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My Kurdish Childhood in a Turkish Village

by Nazim (Translated by Richard McKane)

On January 1st 1970 I came into the world unaware of the world's badness, ugliness and beauty. I grew up experiencing the good and the ugly in a village that couldn't be counted as very lucky in a humble family of four children.

Our house was made of half timber, half brick and that's where my childhood started out. But I could never forget that house, it was a humble house for me and my family. It had two rooms made of earth and a roof made of earth and wood. In winter it was very cold and my four brothers and sisters and I slept in the same room, huddled together so as not to get cold and told stories and swung our legs. But despite all this we were a happy family. It was a village without a hospital, without a shop, far from the city and in winter the roads were closed for five months. If, God forbid, you got ill, either the old women would give you medicines or the hoja would read things over you and blow on you and with luck you'd live through it or by God's will you'd swiftly die and be buried.

But spring was incredibly beautiful, nature became festive, the trees and flowers opened out, the meadows turned green. The birds celebrated, the waters swelled and flowed noisily. Children's voices, birdsong and the sound of the trees swayed by the wind mixed together on all sides. But it was a pity that we were not able to experience these beautiful things to the full. I was a Kurdish Alevi child and I couldn't run around with the kids my age, or play with them or talk with them, because mothers or older brothers would come and break up those good childhood games or they'd move away from us and say "Come little one, come brother, these are dirty, bad people, don't play with them." As for me I looked at my childhood's purity and innocence and wondered what was dirty about it and couldn't find anything. Yes, the clothes I wore were a little different, but these clothes were what my ancestors or grandparents wore traditionally.

We had when the children especially enjoyed themselves and were happy. Best clothes were got ready, the traditional clothes our mother had sewn for us like trousers with the elasticated waists. On one of those days our father bought us new rubber shoes made out of tires. I will never forget the good smell by my head. Mother also knitted new wool socks for us. We didn't sleep all night since we were waiting for the holiday morning with excitement and impatience. We got up in the morning and the first thing we did was to go and kiss our parents' hands and wish them a good holiday.

The aim of the holidays was to help the poor and make peace among those who were angry and offended. They were days when the grown-ups and the children should respect and care for each other. This is why we celebrated the holidays. However it never happened like this for us. Some homes didn't even give us sweets. Sometimes the big Turkish kids caught us and grabbed the sweets from our hands that we had gathered with great hope and excitement..

In time you begin to get used to grazing the lambs and even take pleasure in them. They crop the fresh grass. We gave them all different names and it was interesting when we called them by their names and the lambs came up to us bleating: believe me there is no better thing. All your tiredness is taken away especially when you play the shepherd's pipe to them and they listen as you shared your woes and talked to them. And when it's time to go back with the sheepdog, the dear lambs and the sucking lambs, they get into a single line with you calling them behind you as they make their way home to their mothers: this is a wonderful, beautiful thing. And when they come home and there are mothers bleating and they call and run to them for milk: that's another wonderful, beautiful thing. One of the things that amazes me is how among the hundreds of sheep the lambs and mothers find each other.

Of course when I got back I immediately lay down and fell asleep on the mattress my mother had laid out for me. You can't imagine how much I miss all this. This is my childhood life in my village from one to seven years old. It's a life that is difficult to describe.

Thanks to the Medical Foundation and Nazim for allowing this article to be made available here.

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