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(To all the women whose bod­ies were invad­ed and who were cut off from life.)

An arrow can only be shot by draw­ing back. When life becomes noth­ing but heav­i­ness and dif­fi­cul­ties, this means it will soon pro­pel you into some­thing grand. Keep on aiming!”

Paulo Coel­ho

My hands and feet can’t move. This taste of plas­tic in my mouth makes me nau­seous. As if sky­scrap­ers had been built on my eye­lids, I can’t open my eyes. Evanes­cent green shad­ows move around me. My eyes open at last, and what I see is ter­ri­fy­ing. I am cov­ered in blood ! I grow restless…

Leave me alone! Help? No one? Save me! Don’t touch me, take your dirty hands off me, don’t touch me!”

Why does no one hear me? Sounds I can’t grasp ring in my ears, sounds I can’t locate. My eyes close again.

This is impos­si­ble, doc­tor, the patient woke up!”

Where am I? Help!”

She’s going into shock, her heart will stop! A new dose of anaes­thet­ics, immediately.”

Doc­tor, there’s also an intox­i­ca­tion, doc­tor, a drug inter­ac­tion, she is poi­son­ing herself!”

Help! Why does no one hear me? Where is every­body? What are you doing to me?”

I said a new dose of anaesthetics!”

We’re start­ing it, doctor.”

All right, let’s move on to pump­ing the stom­ach. Care­ful, the abdomen is open.”

My eyes are closed, they won’t open, my eyes. The taste of plas­tic in my mouth becomes a heavy scent in my nos­trils. What is this pain mov­ing down from my nose to my throat? Mam­ma, where are you? Save me, I’m in great pain!  Ah, my lungs are tear­ing my rib cage! For all I know, I’m tak­ing my last breath…

A gen­tle voice fil­ters through to my ears.

Please wake up now!”

I’m thirsty. As if not a sin­gle drop of water had touched my lips for mil­lions of years.

Where am I? Please, a sip of water!”

Around me, rays of light move about. It’s very cold. I’m cold. My teeth chat­ter, as if at the epi­cen­tre of an earth­quake. I must get up. God, below my neck, my body is beyond my con­trol. Why am I naked? No, no not again. Please, I have no strength left, not again!

Where am I? Let me go, I have chil­dren, I am a moth­er. Not again, not this time!”

Me, I have chil­dren. What were their names? When did I become a moth­er? I’m cold. This freez­ing sen­sa­tion is very famil­iar. No, impos­si­ble. I had left that cell? Yes I had left it. No, that’s not pos­si­ble, where am I?

Doc­tor, the patient is not wak­ing up.”

Shock her! Something’s wrong, she should already be awake.”

God! What is this pain on my face?

As if I was lac­er­at­ed all over. The desire to open my eyes is the strongest. I feel a hand in my left one. Is my left hand still shack­led? My eyes don’t open, a breath comes close to my face.

Don’t be afraid, you are in the hos­pi­tal, I am a doc­tor. Most of all, don’t be afraid, it’s over. No one hurt you. You’ve just come out of an oper­a­tion. Come on, calm down please.”

My eyes flut­ter open. A brown famil­iar face in front of me. Where do I know it from?

I’m cold.”

It will be over soon. Don’t go back to sleep what­ev­er you do. Look,  I’m cov­er­ing you, you won’t be cold anymore.”

But I’m cov­ered with blood all over! The smell of blood, the cells, I’m nau­seous, I’m going to vomit.”

This nau­sea, this urge to vom­it… Oh, I’m in such pain!

No, please, open your eyes. You are not in a cell. Look, I’m hold­ing your hand.”

My eyes open again, the eyes in the brown face are wet. The eyes are like those from Dicle

Who are. You? Get me out of here. Where are my broth­er and my sis­ter? We came here, all three of us. Please, cov­er me, I am naked!”

Look at my face, I am a doc­tor. Look at my face, do you remem­ber? Come on, look at my face, that of an Amed native! There, I’m cov­er­ing you, but don’t move. You’re going to stay qui­et, agreed?”

Please cov­er me.”

I hear a vague rustling. A green shad­ow cov­ers my body.

Come on my friends, we’re tak­ing the patient upstairs. Don’t shake her, so she won’t get restless.”

The nau­sea is even worse when the gur­ney moves. I’m very sleepy.  Don’t uncov­er my body. When he sees it, my broth­er is in pain.   Don’t hurt my broth­er; I would so like to sleep…

We had a bit of hope left
Birds search­ing for crumbs ate it
Look, my hands are emp­ty now 1
It must have been sung for us.
So, time to pre­pare for these journeys
Stretch­ing all along the cliffs…

Some days should be torn out of cal­en­dars, or they should self-destruct. Espe­cial­ly those days we try to for­get, with the shame of hav­ing lived them, when we weren’t  ready for them, they should erase themselves…


I start­ed feel­ing the pain from the kicks land­ing on my body when they took away my old­er sis­ter. To hell with pain! What will they do to my sis­ter? They arrest­ed all three of us at the same time. Our moth­er must have lost her mind! Here, every­thing is dark. I hear cries. All from very young voic­es. How old are they, the own­ers of these voic­es? Of how many mil­lions of years can human cries age my thir­teen years? The sound of boots moves clos­er, are they bring­ing back my sister?

Walk, you son of a whore. We’ll see if you’re still a man when we’ll fuck your sis­ter in front of you!”


That voice? My old­er brother?

God, make time stop. They say you can do every­thing?  Make all this evil dis­ap­pear. Is your pow­er meant to make us suf­fer? Come, make time stop!

The door of the cell opened, my broth­er was strug­gling in the hands of the bar­bar­ians. When the fee­ble light from the out­side dirt­ied the room, our eyes met mine and my broth­er’s. In his, anger, in his eyes, dis­tress and powerlessness…My broth­er hollered, I couldn’t under­stand what he was say­ing. Two peo­ple approached me, their dis­gust­ing hands wan­dered on my neck, I want­ed to vom­it, I low­ered my head as much as I could. The more I low­ered it, the more the oth­er hand pulled back on my hair. They want­ed me to stay eye to eye with my broth­er. I squeezed my eyes shut so much they should have implod­ed. They forced them open. Their sick­en­ing fits of laugh­ter res­onat­ed in my ears. I’m nau­seous, I’m thir­teen years old, I’m afraid!

What do you say, huh? You are men, you  ass­hole? You will found a coun­try? Watch how we run over your sis­ter, imag­ine how we’ll pass over your country!”

A pair of hands hold my brother’s head, forc­ing his neck toward me, my broth­er can­not move.

Go on hon­ey, undress so we can see what you look like.”

There’s fear in my eyes, I can’t help it. And how am I sup­posed to undress in front of my broth­er. He’s nev­er even seen my legs. We don’t undress like that, in front of our broth­ers. They nev­er see us when we undress, or dress.

No, no, I can’t undress! Please, don’t do this, my broth­er, please!”

You slut, I told you to undress! Don’t wor­ry no stranger will see you.”

My broth­er strug­gling, his cries… Some­one must stop time, some­one must anni­hi­late time…

I’m ashamed, my broth­er is in front of me. My broth­er has nev­er even seen my legs. I’m trem­bling. My tears wrap my bare­ly per­cep­ti­ble breasts. God, why are there no clothes woven from tears?

A hand is extend­ed toward my skin.

Don’t touch, swine, don’t touch!”

Broth­er, help me.”

My voice is weak, my tears smoth­er my voice.

Go on broth­er, give her a hand!”

Don’t be afraid, lit­tle sis­ter, please don’t be afraid! Look, I don’t see you. Don’t be ashamed, lift your head!”

I can’t lift my head. The pain in my brother’s eyes is unbearable.

Lift your head!”


The bar­bar­ian hold­ing me from behind with my hands joined, push­es me to the ground on my knees. How can I stand this pain? The dis­gust­ing hand stops mov­ing on my skin touched by the cold­ness of a trun­cheon. The jolts in my body, in what cor­ners of the uni­verse are they cre­at­ing earth­quakes at this very moment? God, some­one must help us!

The cold­ness of the trun­cheon on my crotch, a hand cov­ers my mouth, my scream can explode my own eardrums. My mouth is squeezed so tight, I can die. My brother’s cries in my ears.

Stop strug­gling, look, your sis­ter likes it! The bitch isn’t say­ing a thing.”

Can death be willed? Come on, I want to die, now, right away. My head is swim­ming, I don’t care about the pain in my body. My brother!

Can you faint from shame? I faint.

It mustn’t have last­ed long. When I opened my eyes, every­thing was the same, only my broth­er was missing.

Get up, girlie, get dressed. If you have no balls,  you will become men. If you don’t become men, we’ll break you in.”

Where’s my brother?”

It’s his turn to get a taste of the trun­cheon. It won’t just touch him gen­tly like we did with you.”

I can’t man­age to get up. Some­one push­es my clothes toward me with his feet. My hands don’t work any­more, how can I get dressed?

Come on, move it! We’ve seen enough of your ass and every­thing. What a wimp you are! Not like your sis­ter, she made us sweat. Just look at you!”

I’m nau­seous. I vom­it. God, of what sin are we pay­ing the fine?

Hey, besides, you lit­tle slut, if you say one word about what hap­pened here to any­one, think about your sis­ter and your broth­er. You don’t talk, ever! One word to any­body, I’ll do worse, you hear?”

A hor­ri­ble pain stretch­es from my crotch to my anus, then to my hips and kid­neys. My knees let go. My stom­ach, as if it were split­ting I want to go the toi­let. I feel as if my whole body is going to expel my guts.

Where I’m tak­en after the cell is beyond dis­gust­ing as a toi­let. I want to wash my hands, my face, but the liq­uid they’ve left as water smells of piss. The door is open, I can’t relieve myself. One of the bar­bar­ians is right in front of me. I wait.

Why did you bring us here? You didn’t wash your face, you didn’t relieve your­self. We’re your father’s ser­vants?”  He says, pulling me by the arm.

Every­thing I told you before, keep it in mind! If you men­tion it to a sin­gle per­son, you know what I’ll do! “

I’m afraid, I nod. And how could I talk about it ? I want to die…

The open­ing to the dreams has dried up
Have we reached the end
Or infinity
Who knows, maybe
There were only enough riv­er deposits to make it to the present
Who knows…


Where have we arrived? What are these machines? Why can’t I move? Cables run over my body. Elec­tric­i­ty? No, please, not now, my stom­ach hurts. What did they put on my eyes? They’re all sticky. This smell of blood , I want to wash myself. Ah, I can’t move!

My eyes half open at last. What is this pain? For how many cen­turies have I been here? The smell of blood is gone, every­thing is clean every­where. Here is not a cell, where am I? I study every­thing through half-opened eyes. Here is a hos­pi­tal, I remem­ber, I was going to be oper­at­ed. I’ve been oper­at­ed a num­ber of times already. Why am I in such pain? My back is numb, I have to turn over but I can’t move.

Madam, what­ev­er you do, don’t move!” says an approach­ing voice.

I remem­ber this face. It is that of the young nurse who installed the last drip before the surgery. A bit shy, I think she is new in the job. Yes, yes, it’s her!

I’m very thirsty.”

No water, not yet. Your doc­tor will be here soon. Please, don’t move. If you move, I will have to tie your hands. You had a dif­fi­cult surgery, your stitch­es could get undone.”

My tongue is glued to my palate, the inside of my mouth is like a desert, my stran­gled voice both­ers me. A ter­ri­ble pain in my throat, with each breath, the smell of blood fills me.

Are my chil­dren here?”

Yes, my chil­dren, my sacred ones who made me expe­ri­ence motherhood.

Yes, they are in the wait­ing room. First your doc­tors must come, then I’ll have them enter.”

I look around at the room. I am on a bed, near the wall. The one near the win­dow is emp­ty. Yet, it was occu­pied when I left for the surgery. The patient that occu­pied it must have gone to surgery after me. The bright light both­ers me. The sound of my pulse res­onat­ing from the machines to which I’m linked up explodes on my eardrums. The win­dow is right in front of me. Night is about to fall. The sun is resist­ing against the reign of obscu­ri­ty. How beau­ti­ful are the red reflec­tions from the sun. Today was Decem­ber 1st, my birth­day is com­ing up in a few days. How many times have I returned from death. O death, look, I’m back again, smile!

My doc­tors enter, exchange sen­tences I don’t under­stand. I try to remem­ber their faces. This brown face, yes, this is the one. The one of the doc­tor from Amed.

When the pro­fes­sor speaks, the assis­tants lis­ten atten­tive­ly. The brown face winks and smiles. His smile says he is hap­py to find me awake. Go fig­ure what I put him through. He comes toward me, on the right side.

Heal well. How are you feeling?”

I feel a lot of pain.”

It was a dif­fi­cult surgery for all of us. The pain is nor­mal, it will fade over time, but don’t wor­ry at all, every­thing went well.”

Doc­tor, did I wake up dur­ing the surgery.”

When I ask that ques­tion, the whole team looks at me, astonished.

Yes, but how can you remem­ber that? This is an extreme­ly rare occur­rence. Believe me, I haven’t quite under­stood it myself.”

I remem­ber, you also pumped out my stomach.”

Yes, we had to pro­ceed to a sec­ond anaes­the­sia. Some of the med­ica­tion they gave you pri­or to the surgery caused an unex­pect­ed poi­son­ing, we had to pump out your stom­ach. But don’t wor­ry, as I said, all’s well, and you are stronger than I expected.” 

I feel the need to cough, my throat is so dry.  The doc­tor takes a cot­ton swab in a small box on the table and wipes my lips. I could swal­low the cot­ton, I’m so thirsty. While apply­ing it to my lips, he is talk­ing I inter­rupt him:

Doc­tor, com­pared to the ear­li­er surg­eries, my stom­ach is more swollen. It won’t stay like that, will it?” 

In a sec­ond, the whole room­ful is laughing.

This is your biggest prob­lem? I swear, you’re quite an item. I told you, no sports! It will pass in a while.”

Every­one smiles, so do I. The fact some­one return­ing from death’s door thinks about the size of her stom­ach is a good rea­son to smile, for sure.

The doc­tor gives his instruc­tions to his assis­tants. Every­one leaves, except for our brown face. He comes clos­er, and holds my fingers:

You’re a strong Amed girl. Always stay that way, all right? Don’t ever give up,”  he tells me.

He smiles, I smile.


As soon as they left, I was sleepy. I don’t know how long I stayed asleep. My eyes opened on unbear­able pain. The nurse was at my bedside.

Nurse, won’t you bring in my children?”

Right away, I was wait­ing for you to wake up.”

That time, only a few min­utes, stretched out for­ev­er. Where are they? Come on now ! I must see them.

And there they are, my lit­tle mir­a­cles in front of me. What is that fear still  on their faces? They real­ly see all colours com­ing from their moth­er, how many times will they live through this fear? Their lips open at the same moment:


How can one expe­ri­ence so much sac­ri­fice in a sin­gle word?

I smile with dif­fi­cul­ty, try­ing so hard to hold back my tears. They come clos­er, fear­ful­ly. It was the the fear of hurt­ing me, I knew that fear. My moth­er had many surg­eries, every time, I also expe­ri­enced that fear.

As I’m tied down to the the machines on my right, they approach me from the left. One hand each of the two of them, in my palm. It’s a mir­a­cle, being able to touch those hands again. Everyone’s eyes are humid. My sons, my colts, I beg your par­don for hav­ing put you through this, for­give your mother.

We don’t kiss the mamma?” 

The eldest whis­pers in the younger one’s ear, with­out real­is­ing that I can hear:

Be gen­tle, don’t hurt her.”

Ok, broth­er.” 

Oh those cheeks, of what silk were they woven?  And do they smell of amber and muscat?

Mum­my, you’re doing OK, yes?”

You can see it, my baby, don’t be afraid. And take care of your broth­er, all right? I’ll be home in a few days.”

Oh, mum­my, don’t wor­ry about us. Get bet­ter quick and come back home!”

The nurse’s voice breaks in “come on chil­dren, you must leave now, it’s time for the treat­ments for your moth­er.”  A veil of sad­ness appears on their faces.  When they kissed me and left, I fol­lowed them with my eyes for a long time.

It is more than like­ly that no one com­plete­ly under­stood what I had been say­ing for hours. Even I had trou­ble under­stand­ing myself. I was on a fine edge between sleep and awak­en­ing, and my pains inten­si­fied. The nurse added a med­ica­tion in my serum, my body fell asleep. My tongue weighed tons, my jaw hurt from it. The more time went by, the more my thirst grew. I was sleepy, my eyes closed.

There are thou­sands of us in life, who are steeped in the thick­est of pain… Many things were tak­en from us, the mys­ter­ies of our hearts are lack­ing. To this coun­try over which we tear our­selves, may this spring night appease our suffering…

Mer­al Şimşek

Meral Şimşek

Meral Şimşek
Kurdish author, born in 1980 in Diyarbakır. Her literature is known through her poems, novels and short stories. She works as an editor for magazines and publishing houses, writes lyrics and composes songs.
She is a member of Kurdish PEN, Kurdish Literary Association (Kürt Edebiyatçılar Derneği), and Kurdish Writers Association of Mesopotamia (Mezopotamya Yazarlar Derneği).
Meral Şimşek was prosecuted, and convicted for her writings, which focus on social reality. Some of her trials are still ongoing.
She has published three collections of poetry (Mülteci Düşler, Ateşe Bulut Yağdıran, İncir Karası) and a novel (Nar Lekesi). Her writings gave been translated into other languages and have received several awards: In Iraq, in 2016, the second prize and in 2017 the first prize for poetry Deniz Fırat. In 2017, the 3rd Yaşar Kemal poetry prize, in 2018, the best writer/poet prize of Diyarbakır among the “Altın Toprak” awards, in 2020, for her short stories the first prize of the Federation of Alevi Unions of Germany (AABF). The selection Comma Press in England, 2020. And in 2021, the prize for letters, Hacı Bektaş‑i Veli, awarded by UNESCO – AABF/KSK. Also in Germany, the first prize for short stories Dersim Gemeinde e V.Köln (The Massacre of Dersim).

Adapted in English from French by Renée Lucie Bourges
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Le petit mag­a­zine qui ne se laisse pas caress­er dans le sens du poil.