I am still in the south-eastern province of Sirnak, in the village of Gülyazi. Yesterday, I decided to take a bus to Uludere, the biggest town of the district of Uludere, some twenty kilometres away from Gülyazi. Just to take a look around. On the way back, something weird happened, and I had the weirdest talk in the bus.
It started in the main street of Uludere, from where the bus left. There was some sort of fight going on in the street; a group of men were trying to control two other men who were obviously very angry with each other. I recognized one man I had talked to a few hours earlier in the park, as he tried to calm things down a bit. When he walked away, I asked him what had happened. ‘A girl took off’, was all he said.
The bus driver got involved too, so when the bus left some ten minutes later I asked him what the fight was all about. I was on the front seat, and next to him, in between us, was a young woman of maybe just under twenty years of age. The conversation that unfolded didn’t get a serious tone for one second: my conversation partners were giggling and laughing, which felt totally unreal to me.
Me: ‘What was the fight about?’
Driver: ‘A girl ran away.’
Me: ‘I don’t understand, can you explain?’
Driver: ‘Okay, look, imagine you’re in love but your family doesn’t allow it. Then what do you do? You can run away.’
Driver: ‘Yes, together, or the boy takes the girl.’
Me: ‘So what was the fight about then?’
Driver: ‘The two fathers had a fist fight’.
Young woman, laughing: ‘Sometimes they use guns, but this time only fists.’
Me: ‘So there is a problem with their children but they decide not to talk but to fight.’
Driver and young woman laugh very hard, and driver says: ‘Yes, that’s right, they fight.’
Me: ‘So now what’s going to happen?’
Young woman, talking very casually: ‘The girl will be killed.’
Me: ‘Where is she then?’
Young woman, laughing: ‘I don’t know, but they will find her.’
Me: ‘Why does she have to be killed?’
Young woman, in the meantime taking the wrapper off a chocolate ice cream: ‘For honour. You know, honour is the most important thing for us Kurds. So that’s why she has to die.’
Me: ‘How do you feel about that?’
Young woman: ‘How I feel about it? Well, it’s just the way it is, it’s about honour.’
Me: ‘Do girls go voluntarily with the boy, or not?’
Young woman: ‘Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t.’
Me: ‘What’s going to happen to the boy?’
Driver: ‘He will be beaten.’
Me: ‘So he can stay alive?’
Young woman, laughing hard: ‘Yes, but you are right, they should kill the boy, shouldn’t they, I mean, the girl can’t help it that the boy takes her!’
Me: ‘Well, I was actually thinking: don’t kill anybody.’
Driver and young woman look at me puzzled and laugh – that’s a good one indeed, don’t kill anybody.
Me: ‘So, imagine, as a young couple, you want to run away because you don’t get permission to get married. Where do you go?’
Young woman, slowly eating her chocolate ice cream: ‘To a big city. Diyarbakir, Izmir, Istanbul.’
Me: ‘And if you get there and they don’t find you, your escape was successful.’
Young woman: ‘Yes, it sometimes happens.’
Me: ‘And if you don’t succeed, you will die.’
Young woman: ‘Yes.’
Me: ‘So soon there will be a headline in the paper: girl killed by family in Uludere.’
Young woman, laughing: ‘Yes, imagine a big headline: ‘In Uludere a girl..’
Driver takes over: ‘… ate a chocolate ice cream!’
The two laugh very hard at the joke.
Me: ‘And the police, what are they going to do?’
Young woman: ‘Nothing, they can’t stop the killing from happening.’
A few minutes silence. I wonder why the two find this such a funny conversation. The first thing that comes to mind of course that this is a way to deal with such horrors, but that’s a rather Western interpretation. I think they just found it very funny that I, a Western woman, didn’t understand this very fundamental issue and kept asking qustions about it. That these basics need to be explained!
Then the young woman takes her bag and says: ‘Can I show you a picture?’ Now she sounds serious.
She shows a picture of herself and a young man, they were photoshopped into the same picture. She says: ‘He’s dead.’
Me: ‘What happened?’
She: ‘He was killed together with 34 others in the bombing by the army when he was smuggling diesel, at the end of December. Have you heard about that?’
Me: ‘Yes, I know about it. My condolences. Was he your brother?’
She: ‘No, he was my fiancé.’
Me: ‘Oh, how very sad. So you were about to get married? Your dad agreed to your relationship?’
She: ‘I don’t have a father, he died when I was very young, I don’t remember him. But my family gave permission.’
Me: ‘But now he is dead.’
She: ‘Yes, I lose the people who love me.’