When I heard the word anfal for the first time, it sounded awkward and strange to me. I did not understand the word because it was an Arabic-Islamic word from the Koran. But I realised that it was related to my father’s absence and death. For me, anfal then became a synonym for fatherlessness.

I heard the word anfal again at school in Islamic education. In these lessons, we had to memorise Koranic verses, which taught us the words’ forms, but not their content. The word anfal still haunts me today. It affects the way I perceive the Arabic language, and contributes to my feeling of alienation in this language.

A woman sits among the graves of victims of the Halabja chemical attack (photo: Reuters)
Saddamʹs Kurdish genocide - the Anfal operation from 1988 to 1989: more than 30 years ago, the Kurdish areas of Iraq witnessed a vicious campaign of ethnic cleansing. More than 100,000 people were abducted. Ongoing conflicts in Iraq mean these victims have been all but forgotten

My experience with the English language is entirely different, because I have been learning it voluntarily with the clear aim in mind of studying in an English-speaking country. When I went to England to do my master’s degree in philosophy, everything was new to me.

It felt like my familiar world was destroyed, turned upside down overnight. First of all, I was confronted with radical changes in terms of culture, beliefs, my own self, and my very existence in language. I felt estranged in the English language because, in the beginning, I could not speak well and express myself properly. I had to familiarise myself first with this new linguistic world.  

A reflection of the new world

In my third language English, I felt estranged and alienated as it was a reflection and expression of the new world that surrounded me, where everything looked and felt different from my old one. My old self was at stake and my new one had not arrived yet. I had to rebuild myself from scratch at the expense of my old self, casting it aside and, at the same time, I had to track my new self down.

More on this topic
In submitting this comment, the reader accepts the following terms and conditions: Qantara.de reserves the right to edit or delete comments or not to publish them. This applies in particular to defamatory, racist, personal, or irrelevant comments or comments written in dialects or languages other than English. Comments submitted by readers using fantasy names or intentionally false names will not be published. Qantara.de will not provide information on the telephone. Readers' comments can be found by Google and other search engines.
To prevent automated spam submissions leave this field empty.