It’s the Charity Sunday Blog Hop again, where I donate a dollar to a charity of my choice for each comment on this blog (and half a dollar for each view even without comments.)
My contribution this time goes to the International Rescue Committee, working currently to give aid to the Kurds in Syria, for years our valued (and valiant) allies, who have been forced to flee now that our own nation has abruptly withdrawn support and allowed Turkish forces to attack them.
International Rescue Committee
My heart aches for Kurdistan. In spite of fighting along with the British and allies during WWI, when the time came to re-map the Middle East, promises were broken and the Kurds and Yazidis still have no official country of their own. Now, suddenly and without warning, they’ve been abandoned by the US allies for whom they’ve fought so hard and well in subduing the ISIS forces. US troops have been abruptly pulled out and Turkey is free to attack and destroy the Kurds, as they’ve already begun to do.
I have a special interest in the women who have joined the Kurdish military and fight to defend their territory. In the course of doing a great deal of research on the history and landscape of the unofficial country of Kurdistan, presently carved up between Syria, Iraq, Iran and Turkey, I was lucky enough to see a documentary, Gulîstan, Land of Roses, by filmmaker Zaynê Akyol. She traveled with a group of women soldiers, some seasoned fighters, some in training, on their mission of defending Kurdish territory and defeating ISIS, the so-called Islamic State militants. Zaynê Akyol even spoke at my local art house cinema when her film was shown there.
My research was, of course, for something I was writing, my first (and possibly only) novel, Shadow Hand, the final third of which takes place in Kurdistan, especially in the Zagros mountain range. Being able to see the actual terrain and real women soldiers there was invaluable, and inspiring. Full disclosure: my novel has a superheroine theme, and involves a very fictional campaign to rescue hundreds of women imprisoned by ISIS in an ancient, land-mine-surrounded fortress, waiting to be sold as sex slaves. Aside from the fact that some superpowers are involved, I tried to make it as realistic as possible.
Usually in these charity blog hops I include some erotic excerpts, and there are some in Shadow Hand—having the power of telekinesis, moving things with the mind alone, adds some intriguing possibilities to sex scenes—but right now I’m too distracted by the plight of the Kurds, and the chaotic state of the world. Instead, I’ll share a couple of brief scenes with dialogue that gives some sense of the history of the people and the country.
A few words about the characters speaking. Cleo is a former sergeant in the US army, working with her lover Ash, a former army lieutenant (and the one with the accidentally acquired superpower) to rescue the prisoners. Mac is a former US Colonel working undercover with the Kurds. Razhan is a professor in a Kurdish university but currently a Colonel in the women’s militia. Ariya is a young soldier and assistant to Razhan.
Onward to the excerpts:
“Nice! Recommended by former travelers, I see.” Cleo looked along
the stretch of rock wall where words, probably names, had been
chipped with tools or scrawled with charred sticks in the time honored
tradition of “Kilroy was here.”
Mac, also surveying the marks, spoke Cleo’s thought aloud in her
own inimitable style. “Ah yes, ‘I write my name, therefore I am.’”
The sun was so low now that its rays slanted deep into the cave.
“I am happy to see that there are no very recent names here,” Razhan
said. Her stern look at Ariya, who had been there two years ago, said
clearly that there had better not be. Ariya’s response was a smile of
“Kurdish…Turkish…Armenian…hmm, could be Italian.” Razhan turned back to them. “There are caves in the more travelled parts of these mountains, passes that were trade routes for thousands of years, where Romans trapping our bears and lions for their gladiator arenas left their marks in Latin.”
“Bears and lions?” Cleo managed to sound merely curious, which,
on the whole, she was. Bears were familiar from her New Hampshire
home; you just had to keep your food where they couldn’t possibly
reach it, hang it in bags on high ropes between trees when you were
camping. But lions? The fire pit in front of the cave might have more
significance than she’d thought.
“All gone, long ago. They say a few bears are left, in the farthest
reaches, and we have leopards that may not be quite extinct, but no
lions. Gone. Just as the great cedar forests were ravaged long ago to build the
palaces of sultans and Caesars.”
Ariya nodded agreement as Razhan spoke. This was the history taught in Kurdish universities, Cleo guessed. How strange it must be to belong to a land where mankind had lived and died, come and gone, and ravaged more often than not, for so many millennia. Not that her own country’s history had been all that different, but the ravaging by Europeans of the indigenous cultures in America had happened a few hundred years ago instead of thousands.
And one more excerpt, when Cleo wonders whether she should dye her red hair to pass as a Kurdish woman when she gets deliberately captured, as planned:
Razhan’s face was just perceptible in the faint glow from the truck’s
dashboard. “We’ll darken it a bit with nut juice, to keep you from
attracting too much attention, but red hair is not unknown here. Those Roman and Greek and even Nordic travelers who took so much from these mountains left traces behind them as well. A girl in the town has red tints to her hair, as have her mother and grandmothers through many generations. We also have fair-haired people. Prick a Kurd and you see the blood of the world.”
So there it is, my long-distance connection with the Kurds. But even without that, even if I had never researched and written about them, my heart would ache for them now.
See the links below to visit the other Charity Sunday blogs this month.