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In a modern European country, in one of the biggest airports in the world, a silver plane takes off for Sulaymaniyah, at the heart of the Middle East.

In the left row of triple seats, a young man, head resting against the small window, his name is Serdar…He is handsome, with well-groomed black hair to his shoulders. His large eyes have long lashes delicately protecting his eyeballs. Just beside him, a boy of five or six and the boy’s mother…

The boy and his mother are excited by the take-off, holding hands firmly, the woman praying God in her own faith.

No such excitement with Serdar. His eyes are hard, he looks at the straight lanes of reinforced concrete the plane  is leaving behind as it accelerates on the runway, soon gaining altitude.

For Serdar, what is is about to do is much more important than the takeoff of a plane or even the risk it might crash. He is now the bearer of an irreversible decision.

Serdar will be wealthy… Serdar will be very very wealthy!

The child next to him is filled with curiosity. He keeps putting questions to him, and the mother warns her son every few minutes, “be quiet, don’t disturb the stranger.”

– What’s your name?

– Do you have children?

– Is this the first time you’re going home?

– Do you have olive trees too?

– Ours are very big.

– But my uncles are the ones taking care of the trees now.

– Do you have a father?

– Me, I don’t have one. My father died in the war, I was very small… well, he died, that’s how it is… They killed him… I was small…

Not a word out of Serdar and after a while, the child gives up.

The mother is sad, silent, hurt, as if all the troubles in the world had landed like a stone on her head, she seems exhausted by them all… A passenger whose strength is exhausted, hopeless. Her story is the same as that of every woman in the Middle East. Why is she travelling, what is she attempting to resolve, does she have family over there? No one knows. But she is sad, controls herself, she is exasperated nonetheless… That is all.

A bit later, the child will fall asleep on his mother’s lap…Between the two, the child is almost like the incarnation of innocence.

Serdar builds the dream around the million euro he’ll receive for the business he’ll handle, half will be deposited immediately in his bank account, once the job is done, and the other half, when he returns. He would be a coward, son of a coward, if he didn’t place a Ferrari under his ass, if he didn’t pay for the finest life, with the most beautiful women in the most luxurious hotels, may the milk he suckled from his mother snort out of his nose if he doesn’t.

If he doesn’t teach a lesson to the jackals around him, may he become the King of the Treacherous!

And may he buy himself a house with a garden, with a swimming pool and everything, may he tie a pitbull in front of it. It will be a beautiful business…

All he’ll do is pull the trigger! A matter of a second, at the most…Does he have a mother to cry over him, a father, brothers and sisters? All he’ll do is pull the trigger… Afterwards, once he’ll have disappeared, the money, wealth… May they box and scrape before him, the minions at the service of his money.

Most of all, if he does not chase all those who despise and lower him, may he no longer be called Serdar in this world…

This is how Serdar is thinking, constantly

The child is still sleeping…Serdar has been awake for hours, just like the mother. The woman is grumpy, Serdar is caustic, concentrated on his inner voice with teeth clenched.  Serdar is like a storm about to break.

How many hours have gone by? Here is the innocent child who was sleeping between sadness and rage, waking. The child is pure, candid.

– We’re not there yet?

It won’t be long now, says his mother.

The child looks at Serdar, attempts to ask him something, Serdar throws such a look at him, that the frightened little one takes shelter with his mother.

The woman is flying toward her past, her memories, her childhood, her roots, the child toward the lack of a father, never to be filled. As for Serdar, he is moving toward unbelievable dreams, about to bloody his hands.

Lights from tall buildings in Sulaymaniyah greet these three passengers from afar. The woman responds to this nocturnal face of the city with tears streaming slowly down her cheeks. The boy is agitated. No sign of humanity in Serdar, who remains as if frozen.

Serdar has a backpack. The woman and the child wait for their luggage. Serdar walks through the crowd, away from them. With each step, he moves further and further away from sadness and from innocence… Then, Serdar disappears behind a sliding door.

Serdar is greeted by a young man in a car, about the same age as he, in this thirties. The two became friends in Europe, buddies in the realms of opium, they travelled toward imaginary worlds. Both are still in their youth, both are lost, with no feelings left, they are like two empty bags with holes in the bottom.

On the next day, they will drive to Said’s uncle. Because the other one’s name is Said.

Said has come ahead of time, he has rented a small apartment, he has planned everything, it will be as easy as lifting a hair off a piece of butter. Said shows Serdar a pistol with a silver grip. “Look at it, it’s like a girl”. 1 Said runs his hands over the weapon, as if caressing a woman.

This caress feeds into Serdar’s improbable dreams, the ones that will never become reality.

Car, house, beautiful women, swimming pool, pitbull, valets at his service, all that, all that.

The first light of dawn breaks over a poor neighborhood with narrow alleys where most of the houses are in ruins…On the walls, thousands of bullet holes bear the memories of war. Serdar takes in this scene of a miserable neighborhood etched out in the early morning. In all this misery he sees nothing but a few old-timers and stray dogs.

The houses are in ruins, empty, they are like nameless cemeteries. Taking in this illustration of poverty, Serdar tells himself yet again “if I don’t become wealthy, may I no longer be called Serdar.” 

He is the one caressing the silver grip on the pistol now, over and over again, as if caressing a woman…

***

Said has rented a small car, they drive slowly through the miserable streets of this country where you find the biggest cemetery in the world, they soon arrive in another neighborhood with modern and luxurious high rises. These are like those glittering mansions with the hanging gardens in Babylon, the ones described in fairy tales, bought with the benefits accumulated after the war.

Here, it is almost like saying “those who died are dead, the rest belongs to the wealthy.”

Wealth faces the poor neighborhoods, the hell of poverty, luxury and misery square off. Luxury makes fun of poverty. They move toward one another.

Said’s uncle belongs to a deeply rooted tribe, he is a promoter. He has gained tremendously from the war.

He lives in Erbil in a quasi-palace. His family and children are in Sulaymaniyah. During the war, they did not suffer a single scratch. The uncle has a girlfriend in her twenties, a real beauty…She is visiting family in Bagdad at the moment, and won’t be back for two weeks.

“Come on, show your stuff, Serdar!” says Said.  “He won’t suspect me despite my dead father. We’ll open the safe in the wall of his house, you do your job while I count out your million. When night falls, I’ll knock on his door. When he’ll see me, he’ll rejoice as if seeing his brother. He trusts me, opens his heart to me, gives me pocket money, I swear, he will give it to me…”

Then Said sighs; but it’s no longer enough, no, not enough.

Night reigns over Erbil, the surroundings are empty, not a soul in sight.

– Are you ready, Serdar?

– I’m ready…

Serdar is ready, he’s been ready for a long time. Serdar has convinced himself that if he doesn’t become wealthy, his mother’s milk, even life will become haram for him

brother. What is Said doing here? So, he has come on holidays with his buddy, of course, he is dropping by to see his uncle, see how he’s  doing… On his doorstep, Said’s uncle opens his arms. He embraces Said, sheds a few tears for his dead.

– You had the right idea, Said

Late in the night, they share in Allah’s gifts, platters of food are set before them. No problem, they could even have a drink of alcohol. Serdar would have a house like this one, exactly the same.

Said’s uncle is in his sixties, or more, with hair and moustache dyed a deep black, a man of medium height, a bit stocky, he wears a huge square ring on his middle finger. His hands are rather pudgy.

Said and his uncle evoke memories with enthusiasm and deep feeling. Serdar stands up, looks out the window, and in the distance the town of Erbil looks back at him with its lights. He turns and looks at Said.

Said says “now!” with a look, “now!”

Serdar is behind the man, he puts the muzzle of the silver handled weapon on his nape and, without a though, not even for a second, in the neck…

Bang!

The man’s head has fallen on the table, with open arms, the blood runs in rivulets from the table to the ground, his ring is bloodied, everything is red…

Here’s the safe in the wall… one, two, three, several million euro.

As agreed, one million for Serdar. Serdar will fly back to Europe in the morning, his money will be deposited on his account immediately. Serdar trusts Said, he has no choice but to trust him.

The full amount is in the car, for both of them there is no remorse, only silence.

Serdar will be wealthy, very wealthy!

Serdar is at the airport… If anything goes wrong “may I fuck my mother”, he’ll kill Said also, and not in the back but straight in the forehead.

There’s still an hour’s wait before Serdar’s flight departure. The weapon is in the bottom of a lake they drove by.

Said will come later! As soon as Serdar will set foot in Europe, bingo, he’ll be wealthy.

Serdar is removed from reality, in a world of dreams, he stares at the large airport clock. He’s been there for three hours. Said must have deposited the money already The uncle’s head on the table, his blood dripping off the table, the ring on his finger…

“And who ever took pity on me?” says Serdar, “who?”.

An incredible racket, five or six policemen rush to Serdar, he is on the floor, hands cuffed in the back. Serdar is interrogated. Serdar is tortured…He doesn’t mention Said, still in the hope that…

Serdar is sentenced to perpetuity in Erbil…

There is no more Said, Said has evaporated, the ground has opened and swallowed him.

He has vanished in limbo, he is nowhere. Serdar has a single dream now, a dream that keeps him alive.

With all his lungs, howling…“Said if I don’t knock you off, my name is no longer Serdar! Said, if I don’t riddle you with bullet, may my mother’s milk turn haram on me!”

– “If I catch you, you’ll see… If I don’t kill you, may I fuck my mother.

Serdar, a lifer… His hair has fallen out, he has no more teeth to clench in his mouth.


Translation from French by Renée Lucie Bourges

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Suna Arev
Autrice
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.