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  • Interview with Haifa Zangana
  • Wen-Chin Ouyang (bio)

Haifa Zangana (1950– ) is an Iraqi Kurdish writer, political activist, and artist currently based in London. Between 1977 and 1986, she was active mainly in art, taking part in nine group exhibits and two individual exhibits (in Iceland in 1982 and London in 1988). She has published three novels: the autobiographical novel Fi arwiqat al-dhakira was initially serialized in the journal al-Ightirab al-Adabi (Literary Exile) and then translated into English by Paul Hammond as In the Vast Halls of Memory (Paris: Hourglass, 1991); Mafatih madina (Keys to a City) (London: Dar al-Hikma, 2000), English translation under review by Syracuse University Press; and Nisa' 'ala safar (London: Dar al-Hikma, 2001), translated into English by Judy Cumberbatch as Women on a Journey: Between Baghdad and London (Austin, Texas: The University of Texas Press, 2007). She has also published three collections of short stories: Bayt al-Naml (Ant's Nest) (London: Dar al-Hikma, 1996); Thammata akhar (In the Presence of Others) (London: Dar al-Hikma, 1999); and Ab'ad mimma nara (Beyond What The Eye Can See) (London: Dar al-Hikma, 1997). More recently, she has written extensively on the impact of the American-led occupation on the life of ordinary Iraqis for the media, including The Guardian, and has spoken at political rallies and events in the UK, Continental Europe, North America, and the Arab world. She has recently completed a non-fiction book entitled Interrupted Struggle: A Short History of Women in Iraq.

W. Ouyang: You were born in Baghdad in 1950 and left it in 1976. You have been living in London since. What brought you from Iraq to Britain?

Haifa Zangana: I had to leave after my imprisonment. After I was released from prison I was watched closely every day. I had to report to the authorities every month. I was frequently taken for interrogation without any prior warning. It was becoming very dangerous for my family and it was also becoming impossible for me to have a life in Iraq. [End Page 447]

W. Ouyang: Why were you imprisoned?

Haifa Zangana: I was a member of a faction of the Communist Party, but not the pro-Soviet main branch. We were demanding self-rule for Iraqi Kurds within a democratic Iraq and joining the armed struggle to overthrow the Ba'ath regime within a movement stretching from Kurdistan to the southern Arab marshes. I was one of many Iraqis who joined the Palestinian struggle following the 1967 war, believing that the occupation of Palestine and forcing Palestinians to leave their homes to live in refugee camps was simply a gross injustice that had to end.

W. Ouyang: Were you fighting for the independence of Kurdistan because you're Kurdish?

Haifa Zangana: We fought to establish self-rule for Iraqi Kurds within a democratic Iraq, not independence; we did not think an independent Kurdistan is feasible. I believe that the best solution for the Kurdish Question within Iraq is a federal, independent Iraq, where all Iraqis enjoy peace built on justice regardless of their ethnic and religious background. The Iraqi resistance is fighting the occupation in all Iraq except the three Kurdish provinces, mainly because they are controlled by two corrupt political parties. In 1988, after the use of chemical weapons against the people of Halabja I'd never felt more Kurdish than then. Witnessing the plight of the majority of Iraqi people and their tremendous suffering under occupation, I've never felt more Arab than now.

W. Ouyang: Because you believe in Iraq as country or nation-state?

Haifa Zangana: As a country. Iraq is an ancient country and Iraqi people have been living in this country for thousands of years. When Iraqis speak of Iraq they think in terms of the two rivers, Tigris and Euphrates, and of historical continuity. We see Iraq as a country where ancient history blends with Islamic culture, archeology with architecture, storytelling with history, song and music with art and science. Contrary to the neo-liberal view of Iraq, it is not an invented country, but has existed from time immemorial. Prior to the occupation and especially in...


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pp. 447-453
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Archive Status
Archived 2009
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