DARGEÇIT |The armed forces killed seven people during the nineteen days that lasted the curfew in Dargeçit, district of Mardin. Hundreds of animal corpses are strewn in the streets. One animal has been so badly dismembered that her unborn baby has been expelled. I move forward and the pain of the town hits me in the face. There are no sounds, everyone quietly attempts to recover what remains of their burnt-out homes. Those walls still standing are riddled with bullet holes. The cars: burned down to carcasses. Over these nineteen days, the town has become unrecognizable. I see a crowd. I notice they are burying their loved ones together. Seven funerals, seven people killed by governmental forces. They were all civilians who had never held a gun in their life. Still they couldn’t avoid being targets for the Turkish military and police forces.
I am looking for women’s stories in the district. The first snow of the new year falls on the slaughtered animals on the district’s historical streets made of stone. The people I meet point out an old woman’s house: a blue door trimmed with traditional painting, a tiny house built out of Mardin’s yellow stone. A tiny 90-year old woman greets me, her smiling face bearing traditional tattoos. Inside, a fire crackles in the stove, topped by a copper vessel and a large pan of bubbling mutton stew. The pan is much too big for Delalê who lives alone. “When you cook,” she says, ” you must think of those who might come knocking at your door.” From the phone to the prayer beads and prayer rugs – everything in the house is covered in red, yellow and green. In English, Delalê means “precious”, but in Delalê’s case, this “precious” is filled with tears. While she was out during the curfew, the special forces searched her house, breaking open her dowry chest and messing up the contents she had managed to preserve all these years. Worst of all for Delalê, they broke the frame on her son Abdurrahman Bektaş’ photo. At age 13, the boy was murdered during the conflict in the 1990s.
Each of the framed photographs holds another tale of massacre.
While repairing the frame in the tiny green room, I ask my own “precious” questions: “Whose photos are those, framed in yellow-red-green braid?” She starts by saying: “Ax hawar, hawaramini erd u esmana… (Ey hawar, my grief fills the earth and the sky). Those images are the reason for the yellow, red and green braid on my head” (these are the colors of the banned Kurdish flag). “One is of my son Abdurrahman, he was my 13 year old sweetheart. He was a sheperd. The price he paid for sharing his bread with the guerrilla was to be plunged in a vat of acid in Kızıltepe in Mardin. The other is of my very dear brother Ali Doşkun who was kicked to death by the soldiers and the village guards. When we found him, his stomach was mutilated, his guts were spilling out of his body and they had smashed in his chin. The other photo is of another brother, Abdurrahman Doşkun who was massacred with seven others. Next to him is my son-in-law Abdulgafur Baykara who disappeared while in custody. My grand-children, Hayri, Savcı and Salih… Don’t ask me anything about them, I cannot bear to talk about it.”
“Should the old tree in the Safa neighborhood come to fall, the whole struggle will fail.”
Our precious Mother Delalê squints , focuses her shiny eyes, and continues talking. While she speaks, the sound of the tea bubbling in the copper vessel keeps company to her quavering voice, like a comforting melody. Every time she lifts her hand and points to a photograph, one senses the stores of resistance in her weathered palms: “When you breathe in deep, if the breath does not bring comfort to your pain, this means you are not in your land. When the curfew began my daughter called from Istanbul to invite me over there. I couldn’t accept her offer. I hung up right after telling her that should the old tree in the Safa neighborhood come to fall, then the whole struggle would fail. Had I gone from here, my son would have been left alone under the ground. How would the lullabies I sign for him every morning reach him from so far away? My breath wouldn’t be enough to warm the cold soil above him. To leave your land is to renounce your honour.”
“Every day, I cook large pots of food and put them out on a tray. When there is shooting, I put the tray in front of the door and push it out gently with my foot. Every day, the tray comes back empty. That is how I can breathe during these days. How could I leave my babies to hunger after the price I paid with the loss of seven beloved members of my family?
As our conversation comes to an end, her phone rings to the sound of a Kurdish marching song. She says goodbye with these words: “I will die for your brave young hearts”, and sees me off from her precious, warm-hearted home.