[This statement was first released on 4 August 2015.]
Legends, myths, and folk tales are full of stories of women banned from burying their dead. In one of the best known, Antigone revolts against the regime that forbids the burial of her brother. How can the state claim a right to ordain by its law rules and restrictions over a much more ancient form of relationality existing long before the state was ever thought of—namely, the bond of brotherhood/sisterhood? What sort of state can take away the right of the dead to be buried, ban this communion of earth and man? What sort of state can sink so low as to usurp the peace and tranquility of the dead, and the right to mourn of those who remain behind? Antigone gives her own life in order to bury her dead. In doing so, she stands up against the authority of the state, with the power of all these very real questions that plague the entirety of civilization. The world never forgets these women who fought for their right to bury. And it damns those who usurped this right.
There are thirty-three dead bodies kept waiting on the borders of Turkey for the past ten days. These are the bodies of YPG/YPJ fighters. Thirteen of them are at the Habur border gate, nine in Derîk, and eleven at the Mürşitpınar gate. For ten days these bodies have been kept from their families. These thirty-three dead bodies are being made to rot in a heat that is scorching our very skins and soul. For ten whole days these bodies have not been able to reach their loved ones. For then whole days these loved ones have not been allowed to mourn; the dead have not convened with the earth. Their rights are being usurped.
And so we ask: what kind of law marks its existence by using the dead? What kind of law proves itself by way of its power to make bodies rot?
The Kurdish people are very familiar with the state’s constant attempt to tame and discipline them over dead bodies and funerals. Their history is full of bodies that weren’t allowed a burial, of loved ones who were made to disappear, who await identification in mass graves, of mothers who were begrudged even one single bone of their children’s bodies, of graves that were bombed and of executions during funerals.
The Kurdish people’s struggle has always been a struggle to give an honorable burial to the dead, as well.
Now we ask you, all the various peoples of Turkey, of this land; we ask you, the state of Turkey; we ask you, civil servants; we ask you, the directorate of religious affairs. We ask you from the bottom of our hearts:
Why have these families been kept waiting for ten days? Why are these young people, already dead and gone, being made to rot at border gates? Why is it too much to allow those who are already in mourning the chance to honorably shed tears during a funeral?
These young people went to defend the lives and land of their neighbors, friends, of the Kurdish people in Syria against ISIL. Now their dead bodies have returned. What is your problem with these dead bodies; what is your problem with us?
We, women, speak out to you: There is no law above love, there is no law above labor. We gave our love to these young people, we put our labor into them. You shall give them to us. We will wash them, we will look at their faces, maybe heat-rotten, for one last time, maybe it is from their clothes that we will recognize them, or their height and size. We will keep a vigil by their side, carry them on our shoulders and have them embrace earth.
Let no one ask us why we rebel. Even though world history is full of tyrants who usurp the right to bury, it is also full of upholders of truth who rebel against this.
We call on all the world, all the peoples of Turkey, all women to be at Habur Border Gate on 6 August 2015 at 10am to put an end to this atrocity and to take the dead bodies.
The Women’s Freedom Assembly
Note: Towards midnight the dead waiting at Habur for ten days were finally let through. We still have those waiting at Derik and Mürşitpınar.
Our collective resolute stand has achieved this.
Our thoughts and feelings remain the same in the face of this historically old atrocious state policy. The state cannot take what is ours. We women will determinedly stand up for peace, freedom, and a democratic political solution through negotiations.