Footsteps! I know the sound of those heavy boots. I know them well. My pen falls down from my bed and I curl into a ball, shrinking with fear. The pain in my head and face, legs and back, stomach and ribs becomes much sharper. Clutching at the pillow does not stop me from shaking. The footsteps stop before they reach my ward. “Hands up,” I think, and almost say it out loud.
“Hands up,” the old guard says.
I know what they are doing in the other cell. The blindfold, the click of the handcuffs, and the guards take Ali out, pushing and kicking him.
I toss and turn and follow them in my head as Ali is taken downstairs, dragged nineteen steps to the right, down nineteen stairs and delivered to the interrogators. Under his blindfold, Ali will count the pairs of shoes in the room: four, six, eight . . . black, formal shoes that are thick with blood, polished by blood. The whipping will start soon after the curses. If the man they call “Mongrel” is there, the interrogation will last longer and be much more painful. Every Kurd knows that man’s strange voice, an unusual mixture of high and low. In his vocabulary, “fucking murdering savages” means “Kurds.” It is rumoured that Mongrel’s brother had been killed in Kurdistan thirty years ago during one of the uprisings. Five, six whiplashes and Ali will think about concentration camps, pyramids, the Great Wall of China, but he will not feel the whipping anymore. I hope.
The number of cracks on the wall is three hundred and five today. I sneak a pen out from under my mattress and take some paper, folded four times, out from my underwear. “My dear students,” I write, lying on my left on a stinking army blanket. “All I have been able to do for you is to secretly teach you our Kurdish alphabet, our literature and our history. Please, children, remember your heritage and pass it on. Dear little ones, never allow this knowledge to steal from you the joy of childhood. May you keep the joy of youth in your minds forever. It may be the one and only investment you can use later when the agony of earning the ‘bread and butter’ dominates you, my sons, and the sin of being ‘the second sex’ overpowers you, my daughters. When you are picking flowers in the valleys to make crowns for your children, tell them about the purity and happiness of childhood. Remember not to turn your backs on your dreams, loves, music, poetry and Kurdistan’s magical nature. Get together, sing the songs and recite the poetry as we used to do.”
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Watch Ava Homa talk at the “NYS Writers Institute”:
Can you hear it? That is the sound of the secret history of the Kurds.
It sounds just like a lullaby passing through cracks in concrete walls.
Farzad Kamangar, a village teacher labelled terrorist, counts those cracks, argues innocence and shares the hopeful sweetness of home made chocolates with his fellow prisoners.
Her work has appeared in The Literary Review of Canada, Toronto Quarterly, Windsor Review, the Toronto Star and Rabble. Her collection has a running theme of resistance by modern Iranian women. The stories are told on a universal scale, depicting human endurance, desire and passion.
Ava Homa is a columnist for Bas Newspaper, teaches Creative Writing and English at George Brown College in Toronto and a is member of PEN Canada.
Ava exiled from Kurdistan-Iran in 2007 leaving her family and friends behind her.
She is among the few Kurdish female authors who write about the Kurdish community, Human Rights abused and history.