Journey for Resistance and the Footsteps of Time – reflections from the massacre in Serêkaniyê

by Rojbîn Ekîn

Rojbîn Ekîn is a journalist from the middle east, living and working in Rojava. As part of her work she joined the first civilian convoy to head for Serekaniye on the 14th of October- and so was there when the occupying forces targeted and shelled the convoy, killing 11 people and wounding more than 70, including Rojbîn herself.

This is her report and reflection from that day:

Dancing, in these parts, isn’t just a festive ritual, but one of resistance. The caravans that set out for Serêkaniyê are also following in this tradition. As it is said, “Without dance and song, how can you go into the field of battle?”, you enter the dance like a worship.

We are gathered together in the village of Til Juma. It is an Assyrian village of Til Temir. The marks of the war with DAIŞ still remain. At the time of the fighting some of the people have abandoned their village. Some of those who stayed are elderly… Due to the fighting the walls of every house have been peppered with bullets. The village has fallen into ruin. When your eyes look upon it, a deep sense of brokenness comes over you. The homes, tools, and streets are abandoned. Everywhere is silent. As if the village was cloaked in black, deep in mourning. The feeling of abandonment has fallen upon the loneliness of this village. On the one side, with fury, on the other, with agony… And yet, those who are the cause of this scene, savagely carry on with their attacks.

It’s about a 20 minute drive between here and Serêkaniyê. The attacks that began on the 9th of October are still continuing.

The location of our gathering is the village school. Nearly two hundred people are gathered: mothers, fathers, and young women. They reached each other from Dêrik, Qamişlo, Hesekê, traveling to Serêkaniyê in order to support their children, sisters, brothers and relatives, who are fighting against the destruction of DAIŞ. They’re adorned with the colours that mean the most to them– flags of YPG-YPJ, green, red and yellow, and SDF flags…

Just speaking out is resistance

They are furious… We speak at length on a microphone, saying “They would kill all of us, we will not surrender, we will resist. We will stand shoulder to shoulder with our fighters. We will not leave them alone. We will not permit them to calmly walk into this land, which was liberated with the blood of 11 thousand martyrs!” A mother takes the microphone and says, “Even if the whole world turns its back to us, we will be our own defence.”

Everybody knows what is happening, what the topic is. So they have a great political understanding, they are educated and well-read people. They know who is conspiring with whom to erase their lives and their future. The people here understand well the plans of those who set the traps. For the people there is only one truth: that their children and their fights who resist give them hope, and belief.

It has been a long time since they have seen peace and calm in their land. They know this, and peace and calm is their greatest need. They had witnessed many wars, felt every kind of pain, they didn’t want to live through yet more war and pain, but a new war was before them. It was the fifth day of the Turkish state’s attacks of occupation. Assyrian, Kurdish, Armenian and Arab peoples were forced in desperation to leave all their possessions and abandon their homes. Now they are refugees in their own land…

Kurdish ritual…

You know the Kurds, among the peoples of the world, have always put off their mourning for later. Now, too, they will not give in to pain and mourning. Perhaps, to resist, the only way for them is with dancing to the songs of Kurdistan. Because of this, as you might have noticed, in times both joyful and difficult, they rise in dance. Thus, they give voice to their emotions. In these parts, dancing is not just for celebration, but for resistance. The caravan that set out for Serêkaniyê also followed in this tradition. As if saying, “without song and dance, can one go into the field of resistance” like worship, with songs went into dance. The dance that Kurds, Arabs, and Armenians are dancing together…

We set out on a voyage full of danger. We were receiving information of clashes, and it was being published that fighters from the YPG/J and SDF were giving a determined response and stopping the attacks. On the third day of the attacks the Turkish state and their jihadists had said they had taken the city, but that was a lie, the city was stil in the hands of our fighters.

The pressure from the exploiters has reached the sky, and the time has come to fight back

The caravan of hundreds of metres took to the road headed for Serêkaniyê. Even worried as we were about the possibility of something awful happening, it only made the determination to reach Serekaniye even greater. No anxiety or fear was as strong as the joy that was present. We continued… On the way I am trying to register everything I see in my mind; the view, names of villages, people working on the cotton farms… Those with transport who could had taken themselves onto the road as refugees… Fear and force mixed together in their eyes. Their towns had been bombed, their houses destroyed. This was unjustifiable, and done in the most brutal way, and the Kurds had come face to face with hostility. When I looked at them, I saw a cry for help. Help in these hellish days… help against the baseless oppression and deep darkness…

The convoy carried on, to the sound of the song ‘Şervano’

The beautiful melody and words of ‘Şervano’ reach my ears. The final verse… Youth shoulder their weapons with all the beauty of resistance, and march on, bringing a new light of hope, and once again the praying, weeping mothers come to my eyes. A Şervano is one of us, from among us, we know him well and love him. This voice full of power and joy can silence death itself, across a whole city. A Şervano can be the link that brings the ‘city of brotherhood’onto its feet together.

Şervano was written for the courageous fighters who took revenge for us all. For those most special, those shining lights in the eyes of the mothers… For the children of our people who’s hearts were as pure as the stars. We chose them and called them our own. Şervano, a guiding light for our land. I saw that the people believe in them and only them.

We are in the city of unity of Serekaniye

With the flag of the Autonomous Administration and the words “Brotherhood of the people is the base the land is build on” Serekaniye still welcomes you. In this moment I overcame the fears of death in my gut. It was as if the fighting heart of the city itself had told me not to fear.

When the attack on the convoy came… we were in the centre of the city…

We had got out of the caravans, and the ululations of the mothers were coming from the market. Fighters embraced the mothers like they were embracing their land itself. Everyone felt completely as one. The moment we arrived was such that I could not find words to describe it. All I could do was take some pictures.

After, when I was thrown down by the explosion… I was on the floor, with a huge heat and sensation of burning and numbness in my right side. I didn’t know if I was alive or dead. I wonder if that was a time in between life and death… It took me a few seconds to open my eyes. The square in front of me held three bodies, in pieces. Around me nothing moved. There was nothing but a ringing in my ears… I put my hand to my neck, felt that it was wet, then put my hand on my left shin, which I couldn’t feel. It was in one piece. In that moment I told myself, “You’re alive, you have to get up,” and tried to stand. At that time it felt that I was the only witness left alive, so I tried to open the camera on my phone, I had to record the scene. I couldn’t.

A few metres in front of me a mother in a black dress was stretched out on her face. After a moment I realised it was dayika Eqîde. The mother who after the complot of the 9th of October always dressed in black and committed that she would do so until Reber Apo was free…

Hope never abandoned me

I wrote this text in a location where death has become the norm. People’s lives here are not secure, you are always close to life and at the same time close to death, in a strange place between the two.

Before the 9th of October the flag of hope and freedom was flying. In part for the people who live here, and also for those who came and found such a great feeling of freedom being created. Children of this land have fought against the darkest forces and defeated them. It had to be that such great efforts and desires lit up the sky. Their hearts were so big and so pure.

Physical pain and wounds heal with time but there are wounds that never heal. There is no pain like the occupation of your land by the most brutal and oppressive forces. Rojava is now trying to defeat these most brutal forces. In this land no one stays in despair, and you never put your destiny in anyone else’s hands. People who have seen their precious loved ones entrusted to the earth hide their tears in their land. They commit their children to the earth and send them on their way with dancing and ululation. They are still on their feet, proud, defending their hope and always turning to face the freedom they are dreaming of.

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