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Refugees: Forced to Flee        ئاواره‌بوون: كۆچی ناچاری

This project is a part of the exhibition Refugees: Forced to Flee at the Imperial War Museum, London, 24/09/2020- 24/05/2021  

The works include five miniature paintings and two handwoven carpets based on my journey from Iraqi Kurdistan to the UK. The works relate to the process of leaving my homeland, the 2 years of travelling across borders illegally and the 8 years of waiting for asylum in the UK.

The carpets were designed by me and made by a group of Kurdish weavers as part of my project Chenin, which aims to revive the ancient tradition of Kurdish weaving in Iraqi Kurdistan.

ئه‌م پرۆژه‌ هونه‌ریه‌ به‌شێكه‌ له‌ پێشانگای ئاواره‌بوون:كۆچی ناچاری له‌ مۆزه‌خانه‌ی جه‌نگی به‌ریتانیا له‌ له‌نده‌ن له‌ ٢٤\٩\ ٢٠٢٠ بۆ٢٤ \٥\٢٠٢١

ئیشه‌كان بریتن له‌ پێنج تابلۆ و دوو فه‌رشی ده‌ستچن . كۆی ئێشه‌كان باس له‌ كێشه‌ی ئاواره‌بوون و جه‌نگ ده‌كات له‌ دیدی كه‌سێكی ئاواره‌ی  كورده‌وه‌.

 فه‌رشه‌كان دیزانی هونه‌رمه‌نده‌ و له‌ كارگه‌ی مافوری سلێمانی چنراوون وه‌ك به‌شێك له‌ پرۆژه‌ی چنین بۆ ژیانه‌وه‌ی هونه‌ری فه‌رش  له ‌باشووری كوردستان

Paintings              تابلۆكان

Division, natural pigment and walnut ink

After the First World War, the Treaty of Sèvres, an agreement between the Allies and defeated Central Powers made provisions for an independent state of Kurdistan. This was never realised. Instead, under the Treaty of Lausanne (1923), the Allies agreed that the Kurdish region would be split between nations. In this painting, Saleh depicts British planes flying over a divided Kurdistan, symbolising the British implementation of the treaty.

١- دابه‌شكردن

دوای جه‌نگی جیهانی یه‌كه‌م و دابه‌شكردنی ناوچه‌كه‌، كورد وه‌ك نه‌ته‌وه‌یه‌ك بێبه‌شكرا له‌ مافه‌ نه‌ته‌وه‌ییه‌كانی و خاكه‌كه‌ی دابه‌شكرا به‌سه‌ر توركیا و  ئێران و عێراق و سوریا. له‌و كاته‌وه‌  به‌رده‌وام له‌ژێر هه‌ڕه‌شه‌ی له‌ناوبردندایه‌ له‌لایه‌ن نه‌ته‌وه‌ سه‌رده‌سته‌كانه‌وه‌. سه‌ره‌وه‌ی تابلۆكه‌ وێنه‌ی چه‌ند فڕۆكه‌یه‌كی به‌ریتانیا یه‌ له‌كاتی هاوێشتنی بۆب. كه‌ گوزارشته‌ له‌ به‌زۆر ناچاركردنی كورده‌كان بۆ ئه‌و بڕیاره‌ی‌ كه‌درا له‌ په‌یمان نامه‌ی لۆزان ١٩٢٣، به‌شی خواره‌وه‌ش سێ كاراكته‌رن گه‌  نوێنه‌رایه‌تی سێ نه‌ته‌وه‌ سه‌رده‌سته‌كه‌ ده‌كه‌ن و له‌سه‌ر فه‌رشێك دانیشتون و سه‌ری ئاسكێكیان  به‌ده‌سته‌وه‌یه‌  كه‌ له‌ وێنه‌ی سه‌ر فه‌رشه‌كه‌وه‌ ده‌رهێنراوه‌. ئاسك‌ سومبولی قوربانیه‌ له‌ فه‌رشدا. 


Natural pigment and walnut ink on paper

50x70 cm,  2019

Despai ,Natural pigment, barbed wire and

In 1988, Saleh’s home town was destroyed by Saddam Hussein’s forces. He and his family lived in a camp for the next three years. In this painting, Saleh evokes the texture of burned flesh, a reference to the regime’s use of chemical weapons against Kurdish people and the ongoing persecution of Kurdish people today. 

٢- بێهیوایی

 وێرانبوونی هه‌زاران گوند و شارۆچكه‌ی كوردستان،  بونه‌ته‌ هه‌وێنی ئه‌م تابلۆیه‌. باكگراووندی تابلۆكه‌ نیشاندانی كاریگه‌ری سوتاویه‌ له‌سه‌ر  پێست‌ به‌ هۆی چه‌كی كیمیاویه‌وه‌، به‌شی سه‌‌ره‌وه‌ی ده‌رگایه‌كه‌ به‌ تێكشكاوی كه‌ گوزارشته‌ له‌ ماڵ، به‌شی خواره‌وه ‌كه‌سێكه‌ له‌سه‌ر فه‌رشێك به‌ بێزاری هه‌ڵكورماوه‌، ته‌لێكی دڕكاوی به‌ ناوه‌ڕاستی تابلۆكه‌دا كشاوه‌ وه‌ك هێمایه‌ك بۆ دابڕانی هه‌زاران خه‌ڵك له‌ماڵ حاڵی خۆیان له‌ دوای پرۆسه‌ی ئه‌نفال.


Natural pigment, barbed wire and iron on paper

50x70 cm, 2019

Departure, natural pigment, stone and cl

In 2001, Saleh left Iraq. For two years, he travelled across the Middle East and Europe. Making illegal border crossings, his homes were mountains, camps, streets and squats. He dreamed of being able to cross borders on a flying carpet.

٣- ‌جێهێشتن

‌ ساڵی  ٢٠٠١ وه‌ك هه‌زارانی تر عێراقم به‌جێهێشت و ڕێگای سه‌فه‌ری هات و نه‌هاتم هه‌ڵبژارد. به‌ نایاسایی سنوری چه‌ندین وڵاتم بڕی، تاكه‌ خه‌ونم ئه‌بوو   فه‌رشێكی سیحریم پێبوایه‌ و بمتوانیایه به‌سه‌ر‌ سنوره‌كاندا به‌ ئاسانی بفڕم


Natural pigment, stone and clay on paper

50x70 cm, 2019


On his journey from the Middle East to Europe, Saleh crossed the Mediterranean Sea by boat. This journey is fraught with danger. Refugees often travel on overcrowded boats run by smugglers. Fuel and supplies are limited and the boats, many of which are not seaworthy, risk capsizing at sea.

٤- خنكان

بۆ ئه‌وه‌ی بگه‌یته‌ ئه‌وروپا ده‌بێت سه‌فه‌ری ناو ده‌ریا تاقیبكه‌یته‌وه‌. سه‌فه‌رێكی ترسناك و تۆقێنه‌ر. ساڵانه‌ هه‌زاران كۆچبه‌ر له‌ ده‌ریا سپی ناوه‌ڕاستدا ده‌خنكێن و ناگه‌نه‌ كه‌نار.


Natural pigment, iron, sand and copper on paper

50x70 cm, 2019

Detached .jpg


Natural pigment, white gold leaf, wood and mirror on paper

50x70 cm, 2019

Saleh applied for asylum in the UK, but it took years for this claim to be granted. During this time he was unable to work and was moved between hostels in five different cities. The fragmented mirror represents Saleh’s divided sense of identity, caught between the UK and his home country. ‘To me,’ he says, ‘home is not a place, it is people. The Kurdish term for a “dear friend” or loved one is malakam, which translates as “my home.”

٥- هه‌ڵواسراو

ماوه‌ی هه‌شت ساڵ چاوه‌ڕوانی وه‌ڵامی ئه‌رێنی  مافی په‌نابه‌ریه‌كه‌م بووم له‌ به‌ریتانیا، ماوه‌یه‌كی دوورو درێژ ، نه‌توانای ئیشكردنم هه‌بوو نه‌  سه‌فه‌ر، ژیانی ئاواره‌یی وه‌ك شوشه‌یه‌كی شكاوت لێده‌كات هه‌رگیز یه‌كناگریته‌وه‌ ‌.

Carpets                 فه‌رشه‌كان                          

Carpet introduction:

The ancient tradition of carpet weaving has largely been lost in Iraqi-Kurdistan as a result of decades of conflict and displacement. Prior to the conflict, most houses had a loom for weaving.
Carpet weaving was predominantly done in mountainous areas where people lived in harmony with nature, surrounded by all the materials necessary for weaving; wool and plants for natural dyes.

Between 1960-1990, almost five thousand towns and villages in the mountainous area of Iraqi-Kurdistan were destroyed as a consequence of the repeated conflict between the Iraqi regime and Kurdish guerrillas and the Iran-Iraq war.
The people from these mountainous areas were repeatedly forcibly displaced from their homes to urban camps and cities. This displacement meant that looms and livestock were left behind. Without access to the necessary materials people became disconnected with the skills and traditions of carpet weaving.

In addition, globalisation and industrialisation meant that machine-made carpets and synthetic dyes provided a cheaper and less labour intensive method of producing carpets. Local traditional designs have also been replaced by modern imagery.
Chenin (meaning ‘weaving’) is an organisation set up by Shorsh Saleh to revive the an- cient tradition of Kurdish carpet weaving in Iraqi Kurdistan. Chenin aims to provide a sus- tainable income for local people through the art of weaving.

The two carpets in this exhibition are Chenin’s first project, using Saleh’s designs they were hand woven by Kurdish women at the ‘Workshop of Spinning & Weaving’ in Sulaymaniyah, Iraqi Kurdistan.

"Destruction" is inspired by an image of Qala Diza, a town of 70,000 Kurds in North- ern Iraq, destroyed in a border ‘clean up’ operation during the Anfal campaign in 1989. (Susan Meiselas/Magnum).
In Middle Eastern culture the carpet represents home, each home has a carpet. The breakdown of the geometric elements in the carpet symbolise the destruction of 5000 Kurdish villages and towns in Iraq, the majority of which happened during the Anfal genocide between 1986-1989.

This carpet was hand-woven by Kurdish women in Iraq as part of Saleh’s Chenin project. Chenin aims to revive traditional Kurdish carpet weaving and provide income for local people.

فه‌رشی یه‌كه‌م


دیزاینی ئه‌م فه‌رشه‌ په‌یوه‌ندی به‌ خاپوركردنی هه‌زاران گوند و شارۆچكه‌ی كوردستانه‌وه‌ هه‌یه‌‌ له‌ پرۆسه‌ی ئه‌نفال دا له‌ نێوان ساڵانی ‌١٩٨٦-١٩٨٩‌ له‌ ناویاندا وێران بوونی شاری سه‌یدسادق كه‌ زێدی خۆمه‌.  دیزاینه‌كه‌ به‌تایبه‌ت له‌ ژێركاریگه‌ری ئه‌و فۆتۆ‌دایه‌ كه‌ شاری قه‌ڵادزێ‌ پیشانده‌دات به‌ خاپوركراوی .  

به‌ شێوه‌یه‌كی گشتی فه‌رش سومبوله‌ بۆ ماڵ. شێواوی نه‌خشی فه‌رشه‌كه‌ گوزارشته‌ له‌ كه‌وتن و ڕوخانی هه‌زاران ماڵ. نه‌بوونی ڕه‌نگ له‌ فه‌رشه‌كه‌دا نیشانه‌ی ماته‌مینی و دڵته‌نگیه‌‌.

ruin 1.jpg

Susan Meiselas/Magnum, 1992



Naturally dyed wool and cotton 

110x200 cm, 2019

The design for "Displacement " is inspired by a photograph of Iraqi-Kurdish refugees fleeing Saddam Hussein’s attacks in Northern Iraq, heading towards the border of Turkey in April 1991 (Coskun Aral/Sipa Press).
The design uses the traditional Jaff motif, which symbolises mountains. The fading of the motif signifies the disappearance of Kurdish culture through displacement.


This carpet was hand-woven by Kurdish women in Iraq as part of Saleh’s Chenin project. Chenin aims to revive traditional Kurdish carpet weaving and provide income for local people.

فه‌رشی دووه‌م


دیزاینی ئه‌م فه‌رشه‌ له‌ ژێر كاریگه‌ری ڕاگوێزان و چۆڵكردنی زۆربه‌ی گوند و شارۆچكه‌كانه‌ له‌ سه‌رده‌می به‌عسدا به‌ تایبه‌ت  كۆڕه‌وه مه‌زنه‌‌كه‌‌  ( وێنه‌ی كۆڕه‌وه‌كه‌ له‌خواره‌وه‌ دیاره‌  ساڵی ١٩٩١ ه‌ له‌سه‌ر سنوری توركیا.) فه‌رشه‌كه‌‌ وورده‌ وورده‌ له‌ ڕه‌نگه‌وه‌ ده‌ڕوات  به‌ره‌و تاریكی، ئه‌مه‌ش نیشانه‌ی كاریگه‌ریه‌ خراپه‌كانی ئه‌و پرۆسه‌ی ڕاگوێزانه‌یه‌ كه‌ له‌گه‌ڵ خۆیدا بوه‌ هۆی فه‌وتان و له‌ناوچونی برێكی زۆری كه‌لتوری له‌ ناوچه‌ شاخاویه‌كانی باشوری كوردستان به‌تایبه‌ت هونه‌ری فه‌رش و به‌ڕه‌ چنین، بۆ ئه‌م دیزاینه‌ سود له‌ مۆتیڤی هه‌نده‌سی جاف وه‌رگیراوه‌ كه‌ وه‌ك یه‌كێك له‌ مۆتیڤه‌ كوردیه‌كان ناسێنراوه‌ ، شێوازی زیگزاگی له‌ نه‌خشه‌كه‌دا نیشانه‌یه‌ بۆ چیاكان كوردستان


Coskun Aral/Sipa Press,1991

Displacement, naturally dyed wool and cotton,

100 x 180 cm .2019

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