“They raped the women in front of their husbands”


Şırnak | After Cizre, I find myself in Şırnak. In this town also the resistance and the attacks against self-government have been ongoing for months. In the freezing temperatures, my friends and I crawl to avoid the soldiers and special forces and enter the streets behind the barricades. The sound of bullets never stops. They whizz by our noses constantly like razors. There are armed youths behind the barricade. And there are children playing at barricades in front of their homes. They have no fear at all, they have gotten used to it and make a game out of war.

In the dark night, each of us heads off to a different house. We are the guests of families we have never met before. And each one greets us as if we were long-lost friends. I knock on the door of a broken-down house pockmarked with bullet holes. A tall woman in traditional garb opens the door, embraces me wordlessly and takes me inside. She doesn’t ask who I am or where I come from. She brings me tea and cheese. She says: “You must be hungry, eat a bit.” Of course she knows I’m hungry. As if she knew what a journalist must do in order to survive. “You are doing so much for us. Is it too much that I should share my bread with you?” My eyes fill with tears and the moisture traces wet paths on my dusty face. She wipes my face with her hand and we smile…

It is getting late, so she makes a bed out of woolens. “Come lie down,” she says. I listen to her. Wrapped in a woolen blanket, I start warming up. I listen to my bones gently warming, I am happy. She makes her bed next to mine. She is in her sixties, her name is Aliye Idin. Probably because I am so tired, I ask her: “Mother, will this war never end?”

She smiles and begins to talk: “Let me tell you about the 90s. In former times, my family migrated to Manisa for financial reasons. After a while, we became rather wealthy and settled there. One day, the son of my uncle from Şırnak came to see my father. “Uncle, let me marry your daughter.” My father gave him my hand and we left for Şırnak. After I married, my life changed completely. It started with a train ticket. I couldn’t believe the difference I saw between the first stop and the last. My husband took me to the mountains on horseback. The house I was going to live in was a goat-hair tent. I will never forget what my husband’s brother told me when I asked “Where’s the electricity?” He showed me the fire and said: “Here it is.” As a woman, I found myself caught between two worlds. I discovered Kurdish reality on a mountaintop.”

“They raped the women in front of their husbands”

As the Kurdish struggle grew, governmental oppression grew also. Every night, they would cut the ropes on our tents and chase us down to the lowlands. As nomads, we had nothing other than the highlands, we would spend the night hiding in the rushes, then we would head back to the highlands during the day. This went on for a long time. Every time we went down to the village, the violence grew. They said: “You help the guerilla” and they would torture us. They would hang the children by their feet and tell them: “Talk Turkish”. I was the only one who knew Turkish so they made me the spokesperson for the village. They would attack the houses, and pour salt on the ground in the toilets, peel the soles on the men’s feet and force them to walk on the salt. While they did this, they would turn on the radio, listen to music and enjoy themselves.”

“I am no longer afraid and I can say it now: they raped the horses, the donkeys, the cows and the goats. They also tried to raped the women in our village but we resisted. They couldn’t prevent it in the village of Ayvan. They raped two women in front of their husbands whose arms they had tied. In their rage, the men smashed their feet pounding the floor.”

“They dragged four men out on the village square”

I witnessed every raid. I knew about them because every time there was a new raid, the villagers lit a fire to warn me. I would run over to this village and throw myself at the soldiers to chase them away. One night, soldiers raiding the village of Çemikê Tehlo killed four men and dragged them out to the village square in front of their children. Thanks to the fire, I knew something was going on, I jumped onto my horse and went there immediately. They had assembled all the people on the square and undressed them. You no longer fear what you have experienced already. This is why I was fearless. Every time I reached a village, the soldiers would say: “Here comes our Aliye again.” Arriving in the village, the first thing I did was have all the villagers put their clothes back on. We got organized and took the corpses away from the soldiers. I threw myself at the commander and yelled: “You can’t do whatever you want to people simply because they don’t speak Turkish”. “Those are my orders,” he said. I seized the walkie-talkie and said: “You have neithter dignity nor morality. If you are going to kill, then come and kill me.” We resisted until morning so that the villagers would not cave in and we were tortured several times in the interval.”

“They hung the men to the trees by their genitals”

In the morning, they took twenty-five men from the village and brought them to the mountain. They said: “We will shoot whoever follows us.” I was stubborn enough to do so on my own. When I reached the mountain, I saw they had hung the men to the trees by their genitals. I wandered through the mountain, howling for hours. I went to speak to the commander but he made fun of me and said: “Bring their women too, they can copulate in front of us. Then, we will release them.” I harassed him and said I wouldn’t leave without getting them back. I launched an uprising in each village. Everyone gathered round the mountain, waiting patiently. We said we would not leave without the men. Our determined attitude made the soldiers withdraw. After 5 hours, we were able to take the men down from the trees. Most of them remained invalids.”

“For years we lived in the middle of the town in a tent made of goat hair”

“They pulled back but the suffering continued. The oppression persisted. As days went by, we became accustomed to living this way. I will never forget the time we had gone to a neighboring village to bring a bride. We were walking toward the village, ululating with the bride dressed in red and riding a horse. When we came back, nothing was as it should have been. Our only possessions, our houses and our few belongings were in flames. For hours, we watched our village burn to the ground, then we went to Şırnak in the evening with the wedding procession. We raised our goat hair tents and that is where we lived for years.”

“During the 1992 Şırnak clashes, we took shelter in the toilet for 3 days”

“The oppression worsened when the confrontations began in 1992 in Şırnak. With my children, I took shelter in the toilets for three days. For a full three days, we stood there, packed in like sardines. Those were hard times. Once again, I led in organizing people and, one day, we gathered on the Square of the Republic to hold an anti-war demonstration. Even this they couldn’t tolerate. They started shooting into the crowd and killed twenty-five people. Everyone was attempting to run away but they went on shooting. I fell in the gutter while trying to escape and hundreds of people trampled over me. No one noticed I was there. All my bones were broken, and my yellow dress was covered in blood. I was in the hospital for days. By the end of the assault that day, one hundred people had been killed.”

“For the first time, we have built a life for ourselves behind the trenches”

“I I were to tell it all, it would be a novel. Those were unbelievable days. Several of my relatives were tortured to death and many others headed straight for the mountains. Now, there are trenches and, for the first time, we have built a life for ourselves behind them. For the first time, we can say: “Yes, these lands are truly ours.” And you won’t believe it but for the first time in years, my house is not raided by the police or the military.”