From Yesterday to Today

With Turkish bombs falling on Kurdish cities in Northeast Syria, a young woman from Rojava tells the story of her town and people

About two years ago, a Kurdish woman fighting for her country was interviewed in a video: “When the IS criminals approach, we begin to cheer (with the oriental cry of joy). Then they run away when they hear our voices because if a woman kills them, they think they will go to hell.” Then all our fighters cheer and laugh. “They’re crazy,” said another woman.

How proud and self-confident they looked! Back then, journalists across the world were amazed and reported about them: Young Kurdish heroines fighting against the world’s most cruel terrorist group!

But the heroines who fought and defeated the terrorists only yesterday are today called “terrorists” themselves and are being killed by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, betrayed by US President Donald Trump and abandoned by the EU. They are powerless, as others look on.

The Pains of Rojava

In my hometown in Northeast Syria, as it is now called in the media, or in Rojava, as we Kurds call it, lives a mother whose daughter died in the fighting against ISIS. Just two days after the recent Turkish invasion, when hundreds of ISIS criminals escaped from jail, the mother took to the streets with her daughter’s picture shouting, “What did my daughter die for?”

Right next door lives my grandfather with his understandable wish, after many years of hard work, to spend his last years in dignity in his house. But today, after the first Turkish bombs have fallen on the city, we are trying to figure out how we can force him to flee before the whole house crumbles down on him.

On the roof of her house, my aunt had laid out fig jam to dry and covered it with colorful cloth. She wanted to send me a jar in Berlin. Today, after she had to leave her house, she is disturbed by the mere idea that these “bad people,” would enjoy the delicacies she has made with so much love – and not her family, friends, and neighbors, as it used to be.

There is a boy who lives with his sister in the same neighborhood. They used to play in their garden while their mother cooked their favorite soup. Today, after only a few hours of invasion dubbed “Operation Peace Spring” by the Turkish government, we had to report the first victims in my city. This boy was killed and his sister lost her leg.

A Small Oasis

Not only terrorists and people who fought against terrorists live in that town, but also normal people. Despite the long and brutal war in Syria, the Kurds have managed to create a small oasis of normality there.

People live there who go to work every day, meet friends, fall in love and sometimes even complain about normal things in life, like lack of electricity or bad roads.

And of all places, just there, in this region, Erdogan is trying to build his “safe zone” with bombs and attempts to uproot millions of Kurds who have, against all odds, managed to stay in their country so far, and have not become refugees.

It is unfathomable that in the 21st century, a NATO member state would attack a neighboring country and embark on ethnic cleansing in its territory. And it is even more unfathomable that one of that country’s strongest partners, the mighty EU, is powerless and can be blackmailed into doing nothing.

Today and here in safe Europe, I go to the playground with my child after Kindergarten. I smile at him and wave while he plays, just the way other mothers do.

Then, my three-year-old suddenly stops playing, comes to me and asks: “Mama, are you sad? Do you want to cry?”

Vinda Celebi
Vinda Celebi was born in the Kurdish territories of Syria. After studies in law at the Humboldt University Berlin, she now lives and works in the German capital. She writes in German, Arabic and English.

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