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The moment arrived that every­one was await­ing, the one that Şengül feared.

İsm­ail appeared in the court­yard to cries of joy, every­one was so hap­py, and showed İsm­ail so much grat­i­tude. As for Şengül, she observed the crowd from behind her cur­tains, like a stranger. She was afraid, she trem­bled from it. Should she come out? Or should she die? Was this what it felt like, to be squeezed between two moun­tains? If they came to hear about it, if they already knew, every mem­ber of this court­yard would see their nails turned into knives to lac­er­ate and kill her. At last, she came out into the court­yard. Was she dead? Was she alive? No one could tell.

Şengül’s eyes, filled with sad­ness, bot­tom­less wells, on her lips, a bare­ly per­cep­ti­ble smile. “Wel­come İsm­ail, wel­come to the court­yard” she said. İsm­ail  held her against his chest with all kinds of tiny joys from Ger­many, like alms, joys he so lacked over there, and he held her against his chest as if the gift was for him, as if the whole earth illu­mi­nat­ed him with the rest pour­ing out in the court­yard. When the chil­dren would begin pick­ing up these joys, it would go on for days

Hence­forth at night in her bed, Şengül is like in a fresh­ly dug tomb, she is the cof­fin in the tomb and, in this cof­fin, she is as if dead, per­fect­ly naked. Yes, there it is, now she is cer­tain of it, she loves Mah­mut with all her soul and body beat­ing for him.

İsm­ail had brought a blue dress cov­ered in flow­ers, an orna­ment­ed comb and, for her tiny feet, a pair of patent leather shoes. Şengül will wear them, and around her neck, she will put the gold pieces Sirin left behind. This neck kissed by Mah­mut, caressed by Mah­mut… This neck İsm­ail touched with his rough worker’s hands turned to stone, if he were to press it more for a moment, just a bit, to extin­guish the last breath of her life. İsm­ail hugs, kiss­es her neck, Şengül gath­ers up all her life force… İsmail’s hands wan­der like a cold snake emerg­ing from sev­en feet under­ground. At any moment, he could show his tongue, bite her as if to say “how could you do this to me?”

Şengül will leave this court­yard. She will be remem­bered in her flow­ery blue dress, she knows she will nev­er come back. All that is left in this court­yard is the love for Mah­mut. She found love here, with­in this court­yard, she explored how one loves some­one to the death. Now, she will leave, relin­quish­ing every­thing in this same court­yard. She will nev­er see Mah­mut again, Mah­mut whom she loves so much, she will leave with such deep sad­ness, know­ing this…

The pass­ports were deliv­ered, prepa­ra­tions were made for a road  trip with no turn­ing back. Şengül dis­trib­uted to her sis­ters-in-law every­thing she owned, every­thing in her room. They grabbed at it as if it were war boun­ty. Noth­ing remained in the room except Sirin’s dowry chest. It remained alone in a cor­ner, like an anony­mous cof­fin. It seemed to say, “go ahead, bury me”.

Even though this chest now belonged to Şengül, she had nev­er opened it to see what was inside. Şengül crouched then with deep sad­ness, lift­ed the lid, and a smell of rose-scent­ed soap escaped into the room.

Night­gowns, nev­er worn, piles of nap­kins, mus­lim scarves edged in hand-stitched lace, can­vas, embroi­dery. All packed so care­ful­ly, these things seemed to be call­ing for their own­er, enquir­ing about her, wait­ing like orphans one against the other.

Şengül pulled every­thing out, kiss­ing each item in turn, smelling them. They held traces of her old­er sister’s hand, she had touched every one of them. She searched for this hand. “Rise up, hold my hand, help me, old­er sis­ter”, she said.

Then, com­plete­ly at the bot­tom of the chest, a white cloth tied with with a red string caught her eye. She undid the knot to the par­cel, care­ful­ly fold­ed like rose petals. No one would dare break its corolla.

She unfold­ed the fab­ric. And there, the court­yard col­lapsed over her head, she was over­come by dizzi­ness. Some­thing was hid­den in the folds of the cloth. Sirin’s blood, the seal of her vir­gin­i­ty… the seal shut­ting everyone’s eyes, even those of the blind.

God, what hor­ror was this…Şengül held the linen cloth between her fists, so tight­ly that the fab­ric might have bled. And then, she cried so hard, she cried with such remorse that the whole court­yard quaked. “Sis­ter, for­give me, for­give me, for­give me…” she plead­ed with the white cloth, she inun­dat­ed this dried blood with her tears.


They are now in the town’s bus sta­tion, in a lit­tle while they will be on the road toward the cap­i­tal, then the plane to Germany…They will leave toward a place unknown to her. With the last impulse of one sen­tenced to death about to hang, her eyes searched for Mah­mut. Her love still flowed in her, if only she could catch a last glimpse of him, even if it meant dying instant­ly. When they said “God is ordained by god, but what if sep­a­ra­tion is worse than death?” This was what they meant.

Inside her, quakes were col­laps­ing all her inner walls, one after the oth­er. Eyes glued to the trav­ellers’ entrance. “The one who loves you is leav­ing, Mah­mut. Who can love you as much as I do? Who can love you to the point of risk­ing the rope hang­ing in the court­yard? Mah­mut, come for one last time, show your­self Mah­mut, even from afar, Mah­mut. Mahmut…ah Mahmut…my love.”

The bus pulled away slow­ly, Şengül watched the entrance door until her neck could turn no fur­ther. Mah­mut did not come. Şengül was wound­ed as if she had lost all of her guts on a bat­tle field, as if she had noth­ing left but her eyes, she was bleeding.

İsm­ail held Emre on his lap. He had one arm around Şengül’s neck. Hot tears trick­led down her cheeks, one after the oth­er. İsm­ail wiped her salty cheeks, kissed them. “No more hard­ships, I will make you a life in Ger­many like that of a princess, I’ll make sure your hands nev­er touch hot or cold water again… all that is fin­ished, fin­ished”, he said…

The court­yard remained, thou­sands of kilo­me­ters away. Between Şengül and the man she loved there were not only moun­tains now, there were also entire coun­tries. Abroad, the water was dif­fer­ent, birds were dif­fer­ent, peo­ple were dif­fer­ent, you became tongue tied, you under­stood noth­ing. This is how Şengül was now, she had pulled her knees up against her bel­ly, had retreat­ed into her inner self. “İsm­ail be blessed” he had pre­pared every­thing. A home like a cocoon, new fur­ni­ture, rooms for the chil­dren, every­thing was set up for Şengül’s com­fort. And in the liv­ing room, there was anoth­er pair of eyes, on the wall. A pair observ­ing their life, Şirin’s pho­to. How afflict­ed they looked, how muti­lat­ed she seemed in the mid­dle of the wall…

Even the longest-seem­ing days go by, go by and become years. Things that strike you as impos­si­ble hap­pen, turn into so many has­sles… After that, there is noth­ing left for you but to suffer.

Şengül in this land of exile gave birth to anoth­er boy. Tiny, skin­ny, srcrawny, pale, but a beau­ty. If her child was born this weak, it was because of her pain, because of the secret buried inside her. It was because of the love for Mah­mut which gnawed at her like a worm. Wait­ing, with­out any news, how unbear­able it was, an inex­pi­able suf­fer­ing. Şengül chose the baby’s name. “Eren”, she said, “his name will be Eren“1. “May he at least find his hap­pi­ness in this world” Senül thought. İsm­ail worked day and night, still bear­ing all the weight of the court­yard and the tor­ture of being unable to reach Şengül, detached from every­thing, always in her cor­ner, you couldn’t tell if she was dead or alive.

Weeks fol­low days, months fol­low weeks, the years ran on… The chil­dren grew up, became used to this air and this water. Şengül nev­er did. İsm­ail always pro­tect­ed her. She did noth­ing oth­er than bur­row inside her­self, like a dove in a cage… İsm­ail had a large house built for his broth­ers remain­ing in the vil­lage. While he worked in exile, his moth­er died. He rushed to the funer­al and arrived at the last moment.

When İsm­ail came back from the court­yard, he was so sad that Şengül felt pity for this man. “If at least İsm­ail did not love her so much, if he behaved poor with her, she wouldn’t have such a burn­ing sen­sa­tion in her chest, her con­science wouldn’t weigh her down as bad­ly.” He was a good man, devot­ed, a good father but, despite it all, no mat­ter what she did, Şengül could not love İsm­ail after Mahmut.

News, a bit of news…” It was secrete­ly killing her. “How are the folks in the court­yard?” she asked.

Every­one was fine, in good health. Their num­bers kept increas­ing, soon they would move into the big new house. The court­yard had put up with sev­er­al gen­er­a­tions but, slow­ly, it was giv­ing up, col­laps­ing under the onslaughts of nature. İsm­ail talked about the moun­tains, the prairies, the vil­lagers, then, “Mah­mut”, he said. “Mah­mut was also at the funer­al. He has a good wife who took good care of the guests. May the god bless them, he has two daughers.”

Hear­ing this was like hav­ing a knife plunged straight into her heart. Şengül stopped breath­ing. In her chest, in the depths of her heart, a small bird flew away, flew, flew… reached the heav­ens, then, exhaust­ed, its breath spent, it fell into the void… land­ed on sharp stones, lost its blood before dis­ap­pear­ing in shreds…

The night is long, the night is black, a sleep­less night, night is the final minute before death, a night of fire, she is being con­sumed by the flames. Not a sin­gle per­son can put them out. What kind of pain was it to love some­one so much that death no longer exist­ed, was not even dust. “It seems Mah­mut will come to Ger­many, life is get­ting too hard over there”, İsm­ail would do every­thing he could to help him “after all, he worked a lot in the courtyard…”

Şengül is a gar­den of ruins… No pain resem­bles that of love. “My knees, don’t bend, take my heart’s hand, lift it up…” lament­ed the dove inside Şengül.

If only İsm­ail was not such a good man, ah if only…” Mah­mut arrived at last. He came through the coun­tries in the Balka­ns, İsm­ail went to  fetch him, have him cross the bor­der by car… İsm­ail plunged into new dreams. Mah­mut, a dis­tant mem­ber of the fam­i­ly. Here, he would be a trav­el­ling com­pan­ion, he would find work for him, would rent a house for him, he would take care of every­thing, would do every­thing to get him a res­i­den­cy per­mit, then, he would bring over Mahmut’s wife so she could rem­e­dy Şengül’s soli­tude, her apathy.

They met up at the address pro­vid­ed by the smug­glers. İsm­ail embraced Mah­mut with joy­ful cries. Such an embrace, Mahmut’s bones cracked under it.

Once crossed the hard­est bor­ders, they were now on Ger­man soil. A grave music filled the car… It was a love song, mourn­ing like their fate…

How was I to know that this desire would drive me so mad;
That my heart would become a prison, and my eyes, a river?
How was I to know that tears would carry me off like a flood,
And would throw me, like a boat, into a vast sea of blood?
That waves would beat and  beat against and split this boat plank after plank
Until each plank was twisted under the weight of all this torture?
That the sea monster would lift its head and swallow the sea;
That this huge sea would dry out like a desert plaine?
That the devouring sea monster would then split this plaine,
And suddenly plunge me into a pit, like Qarun in his anger?
When these transformations occurred, nothing was left;
What do I know when the why and the what swallow one another?
Oh how numerous are the “I don’t know” — but I don’t know:
Because I have swallowed the foam of opium to forget this sea!
To be continued…
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Translation from French by Renée Lucie Bourges

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Suna Arev
Née en 1972 à Uzun­tar­la (Elazığ).Dans une famille de huits enfants, elle est immergée dès son plus jeune âge, par­mi les tra­vailleurs agri­coles à la tâche. Tel un miroir qui date de son enfance, la péri­ode du coup d’Etat mil­i­taire du 12 sep­tem­bre 1980 a for­mé sa vie poli­tique. Diplômée de l’École pro­fes­sion­nelle de com­merce d’Elazığ, elle a vécu, en grandeur nature les com­porte­ments fas­cistes et racistes dans sa ville. Mère de qua­tre enfants, depuis 1997, elle habite en Alle­magne, pour des raisons politiques.
Suna Arev was born in 1972 in the vil­lage of Uzun­tar­la, Elazığ dis­trict. From a fam­i­ly of eight chil­dren she became one of the agri­cul­tur­al work­ers at an ear­ly age. The mil­i­tary coup d’état of Sep­tem­ber 12 1980 served as a mir­ror in shap­ing her polit­i­cal out­look. After obtain­ing a diplo­ma from the Elazığ Pro­fes­sion­al Busi­ness School, she expe­ri­enced the full force of fas­cist and racist behav­iours in her town. She has lived in Ger­many since 1997, for polit­i­cal rea­sons. She is the moth­er of four children.