Introducing the World to Kurdish Literature

Raber Aziz

By Raber Y. Aziz:

I have always had this passion for literature and books. I was a little kid and whenever my dad was away, I borrowed – or did I steal? – books from his bookshelves to read. I always waited until he went out, secretly pulled a book or two from his library and sat in a corner of our small room, which was the bedroom, dining as well as the sitting room. Don’t get me wrong, he did not prevent me from reading his books, nor did he object the fact that I wanted to use his books. He was just angry with me for using his books in a very disorganized way. Messy and careless, I did not take good care of the books, nor did I put them back where I had pulled them from among hundreds of other books, which he had categorized and arranged in some sort of order that I did not realize.

Dad loved his books, took care of them like his babies, and had most of them (especially the Kurdish poetry anthologies) in hard cover binding. The hard covers did not come with the books; he had especially ordered the customized leather covers. He was a man of letters, a good reader.

There were different books on the bookshelves: from philosophy to geography and history, and from religion to science, fact books, dictionaries, and to literature. He was particularly interested in reading history books and literature. I was particularly interested in history and literature – a heritage from my father, I believe. Of the literature available, I loved reading novels and poetry. I think I read Qelay Dimdim three times. Qelay Dimdim, or The Dimdim Castle is a novel about the legendary struggle of an early 17th century Kurdish prince, Amir Khan Lepzerin (The Golden-handed Khan) to carve out his own Kurdish state – or principality – in defiance of the Persian Empire.

The chivalry of the Kurdish horsemen and warriors, the love story of Shabab the ordinary born, but brave, young hero, with Dilber (which translates into Heart taker, or Heart stealer), the beautiful, smart daughter of a nobility, or the story of Posto, the battle hardened warrior who knew nothing but being a brave soldier and who had traveled from Diarbakir (Kurdish city in Turkey) to join Khan; these all took me to a world where I saw nothing but beauty, and where I wanted to stay forever. Everything in that world was so beautiful and transfixing; its cold winters, its hard lifestyle on the snowcapped, jagged mountains, herding livestock, the passion of being in love, or fighting the enemy for your freedom, for your family, your people, fighting for your homeland and dying a warrior.

I was only 12-13 when I started reading from my dad’s bookshelves that were supposed to be for adults. Maybe that explains why I was so mesmerized by the stories in Qelay Dimdim, because they were so powerful to mesmerize adults (I read it again as an adult). Maybe that explains why I had to read it three times the first time. Every time I read it I found new territories to explore, new depths to understand, new dimensions to experience, and new fantasies to live.

Equal to the Kurdish novels, in transfixing me as a reader, was the Kurdish poetry. I read from Nali, Salim, Kurdi, Safi to Haji Qadiri Koyi, Piramerd, Ahmed Mukhtar Jaf, to Goran and Madhosh, encompassing classical to modern poets. Around the age of 14, I started to extensively read poems, and at that age, who can capture your thoughts more than Madhosh, with his collection of passionate love poems: Yanay Dilan (The Club of Hearts). It has been around 16 years now since I last read his Machi Naftawi (Kerosene-tainted Kiss), and – although I can’t remember the exact verses – I still remember the content of the poem.

To put it in a nutshell, Kurdish literature has a lot to offer to the world; the only problem has been that Kurdish literature has not attracted scholars from around the world to study and translate it (for a variety of geopolitical, cultural, social, etc. etc. reasons that are not the point here), because of the language barrier of course, and because we Kurds have not been actively speaking for ourselves, promoting Kurdish language, literature and culture. If the world has failed to notice Kurdish literature because the world does not speak Kurdish, let us make it take notice by translating it, or writing about it, in a language that most of the world understands. And maybe then we won’t have to worry about it anymore, because the world will want to learn more about it even if that means it will need to learn the Kurdish language to explore Kurdish literature.

This is why this blog exists; it is only a small step, but with the limited time and effort I can spare, I hope I can do something to introduce the Kurdish literature to the world, and I hope that more will follow in my footsteps.

Raber Y. Aziz is a Kurdish blogger, translator, writer-editor, university instructor, and an ex-journalist, from Erbil, Iraqi Kurdistan’s capital Erbil. His journalistic works have appeared on various print and online media outlets, among them Kurdistan Tribune, AKnews, Hawlati Newspaper, Aso Newspaper, Kurd Net, and others. With an MA in English Studies and Communication from Valparaiso University, USA, he is currently a university instructor at Salahaddin University’s Language Center. He can be reached at, followed on twitter @RaberYAziz or visit and follow him on his blogs and

One Response to Introducing the World to Kurdish Literature
  1. KIM
    December 31, 2014 | 21:50

    2015 is your year of independence.
    If Obamas Admin does not support it, other countries will.

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