“The anger I’ve been holding back since the morning causes me to lose my temper. “No power can give you orders to sexually harass me! No official can ask you to sexually harass citizens! This is an offence! None of your superiors can have asked you to commit an offence?..” writes Yüksel Genç for Gazete Karınca.
We decide to walk to the Newroz festival field. On the outside red and purple floral traditional dresses, on the inside the joys of children when spring comes…
We glide through the streets with the excitement peculiar to festival children. There is no sign in the air of the light rain from the day before, but it is a little cold. Approaching the field, we see men in traditional dress, and there are more and more women wearing colourful floral dresses too.
Half an hour later we arrive at the police search point. Thousands of people are crowded at the search points… They are crammed together… Strange!.. People come to the festival field from the early hours, and by 11am the search points have always been less busy in the past.
When we arrive at the women’s search point we become aware that people are not moving forward at all. Before we can say, “What’s going on?” we hear an announcement from a police bus standing nearby: “The women’s group, don’t push forward or we will stop the searches and not allow anyone through!”
The women say, “You’re not letting anyone through anyway!” At this point we see police shields and a wire fence between the women and the search cabins. A little later we realise that the curtains of the cabins are hardly opening at all, that a few of them open occasionally but that the others don’t move. The white police van nearby makes announcements unremittingly, sometimes berating.
Suddenly gas bombs are thrown at us, there is smoke everywhere! We’re coughing. There is some panic in the crowd, which contains babies, children and elderly people, but the women calm each other down quickly. At this point a few people pass out… Children and babies are crying… Young people are chanting slogans… I become aware that two thirds of the crowd are young women.
After the gas, suddenly pressurised water is sprayed at the crowd from two points behind us. The weather is cold. The children’s cries increase. The faces of terrified children crying in silence touch me to my core… Then the rubber bullets start. The words of the poet Mehmet Uzun comes to me in that turmoil:
“ve bağırdı annem tam kapıdan çıkarken,
yüreğini ört insanlar soğuk, üşürsün!”
(and my mother cried just as I went out through the door,
cover your heart, the people are cold, you’ll catch a chill!)
We come to ourselves as we calm the crying children, the nervous women, those panicking. Some are saying that the men have broken down their barriers and got through. Some are saying, “They’re doing this to scare us away, we’re not going anywhere”. Someone else says, “They’re trying to wear us down, we won’t be worn down, we’re not leaving here!” And some are trying to provoke the police, saying they’re not going to play their game.
The crowd of people determined and going nowhere increases. At one point we become aware that the crowd behind the search points is at least as big as that in the Newroz festival field.
In the empty area diagonally across from the search points fires are flaring up. People thinking they are not going to be allowed through are lighting their own Newroz fires. Strains of the halay (traditional dance) and stran (traditional songs) can be heard. Our crowd displays its resistance with sporadic slogans and songs. The song sung the most is, “Diren ha Diyarbekir diren…” (Be sure to resist, Diyarbakır, resist!)…
Suddenly we hear the slogans, “That is violence against women! No violence against women!” from the front. Later we learn that the police had tried to push and slap one of the women at the front. The woman had responded.
We keep one eye on the search cabins while we’re trying to calm the crowd and the crying children at the same time. The searches are happening, sporadically, but only one cabin in nine or ten opens, about every 15-20 minutes.
“For God’s sake, what are they doing in those cabins?” I ask. We make a joke out of it: “Have we landed the most incompetent police?” We laugh about it between ourselves. “Maybe they’re on go-slow, if they tell us, we can support their action…”
But really, what was happening in those cabins? Why are they being processed with the speed of a tortoise in hibernation? What are they doing there? Unfortunately we’ll only get the answers to these questions when we enter the cabin! The woman next to me is talking on the phone: “We’re still at the search point… yes… We’re next to this minibus that won’t stop talking…” The announcement of the minibus, “The women’s group…” mixes in with the other sounds.
Our wait, which had started at 11 o’clock, finally came to an end when we reached the search cabins at nearly 2 o’clock.
I passed the barrier of shields, the policewoman who stood before me searched me. Like many other women, I have not even brought a bag with me so that the business of the search wouldn’t be prolonged.
Then I move on to a place like a hut surrounded with canvas. It seems strange. The policewoman there says she will make an ordinary search. I open my arms. After searching my clothing the woman puts her hand on my collar and pulls the collar of my dress down, she is trying to see inside, to see my naked body.
I grab her hand. “what are you doing?” I say. “This is sexual harassment, you’re aware of that, aren’t you? You can’t harass me!.. The policewoman agrees, but says, “these are the orders”.
The anger I’ve been holding back since the morning causes me to lose my temper. “No power can give you orders to sexually harass me! No official can ask you to sexually harass citizens! This is an offence! None of your superiors can have asked you to commit an offence?..” I want to see her superior. A male police officer comes. “You’re right”, he keeps saying.
During that search I feel a moment of rebellion like the lad Kemal Kurkut [shot dead by police earlier on in the Newroz celebrations]. The one who, when a policeman who had already physically searched him said, “How do we know he’s not a suicide bomber?” and tried to lift his T-shirt to see his naked torso, whipped off his T-shirt himself and ran off topless. Before I am able to throw off my anger, I reach a second search point, it is all so inhuman and so immoral!…
I move on to the Newroz festival field. I talk to the women: three out of every five women say they had had their breasts squeezed, had people peer inside their clothing, and some that they had had their skirts lifted and been searched like that. “This is mass sexual harassment,” I say. I recall things done to villagers gathered up into village squares in the 1990s, I recall the prisons.
I say, “You have made us celebrate Newroz as it was in the beginning, you have made yourselves into Dehak [the tyrant] and us into Kawa [the saviour hero], may Allah do to you as only He knows, may He cause you to have done to you what you have done to us.” I am thankful for the maturity and dignity displayed by the people of Amed (Diyarbakır) in the face of all the destructive attitudes and the threat of far worse experiences…
In this way, through the “skill” of the state, millions are forced to resist, and have celebrated the Newroz festival as a festival of resistance. I hope that the time is near when we will be able to celebrate it as a festival of peace… Newroza we Pîroz be! Happy Newroz!