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The Mem û Zîn Cul­tur­al Cen­ter in Cizre is no more…

Opened in 2004 in the Şır­nak dis­trict of Cizre, its name was inspired by b the immor­tal work of Ehmedê Xanî, one of the pio­neers of clas­si­cal Kur­dish lit­er­a­ture.

This cen­ter was a cul­tur­al birth­place for thou­sands of stu­dents who learned how to play the Kur­dish drum, the erbane, the bağla­ma, the gui­tar, how to dance the halay and were ini­ti­at­ed to the pop­u­lar oral art of Kur­dish bards, the deng­bêj. Dozens of artists came through it, were formed in their art, and musi­cal groups such as Koma Meyas­er and Koma Sorxwîn appeared in the cen­ter’s midst.

Closed dur­ing the cur­few peri­od in the years 2016–2017, the cul­tur­al cen­ter had not been autho­rized to reopen its doors since and has just been demol­ished by the own­er in order to put up a build­ing on that loca­tion. Dur­ing 5 years, many attempts were made in vain at re-start­ing  cul­tur­al and artis­tic activ­i­ties. On every occa­sion, the cen­ter was sub­ject­ed to police raids, its doors sealed and the staff and artists train­ing there were arrest­ed. Nûdem Durak, Kur­dish singer and mem­ber of the group Koma Sorxwîn, sen­tenced to 19 years in prison for singing in Kur­dish, is among them. She is still behind bars.

Accord­ing to the infor­ma­tion relayed by Mah­mut Ruvanas from the Mezopatamia Agency (MA), the local pop­u­la­tion is crushed.

One of the inter­viewed shop own­ers expressed his sad­ness: “Inside, it was orna­ment­ed with flow­ers, there was a love­ly stage on which every­body could watch plays, con­certs. I was their neigh­bor since the open­ing. I am very sad over this destruc­tion, but what could we do about it?”

Umut Botan worked at the cul­tur­al cen­ter for a long time. “The (col­lec­tive) mem­o­ry can also be under­stood as a set of val­ues cre­at­ed in a soci­ety over time. Seen from this angle, one under­stands the impor­tance of the mis­sion of an insti­tu­tion such as Mem û Zîn, in rais­ing the aware­ness of a soci­ety of its own iden­ti­ty, its own cul­ture, its own real­i­ty”, he said. Umut under­lined the fact that the con­quests, the val­ue added gained by the town of Cizre by the cen­ter, were indis­putable, and adds: “All the peo­ple active in the musi­cal field or oth­er artis­tic and cul­tur­al branch­es in the region came through Mem û Zîn where they found the pos­si­bil­i­ty to progress in their art. This was the cen­ter of the Mem û Zîn Cen­ter’s mission.”

The fact that this insti­tu­tion, cre­at­ed and devel­oped at the cost of innu­mer­able con­ces­sions and whose influ­ence flowed through the pop­u­la­tion’s cap­il­lary veins, can­not pur­sue its exis­tence because of oppres­sions, is dis­tress­ing. The destruc­tion of the Mem û Zîn Cul­tur­al Cen­ter in Cizre  is one among oth­ers, because in recent times, a num­ber of towns, insti­tu­tions and build­ings that made up the cul­tur­al and his­tor­i­cal fab­ric of the region as well as its soul have been sac­ri­ficed to the con­struc­tion of flashy build­ings. It is hard to ful­ly express the dev­as­ta­tion cre­at­ed by this demo­li­tion. But it is our duty to pur­sue the tra­di­tion, as the val­ues and the soul born in the Mem û Zîn Kültür cen­ter ful­ly deserve.”

Read also: the series of reportage by Loez:
Cul­tur­al Resis­tances #1: Kur­dish music
Cul­tur­al Resis­tances #2: Kur­dish literature
Cul­tur­al Resis­tances #3: Kur­dish cinema
Soon: Kur­dish theater

Part of the peo­ple’s col­lec­tive mem­o­ry is thus destroyed, as were destroyed his­tor­i­cal neigh­bor­hoods such as Sur, dur­ing the recent years of siege. What is involved is much more than a sim­ple “gen­tri­fi­ca­tion” of old neigh­bor­hoods. What is tar­get­ed is the lifestyle, Kur­dish cul­ture, just as a col­o­niz­er would do. Com­bin­ing prof­its for the cement mak­ers, cor­rup­tion and a pol­i­cy of cul­tur­al erad­i­ca­tion in lands with a major­i­ty of Kur­dish people.

The tan­dem of big­ots and ultra-nation­al­ists cur­rent­ly hold­ing pow­er in Turkey thus pur­sues its pol­i­cy of Turk­i­fy­ing ter­ri­to­ries, poli­cies that were for­mer­ly con­duct­ed by Kemal­ist nation­al­ists. Turci­ty pro­gress­es with bull­doz­ers, while con­tin­u­ing the incar­cer­a­tion of oppo­nents and the dis­missal of elect­ed members.

Thus, the agen­da remains one of prepar­ing Kur­dish youth to a future with no cul­tur­al iden­ti­ty, espe­cial­ly when this can be com­bined with juicy hous­ing projects, in the frame­work of  mar­kets ruled by the habit­u­al corruption.

One must not for­get that, from 2015 to 2017, the Kur­dish peo­ple expe­ri­enced in their flesh the exac­tions and mur­ders com­mit­ted by the Turk­ish State’s forces of repres­sion, pre­cise­ly in the name both of defend­ing a cul­tur­al iden­ti­ty and the need to live togeth­er in order to share it. Turci­ty is the exact oppo­site of this struggle.

Translation by Renée Lucie Bourges
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Le petit mag­a­zine qui ne se laisse pas caress­er dans le sens du poil.