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The power of memory sites Bareez Majid (1987) first gained a BA in Literature Studies and Dutch Literature from the VU University Amsterdam. Following that she came to Leiden University to do a Research Master’s in Middle Eastern Studies. In 2015 Bareez was nominated for the prestigious ECHO award for Dutch top talent of nonWestern origin. “I am interested in memory sites, their significance for a society and in how people experience those sites themselves. My master’s thesis deals with Amna Suraka, the national war crimes museum in Sulaymaniyah in Iraqi Kurdistan. Up to 1991, during the regime of Saddam Hussein, the museum was a prison where political

dissidents were interrogated and tortured. I was in Sulaymaniyah for four months, during which I spent almost every day in the museum. I speak the language, because originally I come from that area myself. I interviewed a large number of people there, including ex-prisoners. But I also spoke to youngsters who were visiting Amna Suraka on a school trip or who came to the café to use the free Wifi. These conversations have shown me how diverse experiences can be and how versatile history is. There is not one big story, everyone has his or her own story. In Kurdistan people do not speak much about the recent war. People are done with that period and want to move on, but it is also a characteristic of their culture not to talk about traumas. During the interviews with the ex-prisoners it became clear to me how important it was for them that their suffering was depicted in the museum. Together we walked through the building and spoke about the sculptures of prisoners in positions of torture that were on view. From a Western perspective you might call these sculptures too direct, sensationalist or kitsch. The exprisoners, however, were able to identify closely with what was depicted, and they felt understood. One of my conclusions, therefore, is that the power of art can contribute to these types of

Perspectives on the World 2015  

Research within the Faculty of Humanities

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