Once, a Nestorian from the Duhok region came to the village of Peyanis in Hakkari. This man, who travelled hundreds of kilometres, asked for sheep to buy. He said “I will bring your money at the beginning of September”; we asked for a guarantee. The man pulled a hair strand from his moustache!
Every tribe likens what it produces. And the Nestorians were as lush and generous as their crops, as soft, thin, and strong as the fabrics they wove. Our beloved shawls, headdresses and garbs once belonged to them. I cannot say more than that…
(As spoken by an elderly Kurdish sage who witnesaed the Nestorian massacre)
Our most trusted friends were the Nestorians. They were outspoken and brave people. The southern border did not exist at that time. Some of us wouldn’t eat the animal they slaughtered, but we could never say no to the fruits and vegetables they served us with their hands. We were like brothers with them. Melîkê Tiyarê (Patriarch) even resolved disagreements between us Kurds. We could easily entrust them our valuables and even our children. Then, one day a “fatwa” was issued! “Cut your neighbours”; they said that the gates of heaven will open up to you! Blood flowed for days!
The Nestorians buried a wine barrel for every boy born. At that child’s wedding, the keg was dug up and the wine, under cheerful and loud halays, was served to the wedding guests. When the Çukurca road was opened in the 1960s, bulldozers smashed hundreds of those kegs buried under the ground; all along the valley it smelled of wine. This time, the lands once red from blood turned into the red of wine; It burned me up from inside. Because a long time ago, someone had slaughtered the guests, bride and grooms who had drunk from that wine!
Once, a Nestorian from the Duhok region came to our village of Peyanis in Hakkari. This man, who travelled hundreds of kilometres, asked for sheep to buy. He said “I will bring your money at the beginning of September”; we asked for a guarantee. The man pulled a hair strand from his moustache! “Keep my trust well” he said.
Indeed, when he came in September and gave us the money he owed, he said “I brought you your trust; now give me back my trust.”
My father gave back the hair strand of his moustache. It was wrapped inside a handkerchief knitted by Nestorians. I was amazed how a simple given hair strand could be so binding. When I asked my father, he said, “They never lie.”
When they still lived here, they would not pass through orchards. An elderly Assyrian once came on horseback from the south to Oramar and from there he rode the plain of Gever. “Before I die in exile, I want to breathe the air of my home ground and drink water from the Cîlo wells for the last time,” he told his children.
While he was on his way here, he covered his face and looked down all the way, without stopping his horse. “Why are you bowing your head?” we asked. He said that he was blind and did not want tree branches to hit him. However, after the Nestorians went into exile, not a single tree was left, and the man was going straight on the open plain…
Once there was a feud between one of our Kurdish tribes and the Nestorians. We killed one of their leaders and laid his corpse on the edge of the river Zap. In revenge, they shot one of our tribesmen and put him in a bush and covered him… We asked why they did this while we are negotiating peace! One of the priests said: Even during war, not all the doors of peace are closed; leaving the door ajar is a must for both parties! They held back not to fight us! But a fatwa was issued; someone was telling us “cut your brothers”!
When sheikh Ubeydullah called upon Bedirxan Bey’s for help, the church in Koçanis was besieged and almost entirely destroyed. A priest supplied an edict on parchment paper containing the protection of the Nestorians, and a very well-crafted sword. The edict had Hz. Mohammed’s signature, and the sword was His sword. Bedirxan Bey said, “Let Ubeydullah’s house be destroyed; I wish you had demolished Birca Belek instead of demolishing this church.” That sword is still hidden in the house of one of the tribal leaders of Çukurca. Later, Simkoyê Şikakî murdered the Patriarch Mar Shimun; Bedirxan Bey and Nurullah Bey died in exile; After the massacre, the Nestorians were expelled from their homeland; the Ottoman Empire had won!…
Sürme Hanim was the sister of the Nestorian Patriarch Mar Shimun. Before she passed away in the U.S. in 1975, she wrote down her memoirs in the book “The Memory of Nineveh”; “Yes, our brothers the Kurds were fooled and fought against us; nevertheless, the Kurds were also the ones who supported us most during that horrible massacre” she said.
The sense of deep regret in the memory of the Kurd is still fresh as testified in the narratives of the Behdînan elders; i.e. the Assyrians are the bloody collective memory of the Kurds. As a respected uncle from the village of Tiyar, whose village was burned in 1993, said: “The repression which has fallen on our heads today, is the curse of our neighbours whose churches we have turned into stables…”
There are two tribes who have been mourning ever since, in the days of massacre and exile, a Nestorian mother cried and said, while she looked back for the last time from the Tûxûbê border, “ne bi xatirê we birano” (This is not goodbye brothers).
This beautiful people, whose Naqusas were silenced, and whose lights once lit up the churches at night, travelled with candles in their hands and visited the peoples of Mesopotamia, saluting and greeting the peoples of Mesopotamia by saying “Let the resurrection, life and good tidings be upon you”.
The day has come, as if we knew beforehand that these lands would be resurrected in one of the most barren times in history, that the brothers who broke them would again invite their brothers to a new partnership of brotherhood.
With a wise silence and a deep sense of historical regret…
By Selahaddin Biyanî
Originally published in Turkish on 14 June 2017 by KRD news. The original Turkish article can be found Here