Jînda Asmen speaks about her documentary about journalist Nûjiyan Erhan

Jînda Asmen was a friend of journalist Nûjiyan Erhan. She said: "It was my responsibility to make this documentary as a continuation of our friendship."

Jînda Asmen was a friend of journalist Nûjiyan Erhan, who died on 22 March 2017 in Hesekê, after having been shot and seriously injured by KDP forces in Shengal.

Nûjiyan Erhan (Tuğba Akyılmaz) was shot in the head and seriously injured by the KDP forces while following the news on 3 March 2017 in the Xanesor region of Shengal. She died on 22 March at the Hesêkê Hospital, where she had been taken. The struggle of Nûjiyan Erhan, who lived in Shengal under ISIS attacks for a long time and shared the stories of Yazidi women clinging to life, to the people, became a documentary.

The shooting of the documentary "Nûjiyan", directed by Jînda Asmen, started in 2019 and was completed in 2021. Feride Zade starred in the documentary film, edited by Zinarîn Zinar. The documentary was screened for the first time in Xanesor on 28 May, in Shengal center on 29 May, and in Hesekê on 17 June. It is expected to be screened in many other cities after Qamishlo and Derik.

Jînda Asmen spoke to ANF about her work in cinema and her film Nûjiyan. Asmen started her artistic studies with theater, but she has always been very interested in literary studies. Her first cinema experience was the movie Tirêj and The Secret of Our Faces directed by Xelîl Dağ, directed her first movie Wêne together with Özlem Yaşar.

When and where did you meet Nûjiyan Erhan?

I met Heval Nûjiyan in 2011. She worked in the press, I worked in culture and art studies. We met on the road. And our friendship after the first meeting has developed through road encounters. A few years later, I also switched to press work. We carried out joint work in the same field. After a while, when the Shengal Edict took place, we went to Shengal together.

I worked with Nûjiyan both in the posts and among the people in Shengal when the war was raging. We wanted to express the reality we lived together. The main purpose of Heval Nûjiyan was to develop women's journalism in Shengal, and she did that. She trained Yazidi women. In fact, she left a huge mark with her press work. This mark needed to be underlined after her death.

We would have general conversations and discussions with Heval Nûjiyan. One day, if something happens to me, - she said - you have to do something for me. A poem, a program, a documentary, something. I replied that the same applied to me. If something happened to me, you would do something for me. I always remember this exchange.

Could you give some information about the documentary? How did the idea for the documentary come about and develop, and how was the script written?

It's really hard to describe someone you know. You share life with this person 24 hours a day. You are together in the most difficult moment of life and in the most beautiful moment. When you get to know a person closely, it is really difficult to talk about her. Yet, you know that these beauties and difficulties must be expressed somehow. I approached this work thinking that it was my responsibility to make this documentary as a continuation of our friendship.

When the battle of Xanesor took place, Heval Nûjiyan was wounded there and died 19 days later. What Heval Nûjiyan had said to me was always in my mind. It kept churning in my brain, her voice was not coming out of my ears. I felt obliged to do something. Everything was so fresh, and the pain was so fresh. There was something holding me. Based on those words, I felt the need to do something with a revolutionary responsibility as a requirement of our friendship. Then, while I was thinking, I suddenly said ‘Nûjiyan’, which means New Life. Yes, that's it, I said. And I went down this way. First of all, I wrote a poem called New Life. In fact, that poem became the basis of the documentary text. It was the summer of 2018. It was then that the idea of ​​the Nûjian emerged. In 2019, I switched to practical work.

I wrote the script in the mountains of Başûre Kurdistan, intertwined with nature. Sitting on the ground, I took the pen in my hand and began to write. And next thing, I was writing a scene. The first scene, the second scene and sometimes the middle scenes… All of them flowed without interruption. Maybe it was the intertwining of the brain, the emotion, and the feeling of expressing itself now.

What happened during the shooting process. Who supported you?

We started shooting in 2019. The film was completed in 2021. We wanted it to be screened in March 2021, but due to some issues we could not make it and it was left to 2022. In fact, we wanted to make the first screening of Heval Nûjiyan on the anniversary of her martyrdom, but the situation in Shengal and other difficulties prevented this. We organised the first screening in May in Xanesor, where Heval Nûjiyan was injured. Our shootings mostly took place in Shengal. We also shot partially in Rojava and Maxmur. We shot most of our scenes in Shengal.

Shengal was the place Heval Nûjiyan especially devoted herself to. It was the place where she stayed until her last breath. There were step-by-step traces. We would like to shoot in all the places where she had set foot. We wanted to do it in Urfa, but it didn't work. We completed all our shootings in Shengal and moved on to the editing phase.

We started this work as a three-person women's team. Heval Zinarin Zinar, Feride Zade and myself. Heval Feride was an actress. Our work was supported by the Kevana Zêrin Movement. True, there were three of us, but the people of Shengal as a whole supported us. They knew Heval Nûjiyan and said that such work should be done. They were so fond of Heval Nûjian. We can say that it was a comprehensive work with the strong support of the Shengal people.

Martyrs also contributed to this work. While we were shooting in Shengal, some of our friends who supported us were killed. Heval Mazdek was a filmmaker. So was Heval Ezdim. So, in many ways, it's a martyr’s work. The heart wishes that you can truly voice all the martyrs. A Revolution is like an ocean. If we can speak about Heval Nûjiyan, even if it is a drop in the ocean, we are happy.

The first screening of the documentary was held in Shengal, where Nûjiyan Erhan was injured. How was it received by the Yazidi people?

I was not there when it was first shown in Shengal. I wanted to be there very much, but as it was, the borders were closed and I could not pass. That's why I couldn't experience that exact feeling there, but I was very curious. After all, everyone knew Nûjiyan. How did the documentary affect women? I really wanted to see their faces. But it didn't happen. However, people who were there told me it was well received. The people of Shengal have not forgotten Nûjiyan, they live with her memories, and they actually found them again in that documentary. I believe in this. If I had the opportunity, I would like to go and speak at length with the people of Shengal.

The screening continues in Rojava. How is it going?

The first screening was in Shengal. Then we organised its screening in Hesekê in Rojava. Why did we choose Hesekê? It was actually the place where Heval Nûjiyan was brought after being injured. It was the place where she died after 19 days of struggling for her life. That's why we chose Hesekê. At that point, it was important for us to have its first screening in Hesekê. The documentary was received very well. Everywhere we go, I feel I am actually making this trip with her. Heval Nûjiyan used to say: "We are adding new memories to our existing memories." That’s why we want to screen the documentary in many parts of Rojava.