Bavê Nazê Writes About The Armenian Genocide

The Kurdish writer Bavê Nazê wrote the book Stokhomê Te Çi Dîtiye Bêje after being accused of killing Swedish Prime Minister Olaf Palme. While he was being investigated by the Swedish police in 1986, Nazê told them about his past, and the story of his mother surviving the Armenian Genocide in 1918. His book was published in 1987.

This is a small excerpt from the book:

On cold winter nights when my father was out, my sisters and I we used to gather around my mother and ask her to tell us her story.

The children: “Mother… Please tell us your story!”

The story of our mother’s childhood became a Çirok for me and my sisters. We were never bored of it. She would tell it over and over again, with tears in her eyes and deep sighs of pain. She may have wanted us to know what she went through by telling it so many times, so that we could appreciate the life we had.  Or maybe she wanted us to be good people, who wouldn’t hurt anyone.

She wanted us to know how a human can be if he gives himself over to the evil inside of him, leading him to great viciousness. Unless he controls it.

“When the Armenian genocide started, I was seven-and-a-half. Early one morning, my mother, the other women from the village and I were taken by the Ottoman soldiers.”

We used to ask her often about grandmother’s name.

The children: “Are you talking about our grandmother Halima?”

Mother: “No, your grandmother Halima is too old. My mother was not that old. She didn’t get old.”

My mother wanted us to always remember that we had an Armenian side.

The children: “Why didn’t she get old?”

Mother: “I am telling you the story! Don’t rush, be patient!”

An old woman in Church during last Easter in Hasaka, Syria via Arta FM
An old woman in Church during last Easter in Hasaka, Syria via Arta FM

I was the only girl at home. I had two brothers and I was a spoiled girl. My father loved me so much. My mother didn’t like that, because I was a girl.

She would pause suddenly and go far within her thoughts and resume again.

Mother: “On that day, the Ottoman soldiers took us in a long line. We had to walk and walk for days. Your grandmother told me that if we stopped walking, we would be left behind and the wolves would eat us.”

“At first, I was walking very fast. Then I started to slow from fatigue. Whenever anyone in our long line fell or couldn’t walk anymore, they would be left behind. The soldiers wouldn’t let anyone help them.”

“We walked through many villages. I couldn’t feel my legs anymore. I heard soldiers telling us to stop.”

“I was so relieved. Even your grandmother smiled. She sat down and put me in her arms. The soldiers started to pick some young girls from the crowd, and took them behind the hill. After a while the soldiers came back alone without the girls.”

“Your grandmother had some pieces of bread that she had hidden under her dress. As the soldiers walked away she took it out and gave it to me. Ten minutes later, when the soldiers came back, I asked her if the girls had been released. She said yes. There had been many people in our group, but each time we crossed a village we were fewer and fewer.”

Armenians marched by Turkish soldiers in 1915
Armenians marched by Turkish soldiers in 1915

“After some days had passed, we were less than half the number we had started with. At first I didn’t understand why, but then I was told that the soldiers were selling the people from our group. The girls were more expensive than men.”

“After many days of walking, we were getting very thin. I couldn’t stand on my feet anymore. I even couldn’t feel my legs. We stopped by a well in the middle of a village called “Blasphemy Well”. Many villagers were standing and watching us.”

“Your grandmother started to beg an old woman from the village to take me with her. She even gave the old woman some gold that she hid in the folds of her dress. The old woman didn’t want to take the gold, but your grandmother put it in my hands and pushed me towards her, saying: “Go with this woman. I will come soon to take you.”

An Armenian Woman (Circa 1682)
An Armenian Woman (Circa 1682)

“This was the last time I saw your grandmother. The soldiers took her to the “Blasphemy Well”, as they called it. And the old lady took me to her house. I was so scared I hid myself inside the chicken hut and refused to go out for many days. Finally I accepted the fact that your grandmother was gone forever. My life was saved by an old Kurdish woman.”

Mustafa: “Mum, why didn’t my father help my grandmother?”

Mother: “Oh son…That was our destiny.”

We used to sleep before the end of my mother’s story, and wouldn’t even remember anything of it the following day. Maybe our mother’s story was more difficult than fiction, and too difficult for us to really understand.

Bavê Nazê lives now in Moscow, Russia and has published more books like Dumu Wa-Matar: Qisas Qasirah published in 1989 and was translated to Arabic edition and Hêsir u Baran which was published in 1986.