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Exile is not an invi­ta­tion to trav­el, but more often than not, it con­sists of a one-way trip into the unknown.

The fact of leav­ing your kin, your child­hood, the life you had built for your­self, the geog­ra­phy in which you were born, in order to flee a life-threat­en­ing dan­ger, a threat, repres­sion or the impos­si­bil­i­ty of being and of liv­ing freely, has lit­tle to do with a life cho­sen out of one’s free will.

For school­child­ren, in the French lan­guage, exile rhymes with Napoleon and the isle of Elba, Vic­tor Hugo and Jer­sey. For the anar­chist activist Louise Michel, it meant forced exile to New Cale­do­nia, in oth­er words, a depor­ta­tion. Each time, an island, a puni­tive iso­la­tion is involved.

Today, things are dif­fer­ent. Offi­cial­ly, penal colonies no longer exist. In a glob­al­ized soci­ety and econ­o­my, ban­ish­ment or the neces­si­ty of find­ing pro­tec­tion out­side an oppres­sor State can take the shape of a migra­tion, often end­ing in a request for asy­lum.

Exile is more refined nowa­days, but it remains a wrench­ing expe­ri­ence in which suit­cas­es nev­er open com­plete­ly. The suit­case in which dai­ly objects and the indis­pens­able lie next to mem­o­ries and those expe­ri­ences that have made us who we are.

When speak­ing to some­one in exile, our ques­tions then have noth­ing to do with their relat­ing the tale of the trip or the com­fort­able ele­ments in a new life to be built. The pain of leav­ing is always present in the present of liv­ing. And in order to make it dis­ap­pear, there is no oth­er choice than to remain your­self and to con­tin­ue resist­ing, wher­ev­er exile has forced you to be , or in order to inte­grate, of accept­ing in this place what you refused before…

Dilek Aykan KedistanThis is the dilem­ma Dilek Aykan explores with this series of arti­cles she has ini­ti­at­ed and cho­sen to sub­mit to Kedis­tan. It is also her own way of answer­ing those ques­tions, since she is in exile her­self.

She lets women speak. All of them have had a jour­ney in which choic­es were ever more dif­fi­cult, and always con­strained. All have a past linked to their will of stay­ing upright, where a State or patri­archy ordered them to kneel. All have the will to live and to do so in sol­i­dar­i­ty, to make oth­ers ben­e­fit for their strength, from their resilience.

There­in lies the impor­tance of these tales of exile. They are not just por­traits of women, just as a draw­ing by Zehra Doğan is nev­er only a draw­ing meant to embell­ish a room. These tales invite one to become aware and to react. They demon­strate and they denounce. They are wake-up calls.

We thank Dilek Aykan for the trust she has shown us in pro­vid­ing us this series which we will endeav­our to ren­der mul­ti­lin­gual in order to give it as wide a dis­tri­b­u­tion as pos­si­ble. And judg­ing already by the read­ing sta­tis­tics, we are con­vinced that these tes­ti­mo­ni­als will reach their goal: not for the sake of an “audi­ence” but as couri­ers for the words they con­tain from these women.

Illus­tra­tion: Zehra Doğan. Acrylic on can­vas, 72 x 128 cm. 2017, Clan­des­tine Days, Istanbul.

Translation by Renée Lucie Bourges –
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Dilek Aykan
Gazete­ci, siyasetçi, insan hak­ları savunucusu. Jour­nal­iste, femme poli­tique, défenseure des droits humain. Jour­nal­ist, polit­i­cal woman, defendor of human rights.