I am in London’s Hyde Park. Children are playing. Children here grow up as children, knowing what childhood means. I have been in London for three months, to participate in a programme at the PEN writer’s association. The programme ends this week and 10 days I will be back in my homeland.
Or I may not be, to be honest I am not sure. My lawyer tells me that I will most likely be arrested at Istanbul Airport. One month after I arrived here, my home in Diyarbakır, in the southeast of Turkey, was raided. I still do not know the legal justification for the raid, which was carried out by around 40 masked special operations team members. Although two months have passed, the Diyarbakır Chief Prosecutor’s Office has still not received any file. My house was raided and damaged, clearly with the intention of scaring my children, the justification given at the time was my social media posts, but there is still no warrant. You can imagine how the past two months have been for me, since the raid. Friends have called and told me not to return home, human rights organisations around the world have advised me to not return … For two months, the phrase I have heard most often is “do not return”.
I have repeatedly explained why this is not an option for me. The issue is not just my children, because at the expense of upending their lives, they could of course come to the country where I am now. But I do not want to give up my homeland, my loved ones, my friends, or my people. I want my children to grow up knowing their homeland, their own people. I want my most fundamental human right; a free and equal life in the place I was born. I want to live in my homeland, and wage my struggle there. We are diminished with every departure, and along with each person who leaves, a small part of us breaks off. Leaving will never be an option for me. Even if it leads to jail, I will continue to wage my struggle in my own homeland.
The most difficult part of making this decision is of course my children. There is a constant back-and-forth in my mind and my heart between feelings of guilt for them, and feelings of responsibility to fight for my beliefs and my people’s rights. I hope they will understand me one day.
As I watch the kids playing in Hyde Park, I think of my youngest son, who was held by his hair and dragged out of bed by a masked special operations team member in the latest raid. I think of how their father was forced to the ground with a gun to his head, right in front of their eyes. I think of Filiz Buluttekin, my friend of 20 years and the co-mayor of Diyarbakır’s central Sur district, whose 10-year-old son had a gun put to his head as his mother was arrested.
I watch the kids in Hyde Park, and I cannot stop thinking about how our kids’ lives could have been different. I watch the kids in Hyde Park, and the fear of never reuniting with my children gives me a lump in my throat. Tears start to fall. I think of my grandmother’s childhood, dominated by massacres, then my mother’s, then my own childhood and now my children’s childhood.
I watch the kids in Hyde Park. They run after geese along the lake. I sigh. The kids are playing so nicely. Uğur Kaymaz, who was murdered at the age of 12, pops into my head, as does 10-year-old Helin who was murdered in Sur, as does Cemile, who was 13. For the past three months, everywhere I look in London, regardless of how beautiful the sight in front of me may be, I always think of my homeland. I think of my destroyed, no longer existent home, of the ruins of Sur.
With tears in my eyes, I feel anger rising inside me again. Once again I tell myself that as they write history, we will write a counter history. Since they do not know anything other than destroying life, we will live full lives. We will celebrate our weddings, dance our dances, raise our children, stand shoulder-to-shoulder and resist oppression. We will use the ruins of Sur to build hope. We will revive our home, and doves will fly again in the sky. Our children’s children at least will play alongside the River Tigris. Kurdish children will experience childhood.
On those streets where I grew up
On those streets where I would spread my arms in alleys and lean against walls of basalt
On those streets where, when my hands could reach the walls, I would cry, “I’m all grown up”
Our children will play happily one day
Our children and our hope will persist.
*Nurcan Baysal returned to Diyarbakır on Jan. 6, but was not detained at the airport. She does not know if there will be any charges against her as a result of the raid on her home in September. She continues to live in Diyarbakır.