Being Kurdish in a Hostile World

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 02 Mar 2018

Member Reviews

Being Kurdish In A Hostile World was interesting to me in that it linked together several other books I have read over the past few years either about or set in Iraq. I had learned of Gertrude Bell's drawing up Iraq's borders in the 1920s (Daughter Of The Desert) - leaving the Kurds with no homeland - and of the Iran-Iraq war from the Iranian perspective (Iran: A Modern History), Agatha Christie's archaeological expeditions (Come Tell Me How You Live) and the unbelievable opulence of Saddam Hussein's palaces (The President's Gardens). I also knew from the American perspective of the American-led invasion (Imperial Life In The Emerald City) and had read a novel set during the resultant civil war (Frankenstein In Baghdad). Ayub Nuri's account of his life and work as a journalist and translator within Kurdistan and wider Iraq allowed me to connect the dots and to learn of the Kurdish people's plight.

This is inevitably a memoir of war and violence. The death tolls quoted actually left me numbed because I couldn't imagine these numbers of people dead or disappeared and Nuri's matter of fact statements are frequently shocking. He, of course, has pretty much only known war throughout his life and its normality for him is a poignant reminder of how much of our world hasn't been peaceful for decades.

I did find Nuri's writing style a tad too dry for a memoir. As a journalist he must be used to writing newspaper length reports, but I felt I wanted deeper insights for this book and to get to know some of the people better. I did get a stronger feel for individuals earlier when he talks about his childhood and adolescence, but once Nuri begins his translation work, I felt the narrative was disjointed - briefly recounting lots of events and travels when I would have preferred more space to be allocated to fewer incidents.

Overall however, this is certainly an eye-opening read. Seeing globally significant events such as the toppling of Saddam Hussein's regime from the point of view of a person living in Iraq at the time - rather than reading Western-based reports - allowed me to understand more of the background. I can now easily empathise with the Kurds demands for an independent Kurdistan.
Was this review helpful?
Being Kurdish in a Hostile World by Ayub Nuri
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Mr. Nuri has crafted a nice little biography of his quite interesting life, from growing up in the midst of the Iran-Iraq War to racing around post invasion Iraq to interview political leaders and everyday people. Over the course of the book he also gives a nice overview of relatively recent Kurdish history.

The meat of the work is his work during and after the 2003 invasion. He traveled across the country, meeting a great many people with different views and beliefs, particularly about the American invasion.

The biggest issue that I had with the book was that it essentially ends after he left Baghdad in 2005. While he mentions covering the Islamic State and the retaking of Mosul, it's all relatively bare bones for the decade and a half after his flight from the capital.

All in all, it was quite an enjoyable little book, and I would particularly recommend it to anyone who is not familiar with the Kurds and their culture or history.

View all my reviews
Was this review helpful?
An Incredibly well-written memoir by Ayub Nuri of the Kurdish situation since the 1970s. He not only describes his personal experiences but, as a journalist, brings an extra layer of perspective and clarity. As a typical North American, I only knew the basics before reading this book.  I knew they were valuable allies against terrorism, they seek their own homeland and ,because of the latter, they are in conflict with Turkey. Mr Nuri describes in heartbreaking and poignant detail the experiences the Kurdish have suffered and continue to suffer. I found this book to be insightful and informative and highly recommend it.  I sincerely hope for better days for these beleaguered people.

Thank you to NetGalley, the publisher and the author for providing me with an arc in exchange for my honest review.
Was this review helpful?
I’ve never fully understood the positon of Kurdistan and the plight of the Kurds, but now thanks to this wonderful memoir by Ayub Nuri I do, and in addition understand much more about Iraq and the American intervention in the fall of Saddam Hussain. Nuri is an insider, so gives an insider’s view, but he’s also an experienced journalist and able to be balanced and objective in his writing when necessary. He’s known violence and conflict all his life, growing up during the Iran-Iraq war and from the 1970s to the present has experienced almost constant fighting, all of which he portrays in this eminently readable and accessible book. He also writes about the history of the Kurds and it doesn’t surprise, though still saddens, to learn that their present plight is largely due to betrayal by the French and British after WWI when the leading powers carved up the Middle East and deprived the Kurds of an independent country of their own. It seems to me, after reading Nuri’s account, that the West doesn’t pay enough attention to the Kurds, who continue to suffer under Iraqi rule and are increasingly under threat from ISIS, and I would like to recommend this book to anyone interested in this troubled region. An excellent and insightful exploration of a difficult and complicated part of the world.
Was this review helpful?

They go to the polls in northern Iraq today, the area residents call Kurdistan. By the time you read this the results may be known. No matter the outcome it is a political problem, not only for the central government in Baghdad but for the rest of the world.

I have been to Iraq a couple of times and have a little bit of understanding of the aspirations of the Kurdish people, who supposedly are the largest ethnic group in the world without their own country. Promises were made and broken a century ago at the close of the First World War. Now the regional government of three Iraqi provinces wants to change that.

We won’t get into the political pros and cons. As someone who has lived through independence referenda in Canada, where citizens of the province of Quebec have twice been asked if they preferred to be part of a new independent nation, I think I have some idea of the tensions in Iraq today. It is complicated, no matter which way the vote goes. (No predictions from me here – ask me privately if you are curious.)

More most of us, Iraq is just a place on the television news – we would be hard-pressed to find it on a map. But given that it is in the news so much, it is not bad to learn more about it.

Ayub Nuri is an Iraqi journalist, ethnically a Kurd, who has penned an autobiography more or less timed to coincide with the referendum. Being Kurdish in a Hostile World is an interesting snapshot of life for the Kurds over the past 30 or so years both during the reign of Saddam Hussein and afterward.

It’s an easy read, which is always a plus. Nuri brings home the reality that there is an entire generation of Iraqis who really don’t have much experience with peace – there has always been war in their country. I remember reading (in the late 1980s) that the Iran-Iraq war (1980-88) had received little attention here, but more than a million people had died. It wasn’t our fight, so politicians and people alike ignored what was going on so far away.

The idea of Being Kurdish in a Hostile World is to provide background, to make the reader sympathetic with the Kurds and their desire for a homeland. Nuri manages that nicely, with his description of chemical weapons attacks and the other struggles his family and his people have faced. There probably is another side to the Kurdish story, a less flattering side, but you won’t find it here.

You have probably heard it said that if you want to understand someone you need to walk a mile in his shoes. Or words to that effect. Being Kurdish in a Hostile World allows you to do that. An impartial observer might not agree with all the historical interpretations that always reflect the Kurds in the best light, but Nuri never claims to be impartial.

Despite having been to the region, I will admit I only had a cursory knowledge of many of the recent historical events that have shaped the culture and the region. I am better informed than I was before I read the book, and I enjoyed the learning experience. What more could you ask for?

“Book has been provided courtesy of University of Regina Press”
Was this review helpful?
An absolutely captivating look at a short span of Kurdish history, "1970's through 2014" as seen through the eyes of Ayub Nuri. What this man and his fellow Kurds have lived through is awful, yet there is much love and tolerance in their hearts. They should have their own country. Iraq sure isn't doing them any good. I'd recommend this book to anyone who is interested in Kurdish history. My thanks to the publishers and Netgalley.
Was this review helpful?
Most of us are cognisant of the issues relating to the Kurds, but are unaware of the amount of human suffering that they have been subjected to over many years. 
The author takes us on a roller coaster ride of emotions through his personal anecdotes of his amazing and, at times, shocking events in his  life. His love of the English language is very evident as his story unfolds. He covers most of his life from a privileged childhood through to being a penniless refugee, through the present day He has seen many regime changes and catastrophic political events.
He doesn't overly dwell on his own personal tragedies, and leaves a lot to the reader's imagination by creating vivid images of events in his life.
The Kurdish people still have a number of enemies in their part of the world and their individual stories of courage, fortitude and perseverance will continue to move us for years to come. It is sad to know that there are many stories like his that will never be told.
Was this review helpful?
Being Kurdish in a Hostile World by Ayub Nuri was received direct from the publisher.  The Kurds, a group of people most all of us have heard about but unless you are in the military, you probably know little about.  They are some of our staunchest allies and fiercest fighters in the northern Iraq/Syria/Turkey/Iran region but the get very little press in the American media.  I for one, eagerly grabbed this book so I could learn more about these peoples. The author takes the reader through the Iran-Iraq war, Operation Desert Storm and its aftermath, even to a town full of human flesh craving venomous snakes.  For those who talk that the US removing Saddam Hussein from power was a mistake, take a read of this book and  learn how life was for real people under his regime.   The novel also points out the failings of Bush Sr administration in Iraq after the first Gulf War and how we, as a nation, had to do things right after the second Gulf War until Obama messed things up again.

5 stars
Was this review helpful?