Though the Kurds played a major military and tactical role in the United States’ recent war with Iraq, most of us know little about this fiercely independent, long-marginalized people. Now acclaimed journalist Christiane Bird, who riveted readers with her tour of Islamic Iran in Neither East Nor West, travels through this volatile part of the world to tell the Kurds’ story, using personal observations and in-depth research to illuminate an astonishing history and vibrant culture.
For the twenty-five to thirty million Kurds, Kurdistan is both an actual and a mythical place: an isolated, largely mountainous homeland that has historically offered sanctuary from the treacherous outside world and yet does not exist on modern maps. Parceled out among the four nation-states of Iraq, Turkey, Syria, and Iran after World War I, Kurdistan is a divided land with a tragic history, where the indomitable Kurds both celebrate their ancient culture and fight to control their own destiny. Occupying some of the Middle East’s most strategic and richest terrain, the Kurds are the fourth-largest ethnic group in the region and the largest ethnic group in the world without a state to call their own.
Whether dancing at a Kurdish wedding in Iran, bearing witness to the destroyed Kurdish countryside in southeast Turkey, having lunch with a powerful exiled agha in Syria, or visiting the sites of Saddam Hussein’s horrific chemical attacks in Iraq, the intrepid, insightful Bird sheds light on a violently stunning world seen by few Westerners. Part mesmerizing travelogue, part action-packed history, part reportage, and part cultural study, this critical book offers timely insight into an unknown but increasingly influential part of the world. Bird paints a moving and unforgettable portrait of a people uneasily poised between a stubborn past and an impatient future.
Christiane Bird is the author of Neither East Nor West: One Woman’s Journey Through the Islamic Republic of Iran and The Jazz and Blues Lover’s Guide to the U.S., and coauthor of Below the Line: Living Poor in America. A graduate of Yale University, she lives in New York City.
“I cannot recommend too highly this brilliantly evocative portrait of people who have suffered terrible crimes, but endured, with remarkable courage and charm and undying hope, captured with rare sensitivity and sympathetic understanding in Bird’s deeply moving account of her journeys through their lands and her sharing of their lives.”
“One of Christiane Bird’s revelations in A Thousand Sighs, a Thousand Revolts is that in the Middle East, one should never confuse minority with marginality. This account by a particularly attentive American woman journeying into the land of the Kurds . . . helps readers understand the most striking feature of the Middle East: complexity.”
—FATEMA MERNISSI, author of Beyond the Veil and Islam and Democracy
“Christiane Bird writes well, with an open mind, an eye for detail, and a clear voice. No one who wishes to be informed on what is going on in the world can afford to skip this important book about a little known and often abused people.”
—MARK KURLANSKY, author of 1968: The Year That Rocked the World
and A Basque History of the World
“Christiane Bird travels enviably and intrepidly about her selected neck of the world. In A Thousand Sighs, a Thousand Revolts, she writes intelligently, personably, tirelessly, and engrossingly about the Kurds, a people execrably abused and eminently worth learning about.”