How many funeral stories fit into a minute? – Aylin Kaplan

Veysel Atılgan, Dicle Deli, Şebnem Yurtman and many, many more… In the past couple years, from the Ankara Peace Rally bombing to Suruç and other places, we’ve lost so many comrades, friends, sisters, brothers and spouses in massacres around Turkey. Our response, however, has not been to cower in silence but to spread the word

How many funeral stories can fit into a minute? It’s a question that’s been gnawing at me for quite some time.

Having a cross to bear is not something someone says for nothing.

The images, sounds and fears all remain with me.

Is 9-year-old Veysel not going to show off his ear-to-ear grin anymore? Is Dicle’s hair not going to grow out anymore? How much deeper will Emel’s stare go after she lost a part of her life?

It was a period of time that started with the bombing of an HDP rally in Diyarbakır and continued on with Suruç and Ankara.

To the friends of Uğur (Özkan), who fell in Suruç: How many minutes did it take to carry the coffin of Uğur, your childhood friend, your confidant and your comrade? When Uğur’s friends are carrying their childhood on their shoulders, how many funeral stories can a person fit into that minute?

“There can be no greater nightmare than this,” wrote a friend of Şebnem as she called hospital after hospital following the bombs in Ankara…

How long can you stare at a severed finger?

How many funeral stories fit into a minute, Veysel? As if they could…

Date: 10 October 2015. Place: In front of the Ankara Train Station. Thousands of people have arrived for the Peace Rally. Because of other stuff to do, I didn’t make up my mind about whether to go until the last minute but then got on the bus because I realized that I needed to go, come what may. Later, I thought about it a lot: if I hadn’t gone, how would I have coped with this burden?

In front of the Ankara Train Station on 10 October… When part of the media, you don’t usually attend a rally with a banner, but this time, it was different. Before that day – and even on the way to the Peace Rally – Sendika.Org had been closed three times. Duly, we took our place at the rally with our banner reading “We won’t accept censorship and we won’t bow to the Palace: We’re on the air and we’re on the street.” While horsing around, debating about how we would hold the banner, we entered the cortege behind the other press organizations. You could see from the photograph taken just a few minutes before the bombs how happy we were.

I sent our picture to friends who couldn’t come to the rally; because of high usage in the area, however, the internet wasn’t working and the photograph never went through.

And then that terrible sound just a few moments later… There was a strange quiet and then a sense of hurry – the orderly nature of the hurry perhaps stemming from the instinct of a society that, because it has been forced to learn to live with massacres, took care to avoid a stampede.

There was shock for a few moments as people failed to accept that it might have been a bomb.

But then, a single realization: A suicide attack!

I ran with two friends to the scene, only to be confronted by a sight that stopped me in my tracks… I couldn’t take pictures and I couldn’t help…

I stared at severed fingers and lifeless hands for about as long as anyone could look at them. Just then, the friend next to me woke me up from my daze: “Don’t just stand there; take pictures.”

These days, they’re shuttering our newspapers and TV stations and torturing detainees to silence us. There’s one thing they still don’t get, though: in the last couple of years, we’ve lost so many comrades, friends, sisters, brothers and spouses in massacres. But we haven’t gone to cower silently in the corner; remaining silent would mean not writing and not publishing. In our grief, we could have made for the corner, but we didn’t. Instead, we ran funeral stories minute by minute for all those that we lost. We did it in tears, but we did it. We did it in a sense of revolt, but we did it because everyone needed to see, hear and read. Until the wee hours of the morning, we poured through spine-tingling pictures that can’t be published anywhere in the hopes of catching something and finding evidence for trials in which the state will be in the stand for trying to shirk responsibility.

So, Veysel, we’ve been running funeral stories minute by minute since you departed us – the funeral stories of friends we have lost due to bombs, police bullets and attacks with fire in basements…

For us, the tough thing is not the state’s violence, but the weight of this burden. As we long as we carry that burden, it doesn’t matter that the places, newspapers, channels and internet sites will change… But we give our word that we will not forget what we have seen and witnessed…

It’s a promise.