The Rojava Report

News from the Revolution in Rojava and Wider Kurdistan

“Because I Don’t Know Turkish I Must Wash Dishes”


In an article by Serhat Korkmaz published on Bianet, Kormaz speaks with a Kurdish refugee family from Syria. Below is a translation of the article.

“I was driving a taxi. A bomb went right past me. I was surprised at where I had ended up. we couldn’t stay there any longer. I gave the keys to the boss and we let left Aleppo.”

İdris is 34 years old and a Kurd from Afrin (Kurdish: Efrîn). With these words he is explains how he came to return to the land of his birth when the war began in Aleppo.  He was explaining in his mother-tongue, Kurdish, and a friend of mine was translating for me.

In a shanty district of Ankara where nothing can be seen in the dark we are hearing one of the thousands of stories of war. We are accompanied by a quietly burning stove and children running in and out of the room.

They were going to Afrin…

“We went to Afrin when the fighting broke out between Assad’s forces and the gangs. My father’s family was living there. We stayed there for a while. However the effects of the war going on in Aleppo was also felt in Afrin. For example food was coming from Aleppo, but when the roads to Aleppo were cut nothing could get into Afrin. The electricity was cut. There was no fuel for the stove. We were burning clothes and furniture.”

I asked him why he called those who fought against Assad’s forces “gangs.” He tells me that “they are not trying to make  a revolution. They were doing everything for money. They were looting people’s houses.”

When life got too expensive in Afrin İdris realized that they could not keep staying there. His family left Afrin and came to Ankara. He found a job for himself in Balgat. When he saved up a little money he also brought his family.

Crossing the Border…

I ask if it was difficult to cross the border. İdris’s wife, who doesn’t want to give her name, enters into the conversation, explaining:

“My mother’s brother brought us close to the border by the district of Kırıkhan in the Hatay. It was morning. There were smugglers over there. They were communicating with smugglers on the Turkish side of the border and arranging passage. They were asking for about 20 lira a person. We were nine people. Myself, İdris, our children Mustafa and Selahaddin, my sister, her husband and their children Roni and Rodin and İdris’ brother. We paid and crossed to Kırıkhan. From there we came by bus to Ankara.”

İdris says that the Turkish state made passage easier, and when I ask why they did this he explains:

“They wanted to weaken the Kurdish forces. For that reason it was beneficial for them to receive people from regions where Kurds were living.”

“Because I am a foreigner..”

İdris has been in Ankara for 5 and a half months and is working as a dishwasher. He makes 35 liras a day. Of this 8 liras goes to transportation to and from work. He works seven days a week, twelve hours a day. He explains why his working as a dishwasher:

“Because I don’t know Turkish I must wash dishes. It isn’t good to be too visible. However because I am foreigner they assign me all the tiring, tedious jobs. Can you say anything about it? No. Because you have no choice.”

İdris would very much have wanted to live in the Kurdish provinces like Diyarbakir, Batman, or Mardin however “the need to make a living brought us to Ankara” he says.

One day we will return to our own lands

How do you feel when you are asked questions like “why did you abandon your country without defending your lands” I ask. He tells me “I have a family. I have children. I cannot fıght while I have them. We also paid a heavy price. This is also our country here. There is also the country of the Kurds living in Turkey. Kurdistan is one. Those who tell us this can also go and fight there.”

İdris and his family have gotten residency for a year. “But,” idris says “Our land is there, and one day we will return.”İdris’s wife was a teacher in Aleppo. “Before the war came to Aleppo” he tells us, “everything was really great.”

“We had a car and a house. At night we could go out like men. We were free. Electricity, water, in short everything was very cheap. We had a diesel heater in our home. We had no problem with heat. Here we chop wood every morning. (Laughing)

“In my our homeland we were buying a new pair of clothes every month. Here it is very difficult. Because everything is very expensive. I feel like I have been living here for ten years. (Again laughing)

“Mustafa was only 25 days old…”

I ask him how he felt when the war was beginning. “Your house is destroyed, your job is taken from you. How does one feel when they lose all of this” he says.

Those in Aleppo who did not have the means could not flee and were forced to stay in tiny houses with tens of people, he explains. “The people in those houses feel the war the most.”

When they crossed the border with young children Mustafa was only 25 days old. He took his name from his grandfather who died of a heart attack as the war was starting. “I had just given birth, I was sick. But we needed to.”

İdris’ wife does not work. They are staying in the same house with her sister and her family with whom they crossed together. Her nephews Roni and Rodin are off school age. However they are not going to school.

“Everyone is fighting with each other..”

İdris’ wife continues to explain.

“I do not know what will happen tomorrow, I cannot make a plan for the future. Mostly I am thinking about the children. They do not go out of the house much. For whatever reason the children in the neighborhood stay away from our children.”

I ask how they get along with their neighbors. “There are two other families from Syria in our neighborhood. We see them. Our landlord is also a very kind person,” she says.

İdris’ wife thinks that the war will never end. According to her there are not two sides. “Everyone is fighting with each other.”

When we finish our conversation the TV series “Remember My Love” is beginning on an Arab channel. The children continue to run in and out of the room. The stove is getting quieter as it burns down. We get up. As we are leaving I look back once more at the shanty towns. They really do become invisible at night.

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This entry was posted on November 26, 2013 by in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , .

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