Award-winning Assyrian journalist and friend of the family, Nuri Kino, has asked me to translate some of his articles from Swedish to English and I have decided to add them to my blog, when I have done them.
I thought I’d start with this one due to the fact that the girl travelling with them originally from Kerburan mentioned in the text is none other than my gorgeous wife…
The program started with a beautiful, strong, rewarding and moving report regarding the town’s history, environment and architecture. Kerburan was beautifully surrounded with valleys and bodies of water, known for its figs, melons and grapes; indeed my maternal grandmother’s father had one of the biggest vineyards. The town was also famous for its water, which it was said cured, among other ailments, rheumatism. A town thousands of years old, which is now empty of its original inhabitants, totally empty of Assyrians, also called Syrians and Chaldeans.
The TV studio was filled with faces I recognised, both from my childhood trips to Västerås, where a large portion of those from Kerburan live and from West Germany, where we, as children eventually joined our parents and had several neighbours there, who also came from the town of Kerburan.
Josef Özer, who competed in the Swedish Eurovision Song Contest two years ago, also originates from Kerburan, sung a song on the show which he dedicated to Kerburan.
One of the program leaders for Dore u yawmotho is Södertälje resident Denho Özmen. He is also the chairman for the educational society Edessa. A few years ago I was employed by the society as one of two travel leaders for a group of youngsters from Sweden who wanted to learn about their roots; one of the youngsters was from Kerburan and we travelled there. We first travelled to her family’s former home and later to my maternal grandmother’s as well as others we knew. All of the houses were now occupied by Kurds. Most of them treated us with respect, we were ‘children of Kerburan’ but some of them were cold and sceptical; were we there to try and take back our land?
The biggest tragedy however, was the two churches, for both these holy buildings which had earlier been filled with happiness, love and wise words, were now used as stables. I can remember even today how the tears fell at seeing them.
When we were about to leave a group of curious Kurdish children gathered around us. The girl who originally came from Kerburan spoke a little Kurdish and could communicate with them. This made the children very happy, as we were exotic tourists, another culture, and another religion, on a trip in their hometown. She hugged them, gave out sweets and answered their questions politely.
The other members of the group had returned to the bus and the girl from Kerburan and I were the last to get on. Just as I was about to close the door to the bus a woman took my hand.
“I’m one of you”, she said with a lump in her throat. She was dressed as the other women, she looked like them, but she spoke our language.
When she was fourteen years old she had been kidnapped and forced to convert to Islam. She wanted to touch our hands, hold us and asked us to remember her to her relatives in other parts of south east Turkey. Kerburan wasn’t totally cleaned out; there was one of us still, one who had been kidnapped, forced to covert religion and marry one of theirs.
It was difficult not to feel anger when I, on Sunday’s program heard how everyone from Kerburan had suffered at the hands of their Moslem neighbours. I ignored the feelings and let sense take over, so that I could learn more about the fantastic historical town which my maternal grandmother was born in, where I, as a child, was taken to by my mother’s cousin Mehbuba.
But then the feelings returned in the form of irritation. Denho Özmen asked Cemil Demir, also from Södertälje, why the Christians didn’t remain: “Why did they give up?”
“Due to the murders, one after another was killed. The last murder, that which became the final nail in the coffin, was in 1978”, answered Demir.
I asked my parents if it was true, that I remember a memorial service for Endrawus Demir in Ronna. They answered that it was true and that his murder terrified us even here in Sweden.
It is possible to send an sms to Suroyo TV, which is then shown in a bar at the bottom of the screen. Fuat Deniz, who was a relative of Endrawus Demir, murdered in Örebro a month ago, was also from Kerburan and many honour his memory. He was also mentioned in the program as one of the most well known exiles from Kerburan. It is difficult to hold back the tears.
Singer Tomas Demir interrupted me in my dark thoughts. He is a divine singer and can make one forget their thoughts and immerse themselves in the music.
A very rewarding and important program finished with both program leaders and guests urging the older generation from Kerburan to teach the town’s history, culture and traditions to the next generation.