I Cannot Unsee the Problems

This is a repost of a student blog from December 23, 2015, which is still very relvent and timely. 

My name is Zhiwar Jawhar (Zhiwar Nazanin) and I am an undergraduate student in the IT degree program. This fall semester, I was a student in Dr. Choman's ART 102 class, which explores gender issues in society with a particular focus on the media. I decided to create a short video as my final project for this class. My video project, Daykm Pashnawma, is supervised by Dr. Choman Hardi (Choman Saadia), the chair of the English Department and founding director of the Center for Gender and Development Studies.

The main aim of the video is to question patriarchal society and men’s sense of ownership in society by focusing on family names; the subjects in the video state their mothers’ names as their last names and restate some sexist idioms to make them non-sexist. Sexist language excludes a gender when discussing a topic that applies to both sexes and shows gender bias. Language has an important role in shaping the society, and it is a reflection of the society that reinforces stereotypes. In the Kurdish language, inequality has an obvious appearance in portraying gender imbalance. Unfortunately, people see it as a normal thing - they do not see it as a problem or a big deal.

In a patriarchal society, everything is dominated by men and they claim ownership. I can no longer subscribe to such a system. In a family, for example, the man has ownership of the children who take his last name. It is through this point which I question male ownership. The name of men appear throughout our history and lives while the name of women fade away. I can recall more than ten of my male ancestors, but, unfortunately, I do not know the names of my great grandmothers. While reading a book about my family’s tribe from cover to cover, about 200 pages, I never came across the name of a woman.

During the recording of the video, I asked one of the subjects to say his grandmother's name after his mother's name. He stayed silent for a moment and then said, "I cannot remember. Look at what they have done to our mind." Patriarchy is practiced through language everyday and the language has come to be dominated by men.

Additionally, the other problem that I worked on is restating some sexist idioms to make them non sexist. For example, I tried to change, "My dad is my hero," to, "my parents are my heroes."

For my video project, I interviewed six well-known men to appear in my video project and speak about the role of their mothers in their lives. I asked them to state their mother’s last name and to restate a sexist idiom to make it non sexist. I interviewed Aram Ali (Aram Fatm) and Shwan Attoof (Shwan Suhaiba) in Aram Gallery. Aram Ali is the owner of Gallery Aram and is a respected Kurdish artist; Shwan Atooff is an actor and director and has participated in many international film festivals. I also invited Kurdish authors and translators, Mariwan Halabjayi (Mariwan Garda), Peshraw Hussain (Peshraw Bafraw), Yassen Omer (Yassen Pur Aftaw), Hossein Hossaini ( Hossein Rabi) to visit the campus for my project. They brought along with them several of their works to donate to the AUIS library’s Kurdish and Persian collection. 

Mariwan Halabjayi translates from Persian to Kurdish and from Kurdish to Persian. He has translated many important Kurdish novels into the Persian language; among them are Dwahamin Hanari Dunia by Bakhtyar Ali and Hasar u Sagakani Bawkm by Sherzad Hassan, thus making Kurdish literature available to an Iranian audience.

Hossien Hossieni (Hosseien Rabi), who is a lecturer at the University of Sulaimani and a writer, is also a translator, from English to Kurdish. He has translated many significant scientific books, the Grand Design by Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow is among them. Peshraw Hossen (Peshraw Bafraw), who is teacher at Sulaimani Institute of Fine Arts and an actor and director, translates from Persian to Kurdish. He has translated many important pieces of literature, such as the memoirs of Albert Camus and the Complete works of Constantin Stanislavski. Yassen Omer (Yassen Pur Aftaw) is a writer, translator, and a TV presenter. He has written and translated many important works; Tyanusy Pashay Hich is one of his most important works, which is a collection of his poems. 

My video project will be published soon on YouTube, Sulyon Web, and AUIS official Facebook page. I would like to express my gratitude to all the writers who visited AUIS and donated their books to the library, and to all the above for agreeing to be part of my project. I am also grateful to Soran Naqishbandi (Soran Suuad) for helping me with the camera and editing and Komeley 68 that was there at the beginning of the project. Many thanks to Dr. Choman Hardi, who has taught me many things; the most important is learning to see the hidden injustices. Also, I have learned that the first step in overcoming any conflict is understanding it; that raising awareness does not only give us knowledge, but it also leads us to take action; that once you see a problem, you cannot unsee it. Although I am an IT major, I have come to learn much about my society and this is one of the benefits of studying in a liberal arts program.

Photo Description: a series of six photos shows different combinations of several men. The first shows the head and shoulders of a man with curly grey-black hair and a slight beard, smiling, wearing a navy winter jacket and plaid scarf, next to a library bookshelf. The second shows a man from the waist up, also standing by library shelves, with close-cropped hair, slightly smiling, wearing a grey winter jacket over a green sweater, with a green scarf. The third, in the same setting, is a smiling man with black hair parted on the side, his arms crossed, wearing a long-sleeve dark blue shirt with frog closures. The fourth, still in the library setting, shows a smiling man with short black hair slightly gelled back, wearing a blue sweater and white scarf, one arm resting on the library bookshelf. The fifth picture shows three of the men together in the same setting. The sixth shows four men standing next to each other in a glassed-in office, all wearing winter clothing. The men from the third and fourth pictures are flanked by a balding man in a suit jacket and sweater on the right and a man with dark, curly hair wearing a patterned vest over a brown sweater on the left.