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Diana Nammi became a frontline fighter with the Peshmerga when she was only 17. But this wasn’t always her fate. Originally named Galavezh (Morning Star), she grew up in the Kurdish region of Iran in the 1960s and 70s. This was a time of cooperation and looking out for neighbours. It was also a world of forced marriages, with a woman’s value determined by her husband or male relatives.
But Galavezh was cherished by her father, who was a kind and brave man. At the age of four, she witnessed him stepping forward to save a woman’s life on her wedding day. From this act, Galavezh learned that one person can change the world around them…
This is the story of what Galavezh did next. After Kurdistan was attacked, she became a soldier in the famed peshmerga fighting force. She spent 12 years on the front line, and helped lead the fight for women’s rights and equality for the Kurdish people. She became one of the Iranian regime’s most wanted. It is also, at its heart, a love story.
Peshmerga literally translates as “one who sacrifices oneself for others”. The forces, including more than a thousand women on active duty, are currently fighting ISIS in northern Iraq. This is the unique and powerful account of a woman who fought with these troops, travelling across Iran and Iraq, standing up for women and girls and slowly but surely changing the world.
Deeyah Khan, award-winning filmmaker and activist: “Diana Nammi has been an inspiration to me ever since I was first finding my feet as a women's rights activist. Her story is full of drama … At every stage, she has displayed extraordinary courage and reserves of emotional strength. The world needs to know more about this incredible woman.”
My earliest memory is of an arranged marriage between a bride, not more than fourteen or fifteen, and a groom twice her age. Ahmed was a huge man who used to work in my father’s bakery. He had pockmarks all over his face. Partially blind due to a childhood disease, he would scare all the children with his one glaring eye.
It was the 1960s. I was not more than four years old but I remember vividly the dazzling beauty of the bride in her red and gold wedding outfit. Rana had long, shiny, black hair, delicate features in her bronze-coloured face and enormous black eyes, lined with kohl, which made them shimmer. She also wore a look that I recognised as fear.
Like all Kurdish weddings at that time, the celebration lasted for three days. On the first day, which was like a hen night, Rana went to the hammam with her bridesmaids before having her hands and feet elaborately painted in henna. On the second day, the music began and the guests of the groom came together to dance. Three brothers, the Zizi brothers, who were well known in Saquez, the small city in the middle of Iranian Kurdistan where I lived, sang and beat a huge drum.
The music was joyful, rapid and loud, as everyone held hands in a circle. The younger guests began to show off and move faster and faster. I felt dizzy just watching them. The guests took turns in leading the dance and I felt proud as my handsome father held a glittery scarf, a chopi, aloft to lead the dancers round and round.
On the third day, the bride’s family brought Rana to the ceremony in a car through the city and her father handed her over to Ahmed, who was dressed in a traditional white shirt and dark blue trousers, known as a kava and pantol.
The dancing and singing continued into the night and then suddenly, as though the lights had gone out, the atmosphere changed.
My mother took my hand and we went into the dark and smoky bedroom. It was a messy room with the bedclothes all in disarray, with just one dimly lit lamp in the corner. I could see a long white piece of material lying on the mattress and a beautiful rug on the floor. In a corner sat the lovely Rana holding her knees and crying quietly. She was trying to cover herself with her long dress. Her long black hair tumbled all around her body.
Ahmed was standing towering above the bride, his expression cold as ice. He appeared completely unmoved by his new bride’s distress. Rana’s mother was also down on the floor, holding onto Ahmed’s legs and crying: “Please don’t send her back home, her father and brothers will kill her.”
Diana Nammi has made an appearance on Sky News breakfast show Sunrise where she talked about her life as a peshmerga and our book Girl With A Gun. You can see the video of the interview here.
We've also been busy with a Funzing event - these are after work talks in London. Our event at vegan pub The Haunt in Stoke Newington completely sold out and we had an excellent audience who asked some thought…
We have made it to one quarter funded which is excellent news. We are well on our way. Thank you to those who are among our first supporters. Getting from 25% to 50% can be one of the most difficult parts of crowdfinding as many people will not fund a project until it gets to the half way mark so it is vital to build momentum at this stage and not stall the campaign. You are now our key cheerleaders…
Firstly, a huge thank you for buying a pre-order copy of our book. We are at 98 supporters in just over a month and at 18% of our target funding level. We cannot do this without your support so do please spread the word about our book among your friends and family and anyone you think might be interested in Girl With A Gun, the story of Diana's early years, the Iranian Revolution…
These people are helping to fund Girl With a Gun: A Teenage Freedom Fighter in Iran.