By Aquisha Lewis is a M.A candidate in the program of Gender Studies & Feminist research at McMaster University
The smooth face of the past map is scratched… Its lines scattered on my present borders”
– Except from Legs made of paper, in the Shade by Sozan Jamil (2013)
Sozan is 49 and in many ways, has lived two lives within her lifetime. From Kurdistan, Sozan graduated with a B.A in Agronomy from Mosul University, and taught mathematics, physics, chemistry and English at the local high school in Zakho, Iraq. A born writer, Sozan wowed her father with her abilities at 9 years old, and won several awards during high school. Based on scholastic aptitude tests, Sozan was pushed into a career of agronomist work in plant genetics, food production and land reclamation. The Kurdish system, Sozan reflects, places individuals in the careers that the state feels is best suited to their abilities.
After marrying in 1999, Sozan’s life changed dramatically. Her husband proved to be abusive and controlling. This behaviour followed them when they were relocated to Canada by the UN Refugee Relocation program. According to estimates by the World Health Organization (WHO), globally 35% of women have experienced either physical and/or sexual violence in their lives. “Intimate partners” perpetrate the majority of this violence. Situations of conflicts, post conflict and displacement, exacerbate the likelihood and forms of violence that women experience.
Within Canada, domestic violence accounts for 12% of all recorded violent crime (40,000 arrests) and 22% of overall incidents reported to police. Although overall crime rates are falling, 2010 statistics highlighted that intimate violence (formerly termed domestic violence) rates had increased by 19%, the third increase in four years. Although men can also experience intimate partner violence, overwhelmingly this sort of violence follows a gendered line, with women accounting for the bulk of victims. For instance, out of 89 police reported spousal homicides, 76 (85%) of the victims were women. Statistically speaking, 49% of all female murder victims are killed by former or current intimate partners contrasted to 7% for men in Canada.
Initially writing and publishing her work in Arabic, Sozan gained recognition in Arabic-speaking countries. Her first publication, a book of poetry called Swirls of the Rainy Honey (2011) won Egypt’s Best Iraqi Poetry and Short Story Writer for 2011. A second book of poetry also written in Arabic followed, Two Hymns of One Exile (2012). Sozan released her first book of English poetry, In the Shade (2013), at a launch hosted by the Hamilton Public library. In 2014, Sozan won third prize in the Nazik Almalaika Short Story competition held in Baghdad by the Ministry of Education. Recently Sozan became a member of the prestigious Iraqi Writers Union. To gain admission into this association, a writer has to have at least two published books and be an award winner.
In Sozan’s view, helping people make connections and bridge divides is very important. Her work as a freelance interpreter and translator naturally merges with her writing and supports her commitment to being a bridge between individuals, communities and cultures. This has led to her translating books into Arabic and English. Oma Gate, her publishing company based out of Texas, U.S.A., works with writers in many languages with the goal of publication in alternative languages than the one the author writes in. So far, publications by her company are in Arabic, English, French, Spanish and Kurdish. When asked where she draws her inspiration for her writing, Sozan shares that she writes on everything that she feels inside. She is very concerned with women’s rights and human life.