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On the site of the news­pa­per Evrensel, Çağrı Sarı address­es a let­ter to Picas­so. From Guer­ni­ca to Nusay­bin, the same shade of burnt tar.


Dear Picas­so,

When you decid­ed to spend three and a half hours draw­ing a bombed town in 1937, what col­or, what pains dripped from your brush? I don’t know. For exam­ple, did your tears mix into the paint? Some wounds nev­er heal, as if what flowed from them was­n’t blood but tar… Every time a town is bombed, every time a moth­er takes refuge in a cor­ner and cries over her son, this tar flows again, this may be why say­ing three and a half hours seems easy. A bombed, destroyed town…People dying, the cries of the moth­ers, the dis­ap­pear­ance of the ani­mals, the destruc­tion of the houses…In Guer­ni­ca, was is only the hous­es that turned into debris?

80 years have gone by, Picas­so… A town has dis­ap­peared, bom­bard­ed for min­utes, hours, by nazi planes, a news­pa­per titled “This morn­ing, Guer­ni­ca is no more”… Every­one fell silent…

Many are those who learned from your can­vas that, in one night, thou­sands of peo­ple died, were wound­ed, a town was anni­hi­lat­ed. While putting brush­strokes on your can­vas, did you think that this work would car­ry on for so many years and grow so much?

What you were telling was a suf­fer­ing, and this suf­fer­ing has been re-expe­ri­enced, always under dif­fer­ent guis­es. You wit­nessed it before depart­ing from this world. With each new bomb­ing, would you have recalled Guer­ni­ca? Would your wound have healed?

Ah, Picas­so, now I am going to tell you about anoth­er suf­fer­ing, anoth­er wound that bleeds…

The heart of Turkey bled a lot in 2015–2016 and con­tin­ues to bleed tar. Bombs explod­ed, young peo­ple died. We were wit­ness­es. Some­times the bul­lets knew where to go, some­times not. We con­tin­ue to wit­ness. Those who were going out to play were in the bombs’ crosshairs, as were those demand­ing peace, even those who want­ed to bring toys to the chil­dren of war…And all those who came out of work, tired, and want­i­ng to go home.

Did you know there were cur­fews in sev­er­al places in East­ern Turkey last year? This went on for days, for weeks, for months… On those lands where the Kurds lived, every­thing has been laid to waste. So many peo­ple have died. Offi­cial sources quote fig­ures of two thou­sand. They write it in let­ters and fig­ures: 2 thou­sand. They even killed the chil­dren on those lands, even the children…

Peo­ple com­ing out of their hous­es with white flags, demand­ing “peace” were shot down. Peo­ple were killed in cel­lars but the worst was maybe the death of human­i­ty… Now, the atmos­phere reeks of hatred. Many orga­ni­za­tions report­ed that those who burned in the cel­lars were cry­ing “Water, water” but the news­pa­pers did­n’t write about it. They could­n’t! And yet, they reeked of burned human flesh, those cellars.

The build­ings were destroyed. Liv­ing in them had become impos­si­ble. Hun­dreds set out on the road. Exo­dus, sev­er­al, were expe­ri­enced. The reports speak of 500 thou­sand peo­ple. Edu­ca­tion and health? I’m talk­ing about sur­viv­ing and breath­ing. I’m say­ing there were dead bod­ies in the streets… For exam­ple, in Cizre, bones were found in the rub­ble. Moth­ers could not iden­ti­fy their daugh­ter. The body of a women remained in the streets for weeks. Peo­ple who tried to approach her were shot at.

No one wrote it, no one could write it… Apart from a few news­pa­pers, a few inter­net sites. And those who want­ed to write it were shot at. Some are wound­ed, oth­ers are in cus­tody… or threatened.

For exam­ple, Sur, a his­tor­i­cal town… If you had seen the archi­tec­ture, the car­a­vansaray, you would have paint­ed such canvasses!…

Before 2015, of course… A town where civ­i­liza­tions passed through… Chil­dren run­ning down nar­row streets… After­wards? Ghost… His­to­ry? Who cares about it?

In the town of Nusay­bin, the cur­few last­ed five months. Five months lat­er, they said “we have lift­ed the cur­few.” Despite that, peo­ple could not go out on the streets… In any event, what was left of the street… For exam­ple, Emire Gök was killed, aged 39, moth­er of 4 chil­dren. Her neigh­bours saw she had stepped out into her gar­den to feed the ani­mals, then they saw her get killed. For exam­ple, Selamet Yeşil­men died, walk­ing down the stairs of his house, with the children.

A year has gone by since all the events I’m telling you about… Insti­tu­tions that call them­selves offi­cial have pub­lished images. There was a pho­to­graph… Show­ing hous­es and destroyed build­ings, large Turk­ish flags… Every­where… What was that pho­to meant to say, what was it say­ing? What could a giant Turk­ish flag be saying?

What mes­sage were those flags send­ing, for exam­ple, to Emire’s chil­dren, the one who was shot down? Peace is so dif­fi­cult, Picas­so, I don’t know what Emire’s child thought in see­ing this pho­to. For exam­ple, will he still put all his hope in peace?

All that had been lived through had to be writ­ten down, of course. Those who did­n’t know had to be informed. They arrest­ed sev­er­al jour­nal­ists who were attempt­ing to inform… Zehra Doğan was one of them. They arrest­ed her. Zehra stayed in jail for months . [141 jours]. Zehra want­ed to vis­i­bly engrave into the sto­ry, not only her infor­ma­tion but also oth­er things. What was hap­pen­ing was sav­age, every­thing had to be record­ed, every­thing. She had tal­ent, she drew. On her can­vas, there was a Nusay­bin bedecked with Turk­ish flags…

Click to enlarge

Almost a year has gone by. Zehra has been sentenced…She shared on social net­works the work where the spoke about Nusay­bin. What a great crime… Appar­ent­ly, when Ger­ni­ca was exhib­it­ed, a Nazi sol­dier asked you: “You did this?”, you answered “No, you did!” Zehra gave the same answer. “They are the ones who took the pho­to. All I did, was sim­ply draw.

Guer­ni­ca… Cold… Grey… Dead blue… There are no col­ors left in Nusay­bin. What is left is the black of destruc­tion. And how to dis­perse this blackness?

Years have gone by since Guer­ni­ca. What has that time changed? The mis­ery, the suf­fer­ing, the war, the anger… No! Unfor­tu­nate­ly, the land­scapes of inhu­man­i­ty in your work con­tin­ue to exist.

But wait! In order to change this world, there is a strug­gle going on today, work­ing and con­stant­ly mak­ing sketch­es. And this sketch will become the great­est work in the world…Perhaps they will ask again: “You did this?” And we will answer, “Yes”, Picas­so, “We are the ones who did this.” 

Çağrı Sarı

Translation by Renée Lucie Bourges
*A word to English-speaking readers: in all instances where the original text is in Turkish or Kurdish, the English version is derived from French translations. Inevitably, some shift in meaning occurs with each translation. Hopefully, the intent of the original is preserved in all cases. While an ideal situation would call for a direct translation from the original, access to information remains our main objective in this exercise and, we hope, makes more sense than would a translation provided by AI…
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Le petit mag­a­zine qui ne se laisse pas caress­er dans le sens du poil.