Book Reviews

Book Review: The Man in Blue Pyjamas.

The author, a Kurdish poet and journalist, takes the reader an emotional life in Kurdistan’s prison life, countryside, and general living conditions under Saddam Hussein.

Kurds being Sunni Muslims, lacked the support of Shia Muslims, but were tolerated before Saddam Hussein came to power, after a military coup ending the then Iraqi king’s reign.

There are approximately 30 million Kurds living in northern Iraq, southeastern Turkey, Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Russia, Armenia, Germany, and the U.S.A.

The largest concentration of Kurds is in Iraq (approximately 17 per cent of Iraq’s population, and that of Turkey (14 – 18 million).

Jalal Barzanji writes without ill feelings towards Saddam Hussein, although the party’s officials without any justification jailed him. The injustices, brutality in Saddam’s jails was legendary and horrendous.

Jalal’s jail time effectively shattered his life. He “writes” his book “is in pieces as is his life”.

When the author became convinced that his family and him had no future in Iraq, he decided to flee to “freedom”, regardless of difficulties involved. He writes vividly about the human smuggling industry in Turkey, Greece, and many other European countries, fed by Afghans, Iraqis, Pakistanis, and many other people from all over the world.

His valiant efforts started in 1988 and ended in 1999 when he managed to obtain an immigration visa for Canada through the UN refugee programme.

He also reveals how the UN and the Canadian government helped him financially to survive his time in Ankara, Turkey, and how he paid back his “debts” to smugglers.

It is a heart breaking well-documented and written story that compels the reader to continue reading the prose to the last page, turning page after page.

Highly recommended.

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