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…
This 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.