WINDHAM — A former political refugee from Iran has published an account of his visit to his homeland to discover his family history and the nation’s rich culture.

Hawreh Haddadi, 24, of Windham and his parents came to the U.S. in the late 1990s when Haddadi was just a baby. He grew up in southern Maine as part of a family of Kurds.

He obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree and a Master of Science degree in political science from the University of Southern Maine and Suffolk University, respectively. He said he wanted to know more about governments and how citizens could positively impact their communities.

“My parents’ advice on continuing an education and always keeping an open mind to matters never faded out,” he said. “That passion and determination led to write a book. Being an American came with a lot of luxuries that many folks around the world just didn’t have. Freedom, equality, economic opportunities, legal and cultural protections, to name a few.”

“Finding Kurdistan” is the story of Haddadi’s return to Iran in 2010, and his awakening to the rich culture and history of his family. It was a culture shock to leave behind his basketball hoop, PlayStation and reruns of “The Simpsons,” he said.

Reconnecting with cousins, hearing the stories of his father’s bravery as a Peshmerga freedom fighter, climbing mountains, and eating kebabs filled the days of an incredible summer, he said.

Unfortunately, other realities of being a Kurd in Iran also played a part. The stories of daily brutality by the Iranian regime became startlingly real when the Haddadi family was unexpectedly detained and questioned. Two days of terror and uncertainty drove home for him the fact that his people are not free, that Kurdistan is more than just an idea. It’s a living and hospitable region that millions of Kurds inhabit.

Told with the wit and innocence of a teenager, “Finding Kurdistan” makes a better case for peace and human rights than any academic treatise ever could. According to Haddadi, too many Americans see the Middle East as an unsolvable problem, so for him, the book is a message to the world that despite great cultural differences, young people everywhere want freedom, self-determination and a chance for happiness. 

The book is published by Piscataqua Press in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. For more information contact Haddadi at [email protected] or on Facebook.

Jawreh Haddadi, his younger sister and his parents are photographed before their departure from Iran for America in the 1990s. (Photo submitted by Hawreh Haddadi)

Hawreh Haddadi, author of “Finding Kurdistan.”

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