Zin: At first, I welcome you and wish you success in the project. For the beginning, if I talk about my life as a Kurdish woman, believe me, it’s all misery. Before I could get married, my father was imprisoned for nearly one year. It was all misery. Our house was confiscated and sold in a public auction. Finally, when my father was released, a while later my brother was arrested. My brother got some psychological condition in jail. Then, my brother’s home was entirely confiscated with his entire moveable and immoveable property, which means it was a very difficult life.

I was in the Teachers’ Institute. I lived it all with misery. Everyday, a committee came to the upper neighborhood, we were frightened that they would come to our house; that our house would be confiscated or checked. Finally, I married my children’s father. A short while after we were engaged, we went to Iran. Once in Iran, the entire trousseau that I myself had assembled was left in Rwanduz. My honeymoon was in Iran, in Tehran and Mahabad and nearby places.

After a while, it did not work and of course we returned home. Once we were back, they took revenge because we were Kurds; they reassigned me to Koy Snjaq, Koya and my husband to Samawa. Samawa! See where Samawa is and where Koya is! We tried go-betweens. I went to the Secretary General and thanks to me they brought him to Koy Snjaq. We were nearly six to seven months in Koy Snjaq. We came back to Ruwanduz. What a Ruwanduz, a wrecked Ruwanduz, with no houses in it, no place, no settlement in it. Anyway, that means with mud we made something for ourselves.

It did not take four years when they reassigned me here for duty. This means we did not choose to go ourselves; they reassigned us for duty here. They called this town, which is now Soran, Qaza Sdiq. We came here and stayed for a while, almost five to six months. One day my husband came home late, nearly two or three hours. I telephoned a lot of places; there was no mobile, no phone at home then. The Agriculture Office didn’t answer the calls. Then they said well, the Security Office agents came and took him on 15/10/1982 to Erbil, to the North Security Department. He was under torture investigation for nearly seven months.

Imagine my life in these seven months. Believe me, I swear to all the divinities, maybe they called me into the Baath party organization three times every month, asking me “where is your man, where has he gone, what has he done, why has he been arrested.” It was seven days since I had enrolled my son, who is now a doctor, at school. When his father was released he was at the fifth primary stage. So, imagine a woman completely alone, with a few houses around here, nearly 60 houses. The rest were all governmental offices, the security and the intelligence offices, the party organization; which means it was not a residential area. Only the officers and the employees were here, otherwise there were no houses here; it was not a place for life. I spent a very, very difficult life.

Finally, one day they came, I was sitting; I was the principal of kindergarten here. They came and said I should be a teacher. I asked why I should become a teacher. They said, “your husband is an accused person.” Who was with me when I was a principal here? The judge’s wife, the deputy mayor’s wife, the security chief’s wife, the wife of another district’s principal and, the treasurer’s wife. These were all with me, and I was an accused person’s wife. They reassigned me as teacher in the Soran School for Girls. I went there. After a while they called me. I was almost dying of anxiety, I remember. From the Baath party division here they called me. I took my son with me. Then he was at first year primary school. As I told you his father was apprehended. They said “You should not take the child with you inside.” I said, “if I can’t take him, I will not go in.”

Anyway, they let me take him. I said “My son does not understand Arabic, why should I not take him in?” Well, they allowed me and I took him and went inside. When I went, believe me, more than 60 people were sitting for facing a single woman. More than 60 people for just one woman; all were secretaries, deputy mayor’s personnel, party organization chief, intelligence chief, and the party representatives. When I entered the room, believe me, at the door I was surprised. I was very frightened.

When I went in, I asked what was wrong. They said, “well, we have called you to tell you to become a nurse in a hospital because your husband is accused and you should not be in the education service. The education service should be void of any accusation and accused people; you should become a nurse.” I said, “I am proud to do that occupation and I don’t feel shy to practice it but I don’t know how to do nursing; I don’t know how to inject ampoules, dress wounds, otherwise I feel no shame or shy to practice this profession.”

Then, what did they do? They said, “you should quit.” When I came back how sad I was. What did I do? One of my nephews was a martyr at Qadsiya. A cousin of mine was also a Qadsiya martyr. I went to my brother’s house. My brother went and brought a letter from the party organization, saying I was a relative to the martyrs.

Thus, they let me go on with teaching. Otherwise, I would have to go to the practical nursing service and with what, a change in duty, as a servant or cleaner, because I neither knew injecting nor dressing; what I would have to do would be to clean, arrange beds, sweep, in brief, it meant a cleaner, a servant. But because one of my nephews and a cousin of mine were martyrs, I brought a letter from the martyrs’ foundation and they let me stay at the teaching service, but with what a misery! In the teaching service my salary was very low.

My husband also, he was not allowed to have any visits and of course I did not have any news from him. In these two years he did not have any visits; I did not see him at all. After these two years he was allowed to have visitors. Before he was allowed visits, my entire property, both moveable and non-moveable property, was confiscated. They came, the deputy mayor’s representative, the deputy mayor himself, the judge himself, the representative of the organization, the intelligence representative, the security chief, the district headman, and the headman of this place. They came and made me stand at the door with three kids, one of them very little in my hands. They registered my entire property and wrote it down. The bedroom, the sitting room, the kitchen, the hall, which means they wrote down everything. Whatever I had, they wrote it down, which means confiscating the moveable and non-moveable property.

What I had was a car that I had registered. Sometimes they registered cars. I think I had paid two thousand dinar for that car and it was confiscated and gone. There was a sum of money at the bank, it was also gone. I had opened a deposit account, putting some money there, it was gone. Before, people registered cows, cows with forage, I had registered that, it was also gone. This was confiscating the moveable and non-moveable property.

I went out of the house, asking the security chief for the cooker, saying, “I’m the family provider how should I not be given the cooker?” In Arabic language I asked “What about a woman’s rights, am I not a partner with this man? How come the stove should not be for a woman?” They told me “Bring us the papers so that we do not take whatever is under your name”. And I said “When did we, Kurds, have the habit of registering stuff under women’s names? We don’t have such things.”

Anyway, they took the stuff and two trucks loads of the entire appliance. For two days, I couldn’t make any food because I didn’t have a cooker. I had gold but it was not there, it was at my brother’s house. If it were here, it would have been gone, too. I didn’t cook for two days. They had left me a dirty carpet, two mattresses, two pots, and a kerosene heater. They took everything, left nothing at my house. For the TV, I said, “it’s a pity if you take it my children can’t do without TV”, but they took the TV, too. The fridge, TV, cooker, washing machine, freezer, in brief, whatever was there at the house, you know what was there at a house, they took all of it. They took the stuff.

Later, the day after, the security chief’s wife, who was a teacher with me and whose family had a little relation with ours, said “Mrs. Zin, you should evacuate the house tomorrow.” I asked why. She said, “it is under your husband’s name. And your husband is arrested; you should go, leave.”

That evening I left the children in other people’s house and I swear to God that I took my cousin with me and the day after, at eight o’clock, I was at the local administration office. With a bribe, I gave bribe. Actually though it’s a sin but God you don’t write that sin for me. Five hundred dinar of that time; imagine what an amount that was! I gave five hundred dinar to a man so that he changed the house to my name. I came with the papers. Changed the house to my name. I took the papers to the financial office.

Thanks to God, they did not throw me out of the house. Later, it was the day for visiting my husband. When my husband was allowed visits, in avenge of those who had brought this despair on me, I held a Mewlud ceremony with food. How did I hold Mewlud? I sent a letter to the security office, another to the intelligence office, I sent the schools, the water office, the electricity office, and all the offices letters. On the roof, two mullas were reciting Mewlud hymns; I arranged a big Mewlud.

The day after, I went for the visit. When I went, I saw my husband had got a long beard, he had no money. This time the misery started from here. I had a very little salary, not enough for us. I taught at eradicating illiteracy campaigns, later in the afternoons I had taken a science subject of the intermediate stage to teach, only to let my family and children not feel any lack. After this visit with my husband, every month, I would send fifty dinar to jail for him.

This means with such misery, such hardship, I raised this family and these kids, I hope God may reward my patience. Though my husband was arrested on 15/10/1982, after seven months from this area he was sent to Baghdad. He was tortured. And who judged him? Awwad Bandari, the one you heard on TV when they executed him; he was sentenced by the Revolution Court. My husband was sentenced to ten years.

As I told you this all entailed confiscating the entire moveable and non-moveable properties and imprisonment without any visits for two years. And at that time, I was a teacher here, and who was my principal? The assistant to the Baath party division’s secretary. Believe me, whenever I went to visit my husband, I would say to the assistant, “teacher, my son is sick, I’ll take him to the doctor.” Secretly, I would rent a car in Hawler with 80 Dinar. Imagine how difficult it was to go at night to visit him. I would go to visit him in the evening and I would visit him the next day and within that day I had to come back for work at once. The assistant to the division’s secretary should not know I was going for the visit.

My youngest son was very, very young. Once visits were allowed and I went to the visit, a son of my brother-in-law called Faraz, my husband’s brother, who came with me. A cousin of mine also accompanied me. One of them told my husband, “uncle, your son was so poor; he did not recognize his own father, calling him uncle.” He said, “uncle, I cannot forget this at all, never ever.” When visits were allowed, every month I would go for a visit but with suffering. Well, the regional government of Kurdistan, believe me, so far has not done anything for us. Which means is it logical that your home, your moveable and non-moveable property, was confiscated and you are not compensated for it?

My husband was in jail until 25/5/1986 when Saddam Hussein issued an amnesty. He was not going to be released otherwise. But Saddam Hussein’s amnesty on the occasion of his birthday released him. But after what? Believe me, I caught different ailments. I got diabetes, I got heart disorders. It was very difficult; even my phone calls were monitored. At nights when I was talking to someone, it was monitored. Believe me, my relatives did not dare to approach me. It was so difficult; in words it’s easy to say this but imagine you have a house without having anything, not even a carpet, not a cooker to cook with, not a fridge to put stuff in it; How difficult this life would be! And at work, whenever a security car passed by, quickly I would beg the teachers to inform me soon if it was for me so that I could leave through the back door immediately. This means I faced such a life and such a torture.

And my husband, believe me, the poor man faced such a torture even after he was sentenced. Everywhere when a person is sentenced, it’s over, he will not be tortured, right? After he was sentenced by the Revolution’s Court, he was still being tortured. After he was sentenced, for the next two years, he was not allowed visits. You know why he was not allowed visits? He was under torture. And these two years when he was being tortured, I spent such a life due to his sentence. When he was freed from jail, didn’t I tell you that my elder son was at the fifth primary grade? He had only been at the first grade when his father was arrested.

Believe me, my younger son, who, as I said, called his father uncle. And imagine yourself, a woman alone in this big town. There were no houses; only employee and workers. How difficult it was to sleep alone at night! Let me narrate this to you, too. One night it was windy. When I slept at night, I would put a knife under my head, I would put a big knife under my head under the pillow. The wind was rushing. Then our house was not like this; we have repaired it now. We had a narrow corridor.

That night I was very scared, I called my son. That little boy could be in the first, second or third grade then. I called “Son! Son! I swear there is a rattling sound. Come with your mother to see what this noise is.” I went and opened the door and looked at the yard; there was nothing. I came back inside and waited a little more. The rattling sound became louder. I checked behind the house; there was nothing. This time I said “Son, stand next to me.” And I hid the knife behind my back. This time I said to myself if something happened, whatever might happen to me, I would stab the person at any rate to see who he was.

I looked and saw the kitchen door. The kitchen hood was on and the air slowly pushed the door closed and open. This night was the most difficult night for me. Believe me, it equalled half of that pain my husband underwent in jail. And livelihood? I’m not sure, my salary was one hundred dinar? One hundred and fifty dinar? That was all. You should send fifty dinar to your husband in jail and you are responsible for your home and family when there is nothing at your house. Of course, I bought a fridge, carpet, pots, heater and those things again; because I was left with nothing. They had taken them all. Imagine with what a torture you should lead a life with that much salary.

It was five years, more than four years, that my husband was in jail. I swear to God, by God, I did not buy a veil, a skirt, a dress for myself during this time. Whatever I did was for my children. I would say to myself that I was in their father’s place and I was also their mother, so let my children not feel deprived, for me there was no problem if I was deprived of everything. This means I saw such a misery that I believe no one else has ever seen that despair in life like me. And why it was such a total misery because there were no houses here; it was vacant, there were only governmental offices here. And when you live among the governmental offices, and the government regard you as the wife to an accused person, imagine how your life will be, how you will look at other people and how people will look at you. Well, I saw this entire misery.