Jiyan's laughter

We were detained in a dawn raid; it was not yet light. At the police station I was asked, "Where is Esma?" I had never heard the name Esma before, because I only knew her as Jiyan.

Any attempt to describe Jiyan with her path, her life and her guerrilla practice is insufficient. I still don't know if I can explain it to some extent, but since I believe such an article should be written, I will try. Jiyan means life and Jiyan knew life. She knew how to live properly, and she linked her life to the destiny of her country. She organised, pointed the way and bequeathed a great life.

In today's reality of Kurdistan, it is pointless to say: "We are just living, we are living for nothing." All over Kurdistan, in Rojhilat, Başûr, Rojava and Bakur, young bodies are falling to the ground, leaving a legacy of resistance. I want to remember Jiyan, who left us a life of resistance. I knew her. We studied together, grew up together, ate together, walked together. It is difficult for me to write. She fought until her last breath and the desire to fight alongside her against the enemy outweighs life. She should have written about me, not me about her, if she had wanted to. I feel the same way about many companions. With Jiyan it is particularly difficult. I can only deal with it by accepting the legacy of resistance she left behind with open arms.

Jiyan Amargî (Esma Avşar) was born in Cizre to a family that belonged to the Didêrî tribe and whose roots were the Koçer (nomads) in the Botan region. In the course of the genocidal attacks by the Turkish occupation forces, however, the family emigrated and settled in Batman. There Jiyan grew up as the daughter of a nomadic tribe from Botan. In a way, she came to know life in Batman and found meaning in it. Jiyan grew up struggling in Batman, in a patriotic family environment and in such a neighbourhood. Her family gave her the name Jiyan at birth, but in those years the Kurdish language was banned in the Republic of Turkey. So the name Esma was registered in the population register. Nevertheless, her family always called her Jiyan. Jiyan only sometimes became Esma on official occasions and when the teachers at school called her Esma.


We were detained in a dawn raid. It was not yet light. At the police station I was asked, "Where is Esma?" I had never heard the name Esma before, because I only ever knew her as Jiyan. The policemen shouted and yelled. I wondered who this Esma was because the enemy specifically asked for her. Jiyan was already a guerrilla fighter in the free mountains at that time. It turned out that Esma was really Jiyan. So the beatings we received for not knowing the name the enemy had given our friend were in vain. I returned curious, and after reading the transcript, I realised that Esma was Jiyan.

Jiyan was one of the few women I met during my life who questioned the system and fought against it with her struggle. Her ability to see contradictions was at the forefront. She was able to understand and analyse the situation people were in after a few impressions. She could foresee her life and knew where she came from, where she had been and where she was going. She simply lived. Jiyan loved people and her comrades very much.


In Mesopotamia, unprecedented heroic deeds were done. While expressing these heroic deeds, some Dengbêj are as fervent as if they had the duty to carry these epics to the peoples and to history. [Dengbêj singing is the most important part of traditional Kurdish musical culture. This name is given to singers who render poems, epics and historical events of oral Kurdish literature in the form of songs. The word is derived from deng (voice) and bêj (to say, to speak). For the Kurdish people, oral literature is considered the autobiography of society, so dengbêj are also considered historians]. These Dengbêj know that the continuation of these heroic deeds into the future depends on their effective words and the memorability of their voices. For this reason, they sing as if they put their whole heart and soul into it. Jiyan's voice has also stuck in my mind. She loved to sing. Her voice sounded in a tone that engraved pain and sorrow in the heart. Her voice made you feel sad, but more often you wanted to get up and go.


Jiyan had a resistant personality. She was aware of her Kurdish and female identity and fought against denial and oppression wherever she was. She took a leading role within the organised youth work at our university. In 2013 and 2014, many of us were subjected to fascist attacks, and the attackers were supported by the police. Jiyan did not accept this and was the one who organised the resistance. For this reason, she was pursued by the enemy and constantly watched. Hundreds of police stormed the university and started arresting patriotic Kurdish students. Together with 50 male friends, Jiyan was held under torture for days. In detention, she was the one who gave morale to the others and said that the resistance must continue in front of the enemy. After the interrogations, they were all released, Jiyan being the last. She resisted the enemy's special methods of psychological warfare.


It was a cool evening in March 2014. The stars were just beginning to appear in the sky. The air was getting colder as darkness fell. We met in a house where comrades were gathering. I noticed the sadness in some faces as I entered. If there had been an occasion for sadness, Jiyan would have been the saddest, but that evening she was the most cheerful. I soon realised that I was witnessing an interesting moment: Jiyan was very excited, in a good mood and was constantly giving strength to her companions. She was also sharing some of her memories. She shared some of her memories with us. Soon I realised that we were experiencing a night of separation: Jiyan left us and went to freedom. We looked at her, trying to capture the freedom in her gaze, watching her smiling eyes as she talked. It was time to go. Jiyan was leaving the city by train. We hugged one last time. One did not want to let her go, one wanted to follow her.

When Jiyan was on her way to the station with her friend, she walked with confident steps and waved her hair confidently as if all the stars had decorated the sky for her that night. After the train had left, she stuck her head out of the window, made a victory sign and was on her way to the free mountains. When she was gone, I was very happy. That day, I promised to follow her one day.


Shortly after Jiyan left, the media spread the news that 53 students had joined the guerrillas. We immediately ran to see who was there and who was not. At that time, an organised situation had developed at the university in response to the Erdogan government's sabotage of negotiations with Abdullah Öcalan. In the course of this development, Jiyan also joined. A statement was read out on the news. Jiyan stood at the front in guerrilla clothing with her head held high. She looked determined, as if she wanted to give strength to the people. At that moment, she triggered indescribable feelings in us. The friends we were with a few nights ago were now appearing before the world as guerrillas.


Laughter is sometimes called a revolutionary action, sometimes an ideological phenomenon, sometimes a political response. Although everyone looks at it from their own perspective and emotional world, the fact is that laughter suits the guerrilla best. When the guerrillas laugh, it is as if nature and life meet. You can also find life in Jiyan's smile. She laughs like that; her features take such a shape that she paints life on her face.


For Jiyan, it was out of the question to live as a woman the way the Turkish occupation forces wanted her to. She did not want to live in a society shaped by colonialism and she could not close her eyes to the fact that her country was occupied. The longing for freedom was decisive for her. She was moderate in life and knew what she wanted and had to say. She was concise, simple and sincere. Her level of consciousness was higher than most around her. She researched, read, filtered the information in her own emotional world, came to a conclusion on that basis and tried to live and defend it. In doing so, she was never rude or hurtful, but sought to explain and understand. With her fearless, firm and courageous attitude, she advocated that freedom is to be found in the mountains, in the guerrillas.


I think I knew Jiyan a little. I had a feeling that one day she would go to Bakur, and her departure did not surprise me. With her single-minded and determined attitude, she overcame one obstacle after another in the guerrilla ranks and made her way to Botan under her own steam. Jiyan was devoted to her country. This devotion is due to a conscious sense of love for the land. After years of practice in Garê, Avaşîn, Zap and finally Heftanîn, her departure was an understandable consequence. Jiyan was from Botan and somewhere in the depths of her heart she had made the decision to go there. In her life, she pursued her goals with determination and courage and never felt like giving up one day. Botan was for the beginning and for eternity.


I have not yet got used to the idea that Jiyan has fallen. I continue to live with her. Jiyan was a guerrilla fighter and a media worker in the mountains in many fields. She told about the events and her experiences in front of the camera. Sometimes she laughs, and without realising it, you laugh with her. Then you look at her photos; they give you the feeling of seeing a place of fire. Just as she showed us with her life how to be brave, determined, resolute and resilient, she now wants us to follow in her footsteps and stand by her side. Jiyan has left us Jiyan. We got to know Jiyan.