Book Reading & Discussion: City of Widows: An Iraqi Woman's Account of War and Resistance by Haifa Zangana

Mon, March 31, 2008 7:00 pm at Alwan for the Arts

(View all book reading & discussions »)

Free and Open to the Public

In 1958, when Haifa Zangana was just eight years old, Iraqis flooded the streets in celebration of their hard-won 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—but it was shut down in the 1970s by the tyrannical yet secular Ba’ath party. Joining in armed struggle against Saddam Hussein, Zangana was captured, imprisoned, and tortured as a young woman, and finally released from Abu Ghraib prison after six months of detention. She was forced to live in exile, and has ever since.

In City Widows: An Iraqi Woman’s Account of War and Resistance (Seven Stories Press; November 15, 2007; $20), 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 discusses how the alternative brewing beneath the surface of the Ba’ath regime was not sectarianism, but rather fringe components that have been fueled and funded by the occupation, which has destroyed civil and state systems to contain these radical groups.

Zangana considers how women’s status has been changing over the last one hundred years, how women have organized themselves within and outside political parties, social, and cultural institutions, and how NGOs since the 2003 invasion have promoted a colonial feminism that is irrelevant to Iraqi women today. Finally, she writes about Baghdad 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.

HAIFA ZANGANA is an Iraqi political commentator, and novelist. She is a weekly columnist for al-Quds newspaper and a commentator for The Guardian, Red Pepper, and al-Ahram Weekly. She lives in London.

“While American viceroys, eager to get the oil-profits flowing, traded human rights (especially women's rights), for a phony promise of security, women like Haifa Zangana were pointing out that you can't have national security without women's security. Doing deals with theocratic warlords is no way to build security, they said. And they were right. We'd have been better off if we'd heard Zangana then. We should listen to her now.”—Laura Flanders, host of Radio Nation on Air America

Last updated: 2008-03-25 07:16:31

Haifa Zangana
Haifa Zangana

Alwan for the Arts

16 Beaver Street, 4th Floor
(between Broad St. and Broadway)
New York, NY 10004
(646) 732-3261

Alwan Auction 2016

Join Our Mailing List:



Classes are currently being scheduled. Please check back soon for updates.



There are currently no upcoming events.


16 Beaver Street
4th Floor
New York, NY 10004
(646) 732 3261
Email Us

Alwan for the Arts is accessible to people with disabilities. Please call 646 732 3261 in advance, or, buzz at the door to arrange a ramp.

© 2020 Alwan for the Arts

Hosting donated by:, the Arabic Encyclopedia