The introduction and article translated below are excerpts from Tevn magazine, edited by Leyla Güven, co-chair of the Democratic Society Congress [Demokratik Toplum Kongresi – DTK], and eight other Kurdish women held in the Elazığ Women’s Prison. They are: Beritan Key, Remziye Yaşar, Nemciye Boz, Emine Erkan, Mihriban Şorli, Şilan Avareş, Dilan Aydın and Mizgin Özatiz. The magazine was written and illustrated entirely by hand and is a tribute from these women to their language, culture and territory. The topics of the articles range from the importance of the Kurdish language to the culture of this people to the struggle of Kurdish mothers for peace.
The great immortal master, Cegerxwin, says: “oh Kurds, oh my poor, either speak Kurdish or don’t say you are Kurds.” It’s an appropriate saying for us. When we speak in Kurdish, write in Kurdish, we feel strong emotions and are filled with beauty. We each come from a different city in Kurdistan. So, our room is very colorful, just like our country. I’m a little different from other friends with regard to this, because I’m a Kurd from Central Anatolia. But this is another wealth our country has.
Why do we publish this magazine? For decades there has been a policy of assimilation and a cultural genocide of our language, our culture and our geography. No matter what we do, we cannot save ourselves from this process of genocide. No one can say they weren’t hit by assimilation. Unfortunately, everyone was affected by this process. Let us not be deceived. For these reasons, we decided to publish a magazine in our own language.
Dear friends, it must be said that each topic we write about is as vast as a book. It’s not easy to write absolutely everything. So, our friends write briefly. We want to draw attention to the life of the Kurdish people and their experiences. Of course, what has been going on for a century will not end with a magazine. No doubt there are some flaws, but we know that our people will forgive us and embrace us. There are no people so loyal, honest and heroic like the Kurdish people. They always sacrifice everything for their own freedom and the freedom of their country.
We, as political prisoners, say that our people must be at ease, because there is always light after darkness. We know that “hope is more precious than victory.” We have hope and we will fight for the freedom of our people, and we will surely win.
What is self-defense?
Since the beginning of humanity, there has always been self-defense. Not only human beings, but also animals, nature and all living beings defend themselves. The Neolithic period must be analyzed to understand the right to self-defense. At that time, nature, humans and living beings existed together. Human beings did not harm nature, and vice versa, because communities followed in the footsteps of women and there was a symbiotic relationship between women and nature. Women’s view of nature was full of life, and she saw nature as a living being. To nurture her own life, she used nature and started to plant.
When we look at self-defense, we see that it can be found everywhere, and each living being defends itself in different ways. There are many examples. The rose, for instance, one of nature’s beauties, defends itself with its thorns. It would not be able to defend its beauty if it didn’t have thorns. Another example: a tiny centipede leaves its saliva wherever it goes. Because of the smell of the saliva, people are unable to get near it. This is how the centipede protects itself. Both examples show us that there is nothing in the world that does not practice self-defense.
In the 21st century, women and nature were the first to be dominated by the patriarchal system. The first consequence of this domination is the sterilization of women’s feelings. So, the greatest oppression and repression of all time is exercised on women. The leader of the Kurdish people expressed his remarkable and important ideas on this topic. He emphasized that all living things must defend themselves. Following his speech and philosophy, thousands of Kurdish women practice self-defense today. It is important to know that self-defense is not just a physical action. A woman must physically defend herself against the social mindset of the patriarchy, and also defend nature and society against this mentality. Undoubtedly, it is not easy to find a solution to the patriarchal hegemony that has been held for centuries over women and nature. Woman must regain self-defense where she lost it. She must secure her freedom where she has lost her sense of self-defense. For years she has been fighting this hegemony and resisting all oppressions.
When the dominant powers moved forward in the field of technology etc., they began to harm nature to fit their interests. Nature has its own forms of self-defense. With so many natural catastrophes such as floods, forest fires and earthquakes nowadays, we can say that nature is taking revenge on humanity.
Self-defense is considered a crime, as those who want to defend society and themselves from all kinds of attacks are held hostage by the ruling powers. If we call attention to prisons, they are ruled by men. Thus, it is all about subjugating those who want to defend themselves. However, prisoners defend themselves with their words, their writings, their communal lives, their actions and their style against all attacks. Know that prisons are not a place for strong women to be repressed; on the contrary, it is a place for them to defend themselves.
The reality of life is that people should get organized where they live. This is always an act of defense. Like Comrade Zilan in the mountain, like Comrade Sema in prison, like Comrade Arin Mirkan in the city – they each became a flaming torch to defend their people and exploded within the enemy’s heart. They sacrificed themselves to defend their people. Kurdish people never forget their heroines.
Each woman and man must defend themselves in their language, with their culture, by organizing. What we are saying here reveals a reality. No living being can stay alive without self-defense. If people like the Kurdish people, oppressed peoples, other peoples or women do not abandon their self-defense, they can succeed. We as Middle Eastern women stress that we will stand up for our people and ourselves in all circumstances.
We respectfully say goodbye.
N. B.: This analysis is dedicated to women who practice self-defense.