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While the student mobilization intensifies in its face-off with Erdoğan’s power, while over 700 arrests have been carried out in pro-Kurdish settings, writers Joseph Andras and Kaoutar Harchi speak to us about Nûdem Durak, imprisoned for the past six years for… singing.
At the foot of the wall. “The snow falls on our mountains / Our mountains turn white.” The voice speaking these words is both soft and confident. It modulates between a few grave notes and higher ones. The voice stops on a syllable, rushes on the next one, each inflection sure, each effort contained. The melody rises from the amplitude of the breath: through the intermingling of free sounds that make their way to us. And reach us.
But there is no song without Nûdem singing.
Nûdem Durak, let’s remember her, frail and long-limbed, who walked in the streets of her village in southeastern Turkey. Her mother, her father were there, resting against the doorjamb of the modest family home. They could see Nûdem walking toward them and their heart undoubtedly started racing: their daughter would soon greet them, embrace them before hugging them both against her. Then, she would pass the threshold, settle at the centre of the common room, on the ground and, taking hold of her guitar, she would add music to the pleasure of being together.
A simple guitar made of light wood that Nûdem long thought she would never be able to afford. A guitar is expensive, isn’t it? That was without counting on her mother who, seeing the insistent calls of creation growing in her daughter went out one morning and sold her own wedding ring. Then, with her instrument under her arm, Nûdem did nothing but sing. Nûdem went on stage. Nûdem founded her own musical group, Koma Sorxwin. Nûdem taught her young students in a cultural center the traditional music of her people. Nûdem started preparing an album.
Around her, young men and women gathered to sing with one voice the beauty of the mountains whitened by winter. To sing the land, its ancestral memories wounded by History. To sing the blood shed by all those who hoped that these mountains, this land, that Kurds one day would be freed of the yokes of successive Turkish governments.
“We celebrate peace / Do not weep, my people/Even if they put me in prison / This is our true color.” This is what Nûdem was singing shortly before being thrown in prison. Locked up for the past six years, Nûdem, for having sung and supported, with her voice as only weapon, the resistance, the struggle, equality of the sexes and social justice. Which is to say, in the words of those in power, “terrorism”. Because that is how you recognize power: it takes hold of the alphabet and turns it upside down: soon, power will decree that night is upon us while the day will stretch out before our eyes – and we shall see it, the night.
“Nûdem attempted to keep our language alive. Everyone loves her in Cizre.1 She is a phenomenon here, said her sister Firdevs in 2015. She could have gone to Europe and in other countries, but she did not want to leave Kurdistan.”
Six years then. Already six years. Out of nineteen – because the singer is sentenced to prison until 2034. This is nothing other than trivial, in Erdoğan’s Turkey: Nûdem Durak is just one captive among so many others. We should then speak of every one of them, spell out their names, one after the other, relate the slightest tale, describe all the families; we should not condemn a single condemned one to the darkness already embracing him or her. Except it so happened that one person, suddenly in the spotlight, allows us to grasp the totality. Large numbers slide off us: lists reveal dictatorship but they fail to reach the heart. And to arouse bodies accordingly. So let us say Nûdem Durak in order to say in the same breath the names of all the detainees: writer Ahmet Altan, journalist Nedim Türfent, former elected one Leyla Güven, HDP activists, homosexual students or political leaders Selahattin Demirtaş and Abdullah Öcalan. Let us say Nûdem Durak to speak “the cry from prisons” evoked by feminist sociologist in exile, Pınar Selek: that of the tens of thousands of political prisoners in Turkey and everywhere else.
At this hour, Nûdem finds herself in a cell in the town of Bayburt, not far from the Black Sea. There, she counts off the months and the years alongside her comrades. We know nothing about them – so, sometimes, we imagine their discussions, their anger and their bursts of laughter. Those who were liberated all tell us the kind of person she is: her strength. Her guitar was smashed by the prison staff but the young woman reads, writes and sings. “Nûdem says she has to hold on to life because she has dreams to accomplish. She tells us she is very tired but adds that she must fight”, her brother tells us. Before adding: “As long as this government will be in place, it seems complicated for her to be released because there is no justice here, no honor. The judges are corrupt.”
At this time while the Turkish regime is calling for a “normalization” of its relations with its French counterpart, the youth in Istanbul are demonstrating by telling the power in place and its police: “We will not lower our eyes!”
Of cours, some will go on repeating that none of this is any of our business. Between 2009 and 2019, a report from the Ministry of the Armies indicated that French industries had received the equivalent of 594,5 million euros from Turkey in orders of military material. As French citizens, we are called upon; as internationalists, we do not ignore nations but we know that nothing gives them the right to muffle the voice of the just.
“Lets us lift our cold bodies from the ground / In the chest of the red earth / Let us be the echo of our mothers’ songs / As free as songs”, writes the Kurdish prisoner on a sheet of paper. Let us carry that liberty outside the walls.
Joseph Andras and Kaoutar Harchi