In remembrance of Mahir Serhat, who was murdered by the Turkish Air Force on 15 August 2018
Someday in the last few weeks a Turkish delegation of men in suits and uniforms met with an American delegation of men in suits and uniforms. Presumably. There have been negotiations. Presumably. There has been dissent in some points and there has been consent in other points between the representatives of these NATO-members. Presumably. The Turks had several demands, the Americans granted them some because they don´t want the fragile relations between the states to get completely shattered. Presumably. One of Washington´s countless intelligences delivered the coordinates. Presumably. Somewhere in Ankara someone gave the coordinates to the Air Force. Presumably. The Americans, who control Iraq´s air space, have been informed before the drones and jets took off. Presumably.
And now my friend Mahir is dead.
He was wounded during an air raid on 15 August in Yezidi area near the Sengal Mountains. Last week he died of his injuries. Mahir, who has been a fighter in the Kurdish movement for the last 15 years, was not the target in this air raid. The target was Zeki Sengali.
Nonetheless my friend Mahir is dead.
He is one of many thousands of Kurdish men and women, who were murdered by the Turkish state since the 1970´s. One of many thousands who had to die, because they didn´t want to accept a life without dignity and self-determination. One of many thousands, whose heads and torsos were riddled with bullets, were torn to pieces by bombs or were burned in basements. And like all these people Mahir had a story, a life. He had dreams and goals. A very small part of this story is also my story.
Mahir Serhat was my instructor and commander, but he was more than that. He was my friend. In the summer of 2017 I went with another German from Rojava to Sengal. At that time, Mahir was the head of one of the Serwanen Nû, the military schools of the Kurdish movement. I immediately liked Mahir and he liked us Internationalists. He listened to us. We listened to him. We learned from each other (surely we learned more from him than he learned from us).
Mahir was a tough guy in his forties from the Serhat region. Of course he had that typical mustache which adorns Turkish and Kurdish revolutionaries´ faces since the onset of human thought. Mahir was always fooling around. But when it was time to be serious, he was serious. One could talk about everything with him. He could be imperious. But he was imperious, because he liked humans. And because he thought that criticizing others was an act of friendship.
When we were silent and didn’t criticize our comrades during the daily Tekmil, the force´s plenum that is meant to train criticism and self-criticism, his voice got loud: “When none of you has to say anything, none of you learned anything”, he strictly said. “There are only two possibilities: You overcame the habits of the traditional society and make no more mistakes. We can rule that out. Or you do not dare to criticize your comrades, because you are afraid to hurt each other´s feelings. But that makes you bad friends to each other. You are undermining yourselves. Criticism is what you can do for each other. It´s the hand you can reach out to your comrades.”
Different worlds collided. On the one side the Europeans, who grew up with education and never knew what it meant to fight for one´s life on a daily basis. And on the other side Yezidi teens, who often never learned to write and read, who were born into a genocide-ridden society that nearly gave up. And Mahir. The calm, even-tempered, experienced fighter from Serhat, who understood us and the Yezidi teens. And who tried to show us what it meant to be a revolutionary.
One day, while we were cooking, Cihan, the youngest, smallest, weakest one of our squad, began to shoot little birds with his Kevarnok (slingshot). When he showed me one of these birds, I ranted: “You can´t do this!” The tiny animal twitched and tried to get up, but couldn´t make it. “You shall not kill for fun, not even birds”, I explained. “It´s ok when you are hungry. It´s ok when you get attacked. But you mustn´t kill anything when you are solely bored. ” Cihan stared remorsefully at the ground. He grabbed the almost dead bird and held his head beneath the water. Now I pitied Cihan. He was clearly sad because he did what he did. “It´s ok. The bird won´t make it.” Cihan threw the bird on a porch, where it laid in the sun and perished. We decided that this shouldn´t happen again. Cihan seemed to understand. But some hours later my reasoning would be questioned. Heval Qenco, one of our instructors, returned from a tour. A crowd surrounded him, words of appreciation were spoken. The reason: Qenco shot, presumably out of boredom and to show how well he could handle his rifle, a baby owl. A baby owl! The cutest animal one could find in the wasteland that surrounded us. The head with the big eyes hang down on one side, there was a hole in the chest. “Explain the purpose in killing this owl”, I said wrathfully. Qenco had no clue what was going on.
I went to Mahir. Technically, Qenco was my supervisor, but of course he did something wrong. Mahir strongly warned him. We both tried to explain to him, why it was not ok to kill birds. Qenco was goatish and confused. I had to bring the big guns in, so I quoted Öcalan. He still didn´t get it, but the mentioning of Serokatîs worked a bit. He meekly said: “Ok, I´m sorry”, threw the owl into the trash bin and went away.
After Qenco had left, Mahir turned to me. I was expecting to be complimented, because I defended the ecological paradigm. But besides from not complimenting me, Mahir also said, that my mistake in this conflict was even bigger than Qenco´s mistake. “You cannot take a stand in this society as a revolutionary when you do not develop patience and sympathy for the people”, Mahir warned me. “Getting upset never makes a difference. You have to understand why people became like this. And you have to look for ways to teach them. This takes a lot of time. Patience might be the most essential thing you can learn here. ”
When I think of my friend Mahir, I remember many small stories. I remember discussions where we had tea and baklava that lasted for hours. I remember that time he gave us a gym-douche haircut. I remember hugging him several months later, when we returned to Sengal after a mission. Indeed, the most important thing we foreigners learned from our commander was to really love these teens, our comrades.
But my friend Mahir is dead now.
In Washington and Ankara they will shake hands. Another dead terrorist. They will return to their wood-panelled conference-rooms to debate the next compensations for the compensations one needs to define their areas in the Middle East. And of course an American intelligence will give coordinates to the Turkish regime next week. An Israeli drone will take off in Incirlik or a soldier from a special unit in Afrin will load his German rifle. And once again, they will murder someone, who no longer wants to live on his knees. This human being has a name too. This human being has a story too. And there will be other humans, who will miss him.
It will be like this until the executioners get defeated. And this is going to happen, because it has to happen. And it has to happen, because the executioners don’t understand that they can kill a revolutionary but not the revolution. Mahir was one of many thousands of people, who gave other people hope in their lives. And those who are left will never make peace with those, who kill for the purpose of supporting a crumbling system of oppression.
My friend Mahir is not dead.
By Peter Schaber
First published on 2 September 2018 by lowerclassmag.com