Journey of a Thousand Storms: a Refugee’s story by Kooshyar Karimi is an extraordinary tale of an Iranian Jew, a doctor, who escaped Iran with his wife and two children, and after overcoming enormous obstacles came to Australia. No refugee story can ever be an ordinary story, but this is one which will stay with you, no less because of Karimi’s writing which is at times surprisingly spare, almost dispassionate, as he describes the horrible injustice and privations suffered under the Iranian regime.
Karimi’s is an exceptional, almost freakish, intellect. He told Jana Wendt in an interview, that he wants to tell “important stories about the world”; in this book he has.
Karimi was born to a Jewish mother and Muslim father, but his mother kept up a pretence as a Muslim convert whilst still holding to Jewish faith and tradition. With an absent father, he held on to his mother’s religion in a country where Jews were persecuted. Karimi’s exposure to injustice, prejudice and poverty instilled a drive to succeed, and to subvert. He became a doctor, doing exceptionally well in his studies. Karimi also joined a secret, forbidden group, and wrote many books which were published. As a doctor, he performed abortions and repaired hymens secretly in order to help women avoid certain torture and death, but he was discovered and himself tortured until he agreed to spy on others for fear of his family being hurt. It is something that still sits uneasily with him. Karimi’s escape to Turkey with his reluctant wife and two young daughters, leaving behind his mother, house and possessions, will set your heart pounding. In Turkey, refugees are despised, and how they survive years of no money and awful housing is a testament to his ingenuity and adaptability – stealing bits of food in the dead of night for his children, making a heater out of a brick, wire and stolen electricity are some of things he was driven to.
Against all odds he and his family are accepted into Australia, and they arrive, in a land that is free. However, the impact of leaving loved ones, the years of scraping to survive, the persecution even in Turkey, and the knowledge his mother was incarcerated because of his escape, has an effect on them all. Ultimately, Karimi is able to gain the qualifications to practice as a doctor in Australia. His restless intellect has seen him publish a books, invent things, and make forays into art and music.
There is talk of his book being made into a movie – it has the suspense, drama, and tragedy and humanity of any great film.