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Seven Stories Press

Works of Radical Imagination

City of Widows

An Iraqi Woman's Account of War and Resistance

by Haifa Zangana

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In City of Widows, Haifa Zangana tells the story of her country, from the early twentieth century through the US-UK invasion and the current occupation. She brings to light a sense of Iraq as a society mainly of secularists who have been denied, through years of sanctions, war, and occupation, a system within which to build the country according to their own values. She points to the long history of political activism and social participation of Iraqi women, and the fact that, before the recent invasion, they had been among the most liberated of their gender in the Middle East. Finally, she writes about Baghdad today as a city populated by bereaved women and children who have lost their loved ones and their land, but who are still emboldened by the native right to resist and liberate themselves to create an independent Iraq.

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Haifa Zangana was just eight years old in 1958 when Iraqis flooded the streets in celebration of their newfound freedom from British colonial rule, which had begun in 1917. Zangana then came of age in one of the most open societies in the Middle East—until it was shut down in the 1970s by the tyrannical Ba’ath Party. Joining in armed struggle against Saddam Hussein, Zangana was captured, imprisoned, and tortured as a young woman. She was released from Abu Ghraib after six months of detention, and has lived in exile ever since. Today, Haifa Zangana is a novelist, a weekly contributor for al-Quds newspaper, and a commentator for the Guardian, Red Pepper, and al-Ahram Weekly. She lives in London.