Culture Magazine

Diana Nammi: One Woman's Story of War, Love and Fighting for Equality

By Colin Randall @salutsunderland

Karen Attwood was a terrific colleague in Abu Dhabi. I always remember her because, like Michael Jackson, her dad shares a birthday with me. But she was an excellent reporter and continues to be now back in the UK. Here, at my invitation, Karen (pictured below) describes the interview with Dianna Nammi, a former Kurdish Iranian freedom fighter who now works to promote women's rights. It's a classic example of the gripping interview that inspires a book ...

Diana Nammi became a frontline fighter with the Peshmerga when she was only 17. Born in Iran and now living in the UK where she runs a women’s rights organisation, Diana’s life story is full of incredible twists and turns.

I was sent to interview Diana Nammi for the Independent on Sunday in October 2014 after she won a Barclays Woman of the Year award for her work campaigning to get "honour" based violence recognised in the British legal system. I had one hour but could have talked to her all day. I knew immediately that her story should be told in a book and with any luck, one day in a film.


Originally named Galavezh (Morning Star), Diana grew up in the Kurdish region of Iran in the 1960s and 70s. This was a time of cooperation and looking out for neighbours. It was also a world of forced marriages, with a woman’s value determined by her husband or male relatives.

But Galavezh was cherished by her father, who was a kind and brave man. At the age of four, she witnessed him stepping forward to save a woman’s life on her wedding day. From this act, Galavezh learned that one person can change the world around them.

Our book is the story of what Galavezh did next. After Kurdistan was attacked, she became a soldier in the famed Peshmerga fighting force. She spent 12 years on the front line, and helped lead the fight for women’s rights and equality for the Kurdish people. She became one of the Iranian regime’s most wanted. It is also, at its heart, a love story.

Peshmerga literally translates as “one who sacrifices oneself for others”. The forces, including more than 1,000 women on active duty, are currently fighting ISIS in northern Iraq. This is the unique and powerful account of a woman who fought with these troops, traveling across Iran and Iraq, standing up for women and girls and slowly but surely changing the world.

We’re working with the publisher Unbound, who are behind a number of recent best-sellers including The Good Immigrant and The Wake which made the Booker long-list.

Unbound raise the money for the cost of a book's publication by pre-selling the hardback to about 600 people. This is where you can come in by helping to get this important story told.

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