THE MEMORY OF GENOCIDE IN SINDIS NIHELI’S HIZAR AND THE VICISSITUDES OF LIFE, PART ONE AND PART TWO
This paper explores the tragic experiences of the Kurdish nation during the two brutal events that changed life in Kurdistan irrevocably; the Anfal Campaigns that began in 1986 and lasted until 1989, the genocide of the Yazidi Kurds in Sinjar in August 2014 and their aftermaths as represented in the contemporary Iraqi Kurdish novel in Bahdinan. Depicting the notable increase in the number of civilian casualties and addressing various forms of war-related and terrorism-related violence and the physical and psychological effects they inflect on the lives and experiences of the Kurdish people in Iraq, my study aims to answer such intriguing questions as: What is the impact of the atrocities of genocide on the Kurdish novelistic discourse? How has the Kurdish novel expressed the massacres of Anfal and Sinjar? Has genocide become a main theme in the Kurdish novel and hence aided the Kurdish national and political platforms in successfully conveying the extent of these horrific processes of extermination?
Emerging during the same decade as the occurrences of Anfal genocide, namely, the late 1980s, the Kurdish novelistic discourse by Bahdini writers increasingly represent the Kurdish genocide and its aftermath in their works within what I prefer to call “a memory wave” in modern Kurdish literature in Iraq. The memory of the genocide (both Anfal and Sinjar) is manifested in the Kurdish novel in Bahdinan through a number of recurring themes and leitmotifs such as bearing witness to acts of historical silencing and marginalization of the Kurdish people and their true history, retelling and rewriting the Kurdish tradition and, evoking a shared sense of collective memory and consciousness.
Focusing on Sindis Niheli’s first and only novel, (Hizar di Werçerxana Da), Hizar and the Vicissitudes of Life, Part One, 2013 and its second part, published in 2014, with the same title, the study examines the ways in which Kurdish novelists in Bahdinan express their sense of responsibility to record the atrocities exerted against their nation throughout their recent and contemporary history. Furthermore, addressing the growing interconnection between civilian homes and battlefronts, which is one of the most defining characteristics of the genocidal Anfal campaigns and Sinjar massacres, a theoretical approach developed by Wenona Giles and Jennifer Hyndman’s is adopted. Giles and Hyndman indicate that, unlike wars fought in the past, when civilian peoples’ homes were safe and male soldiers fought enemies on battlefronts, “contemporary conflicts blur such distinctions, rendering civilian women, men, and children its main casualties.”1
My study concludes that the treatment of genocide memory in the Bahdini novels contributes to a genuine confrontation with its painful experiences and eventually establishes wider-scale efforts to formalize Kurdish genocide in the international community. It asserts that these texts provide the international community and the whole world with an understanding of the Kurdish national identity as distinct from the identities of the nation-states in which they live and allows a more critical recognition of their perpetual suppression. As such, these narratives have the potential to enable the Kurdish people to recognize and challenge the role of the superstructure in shaping public discourse about the Kurdish Genocide.
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