I too have Kurdish Friends!
I too have Kurdish Friends!
I have been considered as a “white Turk” throughout my life. I have grown up in an Aegean city in the midst of nationalist, masculine mind set. The perception of the Kurdish that the media created has always lacked something: “Whenever a Kurdish person is a matter of question, everyone has a Kurdish friend.”
This time I was on the way to Suruç, with my broken heart due to the intense sorrow of social events and massacres. Although most of others were, in their own words, from the Northern Kurdistan, I was from the Aegean region. On the way to Suruç, I was carrying a strong feeling of guilt of coming from the region where the majority has remained silent and indifferent.
Well, why did we go to Suruç? There were several reasons for sure, from the ideological grounds to humanitarian ones. Besides the fact that “standing against a war” is a revolt on its own, only traveling to Suruç was another form of it as well. What I feel, on the other hand, is that the fluid revolt flowing from a virtual form to a real one.
Politics has become such a circus where stomping elephants are squashing ants. When politicians sit down at the negotiation table, lives of people do not come into question for states. Individuals that are surrounded by the order, feel like they are mere objects in the face of events. While the weapons industry, wars over water and oil were commoditized, the system still contains fractures in itself: the people’s will! In this respect, the resistance in Kobani and all over the world signifies the methods of reacquiring the subjectivity and the autonomy. Experiencing the combat area and witnessing actual events is also a sense of revolt against the “reification” of events.
Then, what did I learn from my travels to Suruç and Kobani that I considered as a “revolt”? It is possible to express my experience from those few days as it follows:
Suruç is a city that has borders with Syria and stands across Kobani. It has witnessed the resistance of Kobani. There is the state of emergency in Suruç due to the warfare. If one wants to go there then he should be aware of this fact. It contains some realities that people who want to go there to appease their conscience or carrying their personal/institutional egos with them cannot stand. Unfortunately, the psychology of war tends to be forgotten within the warfare tourism. Though there were only a few, we could observe those people on the way to Suruç.
In psychology there is the concept of identifying self against others. Most of my comrades have identified themselves as being against the system, while some of them have internalized alternative lives. However, identifying themselves as being the “opposition”, is not very possible for individuals who are accustomed to urban life and modernism. Even in the anti-war steps we can face the fact of “conformism” that constitute consumerist society. If we were to do the math of how much food was consumed at resting places on the way, we would come up with serious amounts. This high volume of consumption could have met the needs of war victims whom have to pay the price for the war that we stand against.
It is time to move from the self-criticism to explain the road to Suruç…
During our 24 hour journey we were stopped three times by police and military forces. Although we heard that military forces turn people down at the gate of Suruç, we still preferred to use that access route. Our female fellows that got out of the bus to talk to soldiers became exposed to verbal and physical violence. As it was expected, we came across soldiers that were posing with shields in hands, making “tekbir[i] signs” and roaring insults at us. In fact, these were signs that we were already in the combat zone. Since we were turned down on the main road, we used alternative ways and arrived to the centre of Suruç. Aid materials were moved to a large storage room. We could not observe the situation in the city since it was already night time but other friends from the coordination centre shared with us their past experiences from Kobani and Suruç. Sabahat Tuncel[ii] was also there to welcome women. A meeting took place and the program of the following day was settled. During the meeting, it was agreed to visit tent camps at the centre of Suruç and celebrate the religious festival (eid) with war victims. Meanwhile, another group went to Beyte village to provide support and spent the night there. Beyte was relatively quiet since there had not been military intervention yet. The coordination centre sent groups that were there for a couple of days, like us, to the village. On our way to the village, great enthusiasm and cheer of local people empowered resisters who arrived from Istanbul. Women, men, children welcomed us with hope, joy and “peace signs” all around. Indeed, along with their support to us, they became our hope. We were welcomed with the same enthusiasm in Beyte village where earth-sheltered homes were erected on droughty land. Thereafter, a major part of the group went to rest for the following day. Some friends and I moved toward lands overlooking the border. There we could see lights of bullets while youngsters were dancing guerrilla halay (folk dance). How strong was those people’s life energy?
I did not fear but was thrilled. On our way, when we received information that many ISIS fighters were killed, joy filled the bus. When we faced the war, I suffered for those fighters as well. Neither my mind nor my heart allowed me to understand the reality of war. I was silently cursing humanity that caused such confrontations. Deaths were even darker in the darkness of village. I understood the defence of Kobani, the Rojava revolution and the massacred peoples… I understood all but not the mentality that brought about a war. I saw dead bodies and crying mothers. A woman’s mind would refuse the mentality of the system that calls for a war. At that moment only thing I felt was the heart breaking grief. Life, on the other hand, was going on even in the midst of bullets that broke the silence. Burning tea-urns, drinking hot cups of tea and having nice conversations illustrated how close the death and life are to each other. The closer we are to death, the more alive we are.
The conversation kept going but I needed subtitles. Unfortunately, I did not know the language of the people that I live together on the same territory. While feeling the guilt of it on my own, I better realized that the single language policy was a mistake. When I expressed my desire to get involved in the conversation, they did not refuse me and continued in Turkish. Since I was feeling as a foreigner, every time I could not follow the conversation, the sentence ‘I don’t understand you’ (in English) was echoed in my mind.
In this border village, our sleep was like the “fox’s sleep”. Even when we went to sleep, we were suddenly waking up with noises of American-coalition airplanes’ bombing the ISIS camps and we began to watch those bombs. Amongst noises of guns and bombings there was the silence of death, indeed. Meanwhile, when everyone was witnessing the war, I started walking around the group and overheard a conversation: “For me it is more valuable that a Turkish person is here and understanding the situation, than thousands of Kurds being here” said the young person whom I heard.
The following morning, women formed a chain of peace. We saluted the resistance coupled with Kurdish and Turkish slogans. For the first time, I witnessed that each of our slogans was heard in Kobani and responded with zılgıt[iii]. And I found out how to contribute to the resistance: giving stronger voice to slogans that generated motivation.
During the meetings that were organized after chains of peace and slogans, the coordination team was making a statement about conditions of border villages twice or three times a day. In those talks that were made first in Kurdish and then in Turkish, when some people did not want to listen statements in Turkish others warned them: “Be respectful, although they (Turkish people) do not understand Kurdish they listened to us till the end, we shall also wait until the talk is over”.
Coordination team paid the most attention to the issue of approaching to border. People were prevented to get closer to the border because YPG/YPJ forces were not able to shoot ISIS soldiers since they (ISIS) were pretty close to Turkish borders. However the main issue was not that ISIS getting closer to border since they had already leaked into Turkish borders. After all, the real objective of the resistance was to hinder other ISIS soldiers from arriving to Kobani. For that reason, 24 hours a day Kurdish forces stand watch at access points of the village. Attempts of Turkish soldiers to break this resistance by evacuating villages demonstrate the primary objective. One could ask about the relation between Turkish soldiers and ISIS. There are many resisters who have witnessed Turkish soldiers visiting the ISIS camps to deliver aid. When I was there, one night I witnessed an ambulance from Turkey passing over the border and arriving to ISIS camps. It was an evidence to show which side that Turkish soldiers supported. Besides, several soldiers who were in charge at the border escaped and went to Suruç. If they were running away from the war, why would they escape to Suruç where the resistance is still maintained?
Every night we were witnessing bombardment of coalition airplanes at particular times. However, these bombs were not targeted on ISIS camps that could be identified by everyone, but on empty lands. It proved that bombing show was false. Furthermore, while there was heavy firing from ISIS side, YPG-YPJ side’s firepower was limited.
Resisters, who were delighted with the bombardment of coalition airplanes, were also aware that it was a situation like “a drowning man will clutch at a straw”, in other words, they had to hang on those forces.
As much as night bombardments allowed us and we could get a rest, by looking at stars and the full moon I thought that humans fortunately could not reach to and damage those beauties. I listened to the voice of Mesopotamia in the darkness of a large steppe. It was not hard to understand neither the people who want to hold this sweet-voiced mainland nor others staring at the burgeoning revolution…
As the time to return approached, everybody was reluctant. We did not want to go back. Our friends that remained there were comforting us: “Kobani will not fall, they (ISIS) will lose.” Their biggest request from us was to tell everyone about what we witnessed there. Thus, the major aim of this article is to express my experiences and observations in Suruç, at least to meet their demand. Like the way they welcomed, they sent us back with slogans and gestures of peace. On the bus, however, silence took its place. Feelings that cannot be described by words…
One of Saturday Mothers whom sat in front of me silently began to lament. Each word contained sorrow, the grief of losing her child. Lament of a woman was the language of resistance, thus Kurdish movement was a women’s movement…
Best words to say are: Jin, Jiyan, Azadi…
Çiğdem Artık, Boğaziçi University, İstanbul
Please cite this publication as follows:
Artık Ç. (November, 2014), “I too have Kurdish Friends! ”, Vol. III, Issue 11, pp.6-9, Centre for Policy Analysis and Research on Turkey (ResearchTurkey), London, ResearchTurkey. (http://researchturkey.org/?p=7114)
[i] Common religious gesture applied by people who are shouting ‘Allahuekber – Arabic of ‘Allah is great and above all.’’
[ii] MP from İstanbul of HDP (Halkların Demokrasi Partisi – Peoples’ Democracy Party)
[iii] ‘scolding’ that is particular to the people of the region.