Gulistan, Land of Roses

By Mildred Collins:

This week Assumption College hosted the final screening of Zanye Akyol’s latest film; Gulistan, Land of Roses.

The film follows the daily lives of female guerrilla fighters in northern Iraq. They are focusing on fighting ISIS’s presence in Kurdistan. Zanye’s film gives us glimpse into their lives both on and off the battlefield. It tells us their reasons for joining, their likes and their hopes for the future. Zayne says about the women:

“The relationship between men and women is, they’re actually focusing on feminism……This is a woman group (Free Women’s Units) and they have their own commander…..They really want to be independent and make their own decisions.”

It was hosted by spanish professor Dona M. Kercher who opened the screening and introduced Zayne.


Zayne is a Turkish immigrant who moved to Canada with her family as a young child. The inspiration for this film starts with a young woman she knew when she was living in Montreal who Zayne says was like a sister to her. Like Zayne, she was from Turkey and even spoke the same language. One day, she vanished and Zayne didn’t learn until much later that she joined the PKK. The name of the film itself is also the name of the woman: Gulistan, which directly translates to ‘land of roses’:

“Gulistan was a young lady, she was eighteen, I was five-six. She was coming from the same nation that I was, she was speaking the same language that I did. She had exactly the same background and really I identified with her as my big sister.”


The film was originally released in 2016 and premiered in the Americas at the Canadian Hot Docs film festival. It later won the 2016 Docs Alliance Selection Award. Zayne also won the award for ‘Best New Talent’ from Quebec/Canada at the Rencontres internationales du documentaire de Montréal. In January 2017 it was nominated at the 5th Canadian Screen Awards for best feature-length documentary and best documentary editing.

The film brings you into the lives of these female guerrillas and allows you to see them, not just as fighters, but as people too. It shows their training, their missions, their meals, their chores, their talks and even some of their celebrations. It shows the human dynamic of this war and reveals the people behind the guns, allowing the viewers to identify and empathize with them.

(Source: YouTube: HotDocsFest)

This film is inspiring and many hope Zayne continues to make more film like this in the future.

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