Traditional Sense of Honour and Modern Dignity


Dr Joanna Bocheńska

From The Traditional Sense of Honour Toward The Modern Dignity. The Continuity and Change of Kurdish Culture and of Social Reality

Comparing traditional Kurdish narratives with contemporary film and literary narration we can observe not only the development of national ideas, but the change of the hierarchy of ethical values. Some values become more important the role of other seems fading. While the traditional narratives emphasized the value of honour, faithfulness, courage, chastity and physical strength, the contemporary ones favour (beside the national struggle) life and love which provide us with the new meaning of respect. The recognition of life as a value is closely connected with the elevation of love as the main value to follow. However the understanding of love expands too. There are no longer only egotistical lovers or devoted Sufis who attract the writers’ attention. In The Perwane’s Evening by Bekhtiyar Eli Xendan is chosen to narrate the story although it seems that it is her sister Perwane, who deserves more attention. She belongs to the group of exalted artists, the inhabitants of the Eshqistan (The Land of Love) who rebel against the authority of religious people and are then killed by them. Perwane is Xendan’s beloved sister and that is why she is the focal point of the story. But it is Xendan’s love and attention to others which allow us to see the tragic perplexity of the both sides of the conflict: the blind religious fanaticism and the egotistical escapism of artists, who burn or are burned (!) as the mystical moths (perwane) following the light. Xendan’s love toward people is different from the one of Eshqistan inhabitants, it is less spectacular but more perceptive. It gives priority to life and not to any kind of ideological sacrifice. We find its traces among other Kurdish characters in the works by Bahman Qubadi, Mehmed Uzun, Hesene Mete and Helim Yusiv among others.

That is why the new form of respect which is promoted by the modern narratives should be connected with life, love and dignity rather than with the traditional honour based on faithfulness and courage. But as stressed by Kwam Anthony Appiah in the conclusion of his study on moral revolutions honour still cannot be eliminated because “it takes a sense of honor to drive a soldier beyond doing what is right and condemning what is wrong to insisting that something is done when others on his side do wicked things. It takes a sense of honor to feel implicated by the acts of others” (p.204). So it is probably Xendan’s sense of honour to tell the story of the lost Eshqistan and inspire readers by the other kind of thinking.