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At the break of dawn, Moth­er Sisê pulls her plas­tic  slip­pers from under the bed. Out­side, it’s rain­ing cats and dogs, the sky is lead­en. She stum­bles down the stairs, hold­ing on to the wall with her white and shak­ing hands.

Quick­ly Evin, that day’s guard, pulls her chair up to the win­dow.  Like a reg­u­lar cus­tomer in a restau­rant, always in the same seat at the same win­dow, Moth­er Sisê slow­ly savors the falling rain­drops.  She has plen­ty of time to do that.

Plait­ed white hair, amber neck­lace, flow­ery dress, knit­ted socks, blue scarf and, most impor­tant­ly, her dig­ni­fied look spelling Sisê, she remains upright at the win­dow, despite her old and tired body.  Moth­er Sisê is silent dur­ing the day and stays  motion­less.  Yet, she calls over  Astera, wound­ed in com­bat in Roja­va, of whom she takes care,“come eat some­thing”,  and some­times takes  Der­sim on her knees who swirls around her like a moth.  “xizir xizir Der­sim gune­ka”  (mean­ing: God is a waste for Der­sim).  Per­haps that is the best answer one can give to the impris­on­ment of a two-year old child with her moth­er.  Der­sim is gune­ka, but Moth­er Sisê is dignified.

Despite her heavy ill­ness­es, her advanced age, I have not heard a sin­gle com­plaint out of her.  She becomes angry at those who get demor­al­ized and lose their moti­va­tion: “I took the news of the death as mar­tyrs of my two sons and did­n’t com­plain.  I kept on with life. Let­ting things get us down does­n’t suit us”, she says every time. If you ask what moves her, you must know we are in Tar­sus, you see, a place where each right is obtained at a cost and at risk of tor­ture. Every week, the door opens and they take a friend to the iso­la­tion cell. We accom­pa­ny her with applause and slo­gans. And the depart­ing friend leaves us with a smile on her face and to the sound of youy­ous.  That is when a small tear slides from Moth­er Sisê’s eyes on to her cot­tony cheek.

From morn­ing until late at night, sit­ting on her chair, she observes the prom­e­nade from her iron-gat­ed win­dow.  Mute, and yet, strange­ly,  she is there every moment of our life. Every time I walk past her, I see and learn the truth from her eyes filled with blue light­ning, and am struck by it. Tru­ly, she express­es every­thing through her eyes.

Since my arrival, I want­ed to draw a por­trait describ­ing her.

I asked myself how best to por­tray Moth­er Sisê and could­n’t find the answer. Final­ly, today, I sat in front of her and decid­ed to fol­low my impulse of the moment.

I had read in the news­pa­per the arti­cle by Fat­ma Koçak and Bekir Avcı on  Mal­va (Kur­dish artist).  They wrote that “in Mal­va’s works  there is noth­ing regard­ing the cry, suf­fer­ing or anger, and yet, we can feel them.” At that moment, I told myself yes, Moth­er Sisê is like a work by Mal­va. If Mal­va could see Moth­er Sisê, I’m sure he would be hor­ri­fied nonetheless.

In truth, Moth­er Sisê does not need to speak in order to be under­stood. Beyond her smile, you will find noth­ing on her face that reg­is­ters suf­fer­ing. And yet, when you look at her, you feel to the mar­row of your bones all that she has lived through, the cry that sum­ma­rizes all the suf­fer­ings of the Kurds.

If you ask me how she man­ages that with the waver­ing smile on her face, per­haps we will nev­er find out.

She is a por­trait that pulls apart all the usu­al expres­sions. You watch a film, the actor express­es suf­fer­ing, play­ing a con­ven­tion­al role. The expres­sion of hap­pi­ness is a bliss­ful face. Get­ting to know some­one calls for a bit of com­mu­ni­ca­tion, this is a well known fact. To all that, Moth­er Sisê says “fid­dle­sticks!”

This is why I say that Moth­er Sisê’s resis­tance is a figure.

At last, I fin­ish her por­trait and show it to her. A live­ly smile blooms on her face. Tears come to her eyes. “hak rora razi bo” [that jus­tice be done for you] she tells me, kiss­ing me on the forehead.

We hung her por­trait on the wall. Lit­tle Der­sim, skips before it, blow­ing kiss­es and cry­ing “neno, neno!” [grand­ma, grandma!]

Zehra Doğan
Decem­ber 2 2018, Tar­sus Prison

  • Zehra Dogan Mere Sise

Translation by Renée Lucie Bourges
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Zehra Doğan
Auteure, mem­bre d’hon­neur de Kedistan
Jour­nal­iste, artiste. Jour­nal­ist, artist. Gazete­ci, sanatçı.