Thursday, June 28, 2007

Other People & Other Places

I seriously envy those who choose to remain unaware of the world’s current events. Following the news and the incidents that daily happen in different parts of the world often creates an overwhelming sense of pessimism in me. And understandably not many people are interested in hearing about your pessimism about this world and if you choose to go ahead and talk about this negativity that you feel, then they politely tune you out and tell you to live your own life and to find happiness. While I admire this conscious detachment from the daily happenings of the world—such as wars, deaths, rebellions, earth quakes, imprisonments, sicknesses and many other incidents— it makes me very sad that many of us choose or have to choose to live our own individual lives outside the context of this world that goes beyond our homes, neighborhoods and cities. Again, I am not saying all of this to complain about things. It is just that it makes me sad to feel part of a small crowd of people in this world who feel the need or have the freedom to follow the current events and if nothing to think about other places and other people!

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The Prism of My Personality!

My close and distant friends often tell me that they think I have a complicated and “layered” personality. They tell me that at any given moment I could surprise them with my actions. A close friend has even told me that I scare him when all of a sudden I “switch personalities” unexpectedly.

Since many friends have pointed out this complicated characteristic of mine, I always find myself thinking and analyzing this phenomenon of multiple personalities and its role in my life. It seems to me that having multiple personalities is not necessarily a disorder, as long as it does not exceed a certain limit. A quick review of my friends’ personalities makes me realize that most of my friends who like me grew up in Tehran and have relatively less strict families tend to have complicated characters. While I do not want to blame having multiple personalities on having grown up in Iran, I do think that living under a strict political system and the feeling of being constantly watched by someone else could in fact, create such a phenomenon.

For instance, let’s go over a simple day that I would spend at home, in school and outside when I was still in Iran and was a teenager:

My father would wake me up early in the morning. Before that, however, I was already waken up by the sound of the morning prayer that could be heard from the outside (for those who know we lived closed to the Mossala of Tehran). I, however, did not care much about the morning prayer and had simply taught myself to tune out the very loud sound of the Quran and sleep. In my pajamas, I would go to the kitchen, have breakfast with my father and if I had time I would listen to my Western music until it was time to go downstairs and wait for the school bus to come. Then, I would quickly wear my garment and tight scarf (maghnaye) and run downstairs. In school, my friends and I would not cease talking about this and that Hollywood movie, American and European actors, actresses and singers. Meanwhile, we would pretend to be very religious and anti-West during some of our classes (i.e. Islamic studies and the Koran). We would say prayers in school and sometimes we would find some silly reason to burst into laughter while praying and that was when we were in serious trouble. After school, some of us would go to English classes and music classes. The environment of these extracurricular classes was fun and it was much less strict than the actual school. I remember one of the things I used to enjoy was to be able to wear some makeup for my English classes in the evening. Anyhow, as we got older, liking boys and dating were added to the list. Those of us who had relatively liberal families would manage to throw dance parties (where we would dance techno and Persian dance) and hang out with our friends and our ‘crush’ at the time. I remember that whenever I had a birthday party, for instance, my parents were very scared of the moral police breaking in the house and giving us trouble for having thrown a co-ed party and having consumed alcoholic beverages. We were the lucky ones, because some of my friends who had more conservative families, had to meet up with their dates out in the streets away from their houses. That by itself was a real adventure. They basically had to make up on lie after another in order to run the kind of social life that due to their age and desires they needed to have.

Many of us were constantly advised to never share what goes on at home with our friends and our teachers. Although we often failed to abide by this ‘privacy’ rule and would share our stories with some of our friends, most of the times we would manage to keep these stories among ourselves and not have them leak to the authorities of the school or our teachers. The funny thing is that later when I was old enough to see things more broadly, I realized that our teachers and the staff of the school would do the same exact thing. They would talk about their controversial opinions and lives at those teachers who were in touch with the authorities of the Ministry of Education and other governmental institutions.

All in all, while being a teenager in Tehran was fun, “fun” was not easy to achieve. In other words, whenever we were partying, dancing, drinking, talking with boys on the phone and in general doing things that were against the strict rules of the regime in Iran, we would feel as though we were real supermen and superwomen who had no fear of breaking the restricting rules. I must admit, later on when I came to the US, it took me a while to understand that the joy of partying, socializing and even drinking is simply because of getting together and having a good time. In Iran, I was brought up to think about these things(having a good time) as rebellious actions that showed our opposition to the strict rules were ordered to abide by all these different social institutions—starting from families to the government.

Anyhow, it is because of the kind of daily life that we(I am specifically talking about the middleclass, more Westernized middle class of Tehran) had during our childhood and teenage years that I think, many of us who grew up in Iran have developed more than simply one “face” with which we present ourselves to the society. We have learned from early on to be a certain way at home and to pretend almost the opposite of that in school and outside. This is why, I think, many of my non-Iranian friends or those who have not grown up in Iran tell me that I have many personalities and that I can easily switch from one “face” to another!

Monday, June 25, 2007

Our Dear Fatema

Fatema & my best friend Pilar

Last week our dear friend, Fatema Khimji, and her father passed away in a tragic accident. We miss them and they will always remain alive in our thoughts and hearts. It is a strange feeling to know that Fatema is not here with us anymore. It was such a sudden loss that it has left me in complete disbelief. I did not know Fatema well myself, but through the stories that her best friend(my best friend as well), Pilar, would tell me about Fatema, I became familiar with Fatema as smart, strong, religious, funny and extremely kind young lady. I wish I was granted the chance to get to know her well before she leaves us and flies else where.

I dedicate this poem by Rumi to Pilar who is understandably truly affected by this unexpected loss:

What is the secret? "God is One."
The sunlight splits when entering the windows of the house.
This multiplicity exists in the cluster of grapes;
It is not in the juice made from the grapes.
For he who is living in the Light of God,
The death of the carnal soul is a blessing.
Regarding him, say neither bad nor good,
For he is gone beyond the good and the bad.
Fix your eyes on God and do not talk about what is invisible,
So that he may place another look in your eyes.
It is in the vision of the physical eyes
That no invisible or secret thing exists.
But when the eye is turned toward the Light of God
What thing could remain hidden under such a Light?
Although all lights emanate from the Divine Light Don't call all these lights "the Light of God";
It is the eternal light which is the Light of God,
The ephemeral light is an attribute of the body and the flesh.
...Oh God who gives the grace of vision! The bird of vision is flying towards You with the wings of desire.
Mystic Odes 833

And here is an article published in the Hoya, Georgetown University's Newspaper(where Fatema went to school):
A Life, Devoted to Friendship and Service, Cut Short
By Michele HongHoya Staff Writer Sunday, June 24, 2007

She would wear a hijab around her head along with a blue shirt, an orange jumper and brown shoes with glitter. She prayed five times a day and in between would listen to indie rock bands or watch reality television. She had just gotten pink streaks in her hair. She was learning to play guitar.
Fatema Khimji (SFS ?07) could not be defined by one word or expression. She would often spend her time actively involved in the Muslim Student Association, pulling together brightly colored ensembles that matched her headscarf and attending the speeches at Gaston Hall. All agreed that she was just beginning to live her life and showed no sign of slowing down.
But during the mid-afternoon on June 19, a month after she received her degree magna cum laude on Healy Lawn, Khimji, 22, and her father Naushad died in a car accident after their Honda Accord collided with a semi-truck on the Ohio Turnpike. They had just left the Cleveland airport, where Khimji had returned from a weekend visit with two of her senior-year roommates in Miami.
As family and friends, including more than two dozen members of the university community, mourned the deaths at funeral services in Ohio last week, Georgetown?s Muslim community worked to keep Khimji?s memory alive; Muslim Chaplain Imam Yahya Hendi organized a memorial service in Copley Formal Lounge yesterday, and MSA held a prayer service Friday evening in the Copley Muslim Prayer Room. Her friends have also considered starting long-term projects to remember her ? they spoke of scholarships, endowments or naming a location on campus after her.
?I still can?t believe she?s gone. I cried in the grocery store yesterday. No matter how many times I say it, I?m still so sure it?s impossible,? Krisztina Schoeb (COL ?07) said. ?She was an angel on earth.?
?A Beautiful Smile?
Khimji was more than just a friend to many at Georgetown; those who knew her best said she was like an older sister in many ways. Her friends were an important priority, as evidenced by her constant willingness to provide advice, lend a helping hand or chat late into the night.
Pilar Siman (SFS ?07), one of her roommates during their senior years, remembered Khimji coming downstairs from her room every night to ask her about her day. Heather O?Brien (COL ?07), who lived in the same house, recalled with a laugh the conversations the six roommates would have on their couches until 3 a.m.
Others said that the guidance and support Khimji gave friends would not be forgotten. Several friends said that they would remember fondly the down-to-earth and sympathetic shoulder that Khimji would offer when they were in need.
?Every time I saw her, she always smiled, and she had a beautiful smile,? Hafsa Kanjwal (SFS ?08) said. ?She also had a silent presence in your life. There are some people where you know they?re there. They kind of have a silent beauty.?
Mariam Abu-Ali (NHS ?10) remembered how Khimji would drop what she herself was doing to edit friend?s essays on short notice ? and would always do so with a smile.
And still more looked back on the many selfless deeds that Khimji enthusiastically performed.
?I will never forget how, every Friday for congregated prayer, she would arrive half an hour early to help me ? carry bulky rolls of carpet from third floor Leavey to the common room on first,? Farah El-Sharif (SFS ?O9), MSA treasurer, said. ?The selfless effort she put forward and her positive and kind spirit made the trouble worthwhile.?
While Khimji may have been like a big sister to many on campus, she was the actual big sister of one student: Faiza Khimji (COL ?09). While Khimji?s family members did not wish to comment, friends described her as a loving and devoted relative.
?I have never seen so much sisterly love, and to me that in itself echoed so much about her remarkable character,? Abu-Ali said. ?Even though they lived together, I still remember a time when she saw her sister walking ? she called out to Faiza and hugged her and said, ?I miss you!??
Khimji was also known to bring laughter to her circle of friends. Renowned for her unrivaled impersonations of teachers, friends and celebrities, she was always the one to lighten the mood.
?If she was telling a story, you could guess immediately who she was talking about because she could mimic voice and mannerisms so well,? Maryam Mohamed (SFS ?06) said.
A Culture and Politics major, Khimji took classes in both Spanish and Arabic and spent time abroad in Ecuador and Egypt. Although she took her studies and grades seriously, several said she quenched knowledge for its own sake.
Throughout all this, many of Khimji?s friends took special note of the humility with which she carried herself. To her, it was a personal choice about humility that caused her to wear her hijab every day.
?She was always humble about everything, whether it be a really great internship that she got or her ever-trendy fashion choices,? Jane Kim (COL ?07), another of her former roommates, said. ?In a place like Georgetown ? this humility was so refreshing and attractive.?
A Leader in Faith
A devout Muslim, Khimji was dedicated to keeping Islamic traditions in her life. She put her daily activities on hold for prayer and chose to wear a hijab in public. During Ramadan, her friends remembered her leaving her 34th and R townhouse every day to pray at Copley at five in the morning.
Khimji?s faith served as a model for those she was around. Not only did she regularly attend her religious services, but actively listened to the lessons they preached and attempted to apply them to her everyday life. Earlier this year she came home excitedly sporting a large yellow heart on a silver chain around her neck, according to several friends, but after attending a Friday prayer service during which the readings emphasized the virtues of a simple life, Khimji returned home having decided that her most recent purchase was unnecessary.
?She took faith and put it into practice, but not in a way that made other people feel uncomfortable,? Siman, one of her roommates, said. ?Her faith just made her care about being with others.?
Khimji spent much of her time on the Hilltop working with MSA, having served as community service co-chair and Ramadan coordinator. Aside from her formal roles in MSA, however, she played a much bigger part in the student group; members of MSA remember her as the social glue that bound together the incoming freshmen and the other students.
Kanjwal, an MSA member, remembered that during one of her first days as a freshman when she didn?t know many people, she went to the Muslim Interest Living Community in Alumni Square and knocked on Khimji?s door. ?She opened the door and was so happy to see me, so welcoming,? she said, noting that she did not even know Khimji at the time. ?She made the transition a lot easier for myself and a few of the other freshman girls that year.?
In the wake of her death, the Georgetown Muslim community to which she was so devoted has solemnly united in solidarity. Hendi, the Muslim chaplain, said that he received numerous phone calls and e-mails offering assistance for yesterday?s service, during which passages from the Quran were read and many, including Hendi, spoke about Khimji.
?She was never angry, never upset,? Hendi said. ?She believed that smiling is an act of charity.?
In the Service of Others
Although Khimji had not decided on any one profession by the time of her graduation, she did have five definite options lined up; the day after her death, she was to be interviewed over the phone by the Federal Trade Commission, and she had just been called by the National Zoo, where she was thinking of becoming a volunteer coordinator. She also was considering joining the Peace Corps, which had already expressed an interest in sending her to central Asia. Wide-ranging though her job options were, they all had one thing in common ? as she had done during her life up until then, Khimji wanted to put herself at the service of others.
Many of Khimji?s friends described her as a tireless advocate for tolerance and social justice. With her great-grandparents coming from the Gujarati region of India and her grandparents and parents from eastern Africa, Khimji herself was the product of several cultures, and she was known to be not only accepting, but genuinely interested in learning about other people?s backgrounds. After living in the Muslim Interest Living Community her sophomore year, she spent her senior year in a townhouse with five non-Muslim students.
?People all live with a certain lifestyle, raised with certain prejudices. She was a very observant Muslim, but she was always comfortable with someone who wasn?t a Muslim,? Minoo Razavi (SFS ?09) said. ?That was the most admirable quality that she had ? she made you feel comfortable.?
Khimji was raised as a Muslim but was always eager to learn about other religions and their traditions. Having attended an all-girls Catholic high school, a few of her Catholic friends joked that she knew more about the religion than they did.
?Sometimes people with different religions are uncomfortable with each other, but she was the bridge,? Siman said.
While in Miami last week visiting with Siman and O?Brien, Khimji was working on her application to be a Muslim liaison for the Buxton Initiative, which works to promote discourse and understanding between peoples of different faiths. In the application that she had been working on right before the accident, Khimji conveyed the accepting, curious and nurturing personality that her friends all remember.
?I have attended Catholic schools since I was eight years old. Since that age, I have worshipped, studied and volunteered with classmates and teachers of diverse religious backgrounds,? she wrote. ?My faith reminds me that I need to leave this world better than I found it; it gives me purpose and direction and reminds me that with privilege comes responsibility, and that I have a duty to use what I have in the service of others.?
Fatema, hear our voice:
We will love you and think about you and miss you forever!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

TransFORM/NATION Exhibition

Dear friends,

please join us(IAAB) this Thursday, June 21 from 6-9pm for the opening reception of TRANSFORM/NATION: Contemporary Art of Iran and its Diaspora. There will be live music, food, and drinks and a chance to meet some of the artists.


Amir Rad - Untitled

Washington DC · Tehran · June 22-August 4, 2007

Join IAAB and 21 Iranian artists from around the world
to explore Iranian identity, tradition and stereotypes

Multi-media exhibitions in DC, Tehran, & online

Ellipse Arts Center · Arlington, VA (DC Metro Area)

Exhibiting Artists: Samira Abbassy, USA · Haleh Anvari, Iran · Kaya Behkalam, Germany · Mina Ghaziani, Iran · Pantea Karimi, USA · Bani Khoshnoudi, France · Haleh Niazmand, USA · Amir Rad, Iran · Afarin Rahmanifar, USA · Jairan Sadeghi, USA · Samineh Sarvghad, Iran · Farideh Shahsavarani, Iran · Samira Yamin, USA · Siamak Nasiri Ziba, Iran

Nikzad Gallery · Tehran, Iran

Exhibiting Artists: Ali Alavi, Iran · Nazgol Ansarinia, Iran · Amir Sabber Esfahani, USA · Bani Khoshnoudi, France · Farideh Shahsavarani, Iran · Maryam Shirinlou, Iran · Shadi Yousefian, USA · Mahboubeh Zadehahmadi, Iran · Shahnaz Zehtab, Iran · Siamak Nasiri Ziba, Iran

Curated by: Narges Bajoghli, Nikoo Paydar, Leyla Pope and Maryam Ovissi

Friday, June 15, 2007

Nuruddin Farah’s Links

Just Violence and Retaliation in Nuruddin Farah’s Links

by Azadeh Pourzand

This poem is a gun
This poem's an assassin
Images mob my mind …
This pen’s a spear, a knife
A branding-iron, an arrow
Tipped with righteous anger
It writes with blood and bile

(Maxamed Xaashi Dhamac ‘Gaarriye’)

Nuruddin Farah’s Links, a narrative about the brutal Somali Civil War , is inevitably filled with descriptions of shootings, traumatizing deaths and bloody corpses. [1]As Farah himself describes Somalia during the civil war in “A Country in Exile”, “(…) [H]ate had inevitably exploded in various localities of the land, and if I may allude to a Somali aphorism, knives were posed against knives, and unreason began to rule. And homes were looted in the name of democratic vengeance, women raped, pregnant mothers brutalized” (Farah 6). Upon arriving in Mogadiscio, Jeebleh—the protagonist of Links—finds himself in a country ravaged by the tragic violence of the civil war. Even though Jeebleh is well-read about the details of his country’s civil war, at first he seems clueless and traumatized by what he encounters in the Somalia to which he has returned after 20 years of having lived in the West.

Farah writes, “With every cell in his body responding to his restless caution, he wished he knew where the danger lurked, who was a friend and who was a foe” (Farah10). Fearing his life in a city that is no less than a battlefield, Jeebleh initially has little understanding of the severe armed violence that every second determines his life and death. His stay in the Somalia caught in a civil war, however, makes him enter the circle of the violent local politics and to take an active role in the realities of the civil war. In other words, it does not take Jeebleh too long to lose his initial naiveté and vigilance and to develop a local understanding of the civil war. In this essay, I am going to analyze a few instances of Jeebleh’s evolving thoughts on the brutal violence that he observes and experiences in Somalia. In my paper I intend to do a brief comparative analysis of Jeebleh’s initial reactions to the armed violence around him and his eventual—and perhaps inevitable—changes in relation to the hatred and violence that he himself experiences during his stay in Mogadiscio. I argue that Jeebleh’s eventual involvement in the circle of the civil war violence that he first criticizes as a newcomer becomes the representative of the civil war’s circle of continuous and contagious violence and murdering as a just way of self-defense and of taking revenge. By closely looking at Jeebleh’s evolving thoughts on violence and the morality of it throughout his journey in Somalia, I intend to analyze Farah’s literally representation of the inevitable circle of violence that functions as a form of an inevitable trap for Somalis in today’s Somalia.

I. Jeebleh’s Initial Introduction to the Violence of the Civil War

On Jeebleh’s first day of arrival in a city ruled by guns, the Major who is sitting with him in the car bitterly and rhetorically asks him, “ Has it ever occurred to you that some of us carry our guns, as the good everywhere must bear arms, to fight and to die for justice?’” (Farah 28). Although in response to the Major’s statement, Jeebleh who fears his life tries to say otherwise, in his mind he condemns the active participation of different clans members in the wide-spread armed violence and murderings in the city. Farah writes, “Jeebleh considered the acts of all these armed movements immoral” (Farah 28). Still in disbelief, he compares the “peaceable” and “orderly” Somalia that he left behind 20 years ago and he mourns the lost dignity of his city and his country. In describing Jeebleh’s thoughts, the narrative voice states, “It [Mogadiscio] may have been poor, but at least there was dignity to its poverty, and no one was in any hurry to plunder or destroy what they couldn’t have (Farah 35). As a person who has not yet personally gotten drawn into the violence that seems to have become the only ruler of the city and who is not yet too busy defending himself and hating enemies, Jeebleh condemns the immorality of what he sees and seeks for the calm city with dignity that he has left behind.

Soon after having seen a few snapshots of the violence of the civil war before his eyes and having felt the concept of death as a reality that might capture him or any other person at any moment, Jeebleh begins to experience difficulties in explaining his identity in relation to the violent and brutal politics of a civil war to which he is now truly a witness. Farah writes, “His agitation was due, in part, to a lack of clarity in his mind—how to define himself here. His difficulty lay elsewhere, in his ability to choose whom he would associate himself with” (Farah 35). Traumatized by the observations of his first day in Somalia, Jeebleh already begins to rethink his identity as a Somalian who in the comfort of his American life has read the news and watched the reports of the national self-murdering and the violence of the clans’ politics in his country.

Although the Somali civil war itself does not come to Jeebleh as a surprise, living the war for only one day seems enough to make him question his own presence in Somalia and to change his perception of himself. Farah writes, “(…) he felt alienated from himself, as though he had become another person, when he witnessed the brutal murder of the ten-year-old boy earlier”(Farah 42). In a way, only one day into his trip to Somalia and having faced the unbearable violence in his homeland, Jeebleh is already a changed man. Even though Jeebleh is introduced to the cruelty of the civil war, he is still able to look at things with a certain level of detachment.[2] He has not personally experienced the kind of anger that has become the epidemic disease of his city and or the most part is the source of the continuous violence that rules over the nation of Somalia.

II. Jeebleh’s Involvement in Intimate Violence

In Logic of Violence in Civil War, Kalyvas states, “Revenge is probably the most recurrent feature in descriptions of violence in civil war, often leading to the metaphor of blood feud or vendetta; it is a central theme of novels and memoirs, and more generally of the folklore of civil wars(…)”(Kalyvas 59). Farah’s Links, too, in many ways evolves around the notion of revenge which becomes one of the main sources of the continuous and contagious form of clans and kinship violence in a country caught in a brutal civil war. Even Jeebleh who has been away for 2 decades and has been out of touch with not only the politics of the civil war and has been long out of touch with his family and relatives in Somalia eventually gets involved in the politics of violence and of taking revenge through physical elimination. Through his developing feeling of hatred and anger with his cruel half-brother, Caloosha, he, too, gets drawn into the cycle of violence—from which at first he tries to stay away.

After feeling threatened and humiliated by Caloosha’s follower, Af-Laawe, in his search for his dead mother’s grave and the true story of his mother’s death, Jeebleh takes up a gun for the first time in his life and appreciates the “beauty” of the gun in his hand. Farah writes,

This was the first time in his life that Jeebleh had held a firearm. What worried him was his spellbound, facile adoration of the gun. The muscleman had injected him with a potion that had altered his nature and personality, and soon he might no longer challenge a statement like the one spoken by Af-Laawe on the day of his arrival: the guns lack the body of human truth!(Farah 256)

As cautious and nonviolence as he was in the beginning, Jeebleh, now a changed man, finds himself fascinated with the gun that he has in his hands. His “adoration” of the gun comes to him as a surprise. After having felt so close to death in the presence of Af-Lawwe and his musclemen, Jeebleh seems to understand and appreciate the purpose of holding a firearm: to defend and to avenge. Due to his altered “nature”, Jeebleh now actually agrees with what the statement with which Af-Laawe had welcomed him at the airport: “the guns lack the body of human truth!” While at the airport, this statement had terrified him and had reminded him of the violent immorality that he had entered, Jeebleh now takes comfort in thinking about Af-Laawe’s statement about guns. Yet another armed man in the city, Jeebleh, too, feels the desire of fighting in himself by taking the gun in his hands with which he could act beyond his human conscience and to relieve his growing fear and hatred.

Raasta’s return —his half brother, Bile’s very dear niece who is recognized as the symbol of peace from the time she was born—after having been abducted by Caloosha and hearing what she has gone through in the confinement of Caloosha, make Jeebleh even more hateful of Caloosha than before. Ready for retaliation, it is as though pulling the trigger of the gun he has come to appreciate becomes an easy task. Although the story does not get into the details of Caloosha’s death, we know that Jeebleh plays the key role in taking revenge from Caloosha and having him murdered. In thinking about the murdering of Caloosha, Jeebleh assesses his old and new philosophies on the enforcement of violence:

Now getting rid of Caloosha was no mean feat! Given the choice, Jeebleh would appose all forms of violence. But what is one to do when there no other way to rid society of vermin?(…)So which would he rather be, someone who kills for justice, or someone helplessly unable to do anything? He would rather he killed than twiddle his thumbs, waiting for others to do the job” (Farah 332).

At this point, Jeebleh enraged by Caloosha’s crimes, considers violence the only just way for retaliation and for preventing more violence to take place by this cruel man. Jeebleh considers the murdering of Caloosha an act of violence in the name of justice. Although he wishes that he could always remain opposing to “all forms of violence”, he does not think that the society could get a rid of a vermin as malicious as Caloosha without using absolute violence. In other words, Jeebles has grown so hateful of Caloosha that nothing else other than having him killed could satisfy his resentment. Thus, he chooses to kill than “waiting for others to do the job”.

Even though the nature of life in the civil war changes Jeebleh’s “personality” and his initial strict principles that rejected violence altogether, it does not take away his compassion and sensitivity as a human being. Farah writes, “Presumably his general personality would be unaltered. No doubt, something in him had given here and there, the way fabric stretches. But the basic remained, gathered at the seams, where the stitching might be faulty” (Farah 329). Despite his change of principles on the use of violence, Jeebleh never approves of the political violence that has taken over this beloved homeland, Somalia. He leaves Somalia to go back to the US hoping that his country soon rescues itself from the self-destruction and the continuous violence that rule over the people and the land of Somalia.

One day before his departure from Somalia and soon after Caloosha’s death, Jeebleh is described as mournful in the apartment all by himself. Farah writes, “And he was in a mourning mood (…) He reminded himself of the tradition that a mourned desist as long as possible from changing his clothes. And so he wore the same clothes he had worn the day before (…)” (Farah 331). It seems that Jeebleh is not only mourning his own retaliation from cruel half-brother, but he is also mourning what the civil war has done to Somalia and to the lives of his own friends and family. He perhaps even mourns his own use of absolute violence as the only remaining way of retaliation from his own half-brother.


Although Jeebleh, the protagonist of Link, eventually chooses violence as a form of justice, I argue that it is not Farah’s intention to justify violence in the Somali Civil War. Farah, however, uses his literature in order to portray the ruling of violence in Somalia and the cycle of civil war violence in which individuals, families and the nation as a whole get drawn. Farah attempts to demonstrate the epidemic nature of violence in a nation that is being ruled not solely by guns that are arbitrarily present everywhere, but by those who generate hostilities and the politics of violence. Farah writes,

Jeebleh thought of how the country had been buried under the rubble of political ruin, and how Somalis woke to being betrayed by the religious men and the clan elders who were in cahoots with a cabal of warlords to share the gain they could make out of ordinary people’s miseries (Farah 331).

Although Jeebleh remains extremely critical of the civil war in Somalia throughout his trip, his critique of the situation seems to evolve in the course of the story. Upon his arrival, Jeebleh tends to criticize armed men all over the city and those who continuously use armed violence. He considers their violence to be immoral and unacceptable. By the time he is ready to leave Somalia, however, although he remains very critical of the situation, he—who now has experienced the taste of both being the victim and perpetuator of violence—seems to think more deeply about the politics of violence and to criticize those who for their own benefit generate and lead the culture of guns and cyclical trap of armed violence behind the scene. This is why, I believe that Farah’s Link is a critique of the leading motives behind generating the cycle of armed violence in Somalia than the ordinary people who have been handed guns and have been given the power to repeatedly pull the trigger at one another and get drawn into the politics of violence and self-destruction. Links is a critique of those who feed the anarchy and the politics of violence and who leave ordinary people with very few options other than seeking justice through yet more violence.

Cited Sources

*Bavella, Rahma. "The Poetics of Displacement*." 09-01-2006 . Farah, Nuruddin. Links. New York: River Head Books, 2004.

Farah, Nuruddin. "A County in Exile." Transition 57(1992): 4-8.

Kalyvas, Stathis N. Kalyvas. The Logic of Violence in Civil War. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006.

"Somalia Civil War." Global Security.Net .

[1] “The Somali Republic gained independence on July 1, 1960. Somalia was formed by the union of British Somaliland and Italian Somaliland, while French Somaliland became Djibouti. A socialist state was established following a coup led by Major General Muhammad Siad Barre. Rebel forces ousted the Barre regime in 1991, but turmoil, factional fighting, and anarchy ensued. The Somali National Movement (SNM) gained control of the north, while in the capital of Mogadishu and most of southern Somalia the United Somali Congress achieved control. Somalia has been without a stable central government since dictator Mohamed Siad Barre fled the country in 1991” (Global Security)

[2] Since simply by being in Somalia Jeebleh’s life like many other Somalis is at risk at any given moment, he cannot be fully detached from the situation. But he is still more detached than those who have personal reasons for their violence and anger.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Global Feminisms

Boryana Rossa (Bulgarian, b. 1972). Celebrating the Next Twinkling (Praznuvane na sledvascia mig), 1999. Single-channel video, Edition of 2, 2 min. 45 sec. Private collection. Photograph courtesy of the artist

March 23–July 1, 2007
Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art and Morris A. and Meyer Schapiro Wing, 4th Floor

In celebration of the opening of the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art, the Museum presents Global Feminisms, the first international exhibition exclusively dedicated to feminist art from 1990 to the present. The show consists of work by approximately eighty women artists from around the world and includes work in all media—painting, sculpture, photography, film, video, installation, and performance. Its goal is not only to showcase a large sampling of contemporary feminist art from a global perspective but also to move beyond the specifically Western brand of feminism that has been perceived as the dominant voice of feminist and artistic practice since the early 1970s.This exhibition is arranged thematically and features the work of important emerging and mid-career artists.

The Brooklyn Museum presents exhibitions that give voice to diverse points of view. Global Feminisms contains challenging subject matter that some visitors may find disturbing or offensive. Children 17 and under must be accompanied by an adult. Discretion is advised.

This exhibition is co-curated by Maura Reilly, Ph.D., Curator of the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art, Brooklyn Museum, and Linda Nochlin, Ph.D., Lila Acheson Wallace Professor of Modern Art, Institute of Fine Arts, New York University.

Global Feminisms is sponsored by Altria Group. Additional support is provided by the Elizabeth A. Sackler Foundation and the French Embassy Cultural Services.

Those of you who are in the New York area, should consider stopping by this new exhibition and watching this film. :) I heard it is a "crazy" film with an important message and that it is interesting to watch. Here is the website of the exhibition:
Click Here

And also if you are interested in watching or listening to some of the speeches of the opening of the exhibition, you can find them all by going to:

Click Here

Among these speeches, you could also find Parastou Forouhar's talk. Here it is:

Click Here


Honor Thy Father

by Phylis Collier

She was dragged out of her house, her head held in a headlock. For just a second a close up of her face showed it distorted by fear, her eyes wild. There was shouting from the crowd. A sense of pandemonium. The raised fist clutching a rock dissolved in a blur of motion as the cell-phone video lost focus. You could only imagine the fury with which she was attacked. Imagine the impact of the rock on her skull, the screams. The rocks that followed. Blood streaming down her long dark hair. You had to somehow force yourself to imagine it because she had lived it, and had not lived through it. In the end there was only her body sprawled on the ground wearing a red cardigan sweater and dark pants. She had been kicked, beaten and stoned to death.

That morning, when 17-year-old Dua Khalil Aswad put on her red sweater, did she have any premonition of what lay ahead? When she heard the men outside her window did her heart sicken? When her cousin came into the house did she know then? When he grabbed her, holding her head in the crook of his arm like a cowboy dragging down a steer, she knew. But it was too late then to escape. Perhaps she saw the police looking on and thought they would save her. Perhaps she thought her mother would burst through the crowd and save her.Where was her mother? Was she in the house, screaming too, being held back from saving her by the father she had dishonored?

I wonder about the man who videoed the carnage with his mobile phone. Was it only a spectator sport? Did he have hopes of selling it to American television for a sum that would support his family for years? Or perhaps, as I like to think, he was the only hero in the crowd. He intended to show the world that medieval brutality still exists, knowing there was nothing he could do could stop it. Whatever his motive, Dua’s murder has been broadcast around the world. People are angry. Governments are appalled. Suddenly, it is as though nobody ever heard of honor killings and they are demanding both revenge and reform. Four people have been arrested in the murder of this 17-year old Kurdish girl in Iraq. They are still searching for four others and the cousin who was the main killer.

It hasn’t taken long for the media to uncover another photograph of Dua. This one is reminiscent of most school photos where you are told to look into the camera, and so her beautiful almond eyes gaze directly into our own. Except for the slight smile on her lips, her expression is calm, almost placid. It is a photograph taken light years ago.

Only when studying the photograph I notice that she is wearing one small earring. Is this acceptable? Or is it too modern? And the way her hair dips slightly over here left eye. Is this too suggestive for a religion that expects sensuality to stay in the recesses of imagination? Perhaps these were clues that led her family to suspect an independent mind was in their midst. Clues radical enough to worry a cousin to follow her, and to finally catch her with a Sunni Muslim man. But was she only talking to him? Did they touch? Did the cousin watch them smile into each other’s eyes? Nothing is clear. It is only reported that she was seen with this man. But for a girl who knew her Yazidi religion forbade mixing with other faiths, she had done the unspeakable. The minds of family members raced towards the inevitable: How could it have been anything other than lust that persuaded her to be seen with this vermin? Had she already had sex with him? Were they planning to elope? There was no time to think further, only to act.

Now they are hunting the cousin, but are they really looking that hard? Or when Dua’s face fades from the world’s consciousness, will their attempts to bring these men to justice fade as well? After all, this has been going on as long as men have tried to control a woman’s actions, thoughts and desires. It doesn’t matter that the United Nations and human rights groups have condemned honor killings. They still take place by the thousands around the world. Houzan Mahmoud, spokeswoman for the Organization of Womens’ Freedom in Iraq, will assure you that the religious and social climate in Iraq is such that people can do what they did to Dua in broad daylight and authorities will not intervene.

And so when women in Muslim fundamentalist families are raped, they bring dishonor and must be killed. Their brothers do it. Or cousins. Or any male relative macho enough to wipe the sin from the family‘s name with the girl’s blood.

Years ago, the voice of a Muslim father in Jordan was captured on tape. He was strangling his teenage daughter who was taking much too long to die. “Die, will you!” he screamed,” Eventually, she honored her father.

Two brothers gun down their sister in Berlin. They are Turkish Muslims who find her guilty of “living like a German whore” because she divorced the husband who was given to her in a prearranged marriage.

“A woman shamed is like rotting flesh, a Palestinian merchant says. “If it is not cut away it will consume the body.”

In some communities, women who have the temerity to refuse a marriage, ask for a divorce, survive a rape, or who simply talk to a man, are guilty of bringing shame to the family. If she has the misfortune to be born into an Islamic fundamentalist family she can be beaten, burned, strangled, shot or stoned to death. Her death is often ruled a suicide. She is often buried in an unmarked grave, her very existence removed.

The light and intelligence in Dua’s eyes looked out onto a poor village in Iraq. Would it have made a difference if she had been born into a Muslim fundamentalist family in another country? No. Although honor killings occur mainly in poor, rural tribal areas or among uneducated urban dwellers, they occur in every corner of the globe. Ignorance is the real killer and education is the only hope. Someone without education, acting on a primal level of fear and hatred, will not hesitate to kill his daughter, sister or his wife.

I go back to the videotape on CNN and watch it again. There seems to be more footage this time. It shows Dua on the ground trying to get up. She is kicked again and collapses again.

It is a small village where she lived. These men knew her, and had probably known her since she was a child playing with their own children. It makes me wonder if those men who watched her die are obsessing over these images as I am. Do the pictures of Dua’s bloody and blackened face haunt their sleep? Perhaps, like me, they can’t turn away because bearing witness is so little to offer her. We must force ourselves to watch this inhumanity because she lived it, and she did not live through it.

Organization for Women’s Freedom in Iraq

Phylis Collier

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