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The challenges of a young Kurd in rural Turkey

By Hêvîdar Zana 5/12/2017
Gulistan Perwer, a Kurdish artist, speaks in studio with Rudaw.
Gulistan Perwer, a Kurdish artist, speaks in studio with Rudaw.
Kurdish artist Gulistan Perwer grew up in the Kurdish town of Vankoka in southeastern Turkey. The regular contributor on Rudaw Radio shares the story of her personal, family and life during Saturday’s program. 

Specifically, Perwer speaks of the lack of opportunity for Kurds to receive education in their mother tongue and the difficulties of moving to a larger town where opportunities to attend school require students to know and understand the Turkish language.

Rudaw: What is the name of the village where you were born?

Gulistan Perwer:
Its Kurdish name is Vankoka, which previously belonged to Diyarbakir. But the Republic later annexed it to the city of Urfa in a bid to break down the Kurds. My father owns the village where people are all relatives. There are still no outsiders living in the village.

Tell us about your parents.

My mother is a Sayd [people who are believed to have descended from Prophet Mohammed’s family]. She is from the Nabia Sheikh


  my date of birth was backdated by two years  

Zirav family. My father’s family had seen my mother at a party and decided to suit her for their son. My mother was living in city, but moved to a village.

What was the perception of villagers toward your mother as someone who had come from an urban area?

She had no such problems. My father’s family was proud of her and also proud to suit a lady from a famous family. Rural life was very difficult for my mother. She said that her biggest problem was taking a shower. She often asks that her life be turned into a book or film, and I respond by telling her that life for all Kurdish women living in village was the same.

When were you born?

I was born in 1962. But my date of birth was backdated by two years because the custom at the time was that dates of birth for girls were backdated by two years so they could get married earlier, and those of boys predated so they were called to duty in military at a later time.

Are you the oldest in your family?

No. Nuri is the oldest. He is my elder brother. I also had two other older sisters who died after I was born.

What did your mother tell you about living in the countryside?

She often recounted the 15 years she had spent living at a village, describing the experience as torturous. There were no trees, nor


  She wanted us to go to school to make up for her not  

was there electricity or water in villages. Only wheat, barley and lentil were grown in villages back then. Water resources were an hour away. So, they used donkeys and horses to fetch water.

What was it like for you in the village?

My mother wanted us to leave the village at the earliest possible moment. She wanted us to go to school to make up for her not doing so. I was four-and-a-half or five years old when we went to Viransehir. I remember they brought a camion vehicle and put the luggage there and then we moved to city.

What do you remember about leaving the village?

I remember very well when my mother was telling my father that we were going to city. But my grandmother was against this choice, saying that she didn’t want us to take her son away from her. My mother said she couldn’t bear living there anymore and that she didn’t want to have her children ending up illiterate. She said that she was moving to town and buying a car there. 

What did you initially do when you moved to city?

My grandmother didn’t allow my father to accompany us to city. So he didn’t come. My mother therefore left the village in a bad


  I had never heard of Turkish language, let alone speak it  

mood; she rented a house near my maternal grandfather. My father joined us later. He finally gave in. Initially, my mother went into the city to purchase some household items. I think she sold her jewelry. She then took me to a school and enrolled me.

How was city life?

Yes, it was very difficult in the beginning because my grandmother brought us up. My mother wasn’t in favor of rural life — one is


  I didn’t know what school looked like.   

supposed to give birth once every two years, and my mother couldn’t manage all of us. I asked to be taken back to my grandmother, saying that was not my home. That is why I stayed with my grandmother in the village.

Not knowing the Turkish language, how was your first day of school?

It was even worse during my days because I had come from the village. That is why I didn’t like to be in the city. I wanted to go back to my grandmother in the village. I had never heard of Turkish language, let alone speak it, because there was no electricity, television or radio in the village. 

I remember before my father held my hand and took me to school, my mother took me to the market. Men and women’s shops were


  The kids were laughing at me. I was baffled as though I was dumb.  

segregated back then. The women’s market was in the alley. My mother took me to a shop, and I remember the name of the shopkeeper, Sakina, who was selling textiles. My mother bought me a black robe and a black shiny pair of shoes. I had long hair that I had turned into a lock, and my mother bought me a hair band. My father said he was going to take me to school. But I didn’t know what school looked like. 

One day, they dressed me in those clothes. My father held my hand and took me to school, asking me to enter a class. I opened the door, and saw that the class was full of children sitting on chairs. There was a man with blue eyes and blonde hair standing in front of them. Teachers were all Turkish with blue eyes and blonde hair back then. They all looked like Ataturk. The teacher said ‘gel’, meaning ‘come’ when I opened the door. But I didn’t understand what ‘gel’ meant. I started to cry and the kids laughed. My trauma started then. The teacher then said ‘otur’, but I didn’t get it. The kids were laughing at me. I was baffled as though I was dumb. I remember the bell rang, and the kids started to run. I ran too. 

Our home was near the school. I screamed after I opened the door. “I am not going to school,” I said. My mother later recounted that I had laid down on the ground and put soil on my head, screaming that I wasn’t going to school: “Take me back to the village.” So, they didn’t send me to school that year.


ozan cilingiroglu | 6/12/2017
So, you've been laughed at by little kids in school? Because your parents refused to adapt to the language and laws of the country you lived in? That's what you're complaining about? Try being a minority in Europe. You think you can just live in the mountains away from civilisation and speak your own language at school? No, you adapt, like many other Kurds have and are doing in Turkey every single day.
Outsider | 7/12/2017
...or anybody else who is in an foreign environment... my father owned the village?!?!? What does that mean? Were the other villagers your 'slaves'? a very democratic society...
rastgo | 12/12/2017
My mother is a Sayd [people who are believed to have descended from Prophet Mohammed’s family]. It is interesting that many Kurds claim to be from the so-called Prophet family. This also applies to the Kurds, from whom one expects a Kurdish national consciousness. I would have expected Gulistan to at least correct that the Kurds are unlikely to be of the Prophet's family.
rastgo | 12/12/2017
The Kommetatoren overlook that Gûlistan speaks of the forced assimilation of the Kurds in the racist Republic of Turkey. Gulistan has no objection to up-to-date literacy, but only if it complies with international law.

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