Swedish Kurdish Author Wins Award for Book on Forced Marriage

20/10/2012 RUDAW – STOCKHOLM, Sweden – A young Kurdish author living in Sweden has won a prize for his short stories. The prize is awarded annually by a Swedish radio station.

Arkan Asaad is originally from Kirkuk. In 1983, when Asaad was only 3 years old, his family immigrated to Europe and settled in Sweden.

Asaad’s book is titled Gift Mot Sin Vilja a Swedish term for forced marriage, and tells his own story. In 2011, the book was also awarded a prize as the best book in gender and nationality equality, and earlier this year it was named the best book of 2012 by a Swedish foreign writer. Asaad values this latest prize more than the other two “because this one was voted on by the general public and shows that most Swedish readers voted for my book.”

Asaad called himself as a victim of a patriarchal culture and said, “One of the traits of our culture is that parents like to do things for you. But most of the time, this does the opposite and hurts you.”

At the age of 19, the young writer’s father tried to force him to get married. He stood against the forced marriage and did not let it proceed.

Due to this rebellion against his culture, Asaad’s relationship with some of his family members was damaged, but he says he will fix that. “Just like I managed to get Swedish people to understand it, I will get my relatives to understand my stand on the issue as well,” he said. The publication of the book has given the Swedish public insight into the lives of Kurdish youth and allowed them to see that cultural problems in Kurdish society are not limited to women. “Ever since 2002, with the murders of Bella and Fadima, Swedish people have thought of the Kurds as women killers,” Asaad said.

He has tried to correct this view. “I tell my readers the problem is one of individual rights, not merely those related to women. I also tell them that there are misunderstandings between two generations in our society. Otherwise, Kurdish people are not women killers,” he said.Asaad has held a number of seminars in Sweden. “I have held 320 seminars and given information to 150,000 people,” he said. “Only a few criticized me for talking about something that is not real, but later they understood as well.”

This year, a new proposal by Swedish Parliament called for making forced marriage illegal among Swedish immigrants. Asaad’s book is one of the main inspirations for the proposal. “Parliamentary committees met with me individually and understood the problem very well,” the author said, adding that he considers one of his biggest successes this recognition by parliament.

Swedish media have described Asaad as “hero,” and he said that on the street people tell him “Bravo Arkan.” He is happy that not only the Swedish, but also Kurdish readers thank him for “correcting views.”A Swedish entertainment company is currently working on turning Asaad’s first book, “Starless Nights,” into a movie. The company wants to shoot the movie in Morocco, but Asaad is trying to get them to shoot in Kurdistan. Asaad described how his family lived in constant fear and tried to escape the Iraqi regime. His next book will be based on his family’s life and should be published next year.