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A Thousand Sighs, A Thousand Revolts: Journeys in Kurdistan [Kindle Edition]

Christiane Bird
3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Though the Kurds played a major military and tactical role in the United States’ recent war with Iraq, most of us know little about this fiercely independent, long-marginalized people. Now acclaimed journalist Christiane Bird, who riveted readers with her tour of Islamic Iran in Neither East Nor West, travels through this volatile part of the world to tell the Kurds’ story, using personal observations and in-depth research to illuminate an astonishing history and vibrant culture.

For the twenty-five to thirty million Kurds, Kurdistan is both an actual and a mythical place: an isolated, largely mountainous homeland that has historically offered sanctuary from the treacherous outside world and yet does not exist on modern maps. Parceled out among the four nation-states of Iraq, Turkey, Syria, and Iran after World War I, Kurdistan is a divided land with a tragic history, where the indomitable Kurds both celebrate their ancient culture and fight to control their own destiny. Occupying some of the Middle East’s most strategic and richest terrain, the Kurds are the fourth-largest ethnic group in the region and the largest ethnic group in the world without a state to call their own.

Whether dancing at a Kurdish wedding in Iran, bearing witness to the destroyed Kurdish countryside in southeast Turkey, having lunch with a powerful exiled agha in Syria, or visiting the sites of Saddam Hussein’s horrific chemical attacks in Iraq, the intrepid, insightful Bird sheds light on a violently stunning world seen by few Westerners. Part mesmerizing travelogue, part action-packed history, part reportage, and part cultural study, this critical book offers timely insight into an unknown but increasingly influential part of the world. Bird paints a moving and unforgettable portrait of a people uneasily poised between a stubborn past and an impatient future.

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Travel writer Bird (Neither East nor West: One Woman's Journey Through the Islamic Republic of Iran) provides a compelling glimpse of Kurds and the difficulties they face with this blend of travelogue and history lesson. The book's title comes from a Kurdish poem about the Kurds' determination to be masters of their own lands, an effort that brings about "a thousand sighs, a thousand tears, a thousand revolts, a thousand hopes." Bird deftly describes each of those aspects of Kurdistani culture, from the sighs and tears of women who offer Bird both flavorful dinners and wrenching stories of loss, to the hopes of Kurdish artists who believe their ethnic group's artistic traditions can survive beyond war. Where Bird focuses most, however, is the revolts that have plagued the Kurds for decades. The largest ethnic group in the world without a state of their own, the Kurds number between 25 and 30 million, and live in an arc of land that stretches through Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Iran and parts of the former Soviet Union. As Bird travels through Kurdistan (a country that isn't on any map), she meets an array of people, from scholars to bus drivers. Each story of conflict, poverty, homelessness and suffering is like a brushstroke in a larger portrait of the Kurdish experience. Bird's talent for blending reportage with illuminating tales from individuals makes this a notable and much needed work. B&w photos, map.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Kurdistan comprises a craggy, mountainous stretch through the epicenter of the Middle East and is home to as many as 30 million Kurds, the fourth largest ethnic group in the region. Long marginalized and brutally repressed--as in the late 1980s, when Saddam Hussein attacked Iraqi Kurds with chemical weapons and destroyed more than 4,000 Kurdish villages--the Kurds are notoriously independent, passionate, and proud, and today they hold tremendous geopolitical importance, as evidenced by their role in building the new Iraqi government. Bird first became fascinated by the Kurds during her 1988 visit to Iran. Here, she explores Iraqi Kurdistan--which, with a decade of protection as part of the "Northern No-Fly Zone," has flourished as a near-autonomous democracy--and makes stops in Syria, Iran, and Turkey, showing Kurdish history and culture along the way. Her well-written and timely story reflects the Kurds' sense of determination, as described in a Kurdish poem, "A thousand sighs, a thousand tears, a thousand revolts, a thousand hopes." Andy Boynton
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Product Details

  • File Size: 1897 KB
  • Print Length: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Random House (December 18, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,050,604 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

3.2 out of 5 stars
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, but... November 28, 2007
It was hard for me to read the book objectively, as I have spent considerable time in South Kurdistan (Iraq) doing humanitarian aid work. In Bird's journey through Iraqi Kurdistan, every town she visited and every person she met reminded me of just how much I miss and love the Kurdish country and people. Bird's analysis is not deep nor is it political for the most part. What politics are mentioned, it seems are designed to pull out and investigate the Kurdish culture and psyche. Having lived among the Kurds, her interactions with them ring true and accurate.

All this being said, and what is keeping this book from getting a five star review, is that I found the author's semi frequent (once or twice a chapter) pot shots at American politics leading up to the invasion of 2003 to be somewhat tiresome. If you are reading this book, it is because you want to find out what the Kurds think and do, not what the author thinks about American foreign policy.
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17 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A THOUSAND SIGHS, A THOUSAND REVOLTS May 26, 2004
Reviewed by
Robert A. Lincoln
"Once again, just business as usual in the wild and woolly world of Kurdish politics."
So writes Christiane Bird two-thirds of the way through A Thousand Sighs, A Thousand Revolts as she describes an event in the relationship among Iranians, Iraqis, and Kurds in the early 1970s. In a sense she was denying what she announced at the start: "This is a not a book about Kurdish politics. This is a book about the Kurdish people."
Like any good travel book, however, A Thousand Sighs is also a political study, which is especially important today when the Kurds are suddenly in the forefront of the news. Ms. Bird is a reactor, not an analyst. As she states early on, the Kurds are the world's largest ethnic group without a state of their own, despite their longstanding claim of a country called Kurdistan. Several times, they have almost but not quite made it and at least once held the senior position in someone else's empire (the Seljuk, for Saladin was a Kurd), but have never been truly absorbed into or taken control of another political culture.
Today, the Kurds are a sizeable percentage of the populations of Turkey, Iraq, Syria, and Iran. On unofficial maps, Kurdistan extends from the middle of the Anatolian plain to the mountains of Iran. The Kurds probably number between 25 and 30 million.
Ms. Bird found them today extremely sympathetic, perhaps dangerously so in the long run, toward the United States. They hope at least to hold a federated piece of real estate, rich in oil, in Iraq. Centuries ago the Kurds converted to Islam, and she does not mention much about the conventional saying in the Middle East that the enemy of my enemy is my friend.
Kurds Ms. Bird contacted rate Turks as their most fearsome enemy.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Too scholarly for the average reader March 19, 2005
By James
I read this book when it first came out and it is very well researched, yet there are so many different characters in the book that the reader loses his or her way and it is very confusing. I would have enjoyed the book more if the author had stuck with two or three characters to tell the story. The average book lover will not finish this book but will set it aside after a few chapters. What a pity. Still, it is a worthwhile project.
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0 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Hope March 29, 2014
By Chm3929
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
You just have to wonder how these tribal people will ever resolve their problems it has been going in for so long u can only hope that they will finally see their way clear to move I.
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