Friday, November 30, 2018

Finding Kurdistan and a calling: How one trip changed a WHS graduate’s life and created a book

By Lorraine Glowczak

Except for the fact he was born in Iraq to Iranian parents from the Kurdistan region, Hawreh Haddadi, a 2013 Windham High School graduate, was a typical American teenager. Friends, lunch, study hall, chemistry and algebra classes, listening to music and homework were all experiences Haddadi took for granted. That is until the summer of 2010 when he was just finishing his first year of high school.

That summer, Haddadi, his mother, two sisters, and brother traveled to his parents’ homeland, visiting families in Iranian-Kurdistan for two months. It was an eye-opening experience.

Realizing how lucky he was, it changed the level of gratitude he felt to be an American. “Simple things such as getting an education, having a bus to take you to school and eating lunch in a warm and safe environment – all things I took for granted in my easy teenage American life are not every day experiences for many people in Iran,” Haddadi explained. “Getting an education and living in peace was something not everyone was guaranteed. I couldn’t help but think how lucky I was and how chance played a role in my life. I am very lucky to be here in America.” also discovered a calling upon his travel to his parents’ homeland he could not ignore – to be an advocate for the Kurdish people and all other minority groups who face persecution and discrimination. One step he has taken to inform others about the horrors experienced by the Kurdish people is through his recently published book, “Finding Kurdistan: A Kurdish Iranian American’s Journey Home”.

“It’s true that I had a general understanding of my parent’s life experiences in Kurdistan, but it wasn’t until I had first-hand knowledge of the culture and witnessed the horrors many face in Kurdistan on a daily basis that it became clear to me the amount of suffering and lack of freedom they encounter,” Haddadi said of his journey to his ancestral homeland. “When I returned, I questioned why the suffering experienced by my ancestors was not known in America. I asked myself, ‘We are taught about the genocide of Jews and the challenges faced by the Israelis but there is very little information about my Kurdish people and the genocide they face. Why is that?’ I answered by own question and I’m here to change all of that – by writing this book.”

Haddadi was born in 1995 in Iraq to an Iranian academic father who was a political and human rights activist and a mother who was a farmer. “Due to the continuous conflict in that region my parents decided to leave and find a new homeland. America was where they wanted to go. Coming to America was a dream come true. It was a difficult and scary journey getting here. My parents were constantly on the move. Even though we got accepted to come to America, the neighboring governments could have easily deported us back to Iran” Haddadi explained. “My father became involved in the 1979 Iranian Revolution and even afterwards was still politically active. No progress was being made and my parents decided they had to leave Iran for the security and well-being of the family. He knew his children would not succeed, or even possibly stay alive where he grew up. He applied for political asylum in America. They did what every other loving and protective parent would do. They did their very best to keep their children alive and provide a successful future for them.”
Hawreh Haddadi with his parents and older sister a few months prior to their departure to America

First the family went from Iran to Iraq before moving on to Turkey while waiting for all the paperwork to be finalized and to be officially accepted into America. It was in the late 1990’s, when they finally arrived to America and eventually became citizens, landing in Windham as their final destination.

“I can’t reiterate enough. If my parents hadn’t come to America, I would have had a completely different life….or no life at all. I am so lucky,” Haddadi stated.

Since luck and chance was on his side, he will do what he can to advocate for his Kurdish family and for the millions of Kurds who are unable to speak for themselves due to control by neighboring governments.

Hawreh Haddadi
But there is one downside to doing that. Since he wrote and published his book, the prospect of him returning to see his family in Kurdistan is highly unlikely. “If this book becomes known among the powers that be in Iran, I will not be able to enter that country,” Haddadi said. “I will be considered a threat. That’s the reason why my father couldn’t travel with us in 2010. He wasn’t allowed back in his own country due to his advocacy against the government. He was promoting democracy and freedom. But I’d rather sacrifice the opportunity to see my aunts, uncles and cousins again. I’d rather bring about awareness and educate the American people about the unfortunate situation of the Kurdish people. I believe this is my calling and I will work the rest of my life to help all people who have been marginalized and not given a fair opportunity at life.”

You can find Haddadi’s book on and find more information on his Facebook page. He is also working on speaking engagements as well as providing his book at local independent bookstores.

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