introduce maybe- a new thing to others, and appreciate the hard worthy process. What I see, others might not,but I strive to open the eyes and minds of people through writing books, articles, poems and research development. 

 

How has your mother tongue impacted your writing? 

It is unfortunate that the language our mother spoke to us in, the languages we had learned our first song in, the language we were comfortable expressing our self in was strictly forbidden in all official settings including school. For a child the message is that your native language is not good enough which affect one's personality and self-esteem for his/her entire life.

Luckily I am literate in my mother tongue, writing, reading and understanding Kurdish (Sorani). I learned via attending classes during a period of time that IRI was not ruling Kurdistan of Iran in a non-governmental, unofficial institute ‘ The center for Renovate Kurdish culture and language (Bnkey Bujanneweykoltor o Zmanikurdi بنکه ی بوژاننه وه ی کولتورو زمانی کوردی)" which was shot down by IRI during warfare with Kurdistan region in Iran.

I also learned underground at home by my father. Unfortunately like all other Kurds in Iran, I have not had an official schooling for Kurdish language. I also consider Farsi my second natural language as I grew up with this language and studied it. I wrote my books in Farsi and I am completely familiar with the literature in Farsi. I believe children who are multilingual can help build a more peaceful global world.

My mother language plays a big role in my understanding of the world. I learned through the banning of my mother tongue in schools and hiding Kurdish books underground, that we are powerful people. I learned that they fear our ability to empower ourselves through knowledge and culture that our own language. I found the power and influence of language, and I think everyone should be literate in their mother tongue. "If you talk to a man [and woman] in a language he [and she] understands, that goes to his [her] head. If you talk to him [her] in his [her] language, that goes to his[her] heart"(Nelson Mandela).

How does your Kurdish origin appear in your writing? 

As a researcher I try to skip subjectivity in my professional writing and research as part of ethical practices in research. However, In my other areas such as writing articles on Kurdish issue's, subjectivity always appears in my writings. My background is stems from both obstacles and privileges. It is such a challenging area.

Generally speaking our identity, being part of a group, community, a natural belonging of an ethnicity, our gender or an arbitrary group gives us some perspectives that create our subjectivity. We all possess biases/beliefs, ideas or perspectives and use them to influence our world. These are based upon our vision and values in life. Our different perspectives can create conflict or lead the way to negotiations. Writing book or article, research, or speeches are not immune to these different perspectives. Our choices of writing and topics sometimes demonstrate subjectivity. For instance, for my researches, I have focused on hyphenated identities such as the Immigrant, Middle Eastern students with disabilities, and, women This indicates my deep concern for the well-being of this group.


Each time I do part of a research, I notice that my background and current profession is influencing my choices. However, I became aware of my own biases which help me to avoid my subjectivity. I learned how to control them. Peshkin (1988) suggest a "formal, systematic monitoring of self" (p. 20). This will guide me as I continue to work in research arena. The more aware I become, the more I will consciously mitigate the impact of these biases. As Peshkin says, awareness will "enable [me] to manage it" (p. 20). I will use journaling and taking meticulous notes to uncover, monitor, and manage my subjectivity. It is obvious that I can't write about such and such country in which t I am not an expert on , or about the challenges women from another country face that I am not familiar with. As s such, Kurdish background appears so much in my daily writings, not much in academic writings unless it is evidence based.

 

 
As a feminist one of the issues occupying my mind is gender issue. I always pay attention to women's issues, and writing about them. Unlike some street ideas on feminism, feminism is not about domination of women or power of one over others.
 
We are just not sexist; we believe in gender equality, we believe that women and men should have equal rights and opportunities, same political, social and economic rights. All those exists in my writings, in fact my master thesis is on women's right which was one of first thesis on women's right in 80s in Iran. I am thinking about the root of my feminism character, I was very young (pre-teenage) when I got involved with activism in Iran. In that time my mother, sisters, and none of my fellow female activists were prepared for the mass atrocities and human right violations that followed. Facing a gender distinction in any treatment, politically and culturally made me to become a feminist.

 

As a female identified writer, what kinds of gender-based issues/obstacle have you faced?

 I don't think you will find a woman writer who has fully felt supported by different genders. We all faced gender discrimination in one way or another. In fact, the discernment is from both genders. Sometimes we were not taken seriously and judgment toward women writers is more apparent. People expect women to use more proper words and less "naked ones", and most of the literature winners are men.

When I still see that out of 114 Nobel laureates in literature from 1901 to 2017 only 14 women awarded, I feel that the issues are bigger than what I see. There are so many underlying factors when it comes to gender based problems and obstacles for women. I started writing when I was in school, like all other classmates, I was encouraged so much by my family, taking part in school wall newspaper as well. I never felt the different treatment as the schools were gender based and my father would pay so much attention to our essays. Later on during my undergrad, I got a chance see some distinctions. Up to today there are so many changes that have happened through the hard works of activists, researchers, and social media on the dissemination of information from men and women.

As a Kurdish woman writer, what kinds of minority-based problem, issues, or obstacle have you faced in relates to writing, publishing, and..?

 As an ethnic minority writer I faced significant discrimination in my home country. Getting a writing project for me required so many steps. Despite that I was not raised as a religious person, but growing up a Kurd, a religious minority and a woman was challenging. The dominant culture, the legal system and the entire political regime makes one feel inferior. Some parts of my master thesis were removed, my name was taken away from one of my publications, and one of my proposals was not accepted due to check marking a box as not being a Shia (dominant branch of Islam in Iran). Here, outside of Iran, I face some issues as well.

Many Iranians steer away from our writings, activism, support, or publications,, particularly if the writing is about Kurdish issues, Kurdish political prisoners or anything related to Kurds. Sometimes they feel that it is too complicated for them to understand and give support. I understand the issue as it goes back to Iran, that people want to escape persecution or any questions from authority. In academia, I have not faced this issue, as the most of the work that I do is research based. Another problem might be related to English as a second or third language for me. I struggled and I am still struggling, as Iam not sure if this challenge will sever fully go away. Most of the time I use professional editors to overview my writings. In the beginning I was shy to admit it, then during my doctoral program I learned that my best professors who has hundred of publication are always using professional editors and experts and peer review process.

Have you faced misogyny, racism from the community you belong to?

 Even inside the writers and authors world there is some discrimination against woman. However, misogyny exists; we all know that there is some hatred, contempt or prejudice against by groups who are not willing to listen to our ideas. The sad part is some woman feels their position is threatened by other women, they feel the need to become more hostile or belittle others .This can show by ignoring your writing, articles, book, idea or your projects.


One of the way that can this hostility, misogyny, and discrimination change is through support one another. There are so many changes in various areas of science ,research and job markets for closing the gaps of gender equality, but I think in this area there is still so much to be done. These areas continue to be male dominant.


Despite such obstacles, considering constructive criticism, I am humbled to receive warm support and encouragement from people for my writing, as well as to receive awards for them.. I am hoping to be a consistent influence in changing this negative phenomenon of misogyny.

What are your future plans for your writing? What message do you have for other writers?

 Currently, I have a research project that I am working on and usually don't talk about my future plans particularly in writing. Because it is hard to publish book or articles, and I don't want to get disappointed or disappoint people.


My advice and suggestion is to choose writing as a tool of breaking silence, even if you don't publish it. Don't wait for the greatest publisher to offer you an opportunity. If you are inspired and motivated to produce various forms of literary art and writing such as poetry, essays , novels, news, short stories, blogging your ideas ,plays, screenplays, reports and articles that may be of interest to the public, you are a writer already. Don't compare yourself with other writers. You are you, your pen and words belongs to you.


My message is that everyone won't write a book. If you are passionate and have ideas bring it to reality, there are many ways to do so. If you come up with a good idea and dream to bring it about reality, then do it. At least write a small article and expand it. It is a hard journey and helps to become more self-aware. There at too many important matters in this world, too many people who care about them, but not many to write about them. I think the more we write, the more we find humbleness inside. Finally yet importantly, if you want to write something, educate yourself on that subject matter and get enough knowledge to endow the message you want. Good luck.

 

1)    https://www.igi-global.com/premier-reference-sources/

2)    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f0waUoOa2AM&feature=youtu.be

3)    https://www.igi-global.com/book/social-justice-parent-partnerships-multicultural/181916#table-of-contents

 
4) https://www.igi-global.com/chapter/challenges-and-strategies-for-establishing-strong-partnerships/197849 

5)    http://scholarworks.lib.csusb.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1064&context=josea

6)    Peshkin, A. (1988). In search of subjectivity--one's own. Educational Researcher, 17(7), 17-21. (ER)

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