One of your well-known moustached ones, considered as an anarchist of French song, once committed a tune that said, more or less “dying for ideas, OK, but…” Another great one sang “Dying, big deal, but…” Let’s stop at that, I’m being serious here.
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I come from Anatolia and not from Sète or from Belgium, and I am an Istanbul resident because a certain ladder you call “social” brought me all the way here.
No, I’m not one of those who fled misery and came looking for fortune, building in a single night those sheet-metal shacks that lasted for decades in Istanbul’s working class suburbs. My family benefited from a status which allowed it to survive and take advantage of the Kemalist republican system that built its schools and formed “the Nation’s elite”. I didn’t choose that either.
On thing leading to another, my sisters and I managed to climb aboard the right train carriages of already deceased Atatürk. This is why his portrait has stayed up on the wall for a good part of my family. No messing around with the memory of the man with the bonnet who brought studies, a source of income and membership in Istanbul’s well-off bourgeoisie.
I’ve since thrown the bonnet over the fence.
I’m telling you all this because I must explain to myself an anger that came over me these past few days.
Young Kurds, boys and girls, committed suicide in jail.
Those who have been reading me for a while know what I think of the jails in my prison. The jails have not changed much as the powers succeeded one another over the century. And between the eighties and today, so-caled lay military men acting as rather bigoted leaders of the choir have taken in, isolated, tortured generations of detainees, more often than not Kurdish, but not only, leading them into unimaginable forms of resistance.
These gaols were meant to “straighten out”, break down the resister, assimilated with a terrorist, because he/she defied the State and dreamt of another world.
Extreme resistance through hunger strikes led to deaths, lifetime handicaps following lengthy hunger strikes to the death, and ultimate means of struggle in jail.
I admit having stayed away from those struggles in the past because, as we say here, I am a White Turk from the West. The “pride to be a Turk”, the oath taken in school, serve as a halter and blinkers you don’t rid yourself as easily as you remove them from a horse returning to the stable.
And yet today, I understand and support this hunger strike by Leyla Güven, even if my support remains virtual by necessity. Nothing would force me to support it any more than my next door neighbor does. My only obligation is love of life, of living beings, of nature and its human beings, and the feeling of injustice. Her strike is legitimate.
Yes, it is because human biodiversity is so widespread on the lands where it is denied that a Kurd is my sister in humanity. And if my story is different, becoming aware that it is entwined in hers becomes a duty, like that of acknowledging that this Republic has grown on the dried bones of a genocide, and that is all I need to know.
And even if I think that offering up one’s body to the torturer, emptying it of its life day after day, is an ultimate action that might result in nothing other than sniggering from the powers-that-be, you cannot dismiss and remain indifferent to the giving up of a life in order to gain the right to live. These hunger strikers call out through the ongoing torture inflicted on their bodies, as others did before them who won, at times.
But young Kurds, boys and girls, committed suicide in jail.
To that, just as Leyla Güven herself, I cannot subscribe… Because this appeal to death, to figuring in the pantheon of martyrs at such a young age, has nothing to do with the better and future life they defend. Dying for a God reminds me of ISIS, and I’ve developed an allergy to martyrology, which strikes me as contrary to the struggle for life. This is only my opinion, that of someone who receives calls for support.
And if tomorrow, the Reis in his cynicism declares he needed space in the jails for the upcoming waves of arrests, and that these suicides strikes him as insufficient still, I will cry of rage…
It is the battle for life that unites us all, beyond our place of birth.
The one that divides us is the battle for death, through torture, wars, massacres. Black death must remain on the State’s side, it is not the weapon of the oppressed. There are battles where one can be forced to die, standing up and facing the oppressor. The women led those struggles in Syria and on the Kurdish lands. Suicide is not a combat. Would it lead to thinking that the hunger strikers are less “radical”?
Those who torture their body would be considered fighters cheating with sacrifice in the name of their political leader? Leyla Güven’s struggle is at its 150th day, and does not call on death but is meant as a wake-up call to the living.
Who am I to say all this? Perhaps one of those to whom these suicides are addressed? For the powers don’t hear them, that much is certain. Whether they be Europeans or home-grown. And I’m not talking about a balcony from which waves a flag, but of mine only where I’ve always refuse to display one.
I know I will receive a burst of murderous criticism. I am writing this on a computer…But at my age, and after having crossed close to a century in Turkey, I am neither one to teach lessons nor a Mamie ‘know-it-all”. I’m simply trying to understand why these youngsters, so necessary to the Kurdish movement and to the future, think their torturer will be disappointed by not doing the job himself.
I understand even less how, this Newroz barely over, they do not put their trust in the girl from Kawa, and choose a guilt-inducing sacrifice about which their enemies couldn’t care less. But who will finally hear the cry “stop the deaths!”
In closing, I ask myself about my own death. Who would it disturb? Other than to make all my relatives cry, something they really don’t need.