Village burnings and forced displacement of people in eastern Turkey were common practices in Turkey in the 1990s, connected with state policies around nationalism, identity and security against the Kurdish people during that period.
After years of yearning for their lands, many displaced villagers have now begun to return. Gülizar Taş is one of these, who was displaced when she was only a girl, according to Jin News.
Taş was 14 years old when her family was forced to migrate from Han village in the Qisle district of Dersim, a province of Turkey with Kurdish ethnic and Alevi religious majorities.
The village was evacuated by the Turkish armed forces in 1993, forcing Taş and her family to say goodbye to their home village.
Taş recently returned to her village where she has revived the knowledge of plants she learned from her mother and leads the reconstruction of her village.
“When we first returned, we could not recognise our village. The trees, the rocks, the ground were all burnt to a cinder. But nature sensed our return and began to resurrect from the ashes,” she said.
The ban on entering the village has not been completely lifted yet and every once in a while news blackouts continue to be imposed.
“We women are the protectors of our language, our culture. So do not let your values be destroyed,” Taş said, adressing the role of women in the preservation of culture.
“Despite the hardships, I can say that it is the women who lead the reconstruction of the village. Women take collective responsibilty. We, as women, all work together in solidarity. And through this solidarity, we have managed to turn our village, which was once burned down and destroyed, back into a living space,” she said.
“The state destroyed and burned these places. We have restored our villages again. Now when there is a funeral, people have the village to gather in, and share food and words all together,” she added.
She is determined to live in her village for the rest of her life, because she wants to make up for all those years spent far away from where she always felt she belonged. “We would die rather than leave our lands again. They destroyed our villages, but they could not destroy us. Our mothers died yearning for their lands. We have returned to our villages to preserve their memories,” she said.
“My only wish is for this territory never again to be abandoned but to be protected by the coming generations.”