“Nusaybin’s resistance lurks in the stones of Pira Şehida”


NUSAYBIN | I am covered in dust and dirt. We walk in silence. My journalist friend Cejno, with whom I’ve been working for close to one year, does not say a word. Neither of us wants to talk. Ridding ourselves of the sadness surrounding us isn’t easy. The evening was difficult, the whole town is silent, mute. We walk by old police stations; my rage grows. I can hear laughter inside. In this town, during these moments filled with silent sorrow, one only hears laughter in police stations.

A few hours ago, the police killed a child. Muğdat Ay was only 12 years old. He was playing marbles on the street. He was assassinated by shots from an akrep—type armored vehicle. We carried him to the hospital but he was already dead. I approached the bed where they had placed his corpse. That lifeless child’s body, lying there. Resting in its own blood, this body that would never stand again. My eyes were glued to his hands. He was still holding his marbles in his closed fists. This lifeless body held on to those marbles really hard. I touched his hands: I couldn’t loosen them. Even lifeless, this child’s body did not want to give up its marbles. This body you killed was that of a child. He seemed to be saying: “Don’t forget, even if it is dead, this body belonged to a child. Even dead, a child’s body loves its toys.”

I left the room. Even the deaf would hear the howls coming out of his mother and his sister.

It is the worst night of all, the most heavily cursed, the most disgusting of all nights. A child was killed before our eyes. We could no nothing. Now, we hurl ourselves through the barricaded streets.

Is there anything this town has not witnessed yet? Throughout its painful history, it has become renowned for its residents’ resistance. Sometimes, reasons for certain events must be found in history. Understanding reasons and consequences is important to understanding such moments. I want the people to tell us again what happened here. I approach people sitting behind the barricades. This time, I put my question directly. I want to get Muğdat out of my head, if only for a second.

Twenty-three years ago, a painful event occurred in Nusaybin. The massacre about which the “mainstream” media said at the time that “500 terrorists attack the police, 16 are exterminated” occurred on March 22 1992 on what is now called “Pira Sehida” – the martyrs’ bridge in Nusaybin. On March 1992 in Cizre, the official count of massacred people during the Newroz celebrations stood at 57; the non-official said 100. As a result, Nusaybin rose up. To people who survived the 1992 massacre, I put the question: “Why are people resisting now?”

Wearing a long skirt and headscarf, a woman in her sixties approaches me. “Let me tell you, daughter,” she says. Her name is Nure Tekin, she witnessed the events on that day: “After the massacre in Cizre, we could not keep quiet. In the evening, we knocked on every door calling on serhildan (resistance). In the morning, there were thousands of people on Yeni Turan Caddesi and we started the march. All of a sudden, we were surrounded by a number of army vehicles and teams from special forces. They called out from the army vehicles: “There is no authorized demonstration, disperse! Those who will not disperse will be considered members of the PKK and treated accordingly.” No one budged. “The march continued,” she says. “

“When we reached the bridge now called “Pira Şehida”, army vehicles also moved in toward us. People in the front lines began a sit-in but the vehicles kept on advancing. No one was moving. They thought the crowd would disperse as the vehicles approached but the people were determined and they did not budge. And so, the vehicles ran over the people. Dozens were crushed. This really and truly happened, people were crushed. I still carry the memory of the sound of crushed bones. The crowd was crushed under the vehicles, people’s brains spread out all over. We tried to flee. I was holding my husband’s hand and running when they started raining down bullets on us. We ran, we ran, lifting our legs very high. Bullets whizzed by under our feet. People were crushed one against the other. Many people simply jumped into the water. They were drowned. Their bodies were found in Syria a few days later.”

“The river was covered in blood”

“There was blood everywhere, the river was red with it. My thirteen year old son, Süleyman was with us but when I regained my senses, I realized he was no longer by my side, he was lost. I found him days later in the Mardin hospital. His bones were broken and he was covered in bullet wounds. We really tried to bring him back to life. Once he was better, his mental health was not good. It never improved; my son became crazy. He says he constantly hears the sound of crushed bones. My son ended up under dead bodies. They threw him into the vehicle gathering dead bodies. They only realized he was still breathing in the hospital morgue. My son has remained unstable mentally.”

“A woman’s dead body colored the river red”

We are suddenly surrounded by dozens of witnesses. All have something to say about what happened to them. Kader Kurt is one of them: “I was with my son. All of a sudden, they ran over us. I survived by accident, I would have preferred to die. How can you be well again after such events? They made a mountain out of the dead bodies; they tortured the living by walking over their wounds. Some people died that way. The women shielding their children with their bodies were crushed and killed that way. One woman threw herself into the river, they took her for a target and she died from the bullet wounds. Her blood colored the river red. I will always remember those moments where her clothes floated silently in the river. Her white headscarf followed by her dead body, it lasted an eternity. Those few seconds felt like a century to me. They found her dead body in Rojava and she was buried over there. My son was among those who attempted to save his life by jumping into the river. Luckily, he was only wounded in a leg, he was found by a family and brought home. He came home days later. Our lives changed dramatically after those events.”

“My sister’s white scarf was on the pile of dead bodies”

A man joins the crowd suddenly. “Before you go, wait to hear my story,” he says. Cemal Uçar begins: “We knocked on all the doors in the evening, to call out everyone for serhildan. The following day, they killed us so as to serve us up to the “mainstream” papers as “exterminated terrorists”. My mother was at home. She couldn’t come with us but she sent my 12 year old sister with her white scarf to provide me with support. At that precise moment, what was to happen, happened, my sister fainted. They threw her on the pile of dead bodies. She was still holding her white scarf covered in blood. That image never leaves my eyes. All this was for the highly significant fire in Kurdish tradition, that of Newroz. This is the price we paid to feed the fire. This is why we keep marching on for peace without respite, with all the lessons learned through each pain…”

Late into the night, everyone goes on telling his or her story. During the day, we used wood found in the garbage behind the barricades to warm up the spot. Then our hearts were warmed by the stories we shared until morning.

As the sun started to rise, everyone began preparations. Today, we will bury Mugdat. Once again, we will bury a young body, to the sound of slogans from thousands of people…