iran life
Women warriors: story of Khatoon Khider and her Daughters of the Sun
Khatoon Khider used to be a popular Yazidi singer. Now she’s the head of an all-women battle unit with Isis in its sights. By Emma Graham-Harrison
By Emma Graham-Harrison

After what happened to Yazidi women and girls, I decided to stop singing until I take revenge for them,” she says. “Maybe I will go back to music, but I think this job as a soldier will be a long one.”

(As a side note: There’s dozens and dozens of these sorts of stories that are constantly mailed to me. I am usually uncomfortable posting them, as there’s a legitimate case to be made that they are wartime propaganda. Most I’ve seen have been poorly written, poorly sourced, and slanted to encourage cheerleading over critical thinking. What sets this one apart for me is its in-depth interviewing, and focus on who she is as a person over the ‘ISIS/ISIL/Daesh fears women’ narrative.)

(thanks to Becca for sending this in!)

روزگارم بد نیست
تکه نانی دارم ، خرده هوشی، سر سوزن ذوقی
مادری دارم ، بهتر از برگ درخت
دوستانی ، بهتر از آب روان

My life is not so bad
I have a loaf of bread,
           A bit of intelligence,
                     and an eclectic taste.

My mother, lovelier than the leaf on trees.
My friends, dearer than streaming water…
—  Sohrab Sepheri

“I got pregnant at 17. I was still a kid when I had a kid. My son, Farhad, was my pride and joy, my everything. He gave my life purpose and meaning. When he finally got into college, I told him I’d find a wife for him. He laughed and told me to wait for when he’s done with his military service. The Iran-Iraq war had just begun and we had many arguments when he enlisted to fight.

I was worried. I didn’t want my boy to go, but he ended up going anyway. One of the last things he told me was "If I die, please don’t despair. Bullets and shrapnel don’t know any better, and they can’t tell one person from the next”. I never saw him again.

Taj Gowhar, mother of Farhad, a fallen Zoroastrian soldier.


Kurdish pop star Helly Luv risked her life to shoot an anti-ISIS music video 2 miles from the front lines 

Pop artist Helly Luv is seemingly full of contradictions: She’s outspoken about anti-violence, but fired a shell at an Islamic State settlement while filming a music video. She was born in the conservative Iran, but leads a life in the West as a revolutionary pop star. For her, music is political. This is why she insisted on filming the music video for her song “Revolution” in her ethnic home of northern Iraq. “If I can fight against them with my music, then my song is as powerful as or more powerful than their weapons.”


RAVING IRAN, Susanne Regina Meures (2016)

A compelling documentary about two techno DJs trying to do their business in a land where every kind of electronic music is illegal. We watch Arash and Anoosh organizing parties, printing their covers and selling their CDs. What sounds like normal music business is a difficult and dangerous challenge in the Iran. Scenes at the “moral department” in Teheran makes you laugh and choke at the same time. This culture is so different from our western values and understandings of moral that it’s sometimes hard to believe. But the documentary is most of the time very authentic (I say most of the time because some dialogues seemed a bit scripted) mainly because of the vibrant and rough cut, of course driven by techno beats, and the camera style which is, due to the circumstances, often smartphone footage or even worse quality. This changes when the duo travels to Zurich where they get the chance to play at Lethargy, part of the biggest european techno festival Streetparade. After we watched them having rough times in their home it feels like a release for the audience as well to see them in the middle of this giant party. It is really special for them to play in front of a lot of people, open air, in the city. The change of camera style visualizes the culture change. Funny thing is  - they already miss Iran. After five days in Zurich they need to decide whether to go back to Iran or to destroy their documents and try to stay in Europe (at least this is what a lawyer back in Iran advised). As I mentioned it’s an interesting and deep inside in a totally other culture than ours, so much is illegal but on the other hand there is always a way to make it possible somehow. You can’t make a party in your house because your neighbours will surely call the police and they will surely arrest you. So you rent a bus, invite all of your friends, bribe some policemen and party in the desert. The perspective you get is - of course - biased and shows only one side. But nevertheless it’s an interesting inside and only one of thousand examples of the difficult life in Iran.