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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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