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Sherzad Heini shares every day Kurdish culture in new book

This article originally appeared in Rudaw.

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Kurdish Swedish author Sherzad Heini has released the tenth edition of his book series entitled “Hawler” where he continues to write about the daily lives of Kurds living in Erbil through short fiction stories based on real-life events.

Heini’s books are given away to people for free or donated to national libraries.

“I write for myself,” Heini told Rudaw English, explaining his books are not sold for a profit. “I had a difficult life so I write about my life and my city.”

Although he has lived in Stockholm, Sweden, with his wife and six children for the past 18 years, he said he makes it a point to spend five months each year in Kurdistan.

During his time in Kurdistan, he meets and interviews many people to document their daily lives for his books. The rest of the year is spent writing at his Stockholm home.

“I write for at least 15 hours per day,” he said. “I never get tired of writing because it makes me happy.”

Born to a poor family in Erbil in 1955, Heini explained that the struggles he faced throughout his life contributed to some of his writings.

As a young child, he moved to southern Iraq with his family. Growing up among the locals, he said he started to forget his Kurdish roots not long after leaving Erbil.

When war broke out between Arabs and Kurds during his last year of high school, he first began fighting for Kurdish rights alongside the Peshmerga in the mountains, although, he said he always had a notebook and pen ready to document their daily lives.

Heini detailed how his father pushed him and his siblings to continue their education so that they would have a chance at a better life than he had led.

At the time he was ready to begin university, there were no institutions for higher learning in Erbil, so he was required to attend a technical institute in Baghdad, where he graduated in 1978 with a degree in surveying.

An avid lover of reading and writing, Heini first began a career in translation from Arabic to Kurdish in 1982 while he served in the Iraqi army, a requirement by the government.

During the eight months he spent in the army, he began reading the novel “The Story of Shipwrecked” by renowned Colombian author Gabrial Marquez and decided to translate the book to Kurdish.

“It took me 28 days to translate that first book,” he said, explaining he did so while sitting in an old metal chair with his pen and notebook during his free time.

Upon returning to Erbil and beginning his official employment as a surveyor which he worked for 20 years, he continued to translate books in his extra time.

“At that time, translators were paid very well,” Heini added.

Since then, he has translated over 50 books from Arabic to Kurdish.

Heini began his own writing career in 1991, by publishing articles about the daily life of Kurds in a local newspaper.

Following the events of the Kurdish Civil War in the mid-1990s, when conflict erupted between the KDP and PUK political parties and the US-brokered peace talks in Ireland where both parties agreed to a ceasefire, Heini wrote his first book entitled “From Erbil to Dublin” which was published in 1998.

“I was writing down everything that happened in Erbil for two years,” he explained as to what inspired him to write his first book, which only 100 copies were published by a university in Germany which had a Kurdish language department.

Since then, Heini has published 20 books in Kurdish, but hopes to one day have his books published in English to reach more readers.

Although a majority of his books follow the daily lives of Kurds, he has also written on other topics such as romance novels and books defending misunderstandings on religion and racism.

He said he is grateful to a handful of good friends and companies in Erbil who support his writing by funding the publishing of his books because Kurdish authors are not supported by the Kurdistan Regional Government.

“I don’t want to write books to sell, because I don’t pay for publication,” he explained. “I write to share information about the lives and culture of Kurdish people.

“I’m thankful to everyone who has supported me and I am thankful for my city of Erbil, which inspires me to write.”

This article was originally published in Rudaw.

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