Windham author hopes to bridge culture gap

113

WINDHAM — Hawreh Haddadi didn’t write his book “Finding Kurdistan: A Kurdish Iranian American’s Journey Home” for himself, for Kurds or for Iranians. He wrote it for Americans.

“Schools and libraries throughout the country aren’t talking about Kurds like they are the Palestinians, like they are the state of Israel,” Haddadi said.

With his book, he hopes “to contribute to the overall education of the Middle East, of Iran, of the Kurds.”

The Kurds are a minority ethnic group in the Middle East, and Kurdistan is not an official country, but a geo-cultural region. 

Haddadi is Kurdish Iranian and was born in Iraq. His family fled the region when it became too dangerous for Kurds in the late 1990s and came to America when Haddadi was 2 years old. The family first moved to Phoenix, Arizona, but soon relocated to Windham, where they have lived since and where Haddadi attended school.

Haddadi was inspired to write the book after his family visited Iran in 2010, a trip he calls “an awakening.”

“We saw life in a different form. In America, you can write whatever you want, speak politically, insult the president or political leaders. When you go back to Iran or throughout the Middle East, you can’t do that at all,” he said.

When Haddadi returned to Iran, he experienced culture shock in a variety of ways. For one, he said, the culture is more community-based rather than individualistic. 

In addition, the cuisine is “more handmade food, there’s not as much factory-made food. The meat is slaughtered right in front of you.”

There were clearer divisions throughout the country, as different ethnic groups spoke different languages. 

“People in Maine or New Hampshire don’t have the same state tensions or cultural tensions that you’ll see throughout the Middle East,” he said.

And, of course, there were the political restrictions. 

His father was a freedom fighter and wasn’t able to return to Iran. 

Haddadi’s book is “kind of like signing my own letter of exile.” Now he won’t be allowed in the country, either, he said.

He feels that writing the book was worth it. When the family visited in 2010, “We got detained for two days and questioned and harassed by the government, and we didn’t do anything. Now they have a case for us.”

Haddadi began writing in 2010, and “Finding Kurdistan” was published in October by Piscataqua Press in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

During that time, he graduated from the University of Southern Maine, then got a master’s degree in political science from Suffolk University. He now works at LearningWorks in Portland as a student transition specialist.

He dedicated the first part of the book to educating readers about the Kurds, their culture and their language. The second half of the book is about his experiences in 2010.

The most difficult part of writing the book, Haddadi said, was ensuring that Americans would understand the complicated story.

“The only way for us to move forward is through understanding each other.”

Jane Vaughan can be reached at 780-9103 or at jvaughan@keepmecurrent.com. 

Hawreh Haddadi wants to spread the word about the Kurdish people. 

Hawreh Haddadi, his parents and his older sister a few months before they moved to the United States.