Interviewer: Aunty, we are a group together.

Jihan: You’re very welcome.

Interviewer: Thanks. Now we are recording your voice. Together with the staff from one university in Britain, we are working on a project, collecting women stories, and anything that you tell us will be recorded. First, we will do the recording, and then it will be transcribed, then it will be translated into English, so as to let the world know about you and your background, so as not to let these stories be forgotten.

Jihan: In the past people did not have anything. Whereas now, people are walking on money. Back then; my dad was a clerk, he worked for Ali Pasha for a dinar a month. Ali Pasha was a deputy in Baghdad. He lived with my father. Then my father passed away and the year later I got married. Life was horrible in the past. Now life is better. It is perfect.

Interviewer: Why was life awful in the past? How was life then? What was the difference?

Jihan: There was no money. Anyone who owned a dinar would be like a king. Nowadays, if you give a dinar to a child, they won’t take it. My father was a prisoner, when he was released; his wife and children were dead. Only one of his daughters survived. She had been adopted by Sheikh Rashka’s family. Sheikh Rashka was a judge. My dad was a prisoner for seven years, and when he came back, his daughter had grown up.

Interviewer: Who had imprisoned[1] him? From which country?

Jihan: I have no idea which country. I had not been born when my father came back. The prisoners came back. My father asked about his family. They told him ‘no one is alive, go to Khanaqa’s mosque and wash your face’. That was in Erbil.

Interviewer: So, that was your father asking whether his relatives were alive after he came back?

Jihan: There was no one left of his family, he had come to a mosque. His wife, son and daughters were dead. Only one of his daughters survived, who was living at Sheikh Rashka’s house. They adopted her for seven years.

My dad had asked ‘Who is alive?” And they told him that his daughter, whose name was Merzya, was alive. He asked to see her.

Interviewer: Who was Merzya?

Jihan: She was my father’s daughter. My half-sister. Then they asked her to come.

Interviewer: You were not born yet?

Jihan: My mother was not married yet. When my dad came back, they showed him his daughter Merzya. She did not believe that he was her father. She had been telling them that the judge, the man who kept her, was her father. Then they explained every thing for her, until she came to her thoughts.

Interviewer: Was she one of your siblings?

Jihan: Her mother, grandma and her siblings were dead except for her. Then my father and my mother got married, then I and my brother were born. My brother died at one year and a half. Then my father became Ali Pasha’s clerk. He stayed with him. Then he got sick and tired and asked for resignation. He said that he would leave and become a clerk for the government. Five days before Ramadan, he passed away. And after Ramadan, Ali Pasha had also died and everything just crumbled.

My father used to make a living for us.

Interviewer: How did he make a living for you?

Jihan: He raised us and worked for us until he arranged marriage for my half-brother and then for me.

Interviewer: How was your marriage? Can you talk about that? How old were you at the time?

Jihan: How?

Interviewer: Can you talk about the process of your marriage? Or after marriage? Was it a happy one?

Jihan: I was at a very young age then. I had a daughter, when she reached the 3rd grade of Secondary School, my husband died. I had eight children. Shireen (one of her daughters) does not remember that. My husband and I lived together for twenty years, then he passed away.

Interviewer: Is it long ago?

Jihan: Yes it has been long ago. He died about 40 years ago.

Interviewer: Was he much older than you?

Jihan: No, my brother was only two years older than me. He did not join the army because he was an orphan. He had also stomach issues. It was really hard. Things were really different from now.

Interviewer: How were things?

Jihan: In the past, five families used to live in a house like this. Buying a house cost us a dinar, or four to five dirhams.

Interviewer: You lived together? As many families you lived together?

Jihan: Yes we did. And my mother in-law was really wicked.

Interviewer: Why was she wicked? What did she do to you?

Jihan: She was a bad woman.

Interviewer: In what sense was she bad?

Jihan: I always tell my daughter-in-law that she looks like my mother-in-law (she laughs. I have three daughters-in-law. One of my daughters-in-law deceased and my son remarried about three years ago. Also, one of my sons who was living in the citadel died young. He had six children. He passed away and his wife is taking care of the children. And now all my daughters are married and have families. I live with my younger son. My older one has died. He had an ironing shop. His living status was quite good. He had six children. One of his sons is married, and now he has a boy and five daughters.

Interviewer: In the past, which period did you like most?

Jihan: It has been all torture. Abdulkarim started the revolution. Then came King Ghazy and King Faisal. Finally Saddam came. He was the worst. It was because of him that all people migrated.

Interviewer: Did you also escape? Did you leave the area?

Jihan: Yes.

Interviewer: Can you talk about that?

Jihan: We had just moved in when the 1990 Gulf war started. I was with my other daughter-in-law, we escaped to Shaqlawa. We stayed there for six days, then Saddam gave amnesty and we returned. My sons were soldiers. All my three sons were soldiers. Saddam caught people and tortured them. Things were different. Now under the rule of Massoud Barzany, people are very happy. He gives people salary and properties.

Interviewer: What else do you have to tell us? Any previous events?

Jihan: Like what?

Interviewer: Like your mother-in-law or the time when you lived with your husband. How was living then?

Jihan: It was very difficult.

Interviewer: What was your husband’s job?

Jihan: He had a store in the city centre, selling food supplies, then we moved to the Arab’s street and made pickles.

Interviewer: You and your mother-in-law lived in the same house, together?

Jihan: Yes, we lived together until her death. Bushra, my elder daughter, was only one year when my mother-in-law died. We made pickles and sold them wholesale. We also had lotas toilet jugs, and water jars, just like other people, we offered them for selling in our markets. Then my husband died and everything was ruined.

Interviewer: This means you were happy when your husband was alive?

Jihan: No, we worked all the time.

Interviewer: Were you also working with him?

Jihan: Of course.

Interviewer: When your husband died, how did you raise your children?

Jihan: My elder son worked and earned a dirham a day, and the son that I’m living with now, was an apprentice in a blacksmith’s.

Interviewer: At the time when your husband died, you all lived together, and no one was married?

Jihan: Yes. Our house had two rooms and was located in the Street of the Arabs.

Interviewer: Only two rooms?

Jihan: Yes. My children stayed with me until they grew up. Then I arranged marriage for my elder son. But the one who died did not stay with us for a long period. He lived in a different area, which was called Surchy’s Street, there he rented a house. Then he bought the house, and we sold it and bought this one in return. It was cheap back then. Now we have been living here for twenty years.

Interviewer: What other stories do you like to tell us? If you remember them.

Jihan: Sorry?

Interviewer: We do not want to lose these stories, we want you to talk about an old event.

Jihan: What to tell you. We witnessed nothing special to talk about. We did not have anything nice to tell you. It was all misery. The presidents were starting coup-d’états one after another. Then came the mass migration. We migrated twice, once we went to Shaqlawa, and the next time to Hiran.

Interviewer: Why did you go to Hiran?

Jihan: My daughter was from PDK. There my daughter-in-law and I escaped to Hiran, a town where my sister lived. We stayed there for six days. Then things went better and we returned. The day after, Saddam was caught.

Interviewer: What about the difference between past and present marriage?

Jihan: Now people are kings. When I married I only got 25 dinars.

Interviewer: How was that?

Jihan: They offered me only 25 dinars. Because people did not have money.

Interviewer: what about gold and stuff like this? Was it like now? Did they buy you any?

Jihan: Yes. I had a bracelet myself. I also bought a necklace with a pendant that cost 12 dinars. I also got some housing stuff. We had our own carpet and our own beds. My mother told me that we could keep them, because for my other brother she could buy him new ones. She had a son from her ex-husband. Whereas now, women want a bunch of gold.

Interviewer: Nowadays, the girl chooses the guy. Was the girl allowed to see the boy?

Jihan: Oooh, even after engagement, he could not see the girl. But now it is different. They have to see each other and talk.

Interviewer: What about clothes?

Jihan: People did not have clothes. One wedding dress was sufficient for four or five girls. They were fighting over it. They wore the dress for their weddings. Things were different from now. If you had a white dress, everyone would ask for it.

When I was a child, my father bought me many dresses. My half-sister would tell him: “why are you buying her so many dresses and you see I have five children”. He would answer her that I was equal to her five children. My father envied her. He would tell her that she had five children, instead he would buy me five dress.

Interviewer: Why did your father choose you over her?

Jihan: Because he had lost all his relatives, his wife, his children. Only my half-sister was alive. I don’t know when she died. My father said that she died in Baghdad.

Interviewer: That is why he loved you more?

Jihan: Of course. As I said, he would always say that he will buy me dresses as much as five children’s clothings. He envied her. Then he got sick. He could not work anymore. He said that if he felt better, he would work for the government. Government was not that powerful then. There were only Agha-s, Beg or Beys and Pasha’s. Pasha’s were deputies in Baghdad. They had more power than Saddam’s authorities.

Interviewer: How were these Agha’s or Pasha’s?

Jihan: There were Kwekha-s. One of them was called Ali-agha.

Interviewer: What did they do? What were their responsibilities?

Jihan: All the houses alongside the Sheikh-allah, city centre, belonged to him. He owned all the harvest of barley. He also owned all villages. Then people built houses in these villages.

Interviewer:  Do you think it is a good idea to destroy those villages and build houses instead?

Jihan: They all left their villages. Ali Pasha died. His wife was a Turkmen. He had two sons, living in Turkey.

Interviewer: Who was he?

Jihan: Ali Pasha, Bey. One of his sons who died was called Erfan. Now Hassan the other son is alive. He is famous. He is one of the authorities there. A couple of years ago, we were told that Ali Pasha’s son Erfan was dead. Their nickname was Dughram-atti.

Interviewer: So they had been here, then they moved to Turkey?

Jihan: Yes.

Interviewer: Was that long ago?

Jihan: It’s been long ago. He owned most of the properties and houses in the citadel. They left them all. Not to mention all other villages such as Hasarok, Kasnazan and Kany-Zin that were possessed by those Agha-s – Bey-s.

Interviewer: What about the villages? Were they similar to those of nowadays? Did people make agriculture?

Jihan: Nobody owned a house. Instead people had Hasar-s. In each Hasar, settled nearly 20 families. They paid a dirham or two dirhams for each room. And my father’s salary was one dinar.

Interviewer: What about gardens? How was agriculture back then?

Jihan: They gave us wheat. We got four bags of wheat a year. Ali Pasha grew rice as well. He also gave us a Hasar and people rented from us. It all cost a dinar.

Interviewer: Were you in charge of that Hasar and you worked for Agha?

Jihan: My father worked for them. When he was in the village, he registered the amount of all wheat and barley. He was literate. He knew English and also many languages. Because he was a prisoner, in somewhere I don’t know, in a world war. He was old. Until his death, all of his teeth were fine. He was very strong.

Interviewer: What else do you like to tell us?

Jihan: I remember no more than that. It’s been two years since I’m sick. I had a stroke.

Interviewer: Thank you for everything.

Jihan: No problem. You’re very welcome.

Interviewer: We would like you to tell us the story of the earrings. Who bought you those earrings?

Jihan: My mother bought me those. I had my own earrings, she traded it for wheat. My mother had a gold nose ring, she told me that she would exchange it with nice earrings. The following year, she exchanged her nose-ring with earrings. Everybody was saying that the earrings were very beautiful. I gave one of the earrings to my daughter and the other one to my niece who is a teacher. They have made rings from them and wore them.

Interviewer: They both made rings from those earrings?

Jihan: They both changed them to rings and wore them. At that time people did not have money. How much do you think those earrings cost? It was around one carat weight, we exchanged it with my mother’s nose-ring, paying three dinars for them to be made. I hid the gems from the nose ring and was always saying that someday I will make rings from them.