‘Jin, Jiyan, Azadi’- Reflections on the funeral march in Paris

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There I was walking amongst the many thousands of people, Kurds and non-Kurds alike, in the funeral procession of the murdered Kurdish activists in Paris.

Unlike the majority of women, I was not in the forefront but walking with the men further back. My reason was that I wanted to be able to take more photographs and move freely at my own pace.

What I saw around me were men of all ages, shapes and heights but all with a Middle Eastern look. That look with the dark eyes and the dark hair, and then some with beards and moustaches.  All these men with that look. That look that so often faces so much prejudice.  Prejudice of being stubborn, patriarchal upholders. Prejudice of being honour killers, wife beaters and the keepers of home prisons. So much prejudice.

These are the same men who have to defend themselves every time someone, somewhere, sharing the same hair colour as theirs, does something directed at women. These are the men who were everywhere that day, who in their loud, dark voices, sending powerful vibrations into the air and through the hearts of those attending, were chanting: Jin, Jiyan. Azadi! (Women, Life, Freedom!)

The voices of those men, that chanting and that overwhelming sense of belonging to a community seize to leave me even when I shut my eyes to sleep.

I arrived home with only a dozen photos. I could not take any photos or do anything else when the march started and the flag draped coffins arrived.

I was mesmerised yet utterly sad. Crying yet unexplainably joyful. It was as if hell had broken loose but I was amongst the bravest of angels protecting me, all at once.

Thousands of men, women and children stood and chanted in one, loud, synchronized voice: Shehid namirin! (Martyrs do not die!)

The coffins were lifted onto the shoulders of mostly women and the proceedings started, heading towards the place of the memorial, which happened to be a beautiful grand hall with chandeliers gracing the ceilings.

It was most probably used as a wedding parlour normally.

Ironic I thought to myself. Here three brave, feminist women are being remembered. Three women who dedicated their lives to free the Kurdish people but fore mostly Kurdish women. Three women who did everything they could to free themselves from the shackles of patriarchy, from the limits set by society, from the prohibitions and borders set by the rulers of Kurdish lands. Now these three women are being remembered in a wedding parlour, where too often around the world powerless young women are being draped in the colour of the dead and gifted away for a loveless, and hopeless life. Ironic to say the least.

When I finally reached the door of the parlour, I regained my strength. It took strength to show my respect without letting the sad melody of people crying break me down. It took strength but it also gave strength. It was a vision to see the white walls of the parlour against the pillars draped in the purple colour of the feminists, tied together by the reds, greens and yellows of the Kurdish flag.

I walked slowly. Looked around. Took everything in. The sadness. The pride. The sense of loss and sorrow. The beautiful colours surrounding the coffins. The most beautiful of women in the photos on each one.

The emotions were in uproar and my eyes were tired of crying. The tears were falling and I soon joined the melody of the sad. Hearing Jinen Azad by Delila playing for the women outside, loud as a whisper, joining our melody, did not help the tears stop.

I left and joined the gathering outside. This time I was surrounded by women of all ages. They were outside waiting, chanting slogans and reading poems, talking and discussing. I saw old women in groups talking about their grief and sorrow and of children lost. I heard young women talk about the road to Qandil, the unfinished projects of the fallen women and of future projects needed for the Kurdish cause. My tears stopped there and then.

I will not cry again. These women were not victims. They are heroes. They have paved the way for the next generation of female Kurdish heroes. One does not cry for heroes. One continues in their path!

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