Living under the bombs

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All the young people in the border village between Rajo and Bilbile have joined the resistance. The elderly refuse to leave the villages despite attacks accompanied with intense bombings for the last 20 days

An ANF team went to Rajo, then to the village by the Kevirê Kêr Hill towards Bilbile and returned to Afrin to speak with the villagers in the resistance.

It was quite difficult to travel to the villages in the Rajo-Bilbile line, where the battle has been the most intense for days, under heavy artillery fire. The colonialist Turkish state had been unable to have jets in the air for a few days, but they intensified their artillery fire due to the hit they received from the SDF.

LEAVING RAJO

When we arrived in Rajo center, our driver told us to hold on tight and hit the gas. It took us only two minutes to leave Rajo center. In that two minutes, we saw incredible things.

All shops and homes along the main road had been targeted. There were fruits scattered along the street from the grocery. The windows of the hair salon next door were in a million pieces on the pavement. We couldn’t see any buildings that weren’t damaged already, but the artillery and mortar fire continued still. Our driver said 17 mortar shells hit Rajo center just on that day alone, which gave us a better understanding of the severity of the matter. As we left Rajo, we shuddered to think about the civilians who were forced to live in basements and shelters under all these mortar and artillery fire.

DIDN’T LEAVE THEIR VILLAGES

We were headed to a border village between Rajo and Bilbile. There, the bombing was much more intense than Raco center. When we heard that civilians still stayed there, we wanted to see and understand the lives the people there led under these attacks. Why didn’t these people leave their villages still, despite all the attacks? We wanted to hear the answer from them.

THEY WANT THE WORLD TO SEE

After 20 minutes, we arrived in the border village between Rajo and Bilbile. We were greeted by two 60-year-olds keeping watch by the entrance of the village. Even despite these vile attacks, their eyes and faces were bright. They greeted us with warm smiles, and asked for our IDs.

They both had one purpose: They were keeping watch voluntarily to protect their village against Turkish soldiers and their gangs. When they saw us with the cameras, they were very happy. We had seen this joy in other places in Afrin before.

These days, when people see you with a camera in and around Afrin, they immediately approach you and start to pour their hearts out, without even asking you anything. Now everybody wants to talk about the Turkish barbarism and how they resisted against that, and tell the world, “Look, people can resist all atrocities and defend their humanity”. Even children who speak to our cameras know the purpose of Turkish aggression.

CHILDREN TO THE HILL, HIMSELF TO THE VILLAGE

Mecid is 60 years old. He is one of the hundreds of thousands of Afrinites who are in love with their land, their motherland and their people. Before the Turkish state and their gangs attacked, he used to have a quiet life in his village with his family and children. With their olive trees and their vineyards, they were happy in their village.

With the attacks, two of his children took up guns and headed to the Kevirê Kêr Hill in Rajo, where the historic resistance has continued for days. So Mecid took his guns and started to defend the village along with his friends. Listening to Mecid, one can see the resolve and the faith very clearly.

“WE WILL NEVER ABANDON OUR MOTHERLAND”

“We will not abandon our lands until the last drop of our blood,” said Mecid and asked: “What right do these tyrants have?”

Mecid added that for 20 days the attackers failed to take the hill his two sons are defending and continued: “The Turkish dictator Erdoğan isn’t just attacking the YPG and the YPJ. He is attacking all of us, our women, our elderly, our children, even our animals and our nature. The war continues, but victory will be ours. We will not abandon our lands. The enemy can forget about that. If there are weak ones among us, they should also forget about it. I am 60 years old, still at my duty. If I die, I will be a martyr on my own lands. I will never go anywhere else. Wherever there is an honorable and dignified Kurd, bless them. My 3 daughters are also in the fronts. We will never abandon our Afrin, or our olives.”

BROTHERHOOD WITH ENEMIES OF KURDS?

Bekir is 68 years old. “If the enemy enters here, they won’t care who is elderly, who is a woman, a child or very young. The enemy is always the enemy. They are never friendly to Kurds,” said Bekir and, referring to the Turkish government who say they don’t want to harm Kurds and they are brothers, continued: “How can we be brothers, wouldn’t it be a shame if those people were our brothers? We reject this brotherhood discourse from the roots. We refuse this until we die. These people are enemies of Kurds, throughout history and today. We will never bow down to them.”

ALL THE YOUNG PEOPLE ARE IN THE FRONTLINES

We said goodbye to Mecid and Bekir and headed to the center of the village. Despite three weeks of bombing, life continued in the village. With the good weather, all the villagers had gathered in the square, in front of their homes, they sat and chatted. There were no young people in the village. When we asked, the villagers said all the young people went to the resistance frontlines. They say, “It’s times of mobilization,” and show their pride with their young.

ALL FAMILY MEMBERS IN THE RESISTANCE

We continued to greet the crowd in the village square. There, it was no different. The old owner opened the shop, and was sitting with his brother and children: “Look, I’m ready waiting here with my brother and my children. We are all here, we are all civilians. We are not soldiers, we are civilians, but we have all taken up arms and we are resisting. They should first come and take their bodies from these hills. We are here, we will resist. Victory will be ours. Erdoğans will perish from these lands. They have been attacking for 20 days. We are prepared to resist 20 years.”

As we were leaving the village, we ran across the village imam. He said the same thing as all the other villagers, that they can stay in their villages thanks to SDF, YPG and YPJ fighters.

JETS SPEW DEATH AGAIN

We couldn’t use the same roads in our trip back, the Rajo center was under constant mortar fire. From far away, it looked like a town under fire during the WWII.

Rajo, home to Armenians, Kurds and Arabs living together for centuries, was burning before our eyes.

On the night we reached Afrin center, as we started to write down what we saw, the Turkish state made another deal with Russia and started bombing Afrin with their jets again. This time the center was also targeted. We had to take a short break from writing, but we said we will tell the story for sure.

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