Nusaybin children, on the barricades at the break of dawn


NUSAYBIN | While the giant loudspeakers trumpet revolutionary marches, the children building barricades in the town of Nusaybin under siege also lead in the building of a new communal life.

Turkish forces imposing martial law in the district of Nusaybin of Mardin province have armored vehicles on each street corner. They have even transformed kindergartens into military operation centers. Recently, with every night bringing intensive assaults against the neighborhood, the children in work gloves take up their position on the barricades at the break of dawn.

To the sound of the giant loudspeakers, obtained from a local sound engineer, the children bring wheelbarrows loaded with cobblestones – stopping on occasion to accompany the booming music with their singing and a few steps of the traditional line dance.

“Without the barricades, we would get killed like the children in Cizre and Silopi,” the children say, referring to two towns under siege in the vicinity. They have set up sentinels charged with keeping an eye on the armored vehicles, and they do their best to protect their neighborhood with barricades wherever they can.

Henceforth, the Zeynelabidin neighborhood, the most ancient residential area in historical Nusaybin, is home to a people’s resistance. Just South of them, on the other side of the national border dividing the town, the people of Qamislo in Rojava have erected two tents and their own giant loudspeakers. “The Nusaybin Vigil” by Qamislo residents is never empty even for a minute, with campfires burning every night along with songs celebrating the resistance. A reminder of the scene only a year ago in the town of Suruç, North of the border, when the people in Northern Kurdistan set up a vigil to watch over the resistance in the town of Kobanê, just South of the frontier.

Here in Zeynelabidin, the positioning of the barricades even determines the paths borrowed by the sheep to reach their grazing grounds. Openings in the walls between the houses allow circulation during the curfews. The neighborhood’s barricades are built according to the most recent model, allowing residents to pass through from one side of the road to the other. The sight of children playing and flocks of sheep crossing the scenery give a distinctive flavor to the resistance in Nusaybin.

Düniya Sterk, a fighter with the YPS-Jin civilian defenses explains that Nusaybin which was declared “a women’s town” a few years ago, carries on the fight against violence on women now that the residents have declared self-rule.

“Someone abusing women will have to deal with us,” Dünya says. “The women’s testimony is decisive. Any man who abuses his wife might as well forget about her from that moment on, because every act of violence will carry a sanction from which there is no return.”

During the peace talks that began in 2013 in Turkey, the State “thought they could simply waste our time”, Dünya says, although the Kurdish people stuck to their end of the peace process.

“Despite everything, the Kurdish people aren’t the losers here, the State is,” she says. “If, even after two months of brutal 24-hour curfews, the Turkish State has not managed to invade the protected neighborhoods in towns such as Nusaybin, this means the State has lost.” Dünya says the State is now carrying out a total war, targeting even small children.

“No one should expect us to display moderation”, she says. “Against those who kill our children and our mothers, the struggle must obviously be an armed one.” She says the youths of the YPS had no other choice than to take up arms, but that their struggle is political and cultural as well as being a military combat.

Dünya commented on the importance of autonomous women’s structures for the Kurds, a phenomenon that began in the region with the women’s structures in the PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party).

“In currently existing socialism, we found ‘first the people’s struggle, then the women’s struggle’, but that’s not how it goes,” says Dünya. “That approach taught us that this was a way to constantly leave until later the women’s problem and never solve it. Both struggles must go on together.” She notes that the revolution in the Rojava part of Kurdishtan became a women’s revolution following the declaration by the women’s armed defence, the YPJs.

“This is why we couldn’t settle only for the YPS here in Bakur (Northern Kurdistan),” Dünya says. “We had to declare the formation of autonomous women’s units, the YPS-Jin – as women leading a 5 000 year old struggle against the patriarchal system at the origin of these wars. Without them, the revolution would be incomplete. As our leader says (Abdullah Öcalan) if you don’t solve the problem at the root, you don’t solve it at all.”

In a world where thousands of women are killed each year by masculine violence, Dünya says armed women’s organizations such as PAJK, YPJ, YBS-Jin and YPS-Jin are the only solution.

“As Kurdish women, we declared 2016 as the year for the assault for women’s liberation. Women across the world must choose their side,” she says. “PYS-Jin calls on all women: we are not fighting only for one people. With our own struggle against every attack from the patriarchal system, we are affirming that “we are here.”

“This struggle has an international character; all the world’s women need to take their place in this struggle,” Dünya says.

Songs by Kurdish songwriter Hozan Dilges, a Nusaybin native, sound throughout the town while the women organize the common baking of bread in their tandoor ovens.

In streets, garbage collectors can no longer enter, the young residents sweep away the garbage and burn it. Here, along the border, old women make victory signs to their relatives in Qamislo.

We talk with the women offering us freshly baked bread. They say they had no other choice than to build barricades against the State’s attacks.

“They wounded my neighbour Müzeyen Kızıl in the foot,” Gule explains. “My neighbour is a terrorist? That woman, with her children? They attack so brutally they leave us no other choice. My children’s school isn’t a school anymore: it’s a military command center and we have nowhere to go. Where can we go that won’t be only for a day or two?”

“We are on our lands. Let them leave,” says Gule. “The Kurds don’t threaten anyone: the State hasn’t understood that. What, do we want Istanbul? We simply want to live in our own town.”