Kurdish culture takes the spotlight

It’s a story for the ages: a young Canadian travels to Turkey, falls in love, and finds herself married to a Kurdish freedom fighter.

That is the story of Laurie Fraser, an Ottawa-based writer whose novel The Words Not Spoken – based on her real life – was featured in a recent celebration of Kurdish culture at the Main Branch of the Ottawa Public Library.

It was Fraser’s marriage to a member of a Kurdish militant organization in 1994 that moved her to the small Turkish village of Gorema.

Fraser was on hand to share her story on Nov. 15 at the library’s first ”Words and Kurds” cultural event.

“Hopefully the lines between my actual experiences and pure fiction are seamless,” says Fraser. 

“The fiction is believable, and the truth is sometimes outrageous.”

The afternoon featured Fraser alongside Carleton University professor Jaffer Sheyholislami, sharing literature inspired by the culture of Kurdistan, an area that straddles Iraq, Syria, Turkey and Iran, with a population of approximately 28 million.

Kurdish nationalist organizations seek to establish an independent nation state of Kurdistan, while other groups campaign for Kurdish autonomy. 

“We said we should look at the lighter side of things and shed some light on what else Kurds do,” says Sheyholislami. 

“Like any other people they live, they have music, they have poetry.”

The event was designed to open a “dialogue on current issues, and to share past experiences,” says event organizer and master of ceremonies Jeghir Jahangir, of the Kurdish Youth Association of Canada.

The KYAC co-ordinates events to celebrate Kurdish identity and freedom. 

While most events take a political stance, this event was designed to celebrate and share Kurdish culture.
“It’s not about news, it’s not about politics,” says Fraser. “Let’s just share stories.”