A Prisoner’s Life in Abu Ghraib
This collection includes objects and books made by Adnan Mohammed Hasan, a prisoner in Abu Ghraib under Saddam Hussein. Saddam Hussein imprisoned his Communist and Islamist political opponents, including many Shia from the Dawa party like Adnan. During long sentences in Abu Ghraib, prisoners found ways to fill their time and keep themselves from surrendering. The prisoners were innovative and managed to create an environment where they could express their ideas freely and practice what they were found guilty of practicing in the outside world.
Abstract: Sherko Bekas grew up alongside the Political Union of Kurdistan (PUK), a powerful political party in the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). What is now “the state” was once a Kurdish guerrilla force, the peshmerga, in which Bekas served shoulder-to-shoulder with future political leaders. Both poet and politician survived on bright ideals. As time passed, disappointment arrived: nepotism became common, meritocracy struggled to take hold, educational and health reforms were slow, women’s rights arrived, but were not fully realized. Sherko felt the need to articulate the collision between revolution and governing. Reacting against a Turkish or Arab government, the artist reinforces rather than puts at risk his or her Kurdishness. Criticizing a Kurdish state for which one fought is not only delicate, but heart-breaking. More, the two traditionally significant parties, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), have financially backed their preferred poets, further complicating an artist’s ability or desire to find fault. In a region where neither academia nor publishing (copyright is not enforced) can sustain poets, party funding has been crucial income. With many reasons to stay silent, Sherko spoke. Over the course of his life, he abandoned political subject matter and championed a broken free verse. These are culturally dramatic statements from a man who wrote the PUK anthem, militaristic in its rhetoric and meter. In 2011, he punctuated the rift by publishing the controversial “Now A Girl Is My Homeland,” a book that oriented the poet away from the traditional concepts of “homeland” and toward the emerging idea that a lover could be one’s entire homeland. This project attempts to show the shift in Bekas’ verse from his early to late work as well as to bring the entirety of “Homeland” into English for the first time.
Krok - Crux
Abstract: As violent extremism becomes more common throughout the world, understanding becomes more scarce. Crux strives to comprehend extremism in Iraq and its Kurdish regions, in its violent and nonviolent forms, by translating influential poetry of jihadist leaders, interviewing and translating the archives of regional Islamic notables, interviewing families who have lost children to the Islamic State, interviewing prisoners of religious conviction. The main effort of this project is to get to know devotion in all the contemporary Kurdish manifestations, to shed light, perhaps, on how devotion becomes violent and how, perhaps, it can become peaceful once again.
19th Century Kurdish Poetry
Abstract: As the last independent Kurdish principalities fall to Ottoman and Persian rule, poetry’s politics and economics shift dramatically. Without the Babans and the Ardalans, there is no Kurdish court to finance poets and implicitly dictate their subject matter. The court, once the foundation of how poets got paid, vanishes and the profession of “court poet,” once a steady career path, disappears. This both impoverishes and frees poets. The Kurdish poet of the 19th century has no prince to praise, no prince’s enemy to curse; he has only himself and whatever he chooses to govern him. This breaks 19th century Kurdish poetry wide open: subject matter ranges from pioneering articulations of animal rights to critical examinations of Islam to explicit curses intended to anger, to amuse, to seduce. The generation of Kurdish poets formed as the reigns of the Babans and the Ardalans comes to a close bear their grief by embracing the sudden, shocking freedom of being their poetry’s own prince. This project focuses on bringing these predominantly Sorani Kurdish poems to English.
Kurdish Film Archive
Abstract: The project that we are aiming for is to archive the history of Kurdish Cinema. Where and when Kurdish Cinema started, and where it comes from? We explore the Kurdish filmmakers work, and do they considered as Kurdish films? If not, why? If yes, why? Kurdish Cinema has divided into more than five parts in the world because Kurdish filmmakers live in many different places, and they have been influenced by European, American and other countries’ cinema. Cinema for all nations is like a language. It should be standardized, if not, their cinema will not have an identity, and does not represent the nation’s culture.
Kirkuk's Talabani Tekiye and Mosque
Abstract: Not 30 kilometers away from the Islamic State’s front lines, the Talabani Tekiye and Mosque of Kirkuk is and has been a bastion of liberal Islam. Since the early 1800’s, the Talabani family has offered sermons and prayers in every language of the city, including Turkish, Arabic, Farsi, Turcoman, and Kurdish. Too, both women and men serve the devotees as mullahs. Men, women, and children perform the traditional devotions of Sufis. The tekiye has welcomed in Kashkul researchers to study the theology and practice of this place and how, over generations, people have created and preserved as sense of openness in heart and mind.