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An Interview with Houzan Mahmoud, M.A. (Part Two)


Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2017/12/15


An Interview with Houzan Mahmoud, M.A. She discusses: UK, Canada, and complicity in activity around Iraq and Kurdistan; the ongoing Iraq and Afghanistan wars; helping with the Culture Project and what it is; the Culture Project act as a repository and incubator for the arts and culture of the Kurds; helping out with money or expertise; war, trauma, rights, and asking why people act this way; and wondering why people can’t be like other animals, like birds that sing. 

Keywords: Culture Project, feminism, Houzan Mahmoud, Iraq, Kurdistan, Kurds.

An Interview with Houzan Mahmoud, M.A.: Co-Founder, Culture Project (Part Two)[1],[2],[3],[4]

1. Scott Douglas Jacobsen: Take an example of a developed country such as the UK, or Canada, are they complicit in any of this activity in Iraq and regarding Kurdistan?

Houzan Mahmoud: The UK certainly was complicit in dividing Kurdistan among four countries, i.e. between Iraq, Iran, Syria and Turkey, due to this we have been suffering endlessly. After the fall of Ottoman Empire and the new reshaping of the map of the Middle East, the borders were drawn, genocides were taking place, and Kurds were denied their right to statehood.

For almost one century, in four different parts of Kurdistan, people waged different struggles – both armed and civilian struggles – to fight for their rights, freedoms, and independence. The four countries that we are confined within, their borders have continuously denied Kurds basic rights and inflicted genocide, imprisonment, and even cultural erasure.

These have been part of their policies towards Kurds. This is why most Kurds never felt a belonging to these countries. Rather, they felt oppressed, degraded, and colonised in their own homelands.

The West, of course, has always kept a blind eye to our suffering. Instead of recognising our rights, all they do, for example in the UK, is to emphasize the unity of Iraq. They know that Iraqi regimes have always oppressed people and carried out crimes against people throughout Iraq, especially against Kurds. Canada also was part of the coalition against Iraq in the first Gulf War in 1991.

2. Jacobsen: What are the quantitative details about women and children, and soldiers, who have been affected by the ongoing Iraq and Afghanistan wars?

Mahmoud: This is beyond knowing. I don’t think even statistics can provide a true account of the loss of lives and casualties of these nasty wars. Although, when we think of war, people mainly think about the number of the dead, but we need to also think about those who are disabled, lost their loved ones, who are traumatised, and have to live with the sorrow of losing their loved one.

The consequences of any war and its damage is not only in the number of the dead, but in the entire destruction of lands, homes, dreams, and turning laughter into a long-lasting sadness. War can turn your life upside down within minutes.

I can think of the recent example of the invasion of Sinjar. The Yezidi town where ISIS killed so many of them. ISIS took the girls as sex slaves and sold so many of them in slave markets. Just imagine, so much crime within an eye blink turned so many lives into hell.

There is more ugliness, more crime, and atrocious outcomes that can never be fully investigated or accounted for, because so many complicit parties in wars don’t want to go into these details. All I really can say is in every war situation that the ordinary civilians have been and will be the main and only victims.

3. Jacobsen: I have helped with the Culture Project. What is it? How is it important to the Kurds and yourself?

Mahmoud: Well, let me tell you something Scott: first of all, thank you so much for your ongoing support, it means a lot to us and our writers and Kurdistan of course. In addition to the fact, that you are probably the first journalist who could make me visit my past as someone who grew up in a war zone, and reflect upon it, otherwise, I wouldn’t usually write or talk about it in such detail.

We have many wonderful writers in the Culture Project and want their work to be proofread and edited to encourage them to write more, and to be sure that their writings are of high calibre and importance.

Secondly, there are other wonderful supporters who were the backbone of Culture Project, one such person is Benjamin David founder of Conatus News, and writer and friend Sarah Mills who have helped tremendously. I want to thank you all for making time to support us, and our writers, essayist, activists and poets.

4. Jacobsen: How does the Culture Project act as a repository and incubator for the arts and culture of the Kurds?

Mahmoud: Culture Project is a unique project that promotes progressive ideals, and critical engagement with art, literature, music, feminism, and gender. We place the question of women in the heart of our project. This is why it is important to make sure our platform is supportive and encouraging to those who want to express their ideas in English.

We are trying to bridge between Kurdistan, its Kurdish diaspora, and the outside world through knowledge production about our society, art, literature, and cultural production, but from a critical point of view.

We are lucky to have a new wave of egalitarian and progressive generation of men and women, who are active against patriarchy, oppressive regimes, and are for rights and freedoms of women.

One highlight of this project is that it’s exposing Kurdish masculinity, violence against women, and advocates for feminism and feminist critique of artistic production that reinforces subordination of women.

5. Jacobsen: How can people help out? Can they donate money or expertise?

Mahmoud: We need all kinds of support. Financial support for our activities in Kurdistan and abroad. As well as expertise from those who know more about art, literature and editing, we need reviewers for artists’ work, music, films, and short stories as well as poetry. We have a wealth of Kurdish literature, art, and poetry that needs exploration and reviewing.

6. Jacobsen: We were talking one time about war and trauma, and women’s rights. You idly asked, “Why are people like this? Why do they go to war? Will they ever learn? Why do they repeat these same mistakes?” I mentioned the several tens of thousands of years of evolutionary history and gave an academic response.

You know Scott, sometimes, I realise that despite the wealth of literature on war, be it history books, poetry, photography, movies etc., some people still don’t ask themselves this simple question; why war?

Why should they support their oppressive governments into war? Hundreds of years of repetitive wars in different contexts and format, still humanity cannot learn from the past. It’s true most ordinary civilians are often opposed to war, but it is governments who decide it and they are the ruling class who do not suffer themselves but it’s the ordinary people who pay the price.

I wish one day comes when people no longer go to war on the order of their government. Another thing makes me feel sick when I think about it, is the use of science in the civilised west and its scientists who continue to produce latest weapons and atomic bombs. Have you realised how many governments possess atomic bombs?

Just imagine if they were used in any wars what will happen to our beautiful planet? To life, to people to animals, trees and flowers, to the birds and even insects? I wish the “clever” scientists of the advanced capitalist machine ask themselves this question why creating all these weapons? Why not try to find cure for disease instead?

Why not spend their lives in a good cause to serve humanity instead of thinking and working day and night of how to invent a new weapon, rocket, bomb or bullet. This is gross, this why sometimes I question the word “human beings” in this case, what kind of humans are they?

7. However, we kept going. You agreed with the explanation, but asked, “Why can’t people be like other animals, like the birds? All they do is sing.” We laughed about that. I reflect on that and think about it.

Mahmoud: Yes, indeed, we did speak about so many things and with some laughter. You know Scott, these issues are so tough, and sad. If I lose sense of humour, I might get trapped in these memories for ever in a very sad and traumatising way.

This not to reduce the importance of these issues. But for us as survivors and activists who fight against the causes of these wars and for rights of people, we have to be hopeful, full of life, and love laughter, songs, and music.

This is why I like birds. They produce these nice sounds, almost as a special song of their own. When I go to the park, especially to Hampstead Heath, I look out for the birds. Those who sing, without any particular reason. They just sing. This makes me happy.

You know Scott, the more we read about war academically or in literature or poetry, even in photos or art about war, it still cannot tell us enough about the reasons of why wars still happen. Why men specifically speaking go to war or make war?

The problem is end of one war is the start of another one. This is what I have seen in my life. No reasoning, justification or excuse can legitimize any war in my opinion.

As much as I am against war, and hate war, and those who start war, I think to myself, “When you are invaded, then you need resistance. When there is resistance, there is glorification. When there is glorification, then there is sacrifice and the story goes on, till we see there is too much destruction and many lives are lost.”

Growing up as a Kurd, we were and still always are a project for invasion and colonisation. This is why resistance is important and often necessary to survival.

I hope there comes one day when the capitalist countries stop making weapons and selling them to our government. I hope that human beings come to a state where they no longer resort to war and invasion of other countries. I just want to live in peace and see peace prevail on our planet.


  1. Fantappie, M. (2011, January 30). Houzan Mahmoud of Owfi Tells Us About Her Role in the Struggle for Equality in Iraq and Kurdistan. Retrieved from
  2. IHEU. (2008, September 31). Volunteer of the month: Houzan Mahmoud. Retrieved from
  3. Jacobsen, S.D. (2017, December 8). An Interview with Houzan Mahmoud, M.A. (Part One). Retrieved from
  4. Jacobsen, S.D (2017, July 4). Interview with Houzan Mahmoud – Co-Founder, The Culture Project. Retrieved from
  5. Jacobsen, S.D. (2017, June 24). An Interview with Houzan Mahmoud — Co-Founder, Culture Project. Retrieved from
  6. Mahmoud, H. (2006, September 27). A dark anniversary. Retrieved from
  7. Mahmoud, H. (2006, June 12). A symptom of Iraq’s tragedy. Retrieved from
  8. Mahmoud, H. (2004, March 8). An empty sort of freedom. Retrieved from
  9. Mahmoud, H. (2005, August 14). Houzan Mahmoud: Iraq must reject a constitution that enslaves women. Retrieved from
  10. Mahmoud, H. (2005, January 28). Houzan Mahmoud: Why I Am Not Taking Part in These Phoney Elections. Retrieved from
  11. Mahmoud, H. (2007, May 2). Human chattel. Retrieved from
  12. Mahmoud, H. (2006, October 7). It’s not a matter of choice. Retrieved from
  13. Mahmoud, H. (2014, October 10). Kobane Experience Will Live On. Retrieved from
  14. Mahmoud, H. (2014, October 7). Kurdish Female Fighters and Kobanê Style Revolution. Retrieved from
  15. Mahmoud, H. (2016, November 1). Mosul And The Plight Of Women. Retrieved from
  16. Mahmoud, H. (2006, October 17). The price of freedom. Retrieved from
  17. Mahmoud, H. (2007, April 13). We say no to a medieval Kurdistan. Retrieved from
  18. Mahmoud, H. (2007, December 21). What honour in killing?. Retrieved from

Appendix I: Footnotes

[1] Co-Founder, Culture Project.

[2] Individual Publication Date: December 15, 2017 at; Full Issue Publication Date: January 1, 2017 at

[3] MA, Gender Studies, SOAS-University of London.

[4] Photographs courtesy of Houzan Mahmoud.


In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at


© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

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