In May 2010, the body of Zardasht Osman, a twenty-three-year-old journalist who wrote under the name “Saro Zardasht,” was found in Arbil, the capital of Kurdistan. He had been kidnapped and murdered after writing exposés of the ruling party, led by Kurdish president Masud Barzani. Earlier in the year, Saro had written a comic tirade about Barzani, from which these tetrameters are loosely drawn, after an English translation by Aryan Baban, posted online by the scholar Michael Rubin.

I am in love with Masud’s daughter”
Masud Barzani: the man yousee
here and there, the man who says
he is my president. I want
him for my father-in-law. I want
his son for my brother-in-law. I want
his lovely daughter to marry me.

If I were married to Masud’s daughter,
we’d spoon and honeymoon in Paris.
We’d visit her uncle’s American mansion.
We’d leave my backstreet room in Arbil
for an upmarket place in Sari Rash.
We’d take my poor, unfancied sister
to fancy stores in a fancy car.

If I were married to Masud’s daughter,
my mother would have Italian doctors
nodding wisely while she moaned
about her feet and swollen heart.
My uncles would have swank offices.
My nieces and nephews would all grow fat
as high officials for the state.

If I were married to Masud’s daughter,
I’d put my pensionless father in charge
of all our Kurdish militia troops.
I’d name my little brother as head
of special forces”the luckless boy
who’s finished school but can’t find a job
and talks about leaving Kurdistan.

My friends say: Saro, let it go.
You’ve never even met the girl
you babble on and on about.
The Barzanis, old Mustafa’s tribe”
they can kill whatever they want.
And you’ll be what they want to kill,
if you don’t shut up about their daughter.

But why should I be silent now?
My father warred against Saddam
with Masud’s brother”I swear on his knife:
three nights on the mountain they stood together.
Masud says he’s my president,
but when did he last leave his palace
to visit old soldiers in Arbil’s slums?

I wonder what my mother-in-law
looks like. On the Internet
with only a few clicks you can find
photos of other leaders’ wives”
but never Masud’s. Is she shy?
Without knowing, I can’t decide
who should help arrange my marriage.

At first, I thought I would take an imam
with me”a good, respectable figure”
and a few of those old militiamen,
to ask for the hand of Masud’s daughter.
But everyone says I must use instead
some of Saddam’s collaborators,
the murderers and ethnic cleansers

that Masud now seems to like so much.
Or maybe my busy brother-in-law
will mention me in a press release
so my father-in-law can learn who I am.
Or maybe that pop-star Dashne will sing
about my love for Masud’s daughter.
She’s always around the Barzanis these days.

I am in love with Masud’s daughter”
Masud Barzani: the man you see
here and there, the man who says
he is my president. I want
him for my father-in-law. I want
his son for my brother-in-law. I want
his lovely daughter to marry me.

Joseph Bottum