Choman Hardi | The American University of Iraq Sulaimani

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Choman Hardi

Book Launch - Considering the Women by Choman Hardi

AUIS English literature Professor Choman Hardi has recently published her second collection of poems Considering the Women that explores the equivocal relationship between immigrants and their homeland, as well as the breakdown of an intermarriage, and the plight of women in an aggressive patriarchal society and as survivors of political violence. The book’s central sequence, Anfal, draws on Choman Hardi’s post-doctoral research on women survivors of genocide in Kurdistan. The stories of eleven survivors (nine women, an elderly man and a boy child) are framed by the radically shifting voice of the researcher: naïve and matter-of-fact at the start; grieved, abstracted and confused by the end. Recently, one of the poems from the new collection, 'Dibs Camp, the Woman's Prison' was selected as the Guardian's Poem of the Week. Read it here. Dr. Hardi is currently on a book launch tour in the UK where she will be attending a poetry festival and several other events.   

The Action Group (TAG) Hosts Seminar on Social Injustice

The Action Group (TAG) is a student club at the American University of Iraq, Sulaimani (AUIS), founded and supervised by Dr. Choman Hardi, assistant professor of English literature. The group draws on the energy, ideas and initiatives of students for the good of the community. It aims to engage with a wide range of issues including injustice, social inequalities and environmental pollution. It thrives to establish firmer links between AUIS and the wider community through conducting research, facilitating workshops, taking joined actions, organizing conferences and exhibitions, and producing short films to disseminate the ideas within AUIS and the larger community. The group's inaugural meeting was on February 27, 2015 in which the beloved Kurdish singer Bahjat Yahya spoke to students about the importance of getting involved in democratising society. Student musicians Harem Jaafer and Botan Abdullah also took part in the event.  On May 3, 2015 TAG hosted its first seminar, “Social Injustice: towards problematising inequality”, featuring Dr. Mariwan Kanie as the keynote speaker and the musician and singerTara Jaff.  Dr. Kanie’s talk focused on “Rethinking Roots of Rising Violence against Women in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.” He is a Kurdish intellectual, writer, and political scientist. He teaches in the department of Hebrew, Aramaic, and Jewish studies at the Amsterdam University in Netherlands. During the seminar TAG members also presented their own research findings. Students Ahmed Yousef, Biryar Bahhaalddin and Aska Osman discussed “Women Members of the Kurdistan Parliament and Gender Equality”; Rushdi Burhan spoke about “Men's Perception of Women and Inequalities,” and Hero Rfaat and Amez Hiwa addressed “The Phenomenon of Begging in the City of Sulaimai”.   TAG also presented their first short film on gender equality at the event. The film was created by student Berzy Behzad with support from Shko Shwan, Dastan Sabah, Haarem Jaafer, and Dr. Hardi. “The purpose of the video is to send  out a positive message to our community that being a father of girl(s) is a blessing, not a curse; this is to fight the phenomenon that boys are generally favored over girls in our society.  Our group's vision is to advocate equality between both genders,” said Behzad, about the film. The seminar ended with a melodious performance on the celtic harp by renowned Kurdish musician, Tara Jaff. She mostly played her own compositions and also talked about discovering her passion for music, and her challenging journey towards becoming what she calls a “traveling artist”. Dr. Hardi explained the idea behind the creation and purpose of TAG: “The idea developed in the last weeks of the Gender, Media and Society course where we discussed possible ways to challenge inequality in our social environment,” she said, “It was also given space when we studied The Handmaid’s Tale as part of the ENG 102 course. In the novel Offred, like many others, ignored the growing injustices around her and she focused on her own personal happiness. This resulted in the rise of dictatorship in her land. Unlike Offred, we don’t want to be passive and let our world give into injustice, inequality and radicalism. We want to “problematise” the inequalities that are seen as normal (to use Bourdieu’s words) and move towards creating an egalitarian society where people are treated as equal citizens regardless of their gender, ethnicity and religious background .”  

AUIS Commemorates Anfal

  Dr. Choman Hardi, assistant professor of English Literature at AUIS, and Zimnako Muhammed, a student and survivor of the chemical attacks on Halabja, spoke at the event. Kurdish musicians, Tango Azad and Shahram Jaseem, also played some commemorative music at the ceremony. Dr. Hardi spoke about the gendered experience of the survivors of Anfal, an area she feels is overshadowed by the dominant discourse on the Anfal genocide. She narrated tragic experiences of women survivors that she interviewed personally for her book, Gendered Experiences of Genocide: Anfal Survivors in Kurdistan-Iraq (Ashgate, 2011). She described the harrowing encounters and hardships that the women and children faced in prison camps, that people know little of. Dr. Hardi explained that through her research, she really wanted to understand what had happened to women who were imprisoned and displaced by Anfal; how they coped with imprisonment; and how they managed to rebuild their lives afterwards.                                                                                     Zimnako Muhammed, a student at AUIS gave a heartfelt talk about his experiences of surviving the chemical attack on Halabja as an infant. He was adopted and raised by an Iranian family, and later returned to Kurdistan to find his long lost family after several years. He lost most of his family to the tragedy and urged everyone to think of themselves as part of the same human family.  “How many times can we say “never again” after a tragic event has happened?” he asked, “We have to work together to prevent a repetition of events like Anfal.” At the end, Kurdish musicians Tango Azad and Shahram Jaseem, played some soulful music as their tribute to the victims of the genocide.

AUIS Professor Dedicates Award to Women Fighters in Kobane

Sulaimani, Iraq - November, 2014 - Dr. Choman Hardi, professor of English literature at the American University of Iraq, Sulaimani (AUIS) was presented with the Woman’s Award in recognition of her achievements as a creative writer and academic as well as her work on women’s issues, in particular Kurdish women. The award was presented by Andesha – an independent cultural center and publishing house based in Sulaimani – during their second annual cultural festival in Kurdistan. While receiving her award at the ceremony, Hardi announced her decision to dedicate her prize to the brave women fighting in Kobane. “Throughout history in this region there have been moments when women have challenged the stereotypical view of woman as a passive, inactive, domestic person who cannot lead, who cannot be brave; who cannot fight. Most recently I think that was done in Kobane.” The award was officially handed out to the representatives of the women’s military wing in Kobane at a separate event hosted at the Cultural Café in Sulaimani. On her decision to give away her award, Hardi said, “They have challenged the definition of women again and they’ve proved to the community that women can do the same things that men do. And that’s why I thought it’s just fair to give the prize to them because they have become the symbol of resistance, of power, and of empowerment.” When asked about how the women felt on receiving the award, she said, “I believe they were very pleased. Of course, it’s a symbolic gesture. The award didn’t involve anything substantial but its recognition. And, it’s nice to be recognized especially at times like this – in times of crisis and division between the communities.” On receiving the Woman’s Award herself, Dr. Hardi felt pleased on being recognized for her achievements in Kurdistan. “This is the first time that I receive an award in Kurdistan. This may be partly because I have written mostly in English. I have written poems in Kurdish but those collections came out during the civil war in ’94 and ’96, and I was living in the UK so they didn’t really reach the audience here. Some people think of me as a British writer even though all my subject matter is very Kurdish.” she said. “I think one can have a dual identity and one can re-create ‘Kurdishness’ or any other ethnicity in a different language. I hadn’t even been invited to do a poetry reading here until last year when the British Council held Niniti Literature Festival in Erbil. So, for me it’s a big thing because it’s the first time I received​ acknowledgement from the community itself.”

Displacement and Suffering: From Anfal to ISIS

The dialogue was organized and moderated by Edith Szanto, assistant professor of religion and history at AUIS, and included three speakers: Fazil Moradi, a researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology and lecturer at the University of Halle in Germany; Hawar Moradi, a medical doctor, specializing in psychiatry and currently working as a volunteer at refugee camps throughout Kurdistan; and Choman Hardi, AUIS faculty member, poet, and researcher in gender and violence studies. Hawar Moradi began the panel discussion by pointing out that displacement is not only physical, but also psychological. At various Ezidi camps, he has been seeing 300 to 400 patients daily. Ezidis have been and continue to be deprived of their way of living, and they will carry trauma with them for the rest of their lives. They come with physical illnesses, but most of them are also in dire need of psychological support. Hardi said that in addition to dealing with trauma, survivors also often feel isolated from the rest of society. Women are more vulnerable, especially if they have experienced physical or sexual abuse, and remain at risk of violence even in refugee camps. It is also not easy for them to talk about sexual abuse and rape as they are often stigmatized. This disconnection and erosion of trust in the wider community makes them feel betrayed, unprotected, and more isolated. Fazil Moradi has been visiting Ezidi communities and those taking refuge in camps, unfinished buildings, parks, school buildings, and gas stations around Kurdistan. These survivors carry memories of acts of genocide and displacement and these memories take on lives of their own. An Ezidi survivor “carries total loss and an absence of a life once lived, including family and community history, language, memories of home and socialization.” He emphasized the “impossibility and untranslatability of experiences of acts of genocide. Therefore Ezidis cannot be seen as usual refugees.” Replying to a question on how Ezidis survive their current situation, Hawar Moradi said that it is extremely difficult to articulate the reality and experience of their displacement. And, he reiterated that the experiences of women and children are different from those of men. While men are more often killed on the spot, women are left with a tragedy. Every instance of displacement constitutes suffering, and that is all that remains as a form of survival. In describing the social and intellectual context of acts of extermination, Fazil Moradi referred to “genocide ideology.” He explained that genocide is not only something physical, but also psychological. People can be eliminated without being killed; the historical existence of Ezidis is a clear example. Hardi added that genocide never happens in a vacuum. There is always already an ideology which permits the victimization of a group of people. The Islamic State’s genocidal attacks against Ezidis were drawing on a preexistent ideology, which mobilized local accomplices. Fazil Moradi argued that Iraq has totally marginalized the need for dealing with claims of justice, reparations, and reconciliation. He added that the Iraqi state has failed in configuring an independent legal system and political accountability: “it is a decomposed state and unless you have an accountable state, Ezidis remain vulnerable to experiencing further genocidal attacks.” Fazil Moradi extended the argument and stated that there is no effective effort in dealing with the magnitude of violence in post Ba’ath Iraq. He critiqued the normalization of the Ezidi experience, which he thinks perpetuates their extermination: “It should not be normal to see Ezidis survivors of genocidal attacks living in unfinished buildings.” Hardi explained that people in countries with a history of repeated violence are desensitized. Over time, violent images become ineffective because people want to forget traumatic memories. This “compassion fatigue” isolates survivors and normalizes their suffering.  Fazil Moradi argued that Iraq has totally marginalized the need for dealing with claims of justice, reparations, and reconciliation. He added that the Iraqi state has failed in configuring an independent legal system and political accountability: “It is a decomposed state and unless you have an accountable state, Ezidis remain vulnerable to experiencing further genocidal attacks.” Fazil Moradi extended the argument and stated that there is no effective effort in dealing with the magnitude of violence in post Ba’ath Iraq. He critiqued the normalization of the Ezidi experience, which he thinks perpetuates their extermination: “It should not be normal to see Ezidis survivors of genocidal attacks living in unfinished buildings.” Hardi explained that people in countries with a history of repeated violence are desensitized. Over time, violent images become ineffective because people want to forget traumatic memories. This “compassion fatigue” isolates survivors and normalizes their suffering.

A panel discussion on "Displacement and Suffering: From Anfal to ISIS"

The dialogue was organized and moderated by Edith Szanto, assistant professor of religion and history, and included three speakers: Fazil Moradi, a researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology and lecturer at the University of Halle in Germany; Hawar Moradi, a medical doctor, specializing in psychiatry and currently working as a volunteer at refugee camps throughout Kurdistan; and Choman Hardi, AUIS faculty member, poet, and researcher in gender and violence studies.

Commemoration of the Anfal Genocide

Dr. Choman Hardi will speak about her recently published book, Gendered Experiences of Genocide: Anfal Survivors in Kurdistan-Iraq. AUIS student Zimnako Mohammed Ahmed will also say a few words about his personal experiences. Musicians Sharam Jassam and Tango Azad will commemorate the event with music on the piano and the Kurdish instrument, jaz'o. 

Equality for Women Lecture Series

The ‘Equality for Women’ lecture series aims to draw attention to the issues facing women in the region and to contextualize the socioeconomic and political circumstances within which they have developed. The series will include two lectures each Fall and Spring semester to discuss the different aspects of how conflict and culture affects and shapes the lives of women in the region. The first talk of the series was given by Dr. Choman Hardi, associate professor of English Literature at AUIS, on March 8, 2015. She spoke about the achievements of the women’s movement in Kurdistan, based on in-depth interviews with women in Kurdistan, as well as her own research on the Anfal campaign that she conducted during 2005-10. Dr. Choman Hardi is a celebrated poet, as well as a writer, translator, and a women’s rights activist. Her most recent publication, Gendered Experiences of Genocide: Anfal Survivors in Kurdistan-Iraq (Ashgate, 2011), was chosen by the Yankee Book Peddler as a UK Core Title. Listen to Dr. Hardi's lecture on women's movement in Kurdistan in the podcast below.  On May 3, 2015, Dr. Nazand Begikhani, senior research fellow at the University of Bristol, was invited to give the second lecture of the series. Her talk focused on the impact of the emerging global trends on the situation of women in Kurdistan, specifically on gender based violence. Dr. Begikhani has over 20 years’ experience in research, writing, advocacy for human rights and consultancy, publishing widely on gender and ethnicity, violence against women and honour-based violence (HBV) in English, Kurdish and French. She is currently a senior international advisor to Kurdistan Region’s Prime Minister on higher education and gender, and a member of the Kurdistan’s Women’s Rights Monitoring Board. In 2000, she was awarded the Emma Humphreys Memorial Prize for her work on HBV, and, in 2012, the French Simone Landrey’s Feminine Poetry Prize for her poetry collection, Le lendemain d’hier. Listen to Dr. Begikhani's lecture on globalization and gender violence in the podcast below. 

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