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Jangez Kan by Richard Hanson

May 7 2008

Gharib: Alien by Fadia Faqir

August, 2008

Richard Hanson

Down at the bottom of my hill, opposite the library is a small religious community that houses a few destitute asylum seekers.  I met Jangez (not his real name), a 36 year old Iranian Kurd at a recent meal to welcome asylum seekers to Sheffield. We’d talked about the Kurdish situation, and he’d agreed to talk more with me.

His room overlooks the main road, and is bare but warm.  He’s been in Sheffield for the past four years, after arriving in the UK after a mammoth journey from northern Iran through Turkey, Greece, Italy and France to Dover. For the previous 24 years or so he’d been a prisoner, held by Saddam’s troops in a prison camp in northern Iran with 20000 other people, after his family were captured.  His parents died in the camp.

When the Americans deposed Saddam, the UN came and took a lot of the camp residents to Sweden, Finland and Norway, but not Jangez.  So he began his epic journey.

‘The Americans came, Saddam’s troops went, the police and government were gone, all the people were gone. The camp closed, finished, but I had no home to go to.

‘The people said England was better, they weren’t staying in Turkey, France, they said England is better, so I go there.

‘I just have my clothes and a small bag. I was in a lorry. It was closed, then stopped with five people inside. I banged on the door, I had a small hole to see out. I saw three children outside, they called the police, they came, opened the door, wrote my name and said go there to the police station.  I went to Dover, Ashford, Leicester, Leeds, then Darnall [Sheffield].

‘The Home Office refused me.  What proof can I give? I have no nationality, I was in the camp for a long time.  Kurds have a big problem in lots of countries, Iran, Turkey, Arab countries.  All Arab countries have a problem with Kurds.’

Jangez has nothing that he brought with him.

Fadia Faqir

What many don’t know about Abu-Gharib prison is how suitable its name for  the violations committed within its walls. Abu-Gharib means ‘father of alien or stranger’ and Arabic being the language it is the associations of ‘gharib’ extend to mean ‘alien in a foreign land’ and ‘unusual or unacceptable’ practices.

Further, there are so many other similar prisons, where prisoners are brutally tortured.  You would find them in other Arab countries and in Turkey and Iran. The Americans violated prisoners in Abu-Gharib and Guantanamo prison camp and others in so many parts of the world did the same. But two wrongs don’t make a right.

The affluence of the west and implications of the silk root are set against the poverty of the immigrants that are following it backward.

I imagined a misrepresented and misunderstood Jangez Kan, an illiterate immigrant, not only in the literal sense, but in the metaphorical sense. How visible are you without being versed in the art of representation and media? Will you be heard if you were illiterate? What if you spoke in Kurdish, your own native language? What if the gestures and nuances of what you said were alien? Would you register on the western scale if you were dark, foreign and incomprehensible?