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Nobody likes Dap­pir… On her head, she wears a big fez sur­round­ed by a keffieh embroi­dered with small pearls…

She is short, wears a sar­wel with forty patch­es with a belt she wears in sum­mer and in win­ter­time, it is fad­ed by the sun and of an indef­i­nite col­or. This fad­ed belt, the fez on her head, the two snatch­es of hair dyed with hen­na, and her neck­lace of blue beads are  her sine qua non accessories…

One won­ders if age is the rea­son for her iris­es to be the col­or of yel­low hon­ey. Not a sin­gle tooth left in her mouth. Her nose is large, and below it on the right, a black mole the size of a large chick­pea, and on her chin, a halo of beard made up of long, strag­gly white hairs.

When my aun­tie came vis­it­ing, she would set­tle by the fire with my moth­er and get excit­ed over the fact that Dap­pir would arrive, sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly. She would bawl her out, make rags out of her to keep her from open­ing her mouth. Dap­pir couldn’t care less. She med­dled in every con­ver­sa­tion as if to prove her pres­ence, she would impose her­self loudly.

As soon as Dap­pir saw four or five women talk­ing togeth­er, she would move in as if noth­ing mat­tered, shuf­fling ahead rest­ing on her cane and barge into the con­ver­sa­tion, throw­ing words into the air, inter­ven­ing, debat­ing, tear­ing her­self up in order to be accept­ed into every assembly…

Dap­pir was jeal­ous. She envied the whole world because she hand’t a sin­gle friend or con­fi­dante. She would set­tle silent­ly near doors, win­dow, she would lis­ten, gath­er up secrets and then, she would sell them. She would offer them up to whomev­er want­ed them, thus some­times pro­vok­ing the great­est argu­ments and sulk­ing sessions.

And still Dap­pir had no place of her own nor any popularity…

Nobody liked Dap­pir, nobody… You see lions gath­ered around a prey and who won’t give even a sin­gle bite to intrud­ers, or a wolf cir­cling a hen­house, gaunt and fam­ished, and who is con­stant­ly pushed back, sent away, that is how Dap­pir was. Even if she brought the best, the hap­pi­est of news to the women gath­ered near a wall, at the foun­tain, no one ever took her seri­ous­ly… No one count­ed her among human beings, the living.

She is old, Dap­pir, with wrin­kles on her ancient face that look like canals dug into trails on those rocky earth­en paths. Her hands are large, so veined that they look like tor­ment­ed branch­es. Her hands are like appendages droop­ing down from her shoul­ders, cracked glass­es ready to fall and shat­ter on the ground. Dap­pir con­stant­ly looks at her hands, observ­ing them for a long time, as if dis­cov­er­ing them…As if she lost her­self in an ocean, took refuge on a desert­ed island, she looks, she looks, she looks. Her hands don’t match up with her body… Then, she spits in her two palms, leans on her cane, takes stum­bling steps and forces her way into a crowd of women..

One hand on her cane, the oth­er swing­ing, swing­ing in the void as if about to break off. Dap­pir is a bit like a mad­woman, she laughs for no rea­son, starts weep­ing all of a sud­den. Her hands are Dappir’s con­cern, a pair of hands she would glady rip off and throw to the fam­ished wolves. She’s going on her nine­ty years, but the age of her hands, the suf­fer­ing in those hands are heav­ier than the weight of years.

Dappir’s hands could almost talk: “Hey, those who have no fear of god, come here, cut off these hands, throw them to the dogs, the wolves, the jack­als, toss them off to the ants on the ground…throw us away, rid us of this suf­fer­ing…” they say.

Dap­pir has three daugh­ters-in-law… Three small hous­es with earth­en roofs. All three lean­ing one against the oth­ers, built side by side, but they sulk, their doors open in three dif­fer­ent direc­tions… Hous­es with doors giv­ing out on the East, the West and the North.

Dap­pir shel­ters at her eldest son’s. He is dead of tuber­cu­lo­sis and her eldest daugh­ter-in-law is fam­i­ly. Dap­pir brought her over so she would tend to her in her old age. She has grand­chil­dren all over the neigh­bor­hood, every one sulks after every­one else, and the only thing they share are the bor­ders of the three hous­es. Dap­pir sleeps on a mat­tress behind the door…

Nobody likes Dap­pir nobody… What is tru­ly Dappir’s name, nobody knows either…“Dap­pir this, Dap­pir that, what are you wait­ing for Dap­pir, die, go six feet under the black earth Dap­pir, may you not rest in peace in your cas­ket Dap­pir”

Dap­pir is nev­er falls ill, all her fel­low crea­tures have passed on, but she resists against the curs­es from her daugh­ters-in-law, like a boul­der. She does not want to leave with­out set­tling accounts with her hands. First, she must wash them in a riv­er charged with tak­ing and car­ry­ing away the stain on her hands, and bury­ing in deep in the deep­est of oceans.

My aun­tie would come on cold win­ter nights. My mother’s old­er sis­ter, my aunt, a hard work­er, would rush through a ton of work to show up at my mother’s. Who else did she know, in the first place? Almost all the women in this vil­lage were wid­ows. In the tiny hous­es with earth­en roofs, the chil­dren slept on mat­tress­es spread out on the floor. The moth­ers loaded the hearth with wood to warm the hous­es. The fire in the hearth, the wood burned down into cinders…

Of what secrets is the fire a wit­ness? This is how, on a win­ter night when they thought that we chil­dren were deep in sleep, under the hearth and the fire’s tes­ti­mo­ny, my aun­tie told Dappir’s sto­ry. She told it in detail, while drip­ping tar oil on white cloth. Who knows how many time this hearth, this fire lis­tened to this suf­fer­ing? How many times did it inter­fere with sleep?…

She told the tale, told it while pok­ing at the fire with a stick: “don’t let her into your house, don’t let her in. The shame of humans, of women, look at her, she does not die, even the earth does not want her…”

After that day, we too were unable to like Dap­pir and fled from her.

Then we grew up… grew up a lot and then, we also under­stood Dap­pir, we took pity on her.

Dappir’s Story

Not all suf­fer­ing makes you grow, some­times it dri­ves you  to madness.

A moun­tain vil­lage, far, far away. I would say ten, you might say fif­teen hearths, hous­es made of baked earth­en bricks… All the inhab­i­tants are from the same tribe and rais­ing cat­tle is their sole means of sub­sis­tence. In win­ter­time, the snow is as high as a man, the roads are blocked. God only knows how many ani­mal die until spring­time, and chil­dren also… Dap­pir is the dea­coness of the vil­lage, the first woman to whom you go for advice..

While still young her hus­band fell off a cliff, and the riv­er car­ried his body away… Dap­pir fol­lowed his tracks for days along the riv­er until she found him, I can’t say how many vil­lages fur­ther, caught in a tree trunk. She loaded him on her back and brought him back to her vil­lage on the edge of the moun­tain, buried him on his land. Dap­pir was young at the time, and stur­dy. Dap­pir lives through mas­sacres, Dap­pir was sub­ject­ed to famine, Dap­pir alone, ini­ti­at­ed her­self to the secret of embrac­ing one’s self, like a snake. She lost her moth­er, her father, broth­ers and sis­ter, but always stayed as sol­di as the wood from a mul­ber­ry tree, strong and unbeatable.

Only one of her broth­ers remained alive, she raised him as a moth­er would. Dap­pir did not fear the night nor the day, she was famil­iar with the laws of wild nature, she faced them as best she could. Which plant to heal which pain, which cloud brings rain, which oth­er brings the storm, she knew all this. In those days, Dap­pir was a wise, respect­ed person…

Not all suf­fer­ing makes you grow, some­times it dri­ves you to mad­ness. Such an mis­for­tune fell on Dappir’s head and drove her mad… It turned her into a stranger to her own hands.


No school in the vil­lage, no elec­tric­i­ty, even the road into the town took hours. One fine day, the muhtar 1 received a piece of news. A teacher would come to the vil­lage, civ­i­liza­tion would arrive in the vil­lage… At long last, this poor moun­tain vil­lage would know “con­tem­po­rary civilization”!

Çarşam­ba is under water, I loved a girl but anoth­er took her from me” says a song from the Black Sea region. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, not all love is inno­cent and sin­cere like that in the songs…

The teacher is from Sam­sun 2, he is known as the “blond teacher”. He will come as part of “manda­to­ry ser­vice” in order to teach the “wild moun­taineers” for one year.

Sent off with songs of lamen­ta­tion, he will remain for a year in this coun­try of mis­cre­ants where none of the four books from heav­en ever land­ed. The order comes from the gov­ern­ment and when such an order lands, a neck is thin­ner than a hair…

Just think of it, a teacher will arrive in the vil­lage so, such prepa­ra­tions, such haste! The muhtar has reserved a house, the paint has been redone, his stove installed, wood gath­ered for the win­ter, and a dou­ble-thick woollen mat­tress pro­vid­ed… Every­thing is as ready as can be. The muhtar will go into town to fetch the teacher, will set­tle him on his mule and bring to the vil­lage, where civ­i­liza­tion will reach the village!

The teacher is blond, very blond, he does not look like the local dark-skinned fel­lows of the area. He is also very polite. But he is afraid, very much afraid, go fig­ure with what pre­con­ceived ideas he was raised…

In short, the blond teacher is installed in his house. And in flows the but­ter, the hon­ey, the fresh­ly baked bread, still warm… That’s peas­ant for you, they will break them­selves in bits to please a stranger.

The school is a one-room house, the chil­dren aged from sev­en to four­teen, all togeth­er in the class, will learn to read and write. The teacher, slow­ly becom­ing accus­tomed to this warm envi­ron­ment, chats with the vil­lagers. They say the teacher knows every­thing very well, that being the case, the State speaks the truth.

Ali throws the ball, Ayse catch­es the ball”3and the blond teacher slow­ly teach­es the chil­dren their ABC.

But the teacher has a prob­lem and talks to the muhtar about it from time to time. What is it? The lack of women.

In fact, the teacher is mar­ried and has two chil­dren,  but among the local women, wouldn’t there be one suit­able for him?

To be continued…

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.