“When I was 16, we moved to Istanbul. This city is magical, I fell in love with it! It never sleeps, it’s always busy doing business. There are no Sundays there! We were a family of 8 children and everyone had to work for us to survive. My father worked at the markets, my mother was busy cleaning and cooking from morning to night. The energy she put into it was huge. After school, I used to shine shoes or sell smits (sesame breads) on a huge tray that I carried on my head. We were waging this battle together, to provide for each other. We could adapt to any situation, but always stayed together. That was our greatest strength.
At school I was a very good student. One day after receiving distinctions, I was surrounded by young Turks at the school exit. They called me a shitty Kurd, an asshole, and that I stole their place. Another time, during a compulsory religion class, I revolted. I said that it was not my religion, that it was not my prophet. And the teacher beat me up in front of everyone. My pride was shattered. I used to see the weak being oppressed and belittled on a daily basis. And little by little I got involved in revolutionary movements to change the world.
We did everything secretly: exchanging information, books. If you got caught with these kind of texts, it was over for you. We had a secret place where we met. On the front door there was a sign saying: “If you don’t read, you don’t exist”. There were revolutionary books everywhere. The revolution was not carried by ignorant people, it was carried by thoughtful, educated people. I was reading a lot, writing poetry, political and philosophical essays. It gave me a different view of things. We were fighting to improve the lives of our parents and siblings. We were driven by this very important duty and it gave us enormous strength and confidence.
But being a revolutionary is not just about planting a flag. It’s about changing mentalities, pushing people to see things differently. In my mind there were no enemies. I always hoped that the police, the officials would see things differently. But for them, we were enemies. During the protests, I was always in the front rows. Nothing scared me. We used to shout slogans for freedom, for equality. And they replied by shooting us with real bullets. They were shooting to kill. And so many times I ended up fighting against fascists at the end of a protest. Once we were dispersed, they would form a pack and beat us up without mercy. I have scars all over my body.
We would make pacts of trust between revolutionaries, so as not to denounce comrades if one of us was caught. But not everyone could withstand the pain. That’s how I got caught. They tortured me over ten times. They also wanted me to denounce my comrades. But I’d rather die. I’m a stubborn person! I’d insult them so that they’d beat me even harder and I’d lose consciousness. Sometimes they kept me there for days, I didn’t know if it was day or night. But that didn’t stop me from starting again. When you see the other is going towards evil, you can’t let it happen. The greatest evil is to do nothing.
One day, we were protesting in front of the Iraqi embassy against a massacre of Kurds. The cops started firing real bullets and I ran straight towards them. People were falling around me. I don’t know how, but I managed to get through the line of cops and then hid at a friend’s house. 3 people were killed and 64 injured on that day. That was my last protest. There was a warrant out for my arrest and the police came to our house. My father told me I had to leave. I wanted to continue the fight, but I didn’t want the family to get into trouble. So they gathered some money, and along with a cousin who was also active, we left.
What I went through was nothing. Some Kurds have experienced terrible things; their whole family being massacred, burnt. But after that part of my life, it was as if I had killed a form of ignorance within me. I understood how terrible human beings can be, without any empathy, without any tolerance when some people try to imagine the world differently. I also understood that the State does not always seek the good of its population. So citizens must be ultra vigilant. Democracy is a very fragile structure. It barely holds onto anything.”