Debut at Erbil Book Fair

Arabic translation of Sherko Bekas epic ‘Cemetery of Lanterns’ set for release

ERBIL — A new verse novel by the late Kurdish poet Sherko Bekas, titled “The Cemetery of Lanterns” is set to be released soon. The book, translated into Arabic by 964media Director General Hiwa Osman, weaves the harrowing tales of the Anfal genocide through literature and imaginative expression.

Osman announced the release Monday as the Kurdistan Region marked the anniversary of the third and most brutal phase of the Ba’ath regime’s eight-stage Anfal campaign in 1988, which is widely recognized as a genocide against Iraq’s Kurds.

Bekas, regarded as one of the greatest contemporary Kurdish poets, published his first poetry collection in 1968 at the age of 28, titled “The Light of the Poetry.” He published more than 40 collections over his lifetime and died in 2013 at age 73.

“The Cemetery of Lanterns,” first published in 2004 and considered a work of epic poetry, portrays the atrocities of the Anfal genocide, a theme deeply embedded in Bekas’s work. It reflects the tragedies documented in Halabja and other areas falling victim to the genocide. Osman’s translation introduces Arabic-speaking audiences to the Kurdish experience of Anfal through Bekas’s imagination.

The book, published by Al-Mada Publishing House, will debut at the Erbil International Book Fair which starts April 17. The fair is presented in partnership with 964media.

In his preface, Osman writes, “In ‘The Cemetery of Lanterns,’ Sherko Bekas saw all the lanterns and fragments of bones in the exile of Nugra Salman; he heard them narrate everything to him. This collection, the last of my translations, was supposed to be at the end of the publishing queue. Yet, the screams, cries, pains, and hopes contained within it demanded precedence over other poems to be the first to reach these pages.”

Osman has previously translated many of Bekas’ poems from Kurdish to Arabic. He concludes the preface with a reflection on the novel’s ongoing relevance: “All its heroes are now in mass graves, still unaware of the reasons for their fate. Thus, they decided to embark on a new journey, questioning us, those who are not with them in their graves: What happened? How did it happen? And why did it happen? The Kurdish language is still mourning Anfal. I hope Arabic finds some of these answers.”

The title of the book references the victims who lost their lives in mass graves during the Anfal campaign. Iraqi novelist Ali Badr wrote the book’s introduction, and renowned Iraqi painter Dia Azzawi designed its cover.