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Kaziwa Salih; VOKRadio interview - VOK Radio
Iranian Culture & Art Club of Fresno
به صدای کوردستان از آمریکا خوش آمدید-
رادیو ده نگی کوردستان له ئامریکا
Voice of Kurdish-American Radio for Democracy, Peace and Freedom
Kaziwa Salih; VOKRadio interview چاپ ارسال به دوست
VOKRadio, Los Angeles, California, USA   

Kaziwa Salih; VOKRadio interview

Interviews with Kurdish Writers Series

August 25, 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 Kaziwa Salih

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

I am a Ph.D. candidate at Queen's University in Canada. I have a master's degree and a Bachelor of Arts (hon) from York University. As well, I received a post-graduate certificate in Migration and Forced Refugee Issues from York and Journalism from Sheridan College.

I have a wide range of research interests including Kurdish studies, cultural theory, genocide, the culture-violence binary (especially the cultural conditions that lend themselves to the perpetration of genocide), gender, postcolonial and decolonial theories, Bourdieu's theories, biopower in the discourse of subjectification/de-subjectification and identity politics. I am also interested in Indigenous issues.

I also have a background in journalism. In the 2000s, I founded two Kurdish-language theoretical magazines (NVAR) and (NWEKAR) and was the Editor-In-Chief of both. Both magazines concentrated on issues like radical Islamism, globalization, gender, and feminism. After a long struggle, I was able to obtain a formal license from the Kurdistan Ministry of Culture that allowed me to launch a journal. I became the first independent Kurdish individual to do so; the license had previously only been given to organizations or individuals who worked for political party organizations. Unfortunately, I also became the first woman to be imprisoned by the Kurdish authority controlled by the PUK in 2000 for predicating what has been happening since 2014 (radical Islamism, and terrorism), as well as the increase of violence against women within Kurdish society and criticizing the government for not taking preventive steps. Thankfully, this criticism has opened doors for others.

I have been an activist since I was 16 years old and worked on a range of topics related to vulnerable groups such as women, children, immigrants, and minorities, as well as Kurdish issues in general and genocide. A few years back I established the Anti-Genocide project. My aim is to create an umbrella organization for all Canadian communities who have been victims of genocide. The goal is to create a collective voice against genocidal acts and seek reconciliation with the perpetrators who live in the same country/ Canada. Sadly, this project has not been active for the past few years due to a lack of support and time. In recent years my activism has focused on the Ezidi people and their experiences of 74 genocidal acts. Indigenous problems in North America have also occupied a big part of my consciousness.

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

I write fiction, non-fiction, academic works, and children's books. I have 12 published books, over 1000 articles, and hundreds of pages of interviews. A selection of my publications follows. 


My Clay Fiancée: A collection of short stories. The Kurdish version was published in 2012 by Aras Press in Hawler, Kurdistan, and the Arabic version, translated by Jumaa Jabari, was published in 2013 by Al-Jemel Press in Beirut, Lebanon.
The Wisdom of Being a Gypsy: The majority of the short stories in this collection (published by Aras Press, 2004) are focused on the socio-cultural and political conditions of Kurdish women.


Feminism Movement and Kurdish Society: This book consists of several studies on gender and women's issues. Published by Serdam Press, 2005. Suleimany, Kurdistan.

Kurdish Women at the Threshold of Globalization: This book, which consists of several research studies and essays, illustrates the circumstances of Kurdish women, both before and after the rule of Saddam Hussein, and the cultural, political, and socioeconomic issues surrounding the civil war in Kurdistan. Published by Serdam Press, 2002. Suleimany, Kurdistan.


The Sky Is Blue Everywhere: This book consists of interviews I gave to several journalists. Published by Aras Press in Hawler, Kurdistan, 2013.

A Project to Break the Silence about Anfal: A long, interview analyzing the Anfal genocide from many different perspectives. Conducted by Taha Suliman and published by Reybazi Azadi Press, 2008.


Two Friends and a Magician: This children's story teaches children the dangers of racism and the importance of peace. Published by Aras Press in 2003.

Hawnaz and the Ladybug: This storybook for children has been translated from Kurdish Sorani into the Kurdish-Kurmanji dialect and into English by the MAG organization and distributed to Kurdistan's village schools. This story teaches children to be aware of landmines and offer advice for remaining safe in places where these weapons are present and help their friends in danger. Published by MAG, 1999.



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

My role models are everyone and no one. I don't have anyone in particular in whose footsteps I am walking in life or in writing. But one cannot deny the impacts that other people have on you, or the influences of films, exhibitions, photographs, etc. I am a good reader. I even read scattered paper I find on the ground and think I am going to learn from it. I have traveled widely and have learned from each excursion. Even bad people and situations can teach you something-the meaning and colour of ‘bad.' Everything I've experienced has left an impact on me and is probably in some way reflected in my writings.

How has your mother tongue impacted your writing?

Since the majority of my works are in Kurdish and I have created a number of Kurdish notions, it will be surprising for the readers to to know that I have learned the Kurdish language by myself and not in school. My father was from a revolutionary family. He spent most of his life in Saddam's prisons while the rest of the family members were Peshmerga struggling for the freedom that (some) Kurds enjoy in Basur (North of Iraq). Thus, my parents enrolled me in an Arabic school, so I could join my brother in order to be protected. My parents thought that if the Ba'athist regime took one of us, the other would be able to inform them. Also, we could stick up for one another against the Ba'athist kids. The cultural genocide and linguicide carried out by the Ba'athist regime, and later reproduced by Kurds themselves after the uprising of 1991, has impacted my writing greatly and presented me with many obstacles.

kaziwe_s_conference_toronto.jpgHow does your Kurdish origin appear in your writing?

In my academic work, I avoid subjective judgments, and am committed to academic ethical principles and professionalism. Otherwise, all my writings are devoted to my Kurdish origin and I consider myself to be Peshmerga. Where my family picked up weapons to fight for justice, I have picked up the pen. I am strongly committed to raising awareness of Kurdish plights locally and internationally, in English or in the Kurdish language.

In terms of my origin positive or negative impacts, I am facing enormous challenges. The majority of my experiences within Kurdish society have been negative. First, I am a critical thinker and will fight for justice whenever I see injustice. So, this has led me to be a fierce critic of Kurdish society and its political administration. Second, I am an independent individual and am not involved in any partisan, religious, or nationalist groups, and this has jeopardized my safety at times. Lastly, I don't make from men (neither family members nor outsiders) a passing passport to the world of writing and public attention as it is required and a followed model socially and politically in the Middle East.
Internationally, although I am occasionally confronted by hostile individuals or fascists from perpetrator communities, in general people are interested my writings.
Gender issues have occupied my mind before I knew about feminism. In 2005, I was the first woman in Basur to put feminism the title of a book (Feminism and Kurdish Society). The book provided an introduction to feminism and answered the question of whether feminist movements exist or will exist within Kurdish society. However, I don't consider myself a feminist that because, first, nowadays feminism and gender are education fields that I never study them, but I always worked to establish the believe of women's equality with men.; second, I am a free bird and won't be caged by labels.

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

I first recognized gender-based discrimination when I was six years old, after a few months after enrolling in school. Since then I've been experiencing gender-based discrimination wherever I go, and wherever I have lived. 

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

I've been facing misogyny and discrimination all my life and in many forms. I have been targeted due to my gender, ethnicity, religion, social status, for thinking outside the box, being an immigrant, and my level of education. However, misogyny is not limited to men; I have experienced it from women more often than from men and have been betrayed by women more often than men. Before saying we should be united in our struggle against misogyny, we need to go beyond such narrowminded thinking that encourages us to compete with and compare ourselves to one another.

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

I have several unpublished books and several uncompleted projects that seem to be continually postponed. The demands of being an activist, breadwinner, and student leave little time for writing. The costs of travelling in support of my Kurdish genocide activism are especially financially taxing and require even more paid work. Every year, life and time seem to be betraying me. I hope that in the near future I will be able to complete some of these projects.






 Voice of Kurdish-American Radio for Democracy, Peace, and Freedom

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