Wednesday, 9 March 2022

Film Review: Dying to Divorce (2021) | The fight to obtain justice for violence against women in Turkey ★★★★★

More than one in three Turkish women have been domestically abused in their lifetime. Femicides are rising and in 2020, 409 women in Turkey died as a result of domestic violence. It is rare that a woman will survive a case of extreme violence, rarer still that she will see justice. BAFTA-nominated director Chloë Fairweather and CPH:DOX F:ACT-award-winning producer Sinead Kirwan have teamed together on Dying to Divorce, a feature-length film on the fight of one courageous lawyer and two brave survivors for justice.

Dying to Divorce | Film Review | Film Poster

Kubra was a world famous television presenter known for her work on Bloomberg Turkey. She was attacked by her husband two days after she gave birth to their daughter. She lost the ability to speak and walk and required extensive speech therapy to testify against her husband in court.

Arzu was fourteen when she was married off to a farmer ten years her senior. He fired seven shot gun shells into her at close range when she asked for a divorce; she lost both her legs and the use of her arms as a result of the attack.

Both women need the help of Ipek Bozkurt to fight their cases in court and obtain custody of their children.

Filmed over five years, Dying to Divorce received recognition from the Academy Awards, BIFA Awards, Rose d’Or Awards, and received a BAFTA longlist nomination. It is a shocking film that delves into the systemic violence against women in Turkey and how their abuse is perpetuated by the court and Erdogan himself.

In one case, a husband was given a reduced sentence for killing his wife because she'd allegedly swore at him and provoked him.

As recently as March 2021, President Erdogan signed a presidential decree withdrawing Turkey from the Istanbul Convention. This Council of Europe treaty seeks to end violence against women and to set legally binding standards for the punishment of perpetrators. By withdrawing from the treaty, Erdogan signals that to men in Turkey that they may continue to abuse women with impunity.

Dying to Divorce could be framed as an edge-of-the-seat legal thriller were it not for the fact that it is devastatingly not fictional.

Still of Ipek Bozkurt in Dying to Divorce | Film Review
I give Dying to Divorce an excellent five out of five stars. Not only is his feature length documentary chilling and eye opening but Chloë Fairweather does an excellent job in keeping the viewer engaged in over five years of footage and developments.

Trailer: Dying to Divorce (2021) - directed by Chloë Fairweather

Dying to Divorce will be broadcast on Sky Documentaries on Wednesday 9 March at 9:00pm.


Saturday, 18 September 2021

Srebrenica Genocide Survivor Nedžad Advić Speaks About His Experience

I'm reading Ann Petrila and Hasan Hasanović's Voices from Srebrenica: Survivor Narratives of the Bosnian Genocide. The book is a series of oral histories from survivors of the Srebrenica genocide in July 1995; I've only made it through the section on execution site survivors so far. It is slow-going. Each story deserves pause and consideration, a moment of reflection on the gravity of loss and the miracle of survival.

Nedžad Advić's story was particularly powerful. Advić is the same age as my 'baby' brother and thus, in the eyes of an older sister, a child when the events of Srebrenica took place. At the age of 17, he was amongst the men and boys separated from their families at Srebrenica and taken to execution sites to be massacred. He survived despite being shot four times and left to die. Advić and the man who saved his life were the only two survivors from the Petkovci Dam execution site.

So touched was I by Advić's account, I went out in search of other media relating to his story. Advić gave the interview below on the 25th anniversary of the Srebrenica genocide.

25 years on: Srebrenica massacre survivor Nedzad Avdic recalls how he escaped death in 1995

(note: this post contains affiliate links; I will receive a small commission if you purchase using these links at no extra cost to you).


Friday, 28 May 2021

'Letters from Diaspora' by Arnesa Buljusmic-Kustura | Book Review

Letters from Diaspora by Arnesa Buljusmic-Kustura | Book Review

If you've ever contemplated how people 'get over' war and genocide, Arnesa Buljušmić-Kustura has the answer in her debut novel Letters from Diaspora: Stories of War and its Aftermath: they don't. The war follows them everywhere, their trauma never leaves them and it simply gets quieter.

Letters from Diaspora: Stories of War and its Aftermath reads like an oral history and it's written in a very similar voice to that used by Svetlana Alexievitch. Alexievitch's Voices From Chernobyl was one of the best non-fiction books I've ever read and I very much enjoyed both the style and content of the book, however grim.

Letters from Diaspora is not a book that is enjoyed. It's fiction, short at 98 pages and is twelve stories about twelve survivors of war and genocide in Bosnia. All of the subjects are living in the diaspora and speak about rage, loss, grief and being told to move on.

There is no moving on.

I finished Letters from Diaspora in one sitting; not surprising perhaps, given the length. It's an incredibly difficult subject matter to read but is a necessary and beautifully written book. I'd highly recommend this book, especially to teens. The short, accessible stories would be an ideal starting point for exploration and discussion.


Saturday, 30 January 2021

Unspeakable: The Tulsa Race Massacre by Carole Boston Weatherford and Floyd Cooper | Book Review

Greenwood District, Tulsa, Oklahoma was once home to a thriving African American community. On May 31st and June 1st 1921, a mob of armed white Tulsans attacked the community, killing as many as 300 African Americans and displacing 8,000 more. 2021 will mark the 100th anniversary of what became known as the Tulsa Race Massacre, the history of which was suppressed for seventy-five years.

Unspeakable The Tulsa Race Massacre by Carole Boston Weatherford and Floyd Cooper | Book Review

Unspeakable: The Tulsa Race Massacre is a picture book by author Carole Boston Weatherford and illustrator Floyd Cooper. It's short at 32 pages but aims to help young readers understand these terrible events so that "we can move toward a better future for all". It's aimed at the 8-12 years age group.

Reading Unspeakable: The Tulsa Race Massacre was physically painful. In the beginning, the book describes the thriving community of Greenwood District and the high street that became known as the "Black Wall Street". The descriptions of culture, fashion and community reminded me so much of what I've read about Sophiatown and District Six in South Africa, communities with vibrant cultures that were similarly razed to the ground.

Weatherford has done a fine job of simplifying the events for young readers, but presenting sufficient detail to draw older readers into healthy debate and discussion. It would be a good platform to stimulate further research and self-study too. The author's and illustrator's notes were particularly interesting, detailing their personal reasons for being involved in this work. Of particular note is the author's comment that the event was not even taught in Oklahoma schools until the twenty-first century.

Unspeakable The Tulsa Race Massacre by Carole Boston Weatherford and Floyd Cooper | Book Review

The illustrations by Floyd Cooper are exquisite, showcasing the fashions and vibrancy of Greenwood District, and ultimately the violence and devastation. The illustrations do a great job of bringing the events and people to life, ensuring that the reader relates to them and to the injustice of the events.

Unspeakable: The Tulsa Race Massacre is published by Carolrhoda Books, an imprint of Lerner Publishing Group

I would wholeheartedly recommend this book and am pleased to note that it's being released in both the US and UK (and presumably around the world).

An advance, electronic copy of this book was provided by Netgalley for the purposes of this review.


Sunday, 4 October 2020

Book Review: West of Jim Crow: The Fight Against California's Color Line by Lynn Hudson ★★★★☆

I know very little about American civil rights history from the late 19th to early 20th century. This is not surprising; my focus has primarily been on Africa (especially South Africa) and on genocides in the 20th century. It has been interesting to learn that anti-miscegenation laws and job-colour bars weren't the invention of Apartheid South Africa but originated in North America. Specifically, a set of so-called Jim Crow laws emerged in America from about 1880 that sought to enforce racial segregation and these laws would be a highly influential on laws adopted by South Africa.

West of Jim Crow: The Fight Against California's Color Line by Lynn M. Hudson | Book Review

In West of Jim Crow: The Fight Against California's Color Line, Lynn M Hudson focuses on the African Americans who moved to California to escape Jim Crow, expecting freedom and the benefits of full citizenship but instead realising that Jim Crow and racial segregation were all too present in the west.

This is not simply a recounting of the racism, fear-mongering and obsession with eugenics that featured so prominently in white society for the century after the Reconstruction Era (although these are mentioned in some detail throughout the book). West of Jim Crow is about the tireless efforts of Black Americans to assert their citizen rights, establish respectability, secure equal opportunities and protect their men and women from the scourge of lynching and the rise of the KKK.

It is also notably about the role of Black women, their agency and the significant roles they took in journalism, activism and other roles to secure their rights both as women and as human beings. As Lynn M Hudson remarks on many occasions, just because there is little in the written records about Black women's struggles for freedom and activism, does not mean there wasn't significant agency and activism present.

West of Jim Crow is structured around six chapters, each concentrating on a specific event in Californian history:

  • Reconstruction: the initial gains and setbacks in the period following the Civil War, with the rise of Jim Crow and associated Jim Crow entertainments and minstrelsy
  • The Panama Pacific International Exposition: a look at the systematic erasure of civil rights gains, the emergence of the NAACP, the popularity of Birth of a Nation and the rise of eugenics
  • The Rise and Fall of Allensworth: the town founded by and for African Americans, doomed to fail because of misrepresentation, geographical and environmental issues
  • On Lynching: an account of the events that divided a country into those who supported lynching and those who were appalled by it; eerily prescient of Trump, tiki-torch marches and the gun lobby
  • On the Ku Klux Klan: fighting arson and intimidation while the KKK infiltrated law enforcement and local government in California
  • The Fight to Desegregate Pasadena's Municipal Swimming Pools: how activists began to use the damages of Jim Crow to argue for civil rights, winning the Pasadena pool case and later the Brown v Board of Education case

West of Jim Crow: The Fight Against California's Color Line by Lynn M. Hudson | Book ReviewWest of Jim Crow covers an incredible wealth of information and provides an interesting, readable account of African American history in California. Initially I felt a bit exhausted by the repetitive, circular mode of writing, featuring titbits and breadcrumbs followed by elaboration and exposition. I've noticed that this form of writing is favoured by many historians and while it can be taxing to read, the truth is it is preferable to a dry, linear account and also aids significantly in the reader's retention and comprehension of historical information.

Despite this small reservation, I give West of Jim Crow an excellent four out of five stars and highly recommend to those wishing to know about this particular area of Black history.


West of Jim Crow: The Fight Against California's Color Line is available to purchase from and (disclosure: affiliate links. I will earn a small amount if you purchase using these links, at no additional cost to you).

My thanks to University of Illinois Press and Netgalley for advance, electronic copy of this book.

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