On Thursday, October 11, 2019, people gathered to protest the Turkish invasion of Syria in front of the headquarters of the People’s Democratic Party (HDP) in Diyarbakir, a majority-Kurdish city in southeast Turkey. Chanting, “Long live the Rojava resistance,” the demonstrators — one dressed in a suit, one carrying a student’s backpack — withstood a water cannon aimed at them from a Turkish police tank. In the unrelenting water, some doubled over, some turned away, some embraced each other as shields, but no one moved. Dozens were detained and criminal investigations on charges such as “openly insulting the Turkish government,” “provoking the public to hatred and animosity,” and “carrying out propaganda for a terrorist organization” were launched into more than 70 individuals.

This unrest eerily echos of the 2014 protests against the Islamic State’s advance on the Syrian Kurdish city of Kobanî. In cities such as Suruç, Diyarbakir, and Istanbul, crowds demonstrated in the thousands. Turkey, putting down the protests and barring volunteers or YPG units from crossing the Turkish border into Syria, killed upwards of 30 people, firing tear gas and water cannons indiscriminately.

Then, Kurds in Turkey were protesting Turkish collusion with the Islamic State: foreign fighters en route to the caliphate could travel unimpeded through Turkey and across the Turkish border. Today, Kurds in Turkey are protesting the Turkish invasion of Syria, using forces that are by some accounts up to 75% former Islamic State militants.

Rênas Jiyan, a Kurdish poet, writer, and publisher in Turkey, has served as a voice among these types of protests since the release of Janya, his widely-read debut collection of poems in 1999. In 2002, Turkish authorities in Mardin arrested him alongside 12 others on charges of studying the Kurdish language; all were imprisoned and tortured. Undeterred, Jiyan published his second book, Blood Bank, in 2003 and a third in 2006. On September 30, 2016, he was again arrested and imprisoned by the Turkish authorities, only to be released a week later on October 6. Though Jiyan lives in a country where his mother tongue and solidarity with Kurds across the border are both crimes, he continues to write. Despite the widespread surveillance of social media and the severe repercussions possible, Jiyan published “[come]” on October 9, 2019 – the night the invasion began — and “[we land]” just five days later.

Operation

Hhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh: escape
rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrnnnnnnnnnn: tank treads
ttttttttttttttttttttttttt: Kalashnikov
hwhwhwhwhwhwhwhwhwhwhwhwh: dogs
şşşşşşşşşşşşşşşşşşşşşşşşşşşşşşşşt: silence
ttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttt: Kalashnikov
wwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww: wind
xşxşxşxşxşxşxşxşxşxşxşxşxşxşx: leaves
ttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttt: Kalashnikov
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx: blood
mnmmmmmmmmmmm: moan
************************: sky prince dead

Before You Hang Me

Before you hang me
Talk to me of bright wheat stalks
The wheat stalks whose fate I share
The wheat stalks who, grieving me, will sever the scythe’s blade
With their necks
Before you hang me
Talk to me of the courage, the uprising of the beheaded wheat stalks
And if you have a full magazine, empty it into the air for us
Before you hang me
On my account
Or even with my wife’s gold
Buy me a loaded life with fourteen bullets
Before you hang me
If you’re going to ask for my last wish
As executioners always ask
Here it is, listen:
Go suck my severed foreskin

Before you hang me, open my eyes
I command you: open my eyes
And if you are men, look into them
After you have hung me
With colossal lust, rape my corpse
With the wine and grilled meat
Of my corpse, celebrate your eternal victory
I am poison
So, eat me
And ride your iron horses
Straight to hell

[come]

come
foaming at the mouth
trample each others’ heads
it’s urgent
in any crevice you find a snake
in any cave you find a wild dog
let them out, gather them up
if this is still not enough
raise your false heroes from their graves
let your dead surround you
scream
howl
and come

[we land]

we land at night, ravens
we are rosy starlings, plenty as God’s soil
we are simurghs, immortal
we fill the sky with our wings
we are rings of fire rolling from the mountains
we are mysteries within God’s heart
we will hold you
over history’s glowing coals and escape and escape

Translated from the Kurmanji by Zêdan Xelef and Alana Marie Levinson-LaBrosse