The whole world is talking about us, Kurdish women. It has become a common phenomenon to come across news about women fighters in magazines, papers, and news outlets. Televisions, news sites, and social media are filled with words of praise. They take photos of these women’s determined, hopeful, and radiant glances. To them, our rooted tradition is a reality that they only recently started to know. They are impressed with everything. The women’s laughter, naturalness, long braids, and the details of their young lives feel like hands extending to those struggling in the waters of despair. There are even some, who are so inspired by the clothes that the women are wearing, that they want to start a new fashion trend!
They are amazed by these women, who fight against the men that want to paint the colours of the Middle East black, and wonder where they get their courage from, how they can laugh so sincerely. And I wonder about them. I am surprised at how they noticed us so late, at how they never knew about us. I wonder how they were so late to hear the voices of the many valiant women who expanded the borders of courage, belief, patience, hope, and beauty. I do not want to complain too much. Perhaps our eras just did not match. I just have a few words to say to those who only now begin to notice us, that’s all.
Now one half of us is missing. If there is no past or future in your environment, one feels like a sound, an upsurge that gets lost in the black holes of the universe. The excitement and beauty of today can only be measured by those who were able to carry it to this day and their ability to carry it further to the future. In the cry of Zîlan (Zeynep Kinaci), who detonated herself in 1996 is the breath of Besê, who threw herself off the cliffs in the Dersîm uprising in the 1930s, saying “You cannot catch me alive” and that of Berîtan, who surrendered neither her body, nor her weapon to the enemy, when she threw herself off the mountain cliffs in 1992. It is the reason why YPJ fighter Arîn Mirkan made a mountain wind blow through a desert town, when she detonated herself rather than surrendering to ISIS, in order to cover her retreating comrades in Kobanê this October.
In the hearts of the Yezidi women, who take up arms against the men with the black flag is the homesickness of Binevs Agal, a Yezidi woman, who joined the guerilla from Germany in the 1980s and crossed continents to return to her country. In the words of Ayse Efendi, the co-president of the Kobanê people’s assembly, “I will die in my homeland,” is hidden the odin of the rebellious Zarife, who fought in the Dersim uprising. In the smile of the YPJ fighter, who poses with her child while carrying a rifle, is the hope of Meryem Colak, a psychologist, who chose to fight in the mountains and who often shared with us her longing for the daughter she left behind. Deniz Firat, a Firat News journalist, who was killed by ISIS in Makhmur in August, learned to search for truth from Gurbetelli Ersöz, a journalist and guerrilla fighter who died in clashes in 1997. Sema Yüce (Serhildan), who set herself on fire in protest in a Turkish prison in 1992, whispered the secrets of the fire to Leyla Wali Hussein (Viyan Soran), who self-immolated in 2006 to draw attention to the situation of Abdullah Öcalan.
Those who today wonder about why the “Girl with the Red Scarf”, a Turkish girl, who was disillusioned from the state after the Gezi-Park protests, would join the mountains, would have known the answer if they had known Ekin Ceren Dogruak (Amara), a Turkish revolutionary woman in the PKK whose grave stone says “The girl of the sea who fell in love with the mountains” and Hüsne Akgül (Mizgin), a Turkish guerrilla fighter of the PKK, who died in 1995. Those surprised at the US Americans, Canadians joining the YPG are those who do not know Andrea Wolf, a German internationalist in the PKK, who was murdered in 1998 and whose bones were thrown into a mass grave, and whose memorial could not be tolerated by the state.
Our calendar did not run parallel to the world’s calendar. These women’s gaze was focused on the depths of the far distance, their steps were fast. In order to bring the future closer, they were so impatient that they did not leave a single bridge behind. These two reasons kept us apart from the realities of the world. That is why the world did now know the women in the mountains, tens, then hundreds and later thousands of them, in the same time frame. Now it’s time to combine calendars, to set clocks. It is time to tell these women’s life stories that swung between dream and reality, their happy moments that sound like fairy tales, the ways in which loss has proven to be our most egregious teacher in our quest for truth. Now is the perfect time to entrust what I was able to carry from the past to this day. In order to join the world’s calendar, I will carry our past to the present. May my past be your present.
I wake up on a cold spring morning of Cirav in 1997. I throw the nylon, moistured from the frosty night, off me and I see a face, different from those of the swarthy warriors, in front of me. As if the sun had only mildly radiated on this face. As if her hands, her smile described elegance and nobility. I am happy that a warrior who is newer than me had arrived, that I had become a little old. I later find out that I had a five-year guerrilla in front of me. At the time, I knew only her code name; Zinarîn… If it wasn’t for the white strings in her hair or the way sorrow sometimes carried her smile away, you would not understand that she had been a guerrilla for five years. I am unaware of the pains she experienced, the sacrifices she made in her quest for truth. I am going crazy, being curious about what she is writing into her notebook, as she takes refuge under the shadow of a tree. The feelings that she felt in the short life that I shared with her, I later read in Zinarîn’s diary after her martyrdom.
I am in autumn 1997. A day on which the weary feet of autumn try to drag us towards winter. A day in which sorrow does not conquer Haftanin, but our hearts. I learn about Zinarîn’s martyrdom months later. I’m still vulnerable to the pain of loss. As I wander around with unchained rage, Meryem Colak reads on my face how my soul boils with pain. As I stopped talking to anyone upon Zinarîn’s death, she asks “Are you mad at us?” and answers the question herself “Don’t be angry at us, be angry at the enemy”. From that day on, my immunity towards loss increases. A few months later, I learn that Meryem Colak, when heading towards Metina in order to exit the operation field with a group of women on her side, was killed in a tank ambush. I learn from the witnesses of the moment that she spent her last energy to speak not to send greetings to her daughter, but to entrust her companions with her weapon, cartridge belt and codes.
It is 1999. I am in the Zagros mountains that did not permit Alexander’s army passage, but where the guerrilla managed to open paths. We are halfway through a long journey that would last a month. With me is the 22-year old Sorxwîn (Özgür Kaya). Our Sorxwîn, who allows the mountain conditions to rule over her body, but who will not allow her child’s heart to submit to the laws of war. A commander, a companion, a woman, and a child. Each one of her identities adds a different beauty to her. The best part of the one-month long arduous journey is her cheering us on to keep marching. Of course it was this child called Sorxwîn that invented children’s games to give us strength. Mischievously laughing, she says “This is nothing. I can carry a BKC with 400 bullets on my back, so I will climb this hill in four hours without a break”.
These women could not catch up with our time because they rushed towards the fire like butterflies. But they have been living on for three generations. Three generations grow up with their stories, carry their names, listen to the burning songs dedicated to them. They pick up the riffles that these women left behind and take off to Shengal, Kobanê, Botan, Serhat. They leave to bring light to the world that the men with the black flag want to darken. And their names are Zinarîn, Berîtan, Zîlan, Meryem, Sorxwîn, Arjîn, Amara, Viyan, Sara…