Lesson 3: Oppression and Persecution of Ethnic Minorities as seen through Kurdish Poetry
About this Lesson:
Kurds are among the many ethnic groups that are not Arab but live within the the borders of the Arab world. Large Kurdish populations live in Iraq and Syria where a long history of exclusion and oppression has left them with a unique and complicated history. Throughout modern history, Kurds have been denied a sovereign Kurdish state, despite their varied attempts to establish one. The lack of a homeland and subsequent persecution they have experienced pervades the Kurdish collective memory and can be seen in their literature, poetry, art and music.
In this lesson, students gain insight into the Kurdish people and their history by reading two poems by Choman Hardi. Hardi was born in Kurdish Iraq and fled to Iran with her family as a young girl. Her family returned to Iraq five years later, only to be forced into exile. Hardi now resides in the UK. The selected poems are political in nature and show the strong impact political events can have on both individual as well as a people. As you teach this lesson, you may use the powerpoint presentation provided to guide you and your students. You may also use the handouts and have students answer the questions on their own.
Though knowledge of Kurdish history is not necessary for this lesson, it may be helpful for the teacher to have some background information.
In this lesson, students will:
- read poems by Choman Hardi.
- write an essay comparing Hardi’s poems to another Kurdish poem.
- Kurd: An ethnic group predominantly living in an area often called Kurdistan, which includes parts of Iran, Turkey, Syria, and Iraq. Their native language is Kurdish.
- Choman Hardi: Pronounced: Cho (rhymes with blow)-mahn Har-dee. To learn more about Hardi, visit her website.
- Peoples of the Arab world have diverse ethnic and linguistic backgrounds, each with a distinctive character and identity.
- Ethnic minorities negotiate their personal and collective identities in various ways to both accept and contest the dominant culture.
Curriculum Framing Questions
- What can we learn about the experiences of ethnic groups from the film and literature they produce?
By the end of this lesson, students will be able to:
- articulate the value of poetry as a window into culture.
- discuss the connotations of vocabulary used in Choman Hardi’s poems.
- analyize Hardi’s poetry and project how the content of Hardi’s poems may have been inspired by her experiences.
Assessment & Evaluation of Student Learning:
- Active participation in class discussion.
- Clear and coherent essay comparing Hardi’s poems to another Kurdish poem.
Curriculum Standards Information
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.1 Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.2 Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze in detail its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in the text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the cumulative impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone (e.g., how the language evokes a sense of time and place; how it sets a formal or informal tone).
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.6 Analyze a particular point of view or cultural experience reflected in a work of literature from outside the United States, drawing on a wide reading of world literature.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.1 Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text, including determining where the text leaves matters uncertain.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.2 Determine two or more themes or central ideas of a text and analyze their development over the course of the text, including how they interact and build on one another to produce a complex account; provide an objective summary of the text.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.3 Analyze the impact of the author’s choices regarding how to develop and relate elements of a story or drama (e.g., where a story is set, how the action is ordered, how the characters are introduced and developed).
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in the text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone, including words with multiple meanings or language that is particularly fresh, engaging, or beautiful. (Include Shakespeare as well as other authors.)
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.6 Analyze a case in which grasping a point of view requires distinguishing what is directly stated in a text from what is really meant (e.g., satire, sarcasm, irony, or understatement).
Show the definition of Invasion the board:
- The act of invading, especially the entrance of an armed force into a territory to conquer
- A large-scale onset of something injurious or harmful, such as a disease
- An intrusion or encroachment
Distribute the poem “Invasion” and read it aloud. Ask students for their general feedback—what is this poem about? Ask students what this poem might tell them about Kurdish history and culture.
Introduce “At the Border, 1979.” Provide a bit of relevant background about Hardi:
- Choman Hardi was born in Iraq Kurdistan in 1974, but her family fled to Iran while she was still a baby.
- When she was 5 years old, Saddam Hussein became president of the Iraqi Republic and she returned with her family to the country of her birth
Ask students: What do you think it was like for a five year old to be crossing the border from Iran to return to her homeland?
Distribute copies of “At the Border, 1979” and have students them read it to themselves. When they’re finished reading, ask the following questions:
- What do you think of the poem?
- This poem is a short story—what happens in the story?
- What feelings does it evoke?
- What is the author feeling? What are the people around her feeling? How do you know?
- What are the similarities?
- What are the differences?
- What can you learn about Kurdish culture from this poem?
- Mem u Zin: Understanding Kurdish Culture through Film: In this lesson, students watch and analyze the Kurdish Mem u Zin, based on the Kurdish epic poem by Ahmed Xani
- Kurdish Aspect uses a variety of news sources to provide reliable and accurate information on issues about the Kurds.