48. At home in a foreign land: Nazar buries his young wife in foreign soil in a Nashville neighborhood.

Above, Kurdish men form a line of grief and pray before the body of a young woman–their friend–as they prepare her burial in southern Nashville, in Antioch.

Nazar Sharanshi (below, standing, left of center with hands folded in lap) recites the Ṣalāt al-Janāzah (صلاة الجنازة‎ Funeral Prayer) during the burial of his wife, Jihan Shamsadin Haji, in Antioch, April 2019.

FROM THE JOURNAL: 1 April 2019:

I knew Nazar’s young wife was ill but when I saw his message this morning in Arabic إِنَّا لِلَّهِ وَإِنَّا إِلَيْهِ رَاجِعُونَ‎ (“To God we belong and to God we will return.” -Quaran 2:156) I knew the worst had happened.

I reached out and the family said, yes, she has died.

Then they asked me to come. To the funeral and even welcomed my cameras.

Just last year we were in her village in Iraq seeing the place she and her family have left behind. As we drove deep into north Iraq–Kurdistan–toward the borders of Turkey and Iran we passed through ever-increasing scrutiny at military checkpoints. But each time we said the village we were heading to the soldiers would say, “Oh, this village has the most beautiful women in all of Kurdistan.” It is sad to know she was unable to return home to see her sisters before she died.

As they buried her we felt an overwhelming sense of strangeness. Her body will rest in foreign soil that her young daughters and husband now know as home: Nashville.

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