When the plane start­ed to move after the final announce­ment it was prepar­ing for take-off, I knew I had left my coun­try nev­er to return. I tried to answer the ques­tion tens of ten times over:  “How does leav­ing your coun­try feel?” 

I think I know the answer now. That sen­sa­tion in the plane, when you are air­borne, with no more con­tact with the ground, becomes the answer to this ques­tion. You can say many things on what you have left behind. You can remem­ber many things when writ­ing about the past. Espe­cial­ly if this past pro­vides you with suf­fi­cient rea­sons to for­get. Now, I’ll try to tell a part of my sto­ry, a small part.

About two years ago, almost to the day, the Turk­ish army bom­bard­ed towns with its tanks, start­ing with Cizre, Nusay­bin and Sur. In Turkey, thou­sands of “uni­formed ones”, masked, armed with the lat­est weapons and heav­i­ly armed vehi­cles “ful­filled their duty”. And dur­ing those days, I, as a jour­nal­ist, cov­ered what was going on and passed on the infor­ma­tion. Find­ing words to describe what I wit­nessed was hard. Wait­ing before the body of moth­er Tay­bet in the mid­dle of the road, the snip­ing death of baby Miray, bare­ly three months old, killed in his moth­er’s arms, the explod­ed head of Helin Sen who had stepped out to buy bread – the autop­sy revealed Helin had not eat­en in three days – the shred­ding of the moth­er by a tank, before her chil­dren’s eyes, as she ate break­fast in her house… These instances formed a chain. And the arrests of my jour­nal­ist friend who were describ­ing all this… In my coun­try, even telling what was going on became a crime.

Because of that, we became “trai­tors”, “ter­ror­ists” or “agents”. Some­times, I had the impres­sion that what I was doing was estab­lish­ing the list of the dead, the sum of which would be a con­tri­bu­tion to the fact the loss­es con­sist­ed of noth­ing oth­er than num­bers. But even that was enough for me to be sentenced.

My coun­try, the one I left in those days when the dead could no longer be gath­ered under com­mon ground any­more, the one I left, car­ry­ing the weight of all that, with the fear that I would nev­er be able to tell exact­ly what had been lived through then com­pressed into mem­o­ry, the coun­try I left in the hands of the authors (of crimes)…   Now, look­ing at my coun­try from thou­sands of kilo­me­ters away, I see noth­ing has changed, that chil­dren are still being killed by armored cars, and by meth­ods called “acci­den­tal”, that my friends are arrest­ed, and that his­tor­i­cal sites I men­tioned in my arti­cles no longer exist. The aston­ish­ment of turn­ing into the accused after hav­ing been the wit­ness. In Berlin, a city in a coun­try I know noth­ing about, I am now one of the thou­sands of human beings forced into becom­ing “refugees”.

Even if you trav­el very far, you still car­ry your past with you. And it may hap­pen that some of these peo­ple you remem­ber from this same past, who were “authors”, find them­selves sit­ting at the same table, in the can­teen of a refugee camp. 

In a vast refugee camp, in that hall in which peo­ple of almost every ori­gin gath­er in order to eat, I sit at a long table. While I am eat­ing a dish the name of which I don’t know, and the taste of which I would like nev­er to remem­ber, some­one speak­ing Turk­ish comes to sit next to me. I exchange greet­ings with this per­son, in his for­ties, who speaks a cul­tured Turk­ish. When I learn he is from the mil­i­tary, I stop eat­ing and observe him close­ly. The fact that this would nev­er have hap­pened while we were in the same coun­try keeps me from eat­ing. I stand up after dis­cussing the weath­er with him. A few days lat­er (per­haps I miss jour­nal­ism), I man­age to have a long con­ver­sa­tion with him.

So two years ago, he was one of those masked sol­diers, in the destroyed towns razed by bombs. Two years ago, he was “killing peo­ple in order to pro­tect his father­land” and I was attempt­ing to relay news on the death of these peo­ple he was killing, attempt­ing to inform pub­lic opin­ion about these real­i­ties. In my coun­try, it would have been impos­si­ble for us to sit down togeth­er. Because, accord­ing to him, I was “a ter­ror­ist who want­ed to harm his coun­try” or, at best, one guilty of pro­pa­gan­da for the ter­ror­ists. The only places where we might have come across each oth­er would have been in a police sta­tion or among those destroyed walls.

But every­thing is so strange in Turkey that “the most patri­ot­ic” per­son can sud­dent­ly be declared a trai­tor to his coun­try. While he was a mil­i­tary man fol­low­ing orders, killing or order­ing the killing of peo­ple, he lost his job four months ago, for belong­ing to FETÖ (the orga­ni­za­tion of Erdo­gan’s for­mer friend, the preach­er Fetul­lah Gülen, now declared a ter­ror­ist, and liv­ing in exile in Penn­syl­va­nia. His move­ment is known as “Hizmet” in Turk­ish, mean­ing “ser­vice”] and his arrest was ordered. “He swam across the Aegean sea” and fled to Europe. This offi­cer who was in the Turk­ish army for sev­en­teen years, had par­tic­i­pat­ed for one hun­dred days in the con­fronta­tions dur­ing the cur­fews in Nusay­bin, dis­trict of Mardin, where the most intense destruc­tion occurred.

The for­mer mil­i­tary offi­cer, in telling me all he had lived through in Nusay­bin, explained he had received orders from the onset of the oper­a­tions in the region to destroy the ceme­ter­ies of PKK mem­bers. But, hav­ing refused to obey this order, he received a warn­ing from his supe­ri­ors. While talk­ing with this for­mer sol­dier who had killed peo­ple, I real­ized I felt noth­ing oth­er than pity for him.

We pro­ceed­ed with our casu­al con­ver­sa­tion. The fact he did­n’t hes­i­tate in telling me about his expe­ri­ences had attract­ed my atten­tion. This is when I asked him if he had killed any­one. He thought for a moment, then answered “no” and added  “I did­n’t kill any­one direct­ly, but I gave orders to my sol­diers”. Even if his words did­n’t sur­prise me and I pre­tend­ed to car­ry on an ordi­nary con­ver­sa­tion, I don’t know why, but the reports with cap­tured ISIS mem­bers crossed my mind. He was not a smok­er, but did­n’t refuse the cig­a­rette I offered. When I remind­ed him that in Turkey, in this same peri­od, he was a com­man­der and I was a jour­nal­ist, he laughed and said “If you had been inside Nusay­bin [under block­ade] as a jour­nal­ist, I would have had you killed too”. He said this with so muche ease that, despite myself, I start­ed rolling anoth­er cig­a­rette. To end the dis­cus­sion, I asked him about his life. He told me that the prob­lem that forced him to leave Turkey was the accu­sa­tion of “belong­ing to FETÖ”. This rank­ing offi­cer did not hide his dis­ap­point­ment and his anger, explain­ing he had tak­en part in very impor­tant mis­sions, includ­ing one he was assigned on July 15, the night of the coup d’E­tat. To my ques­tion “Where were you on the night of July 15?” he answered “I was eat­ing with my sol­diers. Then, over the phone, I was to told to cap­ture the putchists”. He spec­i­fied that on the night of July 15, this mis­sion to cap­ture the sol­diers who were charged with abduct­ing the Pres­i­dent of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Mar­maris, was con­veyed to him by “spe­cial” order. “We arrest­ed the sol­diers. They were in a piti­ful state” he added. He said that four months after this mis­sion, because the Bylock appli­ca­tion was found on his cell phone, an inquiry was opened against him.

He describes him­self as a “patri­ot” and says: “Had I been a mem­ber FETÖ, I could not have car­ried out thse mis­sions successfully”.

He also talks of what he has lived through in Ger­many, says that the res­i­den­cy per­mit he applied for has­n’t been deliv­ered in five months and explains “They don’t give me the per­mit because I’m not a mem­ber of FETÖ”. He adds that the FETÖ sent some mem­bers of the orga­ni­za­tion to him so he would pledge alle­giance, but that he refused.

Dur­ing our con­ver­sa­tion, he did not hes­i­tate in mak­ing a num­ber of alle­ga­tions but, fear­ing for the wel­fare of his remain­ing fam­i­ly in Turkey, he did not want them relayed.

We shook hands and left for our rooms, locat­ed in dif­fer­ent build­ings with­in the camp.

I find it hard to talk about this meet­ing and these “strange” conversations.

The ones for whom he was mak­ing war declared him a “trai­tor to his coun­try” overnight and this pro­pelled him thou­sands of kilo­me­ters away from his home­land. Even if we met acci­den­tal­ly, we both share a com­mon descrip­tion: “refugee”…

In these times where we find our­selves on the shores of every pos­si­bil­i­ty, I’ve had a few oth­er sur­pris­ing meet­ings. After dis­cussing with scores of peo­ple who have come to Ger­many fol­low­ing the asser­tion of “an attempt­ed coup d’E­tat on July 15” and who intro­duced them­selves as “mem­bers of the Hizmet move­ment”, one sen­tence is engraved in my mind: “Now we under­stand the Kurds bet­ter ”. Per­son­al­ly, I find it very offen­sive that you should wait to expe­ri­ence the same treat­ment as the Kurds and oppo­nents in order to under­stand them. It is appalling to think you must be forced to live sim­i­lar events in order to under­stand oth­er peo­ple’s pain. Those who were accom­plices or silent spec­ta­tors when they were in pow­er try to for­get the past by breath­ing a deep “Ah!”.

Here, each per­son has a sto­ry. We find our­selves in a shared space with dif­fer­ent sto­ries. And per­shaps anoth­er aspect of this is inter­est­ing for me: in the days when I was start­ing out in jour­nal­ism, when I was arrest­ed at the uni­ver­si­ty and tak­en into cus­tody for the first time, the Chief of police had said to me ” If you keep on prac­tic­ing jour­nal­ism here, I’ll shoot you in the head!” Today, he shares my fate, the fate of a refugee…

İsm­ail Eskin

ismail eskinİsmail Eskin Born in Diyarbakır 01.11.1987. Received a degree in journalism from the faculty of communication of Kocaeli University and worked for the Dicle Information Agency (DIHA) from 2007 to 2015.  He was a war correspondent in several regions in Syria. Beginning with the resistance in Kobanê, he covered the three cantons of Rojava, notably during the attack on Sinjar by ISIS.
In 2014 he received the Musa Anter Prize in Journalism in the category dedicated to information in Turkish, and in 2017, the Freedom of Expression prize of the Austrian Concordia Press Club. Following his work with DIHA, he worked for Özgür Gündem, and continued as a freelance after the newspaper was shut down by a decree stemming from the state of emergency. Following his sentencing to 3 years and one month in jail for his tweets and relayed information, he left Turkey and settled in Germany.

Ren­con­tre entre “traitres” en exil Cliquez pour lire
Sürgünde “hain­ler” karşılaş­ması Oku­mak için tıklayınız
Los traidores se reú­nen en el exilio Haga clic para leer

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