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Here is an English translation of the column written by the Franco-Chilean film maker Carmen Castillo in support for Nûdem Durak, published in French on May 22 2020 in Le Monde. We are sharing it according to her wish and with her authorization.
Nûdem Durak had no other weapon than a guitar
■ 1974 : it was not so long ago, but the times of terror seem so slow in disappearing. I was arrested by Pinochet’s political police following a raid on our clandestine shelter. My companion was one of the cadres in the Chilean resistance; he lost his life under fire and I owe my own life to international solidarity. Our comrades had all fallen, or almost all, one after the other.
Many were tortured, some would remain forever “disappeared”. The putschists held me in a military hospital since I had been wounded by the explosion of a grenade. I was not aware of the fact that people were mobilizing for my liberation: I only found out when I arrived in England, expelled, at the beginning of a long exile.
Angela Davis [American activist, former member of the Black Panthers] had then given me her support – thanks to a vast international campaign, she had been acquitted two years earlier, after being incarcerated and becoming one of the figures of struggling Afro-Americans. It was said of her that she was a “terrorist”. It was said of us, of me, Mirists (from the leftist revolutionary movement, in Spanish Movimiento de Izquierda Revolucionaria, MIR) and of other activists, because we were fighting for justice and equality.
The same word is used today, exactly the same, to describe Nûdem Durak, the 32 year old Kurdish singer, sentenced in Turkey to nineteen years of imprisonment.
For five years already, she has been living in a cell. Meaning, five years too many. This questions our own freedom; no wall, no jailer has managed to prevent this miracle: her voice cancels out the distance. Nûdem Durak has no other weapon that a guitar. She sang in her maternal language, long prohibited by successive Turkish governments. She raised her clear voice high to sing the memories, the struggle and the dreams of her people, oppressed for so many decades and by so many States.
And because she was resisting – and goes on resisting still – one of those States, a system based on terror, has attempted to silence her by using the word which paralyzes: “terrorism”. Nûdem was beaten, placed in isolation. Her guitar was smashed, people gave false testimony in order to condemn her. But the State-run death machine has lost already: her voice reaches us, perhaps even more powerfully than before, as does that of Grup Yorum and of its musicians who died these past few days, following a much too long hunger strike.
An international liberation campaign “Free Nûdem Durak”, was launched recently in France and, already, from Algeria to the United States, from Morocco to Sweden, from Senegal to Guadeloupe, people are paying attention to this voice. I hear that Angela Davis – whom I do not know personally – has once again called for the liberation of an imprisoned woman – an artist.
“The singer becomes heaven and earth”
And I surprise myself living each one of her songs like a total experience: I slip into the inner face of the sound of her words, words the meaning of which I attempt to catch; I fill my current life with Nûdem’s tales and mountain landscapes. The future, the present and the past, hers, ours, mine, console one another, speak to one another, unite.
Writer John Berger wrote than when a great singer sings “not a single corner of silence or innocence remains, life’s coat is turned inside out, the singer becomes heaven and earth, the past, and the future start to sing one of the songs belonging to one and the same life.”
So yes, my generation’s resistance meets that of hers, of theirs, because there cannot be a political prisoner without a collective. No individual without a people resisting. That is the centuries-old thread, uninterrupted, painful and joyful, national as well as world-wide, demanding justice and equality.
One day, an international mobilization liberated me – not everyone was granted this chance.
So I have no other choice than to attempt, with other tiny grains of sand against the machine, to make this cry be heard: freedom for Nûdem Durak and for all political prisoners.
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