Kurdish Fragment


Looking yesterday at these images of Syrian Kurds attempting to flee the ongoing catastrophe in that country I recalled the late Christopher Hitchens’ advocacy of Kurdish liberty. As he never tired of repeating, the Kurds are the largest ethnic group in the world to have no state of their own. I also remembered an anonymous fragment of Kurdish poetry that I translated many years ago, via an Italian intermediary. Apart from its approximate age I have no further details of the poem nor of its Italian translator. It was written in the 7th or 8th century and shows that persecution is far from being a new experience for the Kurdish people.

The places of prayer are destroyed
The fires spent
The greatest men hidden
Cruel Arabs raze
the peasant villages as far as Sharazar
Enslaved are wives and daughters
Brave men are rolled in blood
The rites of Zarathustra are no more
The Wise Lord has no pity on us

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