Feigning innocence from her podium, last December 13, Ayşenur Bahçekapılı the AKP’s acting Parliamentary President, asked Osman Baydemir, HDP deputy for Şanlıurfa: “Where is Kurdistan?”
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We are publishing the translation of an article by Irfan Aktan, published on December 18 2017 by Gazete Duvar. But first, to put you in the mood, let’s have a look at who was Ahmet Kaya of whom he speaks in his article. And take this occasion to pay him tribute.
Ahmet Kaya was a Kurdish singer, composer and writer from Turkey. He was born October 28 1957 in Malatya and died of a heart attack in Paris on November 16 2000. He self-described as a socialist democrat and a militant for human rights.
In the following article, author İrfan Aktan refers to February 11 1999, a few days after the capture of Öcalan. Ahmet Kaya was receiving the prize for “Best singer of the year” at a ceremony organized by the Magazine Media Association in Istanbul. During the ceremony, he made a speech in which he said: “This prize does not only belong to me. I receive this prize on behalf of the Association for Human Rights (IHD), of the Saturday Mothers (an association active on behalf of the 17 000 disappeared ones in Turkey) and of all the people who work for magazine media. I accept this prize on behalf of all of Turkey. This said, I wish to add something. Let no one come and tell me, but who gave you such a mission! History gave it to me. In my upcoming album, my next album, because of the fact I am of Kurdish origin, I will include a title in Kurdish and have a videoclip of it. I know that some people will have the courage to distribute this clip. If they don’t distribute it, then I’ll know what their relationship is to the people. Thanks to everyone.” He was booed by the personalities who were there that night. Following his declaration, the Turkish press did not spare him and he was subjected to media pressure he could not stand.
Later, he chose exile to France, in Paris, where he died of a heart attack. He is buried at the Père-Lachaise cemetery.
During his entire life, Ahmet Kaya was not spared by Turkish justice either. In 1973, when he was 16 years old, he was jailed for publishing posters forbidden in Turkey. He was sentenced to four and a half years in prison for saying, during a concernt in Berlin on November 1993 : ” The ones in the mountains need money.” In 1999, following his speech at the Turkish press ceremoney, he was at risk of anywhere from six to thirteen years in jail, before finally being let go. That same year, he was sentenced to six years in jail for “insulting Turkish identity” by his declarations during a concert in Germany. In 2000, Turkish justice demanded his arrest following a speech in Rotterdam where a map of Kurdistan and a portrait of Öcalan were reported to have been displayed. In fact, it was a crude photomontage done by the newspaper Hürriyet who had written nothing on the topic at the time.
Leaving behind fortune and career in the name of his love for justice and freedom, Ahmet Kaya liked to say that “man’s most precious belonging is his dignity. A life without dignity isn’t worth living.” Despite his terrible longing for home, this noble principle led him to choose exile in France, and a refusal to return to Turkey as long as the country had not moved on to a democratic regime respecting freedom of opinion and human dignity.
Neither Kurd nor Kurdistan exist
“I receive this prize on behalf of the Association for Human Rights (IHD), of the Saturday Mothers (an association active on behalf of the 17 000 disappeared ones in Turkey) and of all the people who work for magazine media. I accept this prize on behalf of all of Turkey. This said, I wish to add something. Let no one come and tell me, but who gave you such a mission! History gave it to me. In my upcoming album, my next album, because of the fact I am of Kurdish origin, I will include a title in Kurdish and have a videoclip of it. I know that some people will have the courage to distribute this clip. If they don’t distribute it, then I’ll know what their relationship is to the people. Thanks to everyone.”
Following this speech, Ahmet Kaya saw their relationship to the people indeed: “such a thing as a Kurd does not exist!” Following Kaya’s words at the awards ceremony of the Turkish magazine media association on February 11 1999, the evening turned into a display of hysteria. Images from that evening, and innumerable scenes from it are imprinted in our memories but the words of one woman in the crowd summarize this hysteria: “Such a thing as a Kurd doesn’t exist! Such a thing as a Kurd doesn’t exist! Such a thing as a Kurd doesn’t exist!”
> You can watch these moments in “Uçurtmam Tellere Takıldı” a documentary directed by Ümit Kıvanç. (film in Turkish). Ahmet Kaya’s speech occurs at 0:51, followed by the reactions, chants during the same evening, etc… At 1:51 “Such a thing as a Kurd doesn’t exist!”
Repeat this sentence also please, three times.
Then, immediately add this one: “There is no place called Kurdistan! There is no place called Kurdistan! There is no place called Kurdistan! “
There is fear in this mantra, there is an attempt at convincing, but there is no truth.
But this was not only an emotional reaction. Behind it we find a methodical teaching, an immense colonization order, a regime of persecution built to maintain the perennity of this order, one that knows no limits.
Where Kurds live, the bowels of the earth are filled with hundreds of thousands of those who were killed for the perennity of this order. And the surface is barely any different. Tough luck for those whose dignity was destroyed or who let themselves be bought, if they fear expressing their shame at having become the accomplices of this colonization. The strength of their honor is enough for those who maintain their dignity, or try their best to do so.
A Kurdish people exists. A place called Kurdistan exist. But where is it?
To the question put by the acting president of the Parliamant with the air of a school principal: “Mister Baydemir, where is Kurdistan?” Osman Baydemir, HDP Deputy, answered with the most significant act in his political career by pointing to his heart : “Here, right here, Madame President! This is where Kurdistan is!”
(Video in Turkish)
The wily interrogator continued, inviting Baydemir to draw a map, attempting to push him into violating the laws of the dominant ones. She hit a wall. A response outside the rote answers to rote questions unmasked the powerlessness and the comedy.
Thus, once again, everyone learned that Kurdistan is not a plot of land. It is not a place you can own by encircling it and positioning your armed forces. You may colonize it, but you cannot possess it.
Because Kurdistan is a place the Kurds carry within, wherever they go. The Kurds who do not submit as accomplices to the persecution, who refuse to keep this wheel turning, have placed Kurdistan in their heart and you will have to tear out the heart to tear out Kurdistan. So, do we know how many hearts carry Kurdistan?
Ahmet Kaya did not die of a heart attack. He was killed for what he carried in his heart. But this place lives on.
When all is said and done, the laws state: “A place called Kurdistan does not exist.” The masters of the laws say the same thing: “There is no such thing as a Kurd.” But laws and prohibitions are null and void in the heart.
Millions of hearts carry the truth.
Ahmet Kaya was killed, but his heart beats on. Osman Baydemir was penalized but his heart beats on. The hearts of those who died to protect dignity on Earth, beat on.
There is something called the heart. There is someone called a Kurd. There is a place called Kurdistan.
İrfan Aktan began in journalism in 2000 on Bianet. He has worked as a journalist, a correspondent or an editor for l’Express, BirGün, Nokta, Yeni Aktüel, Newsweek Türkiye, Birikim, Radikal, birdirbir.org, zete.com. He was the Ankara representative for IMC-TV. He is the author of two books: “Nazê/Bir Göçüş Öyküsü” (Nazê/A tale of exodus ), “Zehir ve Panzehir: Kürt Sorunu” (Poison and antidote: The Kurdish Question). He presently writes for l’Express, Al Monitor, and Duvar.
Illustration: Image from the film “Kwystani Qandil”, (The Mountains of Qandil) directed by Taha Karimi in 2010 in Irak.