Ayşe Gökkan speaks from ground zero

Ayşe Gökkan speaks from ground zero

PINAR ÖĞÜNÇ pinar.ogunc@radikal.com.tr
On a day that headscarf-wearing deputies entered Parliament for the first time and female deputies from various political parties took the floor, I was talking to the female mayor of Nusaybin of the southeastern province of Mardin, Ayşe Gökkan, by phone.

No, she did not pick up her ringing phone in her office at the municipality building or on the streets of Nusaybin. She was at the spot she has been sitting at since yesterday, at ground zero of the international border, in a minefield in a military zone.

She has been blocked from the vision of the people who came to support her, from the municipality staff and members of the press by a wall of military vehicles.

Actually, Ayşe Gökkan’s problem was also a wall; her invisibility as a mayor. The sit-in she started two days ago has been transformed into a death fast to prevent the building of this wall which is dubbed the “Wall of Shame.”

For some time, there are walls being built along the Turkish border with the Kurdish region of Rojava in Syria. The walls in Ceylanpınar and Şenyurt have already advanced, according to Gökkan. While preparations are ongoing for the wall between Nusaybin and Qamişli, she said Oct. 17, “If need be, I will tear down that wall with my hands, at the risk of my life.” A press release then followed.

Meanwhile, she wanted to learn which government agency decided to put up the wall and on what grounds, she explained. She has asked the Interior Ministry, Defense Ministry, the Mardin Brigade, the Mardin Governor’s Office and the Nusaybin District Governor’s Office. None of them answered her. Only, the district governor of Nusaybin told her unofficially that he did not know. “It is impossible that a job done at ground zero does not have any records,” she said. “But, somehow, we do not know; we cannot know.”

There is stubbornness, exhaustion and resentment in the voice of Gökkan. The right word is resentment, I guess. Her next sentence starts proving this: “This seems very offensive to me. I am asking as the person responsible for local governance; nobody is answering me. I have been here since yesterday; nobody has contacted me. Moreover, there are rumors spreading that I am doing this to become the mayor of Mardin, words that are aimed to defame me. The Interior Ministry even called our press statement a ‘show.’ As if nobody has any right to object.”

She said she has started her death fast because she felt humiliated even while she was given water: “I told them, ‘I don’t want your water.’ If it takes a hunger strike, then I’ll do it.”

Now, there will be some who would say, “It is already a border. It is a minefield. What difference does it make if a wall is put up?” Let us repeat it, a wall! Before talking about borders politically, before mentioning how that border functioned up until now, Gökkan pointed to the symbolic meaning of the wall for Kurds on both sides of the border: “We are not calling this the Wall of Shame for no reason.

Turkey has signed agreements; even these mines should be cleared. Erecting this wall means these mines will not be cleared. Besides, the prime minister himself is mentioning the Wall of Shame in Israel.

The Berlin Wall is down; people have taken small pieces of it home as souvenirs. We are expected to regard as normal a wall that is being erected in the 21st century. When it is Kurds in question, then it is no longer a shame?”

While we were speaking these, just a little further ahead of Ayşe Gökkan, new iron rods were being prepared for the foundation.

*Pınar Öğünç is a columnist for daily Radikal in which this piece was published on Nov 1. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.