As a visual artist my work reflects on the socio-political circumstances of Kurdish women in Iraq and seeks to challenge inequality of opportunity and represent marginalised voices. I am interested in revealing forgotten and hidden stories that need to be remembered.

Therefore, my research gives a voice to the hidden voices of Iraqi Kurdish women, in the context of issues concerning inequality, gender and violence within the region. Through this practice-based research, I am examining the importance of an untitled archive of interviews, documenting women’s experiences in South Kurdistan collected in the early 90s by Runak, a Kurdish archivist and activist based in Iraqi Kurdistan. Through my artistic practice, the contents of the archive are revealed, as are the stories of women represented within it who are silenced through cultural and political repression. The work will contribute to the representation of Kurdish women, exploring how art can represent the lived experience and open up this archive as a record for contemporary and future generations of women, whilst also bringing feminist discourse to these usually overlooked non-western narratives.

The archive that I am using for my research consists of over 200 tapes containing interviews focused on women’s experience in south Kurdistan in the early 90s. For my research to proceed, I needed a few hours of this archive to be sent to the UK digitally.

However, my research has been affected by the pandemic like many other researchers’. I had to work at a distance, collaborating with a team inside a women’s organisation in Iraq. They supported the digitisation process that was supposed to have started a month after the first lockdown; unfortunately, that process has been suspended to an unknown date since April 2020. But, after I changed my mode of study to part-time and applied successfully for a Research Support Award, I had a great opportunity to start again after the pandemic and one-year suspension of the team working on the digitising process in Iraq. The team have started the process of digitising a few hours of the archive, that will be sent via Manchester Metropolitan University digital channel to the UK very soon, allowing me to start work on it for my research. I am thankful to the Graduate School for the Research Support Award that made this process possible and helped me to start after such a hard and long time.

The process involves transferring the documents from VHS tapes to digital format, via a professional VHS player and computer. Also, for reasons of anonymity, ethical regulations and the sensitivity of the data, the faces of the women that appear in the interviews have to be blurred by one of the organisation’s staff. The interviews can then be sent through the Manchester Met digital channel. After all these processes as a researcher, I am going to explore and examine the documents for my research.

Research study can be overwhelming and stressful, and even harder during the pandemic that has caused delay to everything. But that would never stop you: if you have ambition and commitment to your research topic, you will overcome the hardest barrier that faces you as a researcher. If you’re considering starting a research degree, make sure that you have passion for the subject, and that you have great support behind you, through your supervisors and of course the University. And now I finally have the first part of the archive in my hand to work on.

Kani was funded through the Manchester Metropolitan Graduate School’s Research Support Award to complete this portion of her research. The next deadline for Research Support Award applications is Friday 4 June 2021 at 5pm. Find out more by visiting the PGR Development Moodle area.

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