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She was killed in the street. For sev­en days, her body stayed where it had fall­en. She was the moth­er of 11 chil­dren and her body was rid­dled with 10 bul­lets. She was 57 when she was killed, Tay­bet İnan, or Moth­er Tay­bet”, the nick­name under which you know her…

Rey­han Hacıoğlu reels back time, pro­vid­ing us with her jour­nal­ist’s “tes­ti­mo­ny” and tells us about Moth­er Tay­bet, but also of oth­er losses…

Tanık­lığım” (My tes­ti­mo­ny) by Rey­han Hacıoğlu pub­lished on Gazete Karın­ca in Turk­ish on Decem­ber 19 2019

My testimony

This is my tes­ti­mo­ny. This is a sad sto­ry, the one who lived through it could not remain the same as pre­vi­ous­ly, the one who lis­tens to it burns from with­in, and the one who learns about it can­not believe it…

Four years ago, I lost my moth­er. Her name was Tay­bet İnan. You knew has as “Moth­er Taybet”.


Moth­er Tay­bet by Zehra Doğan.

My moth­er, Tay­bet İnan, the one who was the moth­er of 11 chil­dren, the one who was killed at age 57, in the street where her body remained where we could not approach it for sev­en days and sev­en nights, exactly.

I would like to tell you about those times when she was mas­sa­cred some 150 meters dis­tant from us, where we were as dead as she was. Those times fol­low­ing which noth­ing can be the same as it was before…

Yes, all of you know me as “Tay­bet Inan’s daugh­ter”. Is it a prob­lem (that I am not real­ly)? No. I must have felt the pain so intense­ly and have inter­nal­ized so much that the feel­ing evoked in the read­ers was cer­tain­ly “she can only be her daugh­ter”. This is how every­one heard her name and learned what had happened…

Back then, I was a new­com­er in the Kur­dish press. I first lived in Suruç, and there I saw count­less dead. Hav­ing inte­grat­ed the real­i­ty that the world of which I dreamed could not be earned eas­i­ly, my rea­son had also accept­ed “war” up to a cer­tain point. Wars went on and, unfor­tu­nate­ly, peo­ple died. Because that’s how a rev­o­lu­tion hap­pened. Tyrants did not eas­i­ly give up what they had stolen.

But what we were report­ing there was dif­fi­cult. In those days, I left things behind me, as thou­sands of oth­ers had to do… And noth­ing could be as it had been before.

Dur­ing those days, corpses were dragged on the ground, corpses were exhib­it­ed, peo­ple were burned alive and their remains dumped into plas­tic bags. The fact of find­ing remains in a bag bear­ing your name was a game of chance! For it could pos­si­bly be the remains of some­one else’s body, or one half of a son’s body found in Antep, the oth­er half in Mardin. Yet again, the remains giv­en to you as being those of your daugh­ter, could just as well be those of your son…

Homes were bombed for TV rat­ings, belong­ings pil­laged and resold. Corpses were “suit­ably cut” in order to be unrec­og­niz­able or yet again, their eyes were punc­tured. And even, even bod­ies – I hope they were life­less – were strung up on trees and burned…

So their bod­ies would not decom­pose, moth­ers put their dead chil­dren in freez­ers, 3‑month old babies were machine gunned…

To speak of hunger was already a lux­u­ry, water was impos­si­ble. It snowed on the dead fall­en in the street. Win­ter arriv­ing in Kur­dis­tan, it was as if life had remained under the snow.

With their hands, the moth­ers sound­ed the walls of burned out cel­lars, look­ing for the trace of their chil­dren. A doc­tor found a child’s jaw in the ash­es. As for the Tigris riv­er, its waters flowed with rub­ble and human bones…

Cel­lar n° 23 became a mass grave, Şır­nak was reduced to rub­ble, Sur was bombed…


On March 7 2016, TRT, State tele­vi­sion, announced that in Cizre “in cel­lar n° 23 close to 60 wound­ed were killed.” Reac­tions were such they they sup­pressed the infor­ma­tion but lat­er, the fact that scores of peo­ple were burned alive was established.

No mat­ter where you touched, it bled. No mat­ter where you looked, you could­n’t stand it any more. Each and every one had to bear a load of suf­fer­ing. Those who suf­fered resem­bled oth­er suf­fer­ers, but no one could look anymore.

On Octo­ber 3 2015, Hacı Lok­man Bir­lik whose body was dragged behind an armored vehicle.

Hacı was our friend. When he died we want­ed to cry but there was such a silence. I would call my cousin and we would go to the park to cry silent­ly”, some­one told me. He was talk­ing about Hacı Lok­man Bir­lik whose body was dragged behind an armored vehicle.

Speak­ing about his tears over Murat, a killed youth, a jour­nal­ist-wit­ness said “a moth­er arrived. She lift­ed me back on my feet and said ‘don’t cry! Our heads are held high!’ She was Murat’s mother.”

With­out excep­tion all those who call them­selves human bled some­where. Some bled for Miray, a 3‑month old baby, oth­ers for Cemile or Muhammed, the 35-day old infant, or Selamet killed on the doorstep, or for Moth­er Tay­bet, for Orhan Tunç who nev­er got to know his son, or yet again for the fam­i­ly in Amed who received a bomb on their table for breakfast…

As for us, the Kur­dish jour­nal­ists, we would lat­er stand as “accused” for hav­ing been wit­ness­es, but that was­n’t impor­tant, we were tak­ing notes for History…

The day Tahir Elçi was assas­si­nat­ed for instance… First the report came in. A friend had seen it on social media. Cries of “Nooo, that can’t be!” rose up on all sides. Then, on the TV from which the sound had been cut, there came the flash info. Despite every­thing, we still could­n’t believe it. After­wars, Sadık Topaloğlu – a jour­nal­ist cur­rent­ly in jail, by the way – showed us the pho­to. He was stretched out in the mid­dle of Diyarbakır and he bled, like a wound for all Kurds… Then, a silence. But what a silence. I can call it death, I can call it “des­tiny”. No one spoke, no one could speak.

tahir elci

On Novem­ber 28, 2015 — Tahir Elçi, Pres­i­dent of the Diyarbakır Bar Asso­ci­a­tion, assassinated.

After which a friend – accus­tomed to the dead, giv­en his age – told us “Come on, let’s get togeth­er and come up with a new plan”. At the time Özgür Gün­dem had a table, because the news­pa­per had­n’t been raid­ed yet, the table and the TV had­n’t been smashed to bits. So we met around the table. Every­one was cry­ing, some inter­nal­ly, oth­ers while turn­ing their head aside to hide the tears…We met Sadik’s eyes, he put on his glass­es, avoid­ed the glances…No need for many words either. The friend lays out the plan: “we put the news cen­tre, dossiers fol­low, then reac­tions…” we hand­ed around the top­ics. This one takes this page, that one this oth­er one. But each one was already mov­ing for­ward on the road of his or her fate. I, for instance cov­ered Tahir Elçi, who had been the lawyer in the Dig­or Mas­sacre 1 and whose fam­i­ly mem­bers were also among the vic­tims. In the end, the top­ics made no dif­fer­ent. Crimes were being com­mit­ted by known authors, over and over again…

Then Sur, then Cizre, then Şır­nak. The cur­fews, the destruc­tions, the dead and on old pho­tos, faces dis­ap­peared, High School bud­dies, child­hood friends, cousins, broth­ers, sisters…

Dur­ing one night watch, a jour­nal­ist friend would write the arti­cle on the death of a col­league while anoth­er friend illus­trat­ed it with the finest pho­to of the dead friend.

(to read the french subtitles, click the icon on the bottom right hand side of the film)

We did­n’t “get over it”, but, as time went by, we became “accus­tomed” to the losses…Henceforth, the His­to­ry we read was about our­selves. Every day that went by, we became trans­formed into wit­ness­es. In the end, Kur­dish press was “liv­ing” the news. And since those days, I have lived pain to the mar­row of my bones. I had long become the friend of all those “loss­es”. The sto­ry I relat­ed was my own. Whether they were stu­dents, or moth­ers, or fathers, all of them, with­out excep­tion, want­ed a free world…

This is how when “my moth­er” fell on Decem­ber 19 the fact was engraved in me: His­to­ry lay there, I lay there. The poet said “No doubt every­one has felt that pain but I, I lost my flesh.” It was the same. This how I came through, how we lived those days. And we continue.

On Decem­ber 3 2019, Emine Aslan Aydoğan, incar­cer­at­ed in a type T prison in Urfa, died in the hospital

For exam­ple, last week, a moth­er by the name of Emine Aslan Aydoğan died. She died in prison, aged 64. And in win­ter, to top it off. More­over her fam­i­ly had filed requests for her lib­er­a­tion because she was sick… She had been oper­at­ed on 4 times in 10 days. I know how hard it is in jail, the doc­tor, the infir­mary, the hos­pi­tal. They don’t take you there, and when they do “there’s noth­ing more to be done.”

I know about prison. You are going to to tell us “you lived through that too?” and how. Win­ters are cold there, and the doc­tor shows up once you are dead. I was with a sick pris­on­er, Fat­ma Tok­mak. Some peo­ple know her sto­ry and I beg the oth­ers to learn about it. She rang at the door, 7 times, just to reach the infir­mary. And the door did not open! She had a heart con­di­tion and had to see the doc­tor after a three-day treat­ment. It was the cal­en­dar’s fault no doubt! The nurse had giv­en her the treat­ment on the Thurs­day and informed the guard she would have to see the doc­tor on Mon­day. Except that Fat­ma had not received her oth­er med­ica­tion. She had to find a solu­tion because a full week­end with­out her med­ica­tion meant death for her. Fat­ma was a strong woman who did­n’t bend eas­i­ly. She did not mince her words. She did not yield, she rang 7 times, exact­ly 7 times. “You are depriv­ing me of my right to health”, she said. But no one came. The fol­low­ing day, a solu­tion had to be found, even if it meant break­ing down the door. This is the solu­tion that was found.

As is the case for me, every per­son who has tes­ti­fied about this kind of thing and who knows what it means to die in hand­cuffs, and those who did not know, have now learnt from wit­ness­ing the suf­fer­ing. I have thought about it a lot. What did she expe­ri­ence? When she saw her chil­dren for the last time? Did she hold them in her arms? What did she intend to do, once lib­er­at­ed? What sup­plies did she miss the most in jail where you can’t find every­thing. What were her last words? What passed before her eyes toward the end?

These thoughts are lead­en. But they are impos­si­ble to avoid. Moth­er Tay­bet died before the eyes of her fam­i­ly. Moth­er Emine, far from her chil­dren, with­out even being able to hear them. Han­cuffed, she was not grant­ed an imam or a hearse. She was trans­ferred in a truck. Every­one must live through mourn­ing. But some mourn­ings are endless.

Ned­im Tür­fent, anoth­er Kur­dish jour­nal­ist is cur­rent­ly in jail for hav­ing trans­mit­ted a video and infor­ma­tion. On the video, a sol­dier said “What did this State ever do to you?” And now, as win­ter set­tles in, the jails are full, towns are under cur­few, moth­ers are aban­doned to death and we are tempt­ed to say: “Broth­er, sis­ter, what has it not done to us?”

cizre umit kivanc

After the cur­few was lift­ed, pho­to­jour­nal­ist Ümit Kıvanç went to Cizre and pho­tographed the town.

What I write is my tes­ti­mo­ny. Some­times peple won­der “perhaps…Perhaps it is too emo­tion­al, too filled with tears”. Because all that has hap­pened is still going on.

In enter­ing a new year: wish­es that every­one be free, and most­ly the Kurds? Have they not paid a heavy enough prix for free­dom? That all jails be destroyed, for exam­ple, replaced by parks with games, and that fam­ished chil­dren in this beau­ti­ful region may also eat can­dies

And before clos­ing, I would like to share one last thing that has giv­en so much strength to me and to thou­sands of oth­ers: on March 21 2016, when they said it was all end­ed, in the mid­dle of the rub­ble and the dead, from a destroyed build­ing, the smoke from a Newroz fire rose up.

Per­haps the Kur­dish peo­ple were say­ing “yes, the pain is deep in the peri­od we are liv­ing, the price is heavy to bear, but we are still here”

Rey­han Hacıoğlu

Reyhan Hacıoğlu

Reyhan Hacıoğlu
Journalist and author. She has written for a number of publications, notably for Özgür Gündem, and Özgürlükçü Demokrasi. She has published several books on politics, notably on mass communications and the media as political communication tools.
On March 28 2018, the Turkish government seized the daily Özgürlükçü Demokrasi. The journalists, including Reyhan, were placed in custody, then jailed on April 10. The newspaper was shut down by decree on July 8 2018. Reyhan, sentenced to 3 years and 15 days was liberated on June 29 2019.

Leading Photrogaphy: “December 19 2015. In Silopi, Taybet Inan, 57, mother of 11 children was killed on her way to visit a neighbor. During the open round of shots, her brother-in-law Yusuf Inan was also killed. Struck before he could reach her, his family managed to recuperate Yusuf Inan’s body. But Taybet Inan’s lifeless body remained in the street for seven days.”
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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