Before the black flag of Islamic State (IS) flew over Mosul, the “red scarf of socialism” was dangled in public space as a forbidden banner in Turkey.
Ayse Deniz Karacagil, a Turkish woman fresh out of high school had worn it around her neck at Gezi Park protests in 2013.
The attractive blond had irreverently chanted:
Police: don’t just dillydally [there]
Can’t you serve us some tea [here]!
Turkish police, ordinarily humorless, had let Ms. Karacagil and her friends bask in the revelry, for a while at least, but filmed them just in case.
And when Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan ordered the protestors out of the park, police began brandishing whatever was in their arsenal—killing eleven, injuring thousands and blinding a dozen or more.
Mr. Erdogan’s officers needed no help for the violent slaughter, but some machete-wielding thugs dashed in anyway, adding to the trail of blood in their wake.
Ms. Karacagil was arrested and transferred to Antalya, her hometown, and released after a few days of “psychological” torture.
Thinking that her brush with authorities was over, she applied to medical school in Tbilisi, Georgia.
But on October 2, 2013, she was arrested again—while minding her own business at a bus stop.
At the police station, she was accused of “damaging public property, resisting officers of the court, violating demonstration rules, and membership in a terrorist organization.”
The last charge was new and news to her, but she didn’t have to wait long to find out the reason for it.
Her indictment proclaimed that wearing a red scarf meant “socialism and terrorism” together.
If such idiocy was tried in any other country, thousands of women would be arrested daily!
Despite the absurdity, Ms. Karacagil was promptly imprisoned.
Her warden then decided she was having too much “fun” with the media coverage and visitors—and shipped her to another prison 100 miles away.
There, she was thrown into a room with thirteen “convicted” Kurdish women, all serving life sentences for being PKK members.
As an “exiled” person, she was denied bedding and began shivering in the cold of the night till a Kurdish inmate, Serhildan, cut her blanket in half and tenderly nursed her to sleep.
The gesture “warmed my heart,” she would later confide to her mom, adding: I heard the “outcry” of Kurdish people in the stories of these Kurdish women.
Ms. Karacagil languished more than four months in prison before seeing a judge. The prosecutor repeated the same charges and demanded 98 years behind bars!
Fortunately, the judge pitied the young woman. He released her on her own recognizance and ordered her back in court on June 12, 2014.
She never went back.
She “went to the mountains” instead.
That means she took up arms against the enemies of Kurds by joining their fighting units.
She did so on May 20, 2014, her mom’s birthday.
In a letter to her, she expressed alarm over the fate of Kurds in Rojava, meaning Syrian Kurdistan, and wondered about the existential threat confronting them.
What do you, the reader, make of this brave Turkish woman who is now apparently fighting the fanatics of Islamic State in Kobane to safeguard a part of our tortured Kurdish homeland?
Who will win?
The “Red Scarf” of Socialism?
Or the “Black Flag” of Islam?
When they faced each other in the war field called Afghanistan, with a bit of help from the West, the second triumphed over the first.
Will the West rise above the “principle” and help the Kurds to reverse the score, at least in Rojava?
Going back to Ms. Karacagil, I don’t need to be a cynic to note, this is, perhaps, pay back time, we sent thousands of our own Kurdish fighters to Gallipoli to save Turkey’s ass for the sake of Islam.
But there is more to Ms. Karacagil’s decision to rush to Kobane’s aid, for in the same letter, she also says, “We must tear down the invisible walls” between Turks and Kurds in the name of Socialism.
I am afraid it is the absence of those walls, or fences, or border that has led to the domination of Turks over the Kurds.
The same in Iraq gave us Halabja.
Back in Istanbul, the police caught one of the machete-wielding thugs, Sabri Celen, who, gleefully I suspect, slashed the butt of a Turkish woman.
While Ms. Karacagil was considered for a sentence of 98 years, this deranged individual was sentenced to 225 days in jail, which was converted to a fine of 9000 Turkish liras.
While these two examples showcase the arbitrariness of Turkish “justice,” something else stands out in the story of Ms. Karacagil if you are an observer of the West.
There is an eerie similarity between the deeds of Saint Martin of Tours in France (316-397 AD) and the Kurdish woman prisoner, Serhildan, who kindly divided her paltry bedding with Ms. Karacagil.
Martin, a reluctant Christian soldier, came across a shivering beggar in freezing cold and halved his cloak to protect him.
On the night of this deed, he saw Jesus in his dream and noted: the half cloak he had given the scantily clad man was covering him!
The Church honored him for his selfless act and canonized him as a saint.
Sadly, no such honor has been bestowed on Serhildan, a Kurdish saint in her own right.
She still rots away in prison.
Her “crime:” she made the “mistake” of coming to this world as a Kurd.
You probably want to scream here, don’t you?
Or, sing it the way David did in Psalm 13: 1-2:
How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I take counsel in my soul
and have sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?
I hope and pray not long!