Nomadic life, guerrillas and the choice of dignity

Mother Hediye tried to live the nomadic culture in the middle of the city. What made Hediye so attractive was her authoritarian personality, attachment to her country and her culture.

I always associate Mother Hediye with the terms of nomadic life that are well known in the literature and in the general population. She is a Kurdish mother through whom I got to know the nomadic culture. When I talk to guerrilla Dirok, who has been in the ranks since 1998, about the topic of nomads, Mother Hediye comes to my mind.

Hediye was born into a nomad family in Botan. Until she had to leave her home area, she led a nomadic life. In the 1990s, when the Turkish state wanted to erase Cizre (district in Şırnak province) from the map and forge ahead with the occupation, forcing people to act as informers and village guards, Hediye left her house, her animals and her whole life behind and settled in a city unknown to her. From her old life she took only the nomadic culture and her dignity, which she never gave up.

Nomadic culture in the city

Mother Hediye tried also in the city to continue the nomadic culture. How do I get that? I have experienced it myself. Hediye let the calf, which was born in the winter, sleep among the children in the living room. She did not care about the people who believed that living with animals could trigger various illnesses. So she set up a bunk for the calf next to the wood burning stove and gave him first the milk bottle and then her baby. When the calf, days later, now a full member of the family, come to power, she gave it to the yellow cow that had eagerly waited for it.

Nomads are forced to act as agents

Hediye would cook the milk of her animals on the wood fire. She was convinced that the yoghurt became creamy and delicious only in this way. She never bought eggs in the shop, she gave her children the eggs of the chickens she fed herself. These were the only eggs that were really healthy and trustworthy. What distinguished Hediye from the people around her was not only her accent and her nomad clothes. She was different and attractive because of her naturally authoritarian personality and her closeness to her country and culture. Under no circumstances could she give this personality up.

I ask Dirok, who talks about the nomadic culture and reminds me of Mother Hediye, about the current situation of the nomads in Botan. What I hear from Dirok makes me sad. "The enemy keeps Kurdistan occupied and applies a concept of total war against the population. Lately, it’s been after nomads too. They are being forced into spying, wishing to get one agent from each family. These agents sometimes come in the form of shepherds and sometimes nomads. It usually does not take long for us to see through them. But it's unbelievable that people in an area like Botan are getting into the enemy's evil machinations," she says.

The awareness of dignity

However, the Kurdish people who feel attached to their country give the right answer, adds Dirok: "The enemy has long lost any sense of dignity. This year, the nomads have been given the choice of either acting as agents or not being able to move to the high pastures. Nomadic dignitaries have said: 'If we must either become agents or give up nomadic life, we give up nomadic life.' This response is not just a slap in the face of fascist colonialists, but also betrayal and surrender. These people will not give up their dignity for anything in the world and they believe that the guerrillas defend a life of dignity."

Guerrilla Dirok’s words again remind me of Mother Hediye. Her family gave up nomadic life 25 years ago when they were forced to become village guards in the service of the state. Today another family shows the same attitude and gives up nomadic life so as not to become an agent. The story repeats itself and the occupiers of Kurdistan experience once again that the people of Kurdistan regard the guerrillas as keepers of their dignity.