Inhabiting a mountainous area that stretches through Iran, Turkey, Iraq, Syria, and the former USSR, the Kurds, with a population numbering 25-30 million, are the largest ethnic group in the world without a state of their own. Though the term "Kurdistan" has been used as a geographical expression since the 13th century, the breakup of the Ottoman Empire resulted in the division of the land of the Kurds among surrounding nation-states. Having retained a separate cultural identify for over 3,000 years, most Kurds have never really accepted the borders imposed on them. They remain insolent, much-persecuted outsiders to the countries in which they live. Though the Kurds played a major military and tactical role in our recent war with Iraq, most of us know very little about this fiercely independent, long-marginalized people.
In A Thousand Sighs, A Thousand Revolts, intrepid journalist Christiane Bird travels through this volatile part of the world to tell the story of the Kurds, using moving first-hand observations and in-depth research to illuminate their little-known history and culture. What gives the Kurds such a strong sense of national identity, despite their many differences? Living in a world where war is more normal than peace, how do they rebuild time and again after suffering cultural and physical genocide? Why is their future so crucial to the interests of the US and the political stability of the entire region? In a colorful, fast-moving narrative, Bird explores these questions as she portrays a highly romantic people, once famed for their horsemanship and nomadic lifestyle and now known for their irrepressible spirit, humor, generosity, clannishness, and violence.
Eternal outsiders, constantly rebelling against authority, the Kurds fascinate with their capacity for great courage and great betrayal. Including up-to-the minute, first-hand pre- and post-war reportage, this important book offers timely insight into an unknown but increasingly influential part of the world.
Haven't you seen CNN reportage documentaries starring Christiane Amampour? Well then you have an idea of the feel of this book. It is thorough, filled with history and geography and it focuses on political issues. The focus is much more political than cultural. How can you expect otherwise when dealing with an ethnic group that has over the centuries been decimated, split and torn by inner and outer violence. If you ask someone to tell of their life, you will soon be hearing about the violence they have survived. One hardly can concentrate on marital ceremonies, poetry and myths and food traditions when there are more vital things to mention. This book offers both, but much more time is spent on the politics, because for these people politics is a matter of survival.
The author during 2002, before the Iraq war of 2003, traveled through the four countries of Greater Kurdistan, Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria to talk with the Kurds. She talks to the people and tells you their stories. She fills in with history and information about the geographic sites she visited. You are told what the people wear, what cars they drove and what they ate and drank. (It feels like a TV reportage!) You get the dates and measurements. How many square meters is Lake Van? You will be told. OK, what I am saying is that sometimes the details get a bit excessive. You meet many people, all the ones she has talked with and interviewed, but perhaps a little more depth with a fewer number of individuals might have given more. All these people, for me they turned in to a bit of blur. Still, I learned a lot and it was a very informative book! Please note that the book was published in 2004, so much has happened since then. I still feel to understand the present you need the history of the past first.
Suzanne Toren reads the audiobook, and as usual does a magnificent job. She speaks clearly and slowly so you have time to absorb the facts.