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Gulîstan, Land of Roses

Zaynê Akyol
2016 | 86 minutes
Country of Production: Canada
Country/Culture Featured: Iraqi Kurdistan
NY Premiere | Director in Attendance  

Witness a depiction of modern warfare told through the eyes of women soldiers. In the mountains of Kurdistan, a left-wing military force works to keep its territory safe from the aggressive Islamic State. Remarkably, one of the army’s greatest assets is an all-female regiment, made more legendary and fearsome by ISIS’s belief that men killed by women on the battlefield are denied eternal paradise.

After the screening and Q&A, stop by our Mead Mixer and continue the conversation!

With support provided by the Québec Government Office in New York


A good topic is everything in the world of documentary film, and Kuridish-Quebecoise director Zaynê Akyol uncovers a goldmine in Gulistan, Land of Roses,” says the Montreal Gazette about this film about a small group of female guerrillas that depicts modern warfare through the eyes of women soldiers.

Read the full review here.

Activate: My Perspective 

“There are several reasons why I wanted to make this film. First, I wanted to bring the violence and oppression to light that the Kurdish people have been enduring, to make people aware of this little-known reality, to get them interested in learning more about the situation in Kurdistan. The war against Daesh (Islamic State) is new for the PKK. Don’t forget that this movement has been around since 1978 and that its members took up arms against the Turkish state in 1984. The PKK was created because the Kurdish people have been living with the denial of their existence for over a century, in addition to being subjected to abuses in the four countries where they live (Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Syria). We must not forget these people once they have gotten rid of Daesh for us. We must also listen to their claims, which are completely legitimate: to be independent within the countries where they live.

I also wanted to show a different side of women in the Middle East. Not the aspect that is often shown, especially in times of war, as the victim: women crying for their children or their husbands, women who are suffering. Instead, I wanted to show strong women: those who don’t give up without a fight, who are no longer victims of the actions of men—most of the time, it is the men who have started the war—those who stand up for their rights and take up arms when necessary. This may seem like a shocking portrait, because we are used to the image of submissive, caring women. In any case, I think that the fighters in the film break many stereotypes, not only about women in general, but also and especially about women in the Middle East.

Making this film changed me and made me think about things on several levels. At first, for me it was about maintaining ties to my Kurdish roots and reflecting on the state of the world at a time when fighting is increasing in the Middle East and the conflicts are becoming more international. Then, as I met these female guerillas, I had to face myself and my own beliefs. Through contact with these fighters, I became increasingly aware of the grievances and condition of women in the world. I learned what it meant to be feminist with them.”

—  Zaynê Akyol | Director, Gulîstan, Land of Roses