The Long Road: Mehmed Uzun and the Kurdish Struggle for Rights



“I was introduced to Turkish with a slap,” explained Mehmed Uzun on his deathbed,

“I ate that slap on the first day of primary school in Siverek. Even today I can’t get it out my mind. We were trying to line up in the yard, talking Kurdish amongst ourselves. A reserve-officer teacher slapped me. ‘Speak Turkish,’ he said. But I didn’t know Turkish . . .Like that, my connection to my mother tongue was severed. Turkish was the language of education and culture. My connection to Kurdish was cut. Banning languages is a crime against humanity. Cutting off humans from their mother tongue is savagery. Tearing a human from his mother tongue damages his soul and his identity—it blocks development. I think banning Kurdish was one of the Turkish Republic’s greatest errors.”[1]

Uzun was in Diyarbakır, the largest Kurdish city in the world.[2] He had come there in September 2006 after being diagnosed with stomach cancer. For most of the past thirty years, he had been living in Sweden. By October 11th, he was dead.  At his funeral two days later, 20,000 people turned out to wish him farewell.

If the story of the Kurds is too often defined by its tragedies, conflicts, horrors, and politics, then Uzun’s life and work remind us that amid all those very real troubles, there is more: there is art.


Mehmed Uzun was born in 1953 in Siverek, a small city in the Turkish southeast about 80km from Diyarbakır. Mehmed spent much of his childhood traveling around the region with his father, a local sheep merchant, who introduced him to rural life and Kurdish traditions.[3] Maintaining tradition was difficult in a country where the state actively sought to wipe it out. In the eyes of many Turkish leaders, Kurdish culture was merely a degeneration of Turkish, using not a language, but “a gibberish comprised of Persian, Arabic, and Turkish.”[4]

Backward and reactionary, the region must be culturally reformed. To this end, Kurdish children were often sent off to boarding schools where they were forced to speak Turkish. Newly arrived refugees from Greece and the Balkans were systematical resettled in Kurdish areas in order to dilute the Kurdish population. Government officials were likewise encouraged to marry local women in order to Turkify the gene pool. These officials were also instructed to avoid speaking Kurdish with the locals in order to encourage their adoption of Turkish.[5]

Since the early years of the Republic, Turkish leaders had looked on the country’s Kurdish population with distrust. During the Ottoman era, the empire’s control of the region had fluctuated. State policies were typically implemented through local notables.[6] The last decades of the Empire saw one ethnic minority after another break away. During WWI, Ottoman subjects in the north, south, east, and west of the country came under domination by the Allied powers. Some, like the Arabs in the south, became permanently separated; some, like the peoples of the Black Sea region, experienced a temporary occupation; others, like the country’s Armenian population, were wiped out by Ottoman leaders doubtful of their loyalty. Kurds remained loyal.

In 1925, however, serious revolts against the Turkish state swept through the Kurdish regions—especially those areas surrounding Diyarbakır. Witnessing the speed at which the new Turkish leadership was removing old sources of authority—abolishing the Caliphate, removing the sultan, and declaring a republic—Kurdish leaders sought to reassert their authority. The revolts were forcibly stopped and a program of Turkification followed. Subsequent revolts in the 1930s met similar fates.[7] Police posted were established in every major Kurdish town, Kurdish language, Kurdish dress, and Kurdish names were forbidden.[8] Over time, “the use of the word ‘Kurd’ disappeared altogether from the media, and from any kind of official documentation, including school textbooks.”[9]

Kurdish leaders failed in their struggles with the state because there was—and remains—little in the way of a unified “Kurdish” front.[10] All the revolts were regional; in each, some leaders resisted the Turkish state and others backed it. Though this lack of unity augers against concerted action, it also leaves Turkish leaders perpetually fearful that the leaders of neighboring regimes will attempt to foment unrest among portions of the Kurdish population. In the 1942, for example, the Soviet Union occupied Iran and allowed Kurdish leaders in that country to establish an “autonomous” republic. For the first time there was a Kurdish flag, army, official language, and president. At the end of WWII, however, American and British leaders pressured Soviets to withdraw their troops. Within months the shah’s forces had reasserted control. Leaders of this short-lived state fled to Iraq and Syria to start new movements.[11]

In Turkey, meanwhile, the 1940s were a time of economic trouble and heavy-handed government for all people—Kurdish or otherwise. In the election of 1950, Kurds were among the many groups in Turkish society that threw their support to the opposition Democrat Party (DP) which promised to lift many of the religious and cultural restrictions of the ruling Republican People’s Party. In power, DP leaders reduced the number of police posts and directed more investment to projects like roads and dams in the countryside. Nonetheless, under the DP, the state continued to rule through local notables rather than appealing directly to the people.[12] In Siverek, for example, political life was dominated by the Bucak clan, which had sided with the state in the 1925 rebellion and continued to maintain good relations with various Turkish governments in the years to follow.[13]




Mehmed’s generation came of age at a time of rapid urbanization and industrialization. All through Turkey, new roads were stimulating mass migrations to the major urban centers. Ankara nearly tripled in size between 1955 and 1970.[14] The military coup that ousted the DP in 1960 initially led to renewed pressure on Kurds to assimilate, but the liberal constitution it produced actually allowed groups in Turkish society more freedom to organize.[15] Newspapers began to print articles on Kurdish culture and folklore by writers like Musa Anter. In September 1962 a bi-lingual magazine called Dicle-Firat began publication. By the 1965 there was even a Kurdish political party, T-KDP, started by a member of the Bucak clan from Mehmed’s hometown.[16] Kurds were also influential in left-wing parties like the Turkish Worker’s Party (TİP), which advocated for greater Kurdish cultural rights.

In 1969, Kurdish students in Istanbul and Ankara, including Mehmed’s cousin Ferit, established an organization they called the Revolutionary Eastern Culture Hearths (DDKO).[17] The organization called for economic development and education programs in southeast Turkey, as well as an end to rule by large landowners.[18]

The officers spearheading the 1971 military coup pointed to groups like the DKKO as evidence that eastern Turkey was at risk of fragmenting. Across the border in Iraq, the government had come to terms with Kurdish leaders and Turkish leaders feared this example would embolden Kurds in Turkey. In the aftermath of the coup, TİP and DKKO were closed and their members—again, including Mehmed’s cousin Ferit—were thrown in jail. Mehmed was not directly involved in DKKO. Her had been sixteen at the time of its founding, and still in high school. After graduation, however, he headed to Ankara, where he promptly became involved in Kurdish organizations. He was arrested in 1972 and sentenced to two years. In prison he was tortured.[19] Like many famous Turkish artists before and after, imprisonment was a formative moment in his life.[20] At the age of eighteen, he was sent to Diyarbakır’s Military Prison where he came into contact with the leaders of the Kurdish literary (and political) movement including Tarık Ziya Ekinci (a leader of TİP), Musa Anter, and Mehmet Emin Bozaslan (another leading Kurdish writer). It was from these men that he first learned to read and write in Kurdish.

Upon leaving prison he continued his involvement with the Kurdish literary movement, becoming the managing editor of Rizgari (Liberty), a Turkish-Kurdish magazine. After 1974, when there was a general pardon freeing many activists, the DKKOs began to reform under new names. Advocates of a general alliance of the left—those who had been involved in TİP—tended to gather around the magazine Freedom Road (Özgürlük Yölü). Rizgari, by contrast, appealed to those fed up with the system and lacking confidence in the mainstream Turkish left.[21] In 1976 Mehmed published an article advocating the use of Kurdish.[22] He was again arrested and imprisoned. Released after eight months, pending trial, he decided to flee Turkey.




Turkey in the late 1970s was not a safe environment for political activists—especially those on the left and those advocating Kurdish rights. As early as 1970, the military had been carrying out attacks on Kurdish villages deemed separatist, but the frequency was increasing. In 1978, Mehmed Uzun’s cousin Ferit was assassinated while heading to a friend’s wedding. Uzun, however, was already gone. In 1977 he had escaped to Sweden via Syria.

During the next decade, funded by the Swedish government, he worked to create the first modern novel in his Kurdish dialect of Kurmanji.[23] “Nobody believed that I would be able to make the book a success,” he recalled:

Kurdish had no contemporary language for writing a novel, there [were] no modern expressions and there were no previous literary examples. Kurdish had no traditions in literary representation, especially during the last century. There were no readers or critics of the language; there was no way for the novel to reach readers and publishers willing to take the work were very limited. Apart from that the literary life of Kurds was completely politicized, and I was far from the sources of the language.”[24]

Other writers had written in Kurdish before—Kurdish authors living in the Soviet Union and Northern Iraq had published a handful of works in the Sorani dialect—but producing a novel in Kurmanji, using orthography which Turkish Kurds might understand, required the development of a more complex literary vocabulary than had previously been available.[25] The end result was something unique:

“I’m not claiming to be representing all of the Kurdish language. I’m not an advocate of ‘pure Kurdish.’ In the process of creating a rich, modern novelistic language, I’ve benefitted from other dialects. I’ve learned the Cyrillic and Arabic alphabets and combed through Kurdish sources. In the libraries of Europe, I’ve read through orientalist tests collecting Kurdish from the Caucasus, Iran, and Iraq. As one would know, I’ve developed a mixed-repertoire of vocabulary. And still it pains my conscience that I’ve neglected some dialects. For example: I want to write a modern epic in the Zaza dialect. But my grammar isn’t sufficient. If I live long enough, I am going to write one. . .

I haven’t counted how many [dictionaries I’ve referred to]. Outcast from society and atrophied, daily Kurdish certainly isn’t enough for literature. [Yet] it’s one of the region’s oldest languages. It has been enriched by the region’s languages, culture, and religions. If I hadn’t drawn on the written sources and wandering minstrels who keep the verbal richness alive, I couldn’t have formed a modern, novelistic language that could be understood by a broad public and translated into other languages. If I hadn’t already believed in its richness, I couldn’t have devoted my life in exile to such a mad endeavor.[26]

His first novel was published in 1985.[27] He titled it Tu, which means “You” in Kurdish because he felt at the time that:

The sense of individualism was quite weak among Kurds. The “community-serf” relationship is paramount. Kurdish political organizations were also like this. Totalitarian-stripes were always evident. Illegality was also a problem. For this reason, human and intellectual relations were always pushed back. I was against this. I criticized this structure of relationships.[28]

Uzun certainly had his struggles with Kurdish organizations. Though he was absent Turkey from the late 1970s through the early 1990s, he remained connected to the debates and conflicts of those years. And they were bitter: The army’s 1980 coup ended much of Turkey’s left-right violence by fiercely crushing various movements, doing away with the liberal 1960 constitution, and replacing it with a far more restrictive one. Though the army was quite effective in calming western Turkey, its measures inflamed tensions in the east, providing fertile ground for the “totalitarian” group Uzun had in mind: the PKK.




The 1982 constitution placed a far stronger emphasis on national unity than its predecessor. Various clauses restricted the use of any language but Turkish in schools, media, or politics and lay the groundwork for a subsequent law in 1983 that banned Kurdish altogether.[29]

Connected to this increasing government repression—though not precisely a product of it—was the rise of the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK). Founded in 1974 by Abdullah Öcalan and other Ankara University students, the PKK was but one of that era’s many Kurdish-rights organizations. Its leaders viewed southeast Turkey as a “classic colony,” exploited by interests in western Turkey and ruled over by a class of feudal landlords. Violence, they emphasized, was the sole solution to this situation. [30] Not content to expound this worldview from the capital, PKK leaders relocated to the countryside in order to stir revolutionary sentiment among peasants. In those early years, their recruits were mainly “young, poorly educated and of humble backgrounds.[31]

Starting in 1979, the PKK leaders began carrying out attacks on landlords they deemed to be collaborating with the state. Their first target was Mehmet Celal Bucak, the member of parliament for Mehmed Uzun’s hometown of Siverek.[32] The feud with Bucak and other landlords polarized much of the region along tribal lines. Although the organization’s violent methods put off many Kurds, it had numerous successes. Numerous districts fell under its control and Palestinian groups in Lebanon provided it with bases for training.

By the early 1980s, the Turkish state had made strides against the PKK. Numerous PKK leaders were imprisoned, martial law was declared in the region, and two of Turkey’s four armies were permanently headquartered in the south.[33] The Israeli invasion of Lebanon led to the arrests of many fighters as well. Forced to regroup, the PKK struck a deal with Kurdish leaders in Northern Iraq that gave them new bases. From these bases, the PKK began attacking army and police units in the southeast. The Turkish army responded by carrying out attacks in Northern Iraq and organizing landlord militias into armed  “village guard” units. Militarizing villages encouraged the PKK to step up its attacks on civilians and force boys of military age to join its ranks.[34] By 1987 the Turkish government had created a special “zone of emergency” in the southeast with special military governors and special courts.

And the carnage wasn’t confined to Turkey. The PKK sought to organize and polarize the expatriate Kurdish population in Europe as well. Like many Kurdish groups, it organized annual Newroz (new year) parties. In 1987 men “believed to be PKK members” opened fire at several parties held by rival groups in Germany and Holland. The PKK hoped to establish itself as the sole representative of Kurdish sentiment. The need for such violence suggests how far from that goal it was in the late 1980s.

As early as 1985 Kurds had found ways to voice their political desires. Left-wing Kurdish sentiment first found a home in the mainstream Social-Democrat People’s Party and then, when this alliance grew too restrictive, in the most explicitly-Kurdish People’s Labor Party (HEP). Party members included leading Kurdish intellectuals like Musa Anter, Memed Uzun’s jail time mentor.[35] Other Kurdish leaders, like Siverek’s Bucak clan, remained close to the ruling parties.[36]

By the early 1990s, it was clear that Kurdish demands needed to be addressed in order to end the conflict. President Özal took the significant step of the acknowledging the existence of a Kurdish population, followed by easing restrictions on Kurdish language and broadcasting. Many leaders within the Turkish state, however, opposed such moves. Then—as later—attempts to deal with the Kurdish population were viewed as attempts to undermine the nation’s unity for electoral gain and were met with résistance from both PKK and army leaders.[37] The army began conducting targeted assassinations of Kurdish politicians and journalists. Among the killings attributed to army death-squads are Vedat Aydin (HEP’s Diyarbakır chairman), Mehmet Sincar (a Kurdish representative from Mardin province leading an investigation into targeted killings), and Musa Anter. Between 1990-94, “No fewer than 64 [Kurdish political leaders] were assassinated.”[38]

The army was changing its tactics against the PKK as well. Convinced that the conflict in the countryside was—at best—stalemating, the army began concentrating its efforts in urban areas, uprooting entire villages deemed sympathetic to the PKK and moving the residents to newly built housing projects in the cities.[39]

During the decade, the PKK suffered numerous setbacks. The First Iraq War gave Kurds in Northern Iraq hope of forming their own state; in order to allay Turkish concerns, the Iraqi-Kurdish leadership pressured Abdullah Öcalan to declare a cease-fire. Öcalan agreed, but reneged after one of his commanders broke ranks and killed thirty-five unarmed Turkish soldiers. This renewed fighting soured the PKK’s relations with the Kurdish leaders in Northen Iraq and, by 1995, the two were fighting one another. The PKK was forced to shift its bases to Syria. The move proved short lived: by threatening Syrian leaders with invasion, the Turkish government forced the PKK out of Syria as well. Öcalan was forced to flee from country to country, until he was ultimately caught in Kenya.[40] Hoping to escape the death penalty by proving himself more useful alive than dead, Öcalan declared a cease-fire and convinced several of his senior commanders turn themselves in. It would take several years for the PKK to recover from this blow.




As part of Özal’s 1992 reforms, Uzun was repatriated to Turkey; Turkish translations of his books became available, and he even began visiting Turkey once again for conferences and book events. But the relaxation of the early 1990s a was hesitant one: Kurdish was still banned in political and official settings— highly subjective distinctions. Politicians speaking in Kurdish at Newroz events were periodically investigated, as was Foreign Minister Ismail Cem, a fervent supporter of Uzun’s work, who stated in 1999 that, “In Turkey, every citizen on every television program should be able to speak his own language.” As one member of the National Action Party (MHP) replied, “If Kurdish television is permitted, tomorrow Kurdish reading and writing in schools will be demanded.”[41]
In 2000, a translation of Uzun’s novel Brightness Like Love, Darkness Like Death was published in Turkish translation.[42] Written partially with the rhythms of an ancient oral epic, the novel tells the story of two people—one, a vicious army officer; the other, a young woman fighting in the mountains with rebels. Like many of Uzun’s novels it is, by his own acknowledgement, grim. Ostensibly allegorical and universal, Turkish authorities saw many parallels with their own country. The book, along with another called Pomegranate Tree, were temporarily pulled from the shelves and Uzun and his publisher Hasan Öztoprak were charged with promoting “divisiveness” and “giving aid and comfort to terrorist organizations.”

At the April trial, Uzun appeared and read a defense stating:

I am not in the service of any state, regime, ideology, political dogma, leader or organization. I am only a literary writer who feels the sorrow and pain of the oppressed and victimized, whose life revolves around literature and who seeks to create humane and literary works out of sorrow and pain. The central idea of my authorship is not ideology or politics but humanism.

My language, style and narration are not political or ideological but literary . . .Throughout my authorship, I have paid absolute care to do everything in an open, democratic and civilized manner. (This is one of the reasons why I came from Sweden to attend the trial.)

I am against every kind of terrorism, totalitarian ideology and anti-democratic implementation . . . The prosecutor turned my novel called “Light Like Love, Dark Like Death,” on which I had reflected for a long time, worked on for three years intensely to choose every word and sentence, and reread a number of times to create a poetic language, an architectonic structure and deep understanding of humanity, into a simple propaganda manuscript for “aiding and abetting a terrorist organization” with the stroke of a brush in a few arbitrary sentences. This is a horrific thing . . .

This novel is totally fictitious, in other words, it is a product of the imagination . . .[Its] time, space, names and adjectives are indefinite. These are left to the reader, the reader can vicariously experience, interpret and feel these events . . .

The novel may have taken place anywhere where violence, terrorism and moral and ethical injustice prevail, and where people are in a straitjacket and desperate . . .I did not have ideological or political concerns in writing this novel. My concern was to tell of the doubts and anxiety of the individual who has been constricted and is desperate in a social and intellectual setting in which violence and fear have petrified him, to describe his/her fears and transformations, to show through literary means the terrible silence and isolation of the individual who has difficulties expressing thoughts and feelings in an environment where numerous totalitarian identities reign absolute, and finally to point to the virtue of tolerance and dialogue through a humane and interesting narrative.

I wrote this novel which is on trial here in Kurdish like my other novels. And the book was published in Kurdish in Istanbul in February 1998. “Light Like Love, Dark Like Death” is the translation of the Kurdish original “Roni mina evine-Tari mina marin e.” One of the ancient languages of Upper Mesopotamia bearing the mark of civilizations, Kurdish is my mother tongue. And Kurdish has been barred as the language of education and broadcasting almost throughout the history of the Turkish Republic. Human beings do not have the freedom to choose their mother language but they nonetheless are responsible for it. I started to write Kurdish novels despite the obstacles, difficulties and prohibitions because of my ethical and moral responsibility rather than an ideological or political motive . . .[I did] what everyone with a conscience should have done.”[43]

Uzun and his publisher were acquitted, but within a year they were charged again; Öztoprak for publishing a book of Uzun’s collected writings; Uzun for an allegedly separatist speech he’d made in Diyarbakır two years earlier—the same speech he had made to the court. Fearing arrest, Uzun did not come to this second trial. In his letter to the court, he reiterated:

As a writer whose dreams come in different languages and who continually lives in different languages, cultures and atmospheres I don’t carry out separatism and even if I wanted to, I couldn’t. My duty is not to be a separatist, but a unifier . . .

Even if I hadn’t been Kurdish, I would say that the Kurds have the right to a language, identity and culture and I would defend this . . .

Everybody who is both Kurdish and a citizen of the Turkish Republic must have free and equal rights for their language, religion and identity . . .Because only thus can a civilized, prosperous and democratic Turkey be achieved . . .Prohibitions and obstacles bring neither individuals nor societies to modernity and civilization. The condition of being modern and civilized is freedom, equality and tolerance . . .”[44]

Again the two men were acquitted. Over the next several years, cultural conditions began to improve.[45] By 2003, major papers had begun to suggest that the letters X, Q, and W should be added to the Turkish alphabet, meaning that parents might now give their children Kurdish names—something the Turkish state had long rejected by arguing that no letters existed in the national language for such names.[46]

Uzun began making more frequent trips to Turkey until, in 2005, he announced he would be leaving Turkey once again. His name had appeared among 250 others on a PKK hit-list.[47] Announcing that the events were “outside” his control, he choose to say no more on the subject, stating simply that, “My novels’ gloomy characters are waiting impatiently for me.”[48]

The event underscores how divisive and threatening a role PKK violence continued to play in Kurdish cultural life. But it also recalls a persistent criticism leveled at Uzun: namely that he had run away while other had stayed behind and suffered.[49] Such accusations were voiced again as other Kurdish intellectuals on the list declared their intention to remain in Turkey.[50]

Within a year, such recriminations became moot when Uzun, discovering he had terminal stomach cancer, decided to return home. He died on November 11, 2007. In life, the comfort from which he had produced his works may have seemed significant; in death, all that mattered was that he had brought such works into the world. His work is what remains.



The following is a translation of Brightness Like Love, Darkness Like Death’s opening chapter. Part of the book’s power—even in the Turkish version I read—comes from the poetic repetitions. Sadly, when translated into English, this technique, comes off somewhat awkwardly. What makes for artful construction in Turkish—long strings of parallel clauses, all sharing a single common verb—comes off as florid. For better and worse, I hope to have captured some of the rhythms of the Turkish translation. Likewise, the subject matter is grim—Uzun manages to use the word “death” more than forty times in following passage alone—but again I think the success of the book lies in his ability to form such horrors into beautifully sculpted beats.

In interviews, Uzun seems quite proud that his work can (and has) been translated from Kurdish into other languages. Though something is lost when any work is translated from one language to another, the fact that his work can be translated serves his larger purpose: demonstrating that Kurdish can express subtle, complex, novelistic ideas in a literary style. Though the words that follow are mine, the ideas are all his and all originally written in a language that the Turkish state had sought to repress for decades. By writing this book and by expressing its ideas in Kurdish, Mehmed Uzun and his publisher nearly went to jail.




Brightness Like Love, Darkness Like Death

By Mehmed Uzun (From the Turkish translation by Muhsin Kızılkaya)



One we will call Hawk; the other, Dove.

Hawk and Dove. Two people, a middle-aged man and a young woman. Our story’s two heroes. Our story will concern itself with their experiences.

Hawk, an officer, forty or forty-one years old. Dove, twenty-one or twenty-two; a girl sitting across from Hawk as their paths come to an end. Hawk and Dove’s relationship began suddenly, against their expectations; it grew amid their despair; and now it is dying from despair .  . .Hawk and Dove, two travelers on a lost road, two prisoners, two lambs to the slaughter . . .

Hawk and Dove are going to die.

We will start their tale with death—their deaths. They will be murdered. Now they are traveling toward death . . .

Hawk knows from experience that they are heading toward death. Dove does not yet know. This is one of the many things she does not know; it is one of the many things she doesn’t want to know.

We are in a large country, one that consists of several smaller countries. The country is surrounded to one side by a brilliant, blue sea; to the other by mountains reaching to the heavens; to the other by an arid desert. We experience the four seasons simultaneously in this large country we will call “Welate Mezin,” or “The Great Country.”

At the start of our story we are in the capital of this large country; now we are together with Hawk and Dove in a black minibus. We are moving. There are only two windows near the roof. The windows are covered in tightly woven fabric. In the minibus, besides Hawk and Dove, there are seven people. Two next to the driver, four are seated across from one another. Hawk and Dove are seated amongst them. They are all dressed in civilian clothes—two have mustaches. Seven people are taking Hawk and Dove toward death.

Dove: sad bird, sad young girl. Tired and sick. Quietly looking forward. Eyes seeking to escape their sockets, neck crooked, face jaundiced and pale. One of her braids dangling in front of her shoulders. Her long, black braids shining like shooting stars in the night. Dove: quiet, totally quiet; like the black soil, like shining stars, like the glowing moon, like a cold grave, like the stones beside a corpse.

Hawk and Dove were arrested a week earlier beside the Great Country’s sea; for a week sleep has not entered their eyes. Hawk’s head hurts; he’s been stricken with a headache. His head throbs like it has been beaten with an axe. Hawk is a prisoner.  However, it is the violent migraine, not the handcuffs binding his wrists that give him pain . . .

They have been captives for a week. They were caught in a small fishing village. In the middle of the night, their hands were bound behind their backs; soldiers forced them into a jeep and brought them to the country’s capital. For a week they have waited in two dark cells. And after a week, their wait has come to an end. Now they are on the road.

Who could have guessed that things would finish like this? Who could have known that, after a thousand and one adventures, their lives would end like this?

“Dove, my little bird,” says Hawk in a soft, cracking, tired, hesitant, pinched voice.

Dove raises her head and looks at Hawk; slowly, softly.

“My Dove!”

Dove moves her lips—dry as the soil that longs for the rains. She wants to smile—to smile in spite of everything.  With passion, with warmth, she wants to give a loving smile. Hawk looks on softly, warmly, hopelessly. They understand each other from their looks; he wants to hide his fears from her. He has never experienced feelings like this in his life; he has never felt emotions like those he feels in the depths of his being today. At no time in his life has he felt helplessness as he feels today. Dove is the cause of it all!

Fate both brilliant and terrible appears before him: a new life in which Dove is the source of life and the cause of death at the same time. And that patient Dove—always patient, all the time, everywhere, in every situation: In her frivolous student years; in the two streams of tears that flowed out of her; in the descent from those lofty mountain peaks in tempests, blizzards, and the smell of death; in the days spent in caves and rocky pits; in sleeping on dark rocks; in staying beneath the fierce sun; in the blood that flowed on mountains and rocks; in the injuries and the falling; in the dark dungeons; in the damp, wet cells wherein life’s entire meaning disappears; in the blind darkness of night; in burying her friends one by one in the evening’s sweet twilight; in the visions of dead friends following her like a shadow; in the smell of death overtaking everything; in needing to run and hide. She’d endured it all. Now too, heading down this road of death, she still bears it all silently. Dove is a fountain that draws patience like water; but death will dry that water.

Hawk can’t contain himself; his eyes grow moist, their corners fill with tears. A few drops roll down from his eyes. With wet eyes he looks at Dove. He tries to smile, but can’t. Only the lightest of smiles crosses his face.

Smiles and tears. Tears accompanying a mournful smile. A few drops rebelling against life’s games, its hopelessness, its unexpected traps.

Shame? No, now Hawk has nothing to be ashamed of. He knows the road they are heading down has no turns. This is a death journey and they are heading into death’s deep valley. All things connected with life fall back: His school years; the happy days he has experienced; the nights he spent making love until morning; the hours filled with pleasure by the touch of naked bodies; the memories of lust that drive one to murder; grudges and hates; feelings of ambition and vengeance; unfathomable hostility; long nights, pitch black and bathed in blood; agonizing screams, enough to drive people deaf; that pleading look that enters into the eyes of people as they are about to die; the bodies riddled with bullets; the feeling of firing in every direction in an unbearable hysteria; the burning heat with which bullets strike people. Everything fades. These are the fading traces of two lonely helpless souls now. All this is nothing more than the passing memories of two lives that have fallen into a wretched situation. Everything falls back. Why feel shame now?

Hawk can’t move. He can’t wipe away the tears that flow from his eyes; he can’t take his hand and push back Dove’s braided hair, which has fallen in front of her face. Hawk and Dove’s hands are tied behind their backs; they are handcuffed to an iron rod where they sit. They look across at each other with wounded stares.

Dove is exhausted. She aches. Days of sleeplessness and the dullness that sleep brings burn at her. The handcuffs squeezing her wrists gnaw at her. The moving bus hurts her. The feelings she senses inside Hawk pain her. She thinks how she is the cause of all these things. If not for her, if not for the burden she’s been for Hawk, if they hadn’t been waiting for those fake documents he’d arranged for her, perhaps none of this would have come to pass. Her head falls.

The minibus continues on, without hurry, gradually, like a hearse. Hawk recalls the sounds he hears; they are passing through the city, along the capital’s streets. He hears car noises. Someone on the street is selling cotton hats. A car stops suddenly, brake sounds and the sounds of pedestrians follow. The sounds of a military anthem rise continually from speakers. All the commotion of a city fills the minibus. Yet, inside, the minibus is silent and tense. They continue . . .

They continue; they cruise straight from the noises of the ancient city to the eerie world of death.

Hawk thinks should he shout? What good would it do? Who would hear his voice? And, were someone to hear, who would come to help? He knows himself and what can be done; nobody can help them. To one side the country is wind-blown and storm broken; to the other, sun-scorched and endless; no one can rescue them. Perhaps if they hadn’t been arrested, but after they had been who could do anything? The death sentence has been signed, now the situation is hopeless. Dove . . .at least Dove might be saved.

He needs a means, a plan. But how?

It is around evening. Outside, to the great capital’s west, the sun is setting over the river which cuts sharply through the city. The evening sun’s weak rays make their way through the minibus’s window coverings. A flicker of light falls on Dove’s hair and face. Hawk looks at Dove’s face illuminated in the light; the thought “like an angel” passes through him. Despite the day’s end, the weather is still stifling hot. The inside of the minibus is hotter than anywhere.

Dove sweats; her armpits, chest, stomach, and between her legs are soaked through with sweat. Her thin undershirt is stuck to her body. A few beads of accumulated sweat roll down her forehead.

City, capital city, ancient city, city though which a golden yellow river flows, Hawk’s city in childhood. He grew up, studied, and married in this city. He chased a ball around in this city; he listened to stories of heroism in this city; he smashed heads during fights in this city; he strolled along the river’s shore; on the lips of a girl slightly taller than himself, he tasted the salty flavor of a kiss in this city; for the first time, his body cooked with the lust of love-making in this city.

He developed great thoughts about the future in this city’s taverns and bars. On this city’s streets, boulevards, narrow streets, riverside promenades, and footpaths—sometimes drunk, sometimes happy, sometimes, gloomy—he wandered. In this city’s outskirts, he ran about in pursuit of loose women; he had rendezvouses. In this city’s grand brothel, he slept with Mader, his ancient friend and eternal companion.

In this city, he was educated with a steel-strong discipline, he came to know himself, and his spirit struck against discipline’s steel chains.  In this city, from morning to evening without stop, he studied military anthems; he swore oaths of allegiance to God, country, nation, state, army, and the state and army’s great leader. To all those things, he shouted, “God Bless!” In this city, the love of the evenings, stars, and moon had caused him pain. In this city, for the first time, he passed through with his uniform and epaulets on. He left his house and family in this city for a long time.

This city was Hawk’s destiny and fate. This city had shaped him. It was the city that, over the long years that followed, in all conditions—in rain, in mud, in snow, in storm, in heat, in cold—at every moment, bit by bit, had made Hawk himself, had made him into a predator who would brave any risk for his prey. Now, on this journey toward death, this city that made Hawk, is silently witnessing his departure. All those things which he has experienced in this city are now a fine, fragile, sad feeling in his heart. An entire life now consists in a feeling.

Dove? Perhaps Dove has a connection to this city? Dove also studied in this city—passed five years studying, gave five years of her youth to this city. She tasted her first love in this city. Then, dissolving into the body of her lover, she discovered new tastes previously unknown; frenzied streams flowed inside her. In this city, for the first time, she made love. She surrendered her body and her spirit to the burning flames of lovemaking. Her lover brought every inch of her body to life with the touch of his fingers— in this city, for the first time, every inch of her body was explored.

In this city, she came to herself; she came to know herself, she adjusted to loneliness in this city, she was chilled by fear in this city. Here, on this city’s boulevards, roads, streets, and sidewalks, while walking under the pale lights of its street lamps, new ideas had taken shape in her head. Until early morning, under a feeble light bulb in a small room of a miserable dorm in this city, she entered into the magical world of books, her horizons broadened and took shape. Those old, traditional values which had shaped her were contrasted with newly encountered values in this city, from this contrast a new synthesis was created. In this city she drew a new route for her life—and this final road she was heading down today, had been chosen with her own hands in this city in those days.

The road is finishing, the road’s end is coming. Two lives that never resembled one another, two human lives brought together by coincidence, are on the verge of concluding.

Now where are they? Where in the great city are they? Hawk listens to the sounds coming from outside. The sound of the evening military anthems starting up is now dominating everything else. From the sound he understands that outside there is a great crowd. The evening rush-hour crowds flow everywhere. The city prepares for evening. The suns light is slowly fading. The light seeping through the windows is about to bid farewell. Hawk knows they are entering the night; these will be the last rays of sun they see.

Perhaps they are passing close by the Officers’ House? Hawk slowly lifts his head and tries to look out through the small window’s fabric. He can see nothing besides the feeble rays of sunlight.

The Officers’ House . . .In a corner of the city’s largest square, surrounded by high walls. Looking at it from outside it looks like a tower in the middle of the city. On every side, soldiers stand sentry . . .In the center of the square, made of black granite and dressed in military attire, face turned to the Officers’ House, the thumb of his right hand extended toward the city, showing the way to the people, is a statue of the president. A formidable figure with his walrus mustache. On his right shoulder is a ferocious bird. The Great President . . .The Great Leader.

How many times in his life did Hawk look with pride on that statue which he will never see again? In that Officers’ House, how many times had he sat, eaten food, and had drinks? How many times had he gotten together with his friends there, and how much had they talked of death and murder, hunters and the hunting, discussed women who had entered their lives. How often had their words danced around concepts like homeland, nation, state, heroism, friendship, brotherhood, enmity, and revenge? How many times, in the fraternity engendered by vodka, had he spoken of such things to his friends? And hadn’t his wedding been held in that magnificent salon?

Hawk could be mistaken, but in all likelihood they were passing in front of the statue now and leaving the Officers’ House behind.

The orphaned children’s dormitory where he grew up comes to mind. If they are near the Officers’ House, that means the orphanage is across the river on the other side of the city.  For a long time Hawk has wanted to visit those dorms; to see once again the place he passed his youth; to bring presents to the children; to eat food with them—to return to his youth. On an evening like this, with the sun preparing to set, he wants to lie out under the great plane tree in the dormitory’s backyard; drift into a deep sleep amid the rustle of its leaves—dream the same innocent, beautiful dreams he had in his childhood. He wants to live his childhood again. But this desire can’t be realized. Now it never will be realized.

What must his wife and kids, who had made life miserable for him, be doing right now in their house across the river? Do his kids know their dad has been arrested? Have they been told he is to be killed by his old friends? How old are they now? The youngest: Two? Three? His older son must be growing up; perhaps he’s sprouted a beard or a mustache. And his little boy who always wanted to sleep in his arms? The last time Hawk saw him at his bedroom door, he had held him tight.

That will be the last time they see each other. This is certain. And what will the children think? They know their father is in the army, a good officer, sworn to protect his country, and carry the heavy responsibility of such important duties. That’s all they know. What their father does, why he never comes home, why they never see him for long stretches—how will his children learn answers to these questions? When they grow up will they follow their father’s traces?  Will they bear being told that he shamed his country? And then what?

His brothel companion Mader—now aging happily—what will she do? Mader, who after violently loving her friends would lull them to sleep—sometimes with military anthems, sometimes with cheap songs; will she learn of what has befallen Hawk?

And those military anthems . . .like the blood flowing in his veins, like the beating of his heart, they had become a part of him. Their steady beats remained in his head. With those anthems he had opened his eyes to the world; he had grown up in the company of those anthems; with them he had discovered himself. However, in a cruel trick of fate, today he is being taken to his death in the company of those anthems. He learned those them in the orphanage. In the dorms, they lulled him to sleep and woke him up. In the years after the orphanage, in the school where he studied, in the military academy that he entered, night to day, all through the year, those anthems which exalted war, praised the nation, and imbued him with honor, pride, and heroism, were never absent. They were a part of his life. He’d stood at attention everywhere in the Great Country—on its borders, on the roofs of its garrisons and state offices, in front of that hallowed, rippling red, white, and green flag—and, without moving a hair, he’d shouted those anthems with as much pride and firmness as he could. With belief, with determination, with enthusiasm, until he almost passed out . . .

Now, faced with the high-pitched shouts of that anthem, Hawk isn’t making a sound. Now neither belief, nor enthusiasm, nor affection remains in his heart. Only a feeling of gloom mixed with an elusive mournfulness remains. Only those feelings that Dove has stirred in him remain. The only thing that remains to face the breath of death and the growing sense of hopelessness inside him is the sound of his own heart beating.

Hawk is still looking at Dove’s face. Everywhere in the minibus is dark.  The traces of light coming through the window have been erased. In this twilight, Dove’s dark skin is revealed.  The braids of hair falling over her shoulders, the tranquil look from her coal-dark eyes, her bow-string eye-lashes, her full lips, her elegant body—all like something from a fairytale. Confused, mournfully, Hawk looks at this young girl seated across from him—this wounded bird—as though in a dream, as though carried away by the waves of some secret sea. Evening’s light-darkness has descended on her dark skin, and this beautiful light has transformed her into a fairytale heroine.

Perhaps sickness and exhaustion aren’t staying with Dove. It seems so to Hawk. He knew before that she was beautiful. But like today? This posture, those looks, this pure beauty . . .Dove is like a red rose opening in a lake of blood. She is a spring that gives Hawk love, calms the fires of his heart, imbues him with hope . . .and brings him troubles and takes him towards death. Dove, a shocked captive, the source of Hawk’s enthusiasm, the reason for his life. And the reason he’s been sentenced to death. Hawk is surprised—what feelings are these? Until now he’s never felt such things, how did it come to be that they are facing this together? Is all this a dream, or the games of love, or death’s jokes? What should he say? What should he do?

“Dove,” says Hawk slowly, “My Dove . . .”

Dove raises her bent head slightly and looks at Hawk with her half-open eyes. “Dove,” he continues to say. That’s it. He can’t go back. What will he say, how will he express himself? No other words come from his mouth. This moment is the moment that words finish. Does the value of words remain in the face of death? Now is the time of feelings; exhaustion, hopelessness, captivity—everything explained through feelings revealed in death’s silence . . .

Hawk thinks: if they hadn’t been captured, if they hadn’t set out on the path of death, Dove might have been a mother. He would have given her a child as beautiful as herself. Amid the fear, escapes, and pursuits of the last months, he thought on this most: that from all this darkness would come a bright-faced child. They would leave this land on whose soil more blood flowed than water. Their home would be in an unknown place, in a far away country, where no one could reach them. Perhaps the child would enter the world in that country. War would be left behind; death, murder, escape, fear and everything connected to life here would be left behind.

There would be new identities; they would find new names for themselves. A new life would be started. Hawk would find a job utterly new and unconnected with the past. After work he would come home. At the door he would encounter the smells of food rising out of the kitchen. In the evening, Dove would be in the bedroom lost in pregnant dreams. He would come up to her and listen to the sounds of the baby in her belly. He would rub her stomach and feel the movements of the child. Hawk would feel happy with the baby in Dove’s belly and his wife’s warmth. He would wake her with a soft, sweet, little kiss. In a new country, in a new life, they would greet each other.

Such a dream was this. In the last moments, dreams like this are frequent.

On the last journey, in the hot evening hours, on the last days, one frequently drifts into such dreams and smiles.

And cries. A few tears gently roll down his cheeks.

No, he shouldn’t cry. Moreover, beside these men with whom he worked until yesterday, he should contain himself. Moreover, next to these men whom he gave commands and supervised until yesterday, he can’t cry. Afterwards they’ll say he was a coward. He shouldn’t let himself go slack. The two of them had knowingly set themselves on this road. They knew death was on this road. Therefore he should accept it with the same tranquility as Dove. Hasn’t he started his relationship with death? Hasn’t this relationship lowered death’s noose? Haven’t they drawn in death’s cold breath? Is fear of death the reason they were running? Hasn’t death been following them like a shadow, hasn’t death entered everywhere? In their lives, does anything else but death and love remain? In that case: Hawk collected himself.

Now he wouldn’t cry, he wouldn’t look with sorrowful eyes, he wouldn’t wrap his face in pale autumn colors. Now he will only think on the experiences of the past months. He will think of those feelings which again connect him to life; weary love; those mournful songs of Dove’s that he’d listened to without understanding a thing; the long nights during which she’d sung those broken songs.

They will be buried—Hawk knows this—and when they’re buried, nature will continue to sing its songs. These songs will be their burial clothes.

Their escort neither talk nor look at them. Hawk knows them. In spite of being his colleagues, these men do not acknowledge them. These hard men have learned from their job to sit like statues and communicate through motionless glances. They know Hawk and Dove. And they know what awaits them. Although Hawk knows that there is no benefit in talking to them, he is looking at them. But speaking to them about the old days, recalling the activities they did together, reminding them of their past displays of heroism is pointless. Begging is also pointless. To appeal to their conscience and their mercy is pointless.

Where are they now? He understands from the muted sounds outside that they have left the city. The pale glow of the minibus light only weakly illuminates the interior. Hawk can’t decide whether to laugh or cry. “Look at this rotten fate,” he thinks. Perhaps this day has been especially selected for death; perhaps, of all the blessed days, this has been selected his destruction. Today . . .It is not random that military anthems have been playing since morning. Today is the anniversary of the state—of the nation’s—great chief seizing power. Unless he is remembering wrong, it was twenty-three years ago. Twenty-three years ago today, a military leader named General Serdar—who we will call “Great Leader”—took control of the army in a coup and won the honor of State Leader.

That enthusiasm-filled, excitement-filled day was like yesterday in Hawk’s mind. In those days he had just become an officer. Early in the morning, General Serdar—with his brother (also a general), two of his sons-in-law who came from different parts of the military, two nephews, a few other family members, and various close comrades from across the ranks of the officer-corps—raided the royal palace with tanks, killed the king and a few of his close advisors, and, upon taking power, declared himself the country’s sole authority. The rationale for this bloody coup was quite simple: it was done to confront the threat that the great country’s land might fracture. Country of the North, Country of the South, Country of the Oceans, Country of the Deserts, Country of the Mountains: the country consisted of such large parts and—in the words of General Serdar and his comrades—it was on the verge of being “lost.” The country’s unity and integrity would come before all else.

Hawk remembered that tremendous, crowded day in full detail—flags hanging from every house window across the country, hands waving, cities moaning under the tracks of tanks, clouds split by jets, every meddling part of the country crushed under soldiers’ boots. That day he had believed in General Serdar with all his heart. He was tied to him with all his heart and soul—perhaps more than the General’s closest family, wife, or children. He was sincere in his feelings—more than the General’s aged father or helpless mother. Hawk was an enforcer, he was a soldier with his mind fixed; he was an officer. For Hawk, General Sedar’s every word and action were a command—a command he would risk death to follow.

Today was the anniversary of General Serdar’s ascent to power.

Today Hawk and Dove are going to be murdered next to the house where General Serdar is growing comfortable old.

Hawk heaves a deep sigh without realizing it. His head falls. For a moment it remains like that that before  he raises it. He wants a cigarette from the burly, muscular, motionless man beside him. The man, without moving, without stirring—as though he senses nothing—makes no reaction.

There’s nothing Hawk can do.

For a long time they continue silently. Nothing can be heard now save the sound of the minibus motor. Dove’s eyes are closed, her braids falling over her shoulders. Her body is bent, perhaps she is lost in sleep, perhaps he has gone to another world. Her pose is like a rehearsal for death. Her face shows no traces: not of pains suffered, not of years of exhaustion, not of sleeplessness, not of irritation, not of fear . . .Hawk takes notice of Dove’s state. “Her head probably hurts like mine,” he sighs, “My head hurts so much, I can’t carry this burden now.”

While Hawk is thinking this, the minibus suddenly stops. Have they arrived at their destination? For a short time they wait. Then the two men sitting beside the driver get out and open the back door. They undo Hawk and Dove’s handcuffs. First Hawk and then Dove are taken from the minibus.

A summer night burns like a flame . . .They are outside the city. No sounds reach them. In the distance, city lights flicker like fireflies . . .Everywhere, an ocean of light. Hawk and Dove, rubbing their hand-cuff-numbed hands, stare at the lights. How the city has swelled. The countless twinkling lights of the city on the face of the earth, millions of twinkling lights in the heavens. The sky is clear, cloudless. In all the sky there are only stars. And the moon like a copper tray, shining among this sea of stars, perhaps managing this riot of colors with the pride of an orchestra conductor. Brightness on the earth, great brightness in the heavens . . . Brightness swirls around Hawk and Dove.

One star streaks through the sky and is lost in the ocean of stars. From the distance, a dog’s howl; from nearby, a frog croaks; insects fly all around. “Dove,” Hawk says, “Look at this bright night. At this night and this cruel fate . . .”

Seven people surround them. Three further back, four sitting around the minibus. They have drawn their guns, they wait at the ready. Their fingers are on the triggers. The smell of asphalt melting in the heat wafts around them; they are on the side of the city’s northern paved road. Hawk knows this road. The river that splits the city in half runs parallel. Hawk looks at the sky, the stars, the moon; then in the distance, the city, its lights; then at the men around him. In his looks there is a slight feeling of pleading, like his eyes are filling, like he’s wishing for mercy. He’s hoping for help, waiting for a miracle, trying to look in the eyes of the executioners. It’s in vain; he doesn’t see a ray of hope in a single eye. It’s hopeless. He tries to collect himself, he turns to the two men standing in front of the minibus, he wants to say something. A miracle—yes, there could be a miracle. “Dove isn’t to blame. She was ready for her fate. I forced her to escape. Let her be. She’s sick. Let her go free. Go.”

His words get no response. Perhaps he has spoken to the black earth, perhaps he has shouted at some lifeless being. Hawk speaks again. As he speaks again his words turn to pleading. But it’s futile; waiting for answers, he hears nothing but the distant howling of dogs and croaking of frogs. Just silence, deathly silence. Death shrouded in silence.

Only the moon and stars will witness the silence of death.

Everything intertwines: sorrow, gloom, desire, hopelessness, amazement, fear of death, hope, everything . . .Hawk can’t contain himself, he starts to cry. Not wanting them to see, he tries to hide it. He can’t manage. He begins to sob. As his eyes empty-out tears, his body starts to shake. He falls to his knees. He feels like an empty sack. Gathering the last strength in his knees, he gets up and looks at his executioners. He stiffens, he stops crying, he doesn’t speak; without moving he looks at them, thinking. It means that death feels like this. It means that every murdered person has feelings like he has now.

Two men come, they handcuff him again and push him before them. Two in front, two behind, they start to walk. They come to a field. A field full of rocks and pebbles. They walk on dried grass. Dove walks a step ahead to Hawk’s left. She walks forward as if she is unaware. With sports shoes on her feet, she steps on unflinchingly. Her long thin dress ripples lightly in the wind. Her turquoise beads and silver necklace jangle. The glow of the moon hits her face, the moonlight licks her face. Dove is a tawny girl—bright as love, dark as death!

Hawk suddenly remembers he hasn’t said, “I love you,” to Dove. Although they have set out on the road of death together—and although he has risked death for her—he realizes he hasn’t yet explained his love to her. Is now the time? “Dove,” he says, “Dove . . .” He can’t bring up the words; nothing else escapes his mouth. “Dove . . .My Dove . . .”

Dove, wetting her dry lips with her tongue, doesn’t give an answer. She looks at Hawk, making do with a sad smile.

Now the river can be seen easily, its sound made out easily. A river flowing golden yellow. The moon’s brilliant white strikes the river’s yellow waters. They head straight toward it, then stop. This time Hawk starts begging with the four men who have brought them here. He begs mercy from them. Crying here, shouting there; taking on a soft tone here, trying to provoke them there; occasionally smiling—trying to effect them with every action that comes to mind. If nothing else, he wants a single word to come from their mouths. All his attempts are wasted. The men are rocks, neither movement nor sound . . .

And Dove? Without paying attention to any of this, Dove is looking silently at the light hitting the river, at the reflection of the stars on the water; the wind catches her face, she takes deep breaths of nature’s scents. These smells are what matter to her at this moment. More than fighting, more than war, more than pain, more than worry, more than expectation, more then fear, more than anything . . .Nature is the mother of everything. Nature is the mother in whose embrace all go to sleep.

At that moment, the quiet of nature is broken by a gunshot. Hawk and Dove look at each other. Hawk? Dove? . . .Dove starts to tremble, her body shaking as though she’s been electrocuted.  Her body grows numb. Her face wrinkles with pain—as if a flame has spread across her face.  Slowly she falls to her knees. She stays like this for a moment, then falls facedown on the dry grass. Smells of grass, smells of soil . . . smells mix with each other, a sour taste presses down on everything. A taste like the apples and pears she nibbled in her childhood village. Her face, nose, and mouth are amid the grass; for a time she breathes. The hum of insects comes to her ears. The flames that had licked her face now spread over her entire body. Within this ball of fire her consciousness is open, she notices everything. She raises her head a little, as if moving closer to the stars. This moonlight, this brilliant illumination, this dream . . .She reaches to the stars, she wants to grab ahold of them. She forces herself to get to her feet. She can’t. Then she remembers her hands are cuffed behind her back. She must make herself, she should stand up, even without her hands she should touch her face to the stars and kiss them with her lips. Her whole body aching from pain, she gets up. Her head, her torso, her whole body swings back and forth. She manages it, she stays upright. She looks at those around her. Hawk is there. She looks at all of them carefully, as if seeing them for the first time. Then she hears Hawk’s calls, “Dove!”

. . .Dove  . . .Yes, Dove is her. She is Dove.

“Dove!” . . .Hawk, held tightly in the arms of two men, shouts as loud as he can. Dove looks at Hawk, a light smile on her lips. A smile? She is uncertain whether or not she is showing a smile through the flames licking her face, but she knows she wants to smile. While she looks at Hawk, she knows she wants to smile.

A second gunshot ring outs. Dove sees a spark flash for an instant. This time, together with the spark, she feels a burning in her neck. A hot fluid pours down her neck. Shaking, for a moment she remains on her feet, then falls backwards onto the ground. Another gunshot follows . . .shattering the peacefulness of nature.

The four men walk away, dragging the wailing Hawk by the handcuffs behind his back. They head straight for the minibus. They leave Dove there, on her back, lying in the grass.

Dove lies there on the arid ground, full of pebbles and prickly, wild grasses, looking up at the moon and the stars. She sees nothing now: she feels nothing

Hawk . . .

Dove . . .

Dove has been killed. As for Hawk, he is being taken to an unknown place. Who are these people? Why has Dove been killed? Why is Hawk going to be killed?

Now we can start our story from the beginning.


[1] Hasan Cemal, “Mehmed Uzun: ‘Ben yasaklı bir dilin yazarıyım…’”, 11/11/12. Accessed: 3/26/13. 

[2] Not including Istanbul.

[3] Hugh Pope, “War and Peace Turn A Kurdish Novelist Into a Cause Celebre—From Shepherds and Princes And Tent-Dwelling Poets, A Language Is Revived,” Wall Street Journal, 5/24/2000, A1

[4] Martin Van Bruinessen, “The Kurds in Turkey, MERIP Reports, No. 121, February 1984, p. 6.

[5] Mesut Yegin, “‘Prospective-Turks’ or ‘Pseudo-Citizens’: Kurds in Turkey,” Middle East Journal, 63(4), Autumn 2009, p. 602.

[6] See Janet Klein’s The Margins of Empire : Kurdish Militias in the Ottoman Tribal Zone (Palto Alto: Stanford University Press, 2011). The book describes the hamidiye, cavalry units of Kurdish tribesmen, led by tribal leaders, created by the Ottomans in the hope of both playing local potentates off against each other and asserting greater control over the region.

[7] Michael Gunter, “The Kurdish Question in Perspective,” World Affairs, No. 166, Vol. 4, Spring 2004, p. 200.

[8] Martin Van Bruinessen, “The Kurds in Turkey, p. 8.

[9] Henri Barkey and Graham Fuller, “Turkey’s Kurdish Question: Critical Turning Points and Missed Opportunities,” Middle East Journal, Vol. 51, No.1, Winter 1997, p. 64.

[10] In 2011 the party theoretically representing Kurdish interests, the BDP, received only 60% of the vote in the Kurdish stronghold of Diyarbakır—the ruling AKP received 30% and, thanks to electoral rules, 55% of the seats in parliament.

[11] Amir Hassanpour, “The Kurdish Experience,” Middle East Report, No. 189, July-August 1994, p. 4. One such leader was Mustafa Barzani, who went on to lead a Kurdish national movement in Iraq that his son—and now his grandson—still head.

[12] Martin Van Bruinessen, “The Kurds in Turkey, p. 8.

[13] Nazım Alpman, “Susurluk Bucaklar’ı böldü,” Milliyet, 1/26/97, Accessed 4/2/13. 

[14] From 453,000 (1955) to 1,209,000 (1970) according to Wikipedia.

[15] After his removal from office, Prime Minister Adnan Menderes claimed that Kurdish notable had been working to organize a rebellion. The accusations led to the arrest and temporary exile of 55 Kurdish notables. Michael Gunter, “The Kurdish Problem in Turkey,” Middle East Journal, Vol. 42, No.3, Summer 1988, p. 391.

[16] Michael Gunter, “The Kurdish Problem in Turkey,” p. 392. Faik Bucak, a lawyer, had been among the 55 Kurdish notables temporarily exiled in 1960. After his return he had worked with others to create underground Kurdish groups that ultimately became the T-KDP. The party was partly inspired by the Kurdish Democracy Party of Iraq founded by Mustafa Barzani and active in Iraq since the late 1950s. Faik Bucak was assassinated in July 1966. (A short biography of Faik Bucak and Ferit Uzun can be found HERE )

[17] “Hearths” (Ocak) is a common term in Turkish political organization naming; it gives the sense of people meeting together.

[18] Nicole Frances Watts, Routes to Ethnic Resistance: Virtual Kurdistan West and the Transformation of Kurdish Politics in Turkey, Unpublished Thesis: University of Washington, 2001, p.125.

[19] Hugh Pope (in “War and Peace Turn A Kurdish Novelist Into a Cause Celebre—From Shepherds and Princes And Tent-Dwelling Poets, A Language Is Revived”) describes it as foot whipping. This method of toture (falaka) is but part of a large repertoire employed by the Turkish state. More are detailed by Amnesty International in documents such as “The Torture of Huseyin Yildirim” MERIP Reports, No. 121, February 1984, pp. 13-14.

[20] Maureen Freely, “The Prison Imaginary in Turkish Literature,” World Literature Today, November 1, 2009, pp. 46-50.

[21] Martin Van Bruinessen, “The Kurds in Turkey, p. 10. It may be indicative of their political leanings that “Rizgari” is a Kurdish word, and “Özgürlük Yölü” Turkish.

[22] Some of the court documents can be seen at Yaşar Karadoğan, “Mehmet Uzun’la son görüşme ve Şerafettin Kaya’nın savunması,” Rizgari, Accessed on 3/20/13. 

[23] Hugh Pope, “War and Peace Turn A Kurdish Novelist Into a Cause Celebre—From Shepherds and Princes And Tent-Dwelling Poets, A Language Is Revived.”

[24] “Promoting a Book, Promoting Literature.” Hurriyet Daily News, 1/30/00. 

[25] Hashem Amadzadeh, “In Search of a Kurdish Novel that Tells Us Who the Kurds Are,” Iranian Studies, 40 (5), 2007, pp. 584-87.

[27] You can read a description of it here: Nilay Erten, Nursem Keskin, Öykü Tümer, and Volkan Yılmaz, “Ezilenin Hikâyesini Anlatmak: Mehmed Uzun “Tu” (1),” Boğaziçi Üniversitesi Edebiyat Kulübü. Accessed 3/30/13. 

[28] Hasan Cemal, “Mehmed Uzun: ‘Ben yasaklı bir dilin yazarıyım…’”

[29] Michael Gunter, “The Kurdish Problem in Turkey,” p. 399. “Article 26 states: ‘No language prohibited by law shall be used in the expression and dissemination of thought. Any written or printed documents, photograph records, magnetic or video tapes, and other media instruments used in contravention of this provision shall be confiscated.’ Article 28 declares, ‘Publications shall not be made in any language prohibited by law.’ . . . Article 57, which stipulates that all political activity must promote ‘the indivisibility of the national homeland’; and Article 89, which provides, in part, that ‘no political party may concern itself with the defense, development, or diffusion of any non-Turkish language or culture; nor may they seek to create minorities within our frontiers or to destroy our national unity.’ In addition, the Turkish Penal Code has been used to stifle manifestations of Kurdish nationalism. Articles 141 and 142,for example, prohibit forming organizations or making propaganda aimed at establishing the ‘domination of a social class over other social classes.’”

[30] Martin Van Bruinessen, “Between Guerrilla Warfare and Political Murder; The Worker’s Party of Kurdistan,” Middle East Report, No. 153, July-August 1988, p. 42

[31] Martin Van Bruinessen, “The Kurds in Turkey, p. 11.

[32] Aliza Marcus, Blood and Belief: The PKK and the Kurdish Fight for Independence, New York: New York University Press, 2007, pp. 45-6.

[33] Philip Robins, “The Overlord State: Turkish Policy and the Kurdish Issue,” International Affairs, 69 (4), October 1993, p. 662. A secondary (?) reason for the re-location of troops to the southeast would have been the Iran-Iraq War.

[34] Aliza Marcus, “Hearts and Minds in Kurdistan,” Middle East Report, No. 163, March-April 1990, p. 42

[35] See Nicole F. Watts, “Allies and Enemies: Pro-Kurdish Parties in Turkish Politics, 1990-94,” International Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, 31(4), November 1999, pp. 631-56.

[36] Clan-membership is not destiny. While several of the Bucak’s were allied with conservative and/or nationalistic parties, others were involved in the Kurdish rights movement of the 1970s. Similarly, Musa Anter was the son of “a small scale agha [landlord].” (Watts, “Routes to Ethnic Resistance,” 102).

[37] Though dealing with more recent events, Halil Karaveli deals with this topic a bit in Reconciling Statism With Freedom: Turkey’s Kurdish Opening (Central Asia-Caucasus Institute & Silk Road Studies Program, 2010, p. 13).

[38] Martin Van Bruinessen, “Turkey’s Death Squads,” Middle East Report, No. 199, April-June 1996, p. 20. The killings were carried out by the Special Teams of the gendarme’s intelligence branch, JİTEM. Operations conducted by Special Teams, village guards, and branches of the intelligence service ultimately became too difficult to keep track of and prone to corruption. A 1997 scandal revealed, for example, that Sedat Bucak had been working with right-wing hit-men and the Turkish police to murder powerful Kurdish Mafiosi and take control of their businesses.

[39] Joost Jongerden, “Villages of Ne Return,” Middle East Report, No.235, Summer 2005, pp. 38-41.

[40] Michael Gunter, “The Kurdish Question in Perspective,” p. 200.

[41] “Cem’in sözleri maksadını aştı,” Hurriyet, 12/19/99.

[42] For a review and summary: A Galip, “Aşka karşı ölüm,” Radikal, 3/8/01. 

[43] Gul Demir, “Acquittal Verdict Handed Down in Mehmet Uzun/Hasan Oztoprak Trials,” Hurriyet Daily News, 4/8/01. 

[45] Causes of this cultural opening include pressure from the EU, contemporaneous developments in Iraq, and the policies of AKP, which, for a number of reasons, sought to weaken the state’s control over group behavior.

[46] Serdar Alyamac, “Despite Turkey’s EU reforms, Kurdish name problem remains,” Hurriyet Daily News, 10/24/02. Accessed on 3/20/13; and Doğan Hizlan, “Türk alfabesi değiştirilemez,” Hurriyet, 11/11/03, Accessed on 3/20/12. 

[47] Doğan Hizlan, “PKK yüzünden Türkiye’yi terk ettim,” Hurriyet, 8/29/05. Accessed on 3/20/12. 

[48] Doğan Hizlan, “‘Bu konuda artık ne konuşacağım ne de tek satır yazacağım,’” Hurriyet, 9/1/05, Accessed on 3/20/13. 

[49] Hugh Pope, “War and Peace Turn A Kurdish Novelist Into a Cause Celebre—From Shepherds and Princes And Tent-Dwelling Poets, A Language Is Revived.”

[50] Gülden Aydin, “Türkiye’den gitmem,” Hurriyet, 9/3/05. Accessed on 3/20/13.