Interviewer: Madam, we are a group that came together, from a significant British university which is Lancaster University, and…

Hanifa: You are very welcome.

Interviewer: And we are here, from Kurdistan, Soran University, you might have heard of it. Together we are working on a project, to ensure that stories from women would not be forgotten. Many old stories have been forgotten.

Hanifa: Many of our stories have been lost too.

Interviewer: Thereby, we would like to collect these stories. We will work together in that.

Hanifa: I do not remember them.

Interviewer: Anything you like to talk about it would be amazing.

Hanifa: What to say?

Interviewer: To start off, where was your birthplace?

Hanifa: I was born in Russia.

Interviewer: Why did your parents go to Russia?

Hanifa: My dad was with the army, Peshmarga, with Mulla Mustafa. He was in Russia for 13 years.

Interviewer: When did you return? You came back to Kurdistan, right?

Hanifa: I do not remember, for I was a young child around two, so I don’t remember.

Interviewer: When you were back to Kurdistan, who was in power?

Hanifa: The government.

Interviewer: What government? Do you remember who governed it?

Hanifa: I do not remember. They were too many. There was Abdul-Karim Qasim, King Faisal. They were many, but I do not know the dates.

Interviewer: When your parents returned, where did they settle?

Hanifa: They came to their grandparents’ land.

Interviewer: Where was that?

Hanifa: The village Pendro.

Interviewer: How long did they stay there for?

Hanifa: For many years, my dad was a soldier, a Peshmarga, who stayed in the mountains most of the time.

Interviewer: Do you remember your childhood when your dad was a soldier, a Peshmarga? How was your childhood?

Hanifa: We were small kids. We were always fleeing to caves, because of airplanes.

Interviewer: Whose airplanes?

Hanifa: Sadam Hussain’s planes, regime’s planes. They were killing people. People had nothing to eat. They emigrated; they ran away.

Interviewer: Please tell us about some happy or sad events of your childhood.

Hanifa: They were all sad ones. We used to sleep on the roofs of houses and the airplanes bombed the village. We were small when my mom was always carrying us and bringing us to the caves. We suffered a lot.

Interviewer: Can you talk about what happened after, when you moved to Iran?

Hanifa: When Barzanies were caught, the same autumn we went to Iran. We rode in trucks, till we got out from Barzan and then we rode on horses. You know what a sawy is? We put our children into those baskets . My husband bought horses and we tied the baskets to the back of them.

Interviewer: So you were married then?

Hanifa: Ya, my kids were very young.

Interviewer: Was that before or after the Halabja events? When chemical weapons were used against them.

Hanifa: We were in Iran when the Halabja events happened.

Interviewer: That means you emigrated before Halabja.

Hanifa: Ya, it was before that time. Before we left we had stayed in our village secretly for two years.

Interviewer: Where was that place?

Hanifa: Pendro village. For two years we were there illegally, secretly, then we went to other villages called Hayat, Sheladz. We rode on horses. We had no food supplies. Later on, Peshmarga forces came to our area and we went to Iran. We rode on horses until we reached Zewa, a village in Iran. Then to Orumiyeh city. We lived in rented houses. We worked there.

Interviewer: What kind of job did you have?

Hanifa: We harvested apples and grapes. We harvested wheat and peas. We picked cucumbers and tomatoes so as to make a living. And when we returned home from work, it was in the evening.

Interviewer: As a woman, you have been through a lot…

Hanifa: We were very tired. After we finished our work, we had to come back and give our children a bath. We would also wait in bread queues, and prepare food. The next morning, we would wake up early and wait in bread queues to get bread and bring it to work. We lived like this, and stayed there for a couple of years. We came back to Iraq in 1991. Again we settled in Bahrka. There were other people living in our houses. We had to buy our own house from them. The houses from our village were bombed by Saddam’s regime, and as a replacement he had given us a house in Bahrka . When we fled to Iran and returned home, they were…

Interviewer: Other people came to live in your own house?

Hanifa: We bought back our own house from them. It was such a torture and misery. They restrained people. They also imprisoned my father-in-law and my uncle. Then they both fled to Russia.

Interviewer: How was that?

Hanifa: My in-law was not at home. He visited some relatives in Qushtapa town, they caught him there. Tomorrow their anfal coffins will be returned. Their remnants will be shown to people, each time their heart will be broken. My mother-in-law’s health is getting worse. Now we hold a spoon for her to eat her food.

Interviewer: Why? Do you think it’s because of sorrow?

Hanifa: It is due to sorrow and other things. We change her clothes and feed her like a small kid.

Interviewer: Can you talk about your mother-in-law? About how she raised her children on her own?

Hanifa: She fought very hard to raise them.

Interviewer: What did she do to bring them up?

Hanifa: She had been collecting wood and carrying it on her back. She had been doing that for thirteen years.

Interviewer: Where did she live?

Hanifa: Pendru Village.

Interviewer: Same area that you belong to?

Hanifa: Yes, same place.

Interviewer: Did she also come with you to Iran?

Hanifa: She also came.

Interviewer: How many children did she have?

Hanifa: Only my husband. He was their only child.

Interviewer: What about others? Relatives or friends?

Hanifa: At that time, having friends was very difficult. We did not have money. No supplies. Nothing.

Interviewer: How could she earn a living for her kids?

Hanifa: By working. She used to be at work from morning till evening. She harvested weed and wheat, in return for a dinar, not even a dinar but a dirham. A dirham for a piece of bread or a kilo of wheat.

Interviewer: That was in Iran?

Hanifa: No, that was in our own village. Even in Iran immigrants went to work. They did not go there to pass their time. They suffered a lot. Our story is a long one. It is like the story of Oshin, a series that was showed on Iran TV. Our stories are similar. But I have forgotten. In 1991 we returned from Iran and settled here in Bahrka, then we were asked to go to a village and there they built a house for us. Then my son stepped on an anti-personnel mine that ripped both his legs off. He has artificial legs now. We did not have money, no car.

Interviewer: Where was that? Why did he go to a place where mines exist?

Hanifa: He went with his brother to look after cattle. His legs were ripped off from here, she points to her upper part of thighs). He stayed for three months in the hospital, and another month in a Suleymanya hospital run by an organization.

Interviewer: How long has it been since that happened?

Hanifa: It was around 1992 or 1993.

Interviewer: That was the time when this happened to your son?

Hanifa: Yes, and when that happened a relative of ours and I went to a funeral. Both my sons went out to look after cattle. The cattle belonged to the villagers. They took turns to look after cattle.

Interviewer: Are there still mines in the area?

Hanifa: There are still mines that belong to Saddam’s time. Some of them belong to PKK too. Last year my son travelled abroad.

Interviewer: How old was he when that happened to him?

Hanifa: How old was he? (she asks those are sitting around her). He was in grade 3, at primary school. But thank God, he could finish his study even though he was in such conditions. Now he is in America. There, they have a cure for his legs, but we do not have enough money. They can make him thought-controlled legs, but the government is not funding him for that.

Interviewer: Who does not fund him?

Hanifa: Our government. No money (she laughs sarcastically), am I still not allowed to get upset? I feel really depressed for my son (she cries).

Interviewer: As long as he is successful, that really matters.

Hanifa: Right.

Interviewer: What else do you want to tell us?

Hanifa: I cannot tell you more than that. It has been four years since we are bringing his documents everywhere to the authorities, but they will not help him financially. We have been through a lot, but when a person asks for help, they will fund him a lot. My father-in-law, then, left two families behind, and went to Russia and stayed there.

Interviewer: Does he ever visit you?

Hanifa: Yes, he visits us once a year.

Interviewer: Have you got any other similar stories?

Hanifa: What to say? It is impossible to talk.

Interviewer: After 1991, the time when you returned from Iran?

Hanifa: After that civil war started. We moved from one place to another. In Baherka, there was the civil war. At other places, there was the war with PKK and Peshmarga forces. So many houses were burned including kids and properties. And we could not sleep due to the noise of airplanes and bombs. We endured much hardship raising our children.

Interviewer: Do you recall any one of those difficult days?

Hanifa: Sometimes we came back and had no water to drink, no food to eat.

Interviewe:: Can you talk about these material, how were they made and by whom?

Hanifa: This one is called ‘tewn’, a woven bag, it was made by my mother-in-laws’ father-in-law.

Interviewer: What is it made from?

Hanifa: From wool and yarn.

Interviewer: Where did you get the wool from?

Hanifa: It is local.

Interviewer: You did not get it from somewhere else?

Hanifa: No. But she bought yarn.

Interviewer: And she made the tewn with her own hands?

Hanifa: yes.

Interviewer: What was it used for?

Hanifa: We would bring it to mountains and fill it with wood. We also put edible plants such as thistles and arum into it. We brought it with us to work or when we looked after cattle. We put milk containers or meshka, containers made from animal leather, into it.

Interviewer: It was used for all of these purposes?

Hanifa: Yes, we also used it as a bread container to give it to Peshmargas in the mountains. We tied it on our backs.

Interviewer: It is nice and colourful.

Hanifa: We also put our children into it, tied it on our backs to bring the children with us to work.

Interviewer: It looks like a Russian artifact, doesn’t it?

Hanifa: I have no idea.

Interviewer: What about that? Is it made by your mother-in-law too?

Hanifa: Yes. This is for keeping bread while looking after cattle. You could carry it on your shoulders.

Interviewer: Your mother-in-law must have been very skillful.

Hanifa: Yes she was, but now she can only breathe.

Interviewer: What else did she make?

Hanifa: That is jambk, and this is parzin. She used to make both of them. She made carpets, rugs, wove socks and leg warmers.

Interviewer: Where did she learn that from?

Hanifa: She learnt by herself. But now she has lost her memory. She is around one hundred years old. She used to make such carpets.

Interviewer: Only for her family?

Hanifa: For her family, and for other people, too.

Interviewer: Did you sell them, too?

Hanifa: No, we kept them for ourselves, for our families. And that bag, we took it with us when we went to plant wheat. We put it on our shoulders and filled them with seeds, we threw the seeds over the field. And these are men’s leg warmers.

Interviewer: Was your mother-in-law alone?

Hanifa: Yes, she was. She only had a son. She sold these leg-warmers for a dinar. When we went to Iran we took this stuff with us, and when we came back, we took them back. We did not need them in Iran, but we kept them as our treasures.

Interviewer: What else did she make? Was she also a cook?

Hanifa: She was also a cook. She also worked with men outdoors. She went out to harvest wheat, to plough fields; she did all sorts of jobs to make a living for her family.

Interviewer: How long has it been since she is disabled or cannot talk?

Hanifa: It has been two years. We took her to a doctor, who said that her brain is weak, like a child’s.She made all of these products. And when a girl got married, we would give her one of these parzins as a gift. She would take it with her to work.

Interviewer: Can you talk about marriage differences between past and present?

Hanifa: It was not like now.

Interviewer: How was it?

Hanifa: Back then, people were poor. We only made the bride one dress, a vest, and a parzin like that one and when she went to work she took the bag with her.

Interviewer: These gifts were for the new bride?

Hanifa: Yes.

Interviewer: And who gave her the gifts? Her family or the groom’s?

Hanifa: It was not about who brought her presents. The important thing was that she got them.

Interviewer: What else did they give her as presents?

Hanifa: Socks, leg warmers, and clothes. There were also Rank and Chogha (worn by men).

Interviewer: How did they move the bride to her new house? Do you remember any wedding parties of the time? How was it?

Hanifa: Wedding celebrations in the past were more amazing than they are now. People danced the traditional dance called dawat. We slaughtered animals. We sang songs. This continued for three days. It was not like current marriages. Nowadays if couples get married, they put the bride in a car and spend the night in a hotel and that is it.