Guerrilla diaries – Love, action and sacrifice

Viyan Amara is a freedom fighter of the PKK. The present text is an excerpt from her diary from 1997, in the second part of which she describes the selfless way in which comrade Sebrî Meredo (Reşit Tokpınar) became a martyr. It is about the events during an enemy operation in Cîlo (mountain in the Zagros Mountains). It is very clear that Heval Sebrî, whom she had previously called “fire”, has dug a great place in the hearts of the freedom fighters…

Is the fire Sebrîor is Sebrî the fire…?

We carried out our actions and each time, before leaving, there was always a small celebration. Every time we left, we said goodbye as if there would be no reunion. We celebrated the action we were about to undertake as if it was part of our identity. Each action lit a fire around which we danced euphorically. In all units, but especially with us, this developed into a tradition and culture. Every dance was like a farewell, and every farewell stood for a cleansing from hostile filth. Our actions were, without exception, fearless attacks that normal army commanders would not dare to make. Our commander Heval Mehmud, however, was very inventive and creative. With his attitude he could not just form a unit, he could lead the entire region. Both in his life and in his actions, Heval Mehmud took his place everywhere.

In this unity, there was also a comrade who we knew as Sebrî Meredo (Reşit Tokpınar). Heval Sebrî used to lead several areas in Garzan and then came to Zagros. At the time of his formation, Heval Sebrî did not accept his transfer to Zagros and wanted to stay in Garzan. However, after he learned about this life, its difficulties and our cooperation in Zagros, he became involved as a part of this place. He often said, “If there was one thing missing from my identity, it was life here.” This friend, with his comradeship, his life and his actions, was an invaluable enrichment of our life together. His bond with his friends was not a physical one, it was a spiritual and ideological one and you could always read it in his eyes. After each action, he asked about the well-being of each comrade. He was not often an emotional person, but there were times such as when he danced around the fire with us that he showed his emotions clearly. We always asked ourselves: Is the fire Sebrî, or is Sebrî the fire? In those moments he was always elevated.

Love, action and sacrifice: Heval Sebrî

After a few days we carried out another action and crept into the village. After we started to steal weapons and food from the village guards, suddenly even the women and children of the gang started shooting at us. It was quite a mess, but we were able to retreat into the woods with a very successful result. That day we went to our shelter and all our friends cleaned their weapons. My rifle was very old and rusted and therefore sometimes caused problems in battles. Then Heval Sebrî came and handed me one of the rifles we had taken from the village guards. It was a very nice and clean rifle, almost like new. I went down to the spring to clean my new gun. Just as I was about to dismantle my rifle, I heard a noise. After a few moments I understood that it was the voices of the enemy and the approaching helicopters.

At that time the tactics of the enemy were as follows: When they spotted a friend’s hideout, they first swept over it with helicopters and fired on and bombed the area. Then they dropped their soldiers again by helicopter on the nearby plains. But this time they did not open fire directly. I think it was because they didn’t even know we were here, as we were still very close to the village. We were right on the slope near the spring. I had no chance to assemble my weapon anymore, so I picked up the pieces and ran. Heval Mehmud, Heval Sebrî and our Taxim commander decided that we should leave unnoticed without getting into fights. We were forced to do so because the Tepecîs (comrades on the mountain tops) did not answer the radios and so we did not know exactly how the enemy was moving. Therefore, there was a chance that we might suffer losses. Our goal was always: successful actions and as few losses as possible. At that moment Heval Mehmud and the other comrades planned that we should leave our position, move up and collide with the enemy. That way we would have control over the enemy. It was as if we could see and think clearly again. The helicopters were now also following us and trying to locate us in order to repel soldiers in our area. The person in charge of our Tepecîs was Comrade Seyfî. Heval Mehmud radioed him several times to tell him to fire on the enemy until we had left, but our radio calls did not reach our friends. So we decided to march on. As soon as we left, suddenly battles between our friends on the mountain tops and the enemy began. Since now also increasingly Cobra helicopters came, we did not have many possibilities to fight with such a large number. All we could do was to stay on the hill with a small group, which could then enter into battles with the enemy to gain time and retreat with the remaining friends to get into fighting position. The small group of four friends was of course led by Heval Sebrî.

We set off with the larger group and very soon we came to a spring. This place was also called Meydana and was just a flat plain where there were not even the smallest stones, only sand. The soldiers were also dropped off here and we just managed to reach the plain. Also the group that stayed back to buy us time reached us after a while. We met each other but saw no possibility to get out of Meydana again. The enemy’s operational coordination was positioned on a small hill directly in front of us, but we didn’t know anything about it. Heval Mehmud said, “Spread out,” but there was not a single boulder under which we could hide. Only a few weeds were scattered about, and now everyone picked some of them up to disguise themselves and throw them over themselves. Heval Mehmud, however, took his gun in his hand and said, “If one of you gets hurt here and says ‘ay’, I’m going to shoot him!” He knew that if we moved even slightly, we would all be revealed and fall. Our situation was very serious.

The operational coordination passed our location on to the helicopter pilots, since they had seen us from their hill. The pilots, however, did not suspect at all that we would be in the middle of the plain and fired wildly at the area around the source several times and flew away again. Twice our surroundings were bombarded by the cobras, but nothing at all happened to us. Even our mule, which carried our luggage, lay calmly under the weeds that we had thrown at it. You could almost think he was a human being, he behaved so clever. He did not even twitch his ears. When a mosquito sat on a friend’s nose, he said: “Oh mosquito, fly away, if I move, the enemy will see us and kill us.”

It was a very tragic situation that was taking place then. Now when you think back to that time, it seems like a joke. There was nothing we could do, but Heval Sebrî said, “We’re getting out of here now!” What could we do? Two helicopters emptied all their arsenals above us and moved away, and two new ones came. The coordination was right in front of us and our surroundings were full of soldiers. The best we could do was to make ourselves one with the ground. The two new cobras arrived and the coordinators radioed the pilots: “I told you to shoot there! Why don’t you shoot there, instead of flying around the source and just shooting a couple of rocks?!” This time the helicopters lowered themselves exactly above us so that we could see the pilots without any problems. They were so close to us that they recognized us under the undergrowth. They only fired their heavy guns at us three or four times. The bullets hit the sand between our legs and beside our heads. When they then fired rockets at us, this sand, which had previously denied us a safe hiding place, became our salvation. When the missile heads hit the sand, their fragments could not spread and remained mostly stuck in the sand. Two more cobras came, so that now 4 combat helicopters were circling above our heads. They fired at us again, it was like a lead rain.

Heval Sebrî understood how critical the situation was and shouted: “Friends, I will go. I will get their attention so that you can get out of here. I will try to save myself.” Then Heval Mehmud shouted: “I’ll kill you, that’s an order, nobody move!” Heval Sebrî replies: “I too am a commander and can give orders.” Suddenly he stood up and the cold ran down our backs. Then a single friend sacrificed himself to save 39 others, because we were 40 comrades in all. “We have put up so much resistance so far and never suffered a single loss, never allowed even a single friend to fall, become Şehîd!”, he took his gun and ran off.

Four cobras were chasing Heval Sebrî, but could not harm him. He turned into fire and flame and fled further. So he gave us the opportunity to get out of here. We fled to a shelter a little further away. Meanwhile, we also saw Heval Sebrî running, hoping that he could get to safety. We waited a few more minutes between the rocks, hoping to see our comrade again. But Sebrî did not come.

The enemy withdrew now too, as it was getting dark. The enemy also knew that they would suffer tenfold losses if they approached the guerrillas at night. Heval Mehmud and three other friends said: “We’re going to Meydana.” Meydana was now a good hour away from us. So we started walking and we actually found Heval Sebrî on the ground on the way. It had been a good two to three hours by now, but there was still a chance that he was alive. We ran to him and slowly lifted his head, but it was only limp in our hands. They had even shot at our comrade with M-16 rifles. From his chest to his feet, everything was full of bullets. He also had bullet wounds on his hands and head. “Heval, you have come,” he whispered. “Yes of course, we came to take you to the shelter”, we replied. “No, I was waiting for you to make my legacy.” “What legacy? Come on, get up, let’s go! You have nothing,” cried Heval Haki. “Heval Haki…” “What?” “Come open my jacket and see how many bullets are in my chest,” whispered Heval Sebrî. We said: “We don’t need to, it’s dark, we can’t see anything anyway.” “Eight”, he had already counted before us. “That’s all right, we’ll carry you,” we said, but he just said, “Go on, kids.” He said that because we were all quite young and he was joking. “Raise my left hand,” he said, and Heval Haki raised his arm, but didn’t see any hand in the sleeve of the jacket. He also raised Sebrîs leg, but the comrade had lost a leg as well. He said he had only waited for us to express his last will and testament: “Below the Meydana Plain there is a place like paradise. There are all kinds of flowers and plants and a cool little stream flows through it. “That’s where I want to be buried by you.” We shouted: “Why should we bury you, we’re going to our friends now, they are waiting for you.” “The friends are all fine, aren’t they?” “Yeah, everybody’s fine.” “I have no regrets. I have done everything for this party that needs to be done. Give my regards to all my friends. I don’t want them to be angry with me.”

After a few, few seconds he became a martyr in our arms. In all our grief and anger we carried him to the place he had described. In the darkness of that night we buried our friend and comrade.

Of course the comrades were sad. But as soon as someone spoke of love, action and sacrifice, everyone remembered Şehîd Sebrî. Şehîd Sebrî the hero, a comrade who sacrificed himself, who gave his own life for 39 other friends without batting an eyelid. Those who knew him said: “He lived this way and he will live on!”

We wanted to return to his grave one day later to fortify and decorate it, but unfortunately there was no possibility to do so. The next day the operation continued and the enemy came and took the body. To this day we do not know where they took him. This is still a deep wound in my heart. We could fulfill his last wish, but not permanently.

Of course, there are thousands of martyrs without graves. That is why in every stone, every tree, every flower and in every stream there is the spirit of the martyrs. When we remember them and want to remember them, they are everywhere. Don’t even look, just bow, that’s enough.

Viyan Amara