Father died in front of the forbidden tv channel

“Roj TV” has often been accused of being the mouthpiece of the Kurdish armed movement, PKK. The programs are broadcast in Kurdish from Denmark and Belgium and the Turkish government has repeatedly tried to have the channel closed down, referring to the international classification of the PKK as a terrorist organization. But the channel’s existence has also induced Turkey to begin broadcasting in Kurdish within its own borders. The writer Yavuz Ekinci tells of a moment when the private and the political convene on the television screen.

January 8 2013 Text: Yavuz Ekinci Translation from Turkish: Merve Pehlivan

When I entered his room, my father had long since been dead.

The previous night, he kept saying: “Go, take a rest. I’m okay. You’ve been very tired.” I failed to counter him, even though I tried so hard to remain by his bedside. He kept saying: “Go take a rest, I’m okay.” Before I left, I checked the things he would need throughout the night and made sure nothing was missing. I gave him his medication and filled the glass on the table with water in case he might want to drink some during the night. Before I left, one last time I looked at the bed he was lying on, his medication on the table, my big brother Fırat’s photograph hanging on the wall, the floral curtain in front of the window, and the television which has remained switched on for years. Just as I was about to step out of the room, he called out to me: “Bring me another pillow, I can’t see the television well. A music program will start shortly,” and he looked at the photo of my brother Fırat on the wall. When I brought the pillow and propped it up against his back, he looked at both the television and Fırat. He smiled and added, “Go sleep now! You’ve been very tired. I’m okay tonight.” “Call out to me if your pain get worse.” He nodded his head a few times as if to say all right.

My eyes closed the moment I lay on the bed and I slept soundly, for I hadn’t slept well for the past several days. When I woke up in the morning, the day was slowly dawning. I got out of bed with the satisfaction of having slept well. I stood near the window and watched sparrows cooing on the branches of the mulberry tree. The sparrows fluttered about the moment I opened the window. I hurriedly dressed and went out of the room, thinking that I had left my father alone all night. When I entered the room he had been lying sick in, my father was still resting on his bed, facing the television, which was switched on. At first, I thought he was asleep. For fear that I might wake him up, I tiptoed up to his bedside. On the TV were the city walls and streets of Diyarbakır. I waited by his bedside for a while but his chest was not moving, nor was I able to hear him wheezing. A chill passed through me as I leaned over and said “What if…” I stroked his hands, his face, his hair and his forehead and said “Father, father are you okay? Open your eyes! Are you okay?” His body was stiff. His hands were cold. I tried to hear his heartbeat by resting my head on his chest but couldn’t hear anything. I turned around in panic and confusion. I didn’t know what to do. Thinking he would open his eyes a little later, I first looked at the television, then at his face, but he showed no reaction and kept looking at the television with half-open eyes. I shook the pillow under his head, which I had put there to prop him up to see the television better, but he didn’t respond. When the sentence “My father is dead” poured out of my lips, the sentence I had persistently dismissed from my mind, I noticed the emblem of Roj TV on the screen and the guerrillas walking towards the mountain. The picture and the colours on the screen reflected on the face of my father, who was lying still on the bed.

My father was, as always, sitting in front of the television, watching the news. I was lying on the floor face down, doing my homework. I would occasionally look up at the television from the corner of my eye. I was looking forward to the end of the news program. But my father kept on zapping from one channel to another, watching all the evening news programs on every channel. When the programs that attracted his attention ended, he always turned on Roj TV. When I heard Kurdish sounds, I lifted my head from my books and notebooks and looked at the TV screen. A few men were having a round-table debate. A grey-haired man was talking about oppressed peoples and the troubles the Kurdish people had suffered throughout history. The moustached man started to talk about rebellion the moment he grabbed the microphone. When my sister appeared at the door with a full glass of tea, I sat up and began to do my homework sitting. The men on the TV screen disappeared and a man playing saz emerged. Images of kids running around a fire, women in multi-coloured dresses and armed guerrillas flashed across the screen. I buried my head back in my book but cocked my ear to the music. I was startled by the voice of my father when he yelled “Fırat, Fırat, my son Fırat”. My father pointed at the man on the screen and said “Fırat, this is my son Fırat.” As I threw aside the book and my notebook and looked at the television, the guerrilla group was climbing up the mountain. My brother Fırat was leading the group up front, followed by male and female guerrillas. Then the man playing saz reappeared on the screen. The man played saz and crooned on the mountaintop, by a flower field and at the riverbed. Everybody in the house swarmed into the room, glued to the TV screen. When the man playing saz walked towards the sun with his saz, the screen slowly turned black. As the screen went black, we turned our eyes towards each other and then to the photograph of my brother Fırat hanging on the wall. My father turned his palms to the heavens and prayed, smiled to my mother and said: “Look, Fırat is alive, Fırat is alive.” My mother wiped her damp eyes and for a long time stared at the photograph of Fırat taken when he was at high school. From that day onwards, my father and my mother were engrossed in the television screen. My father no longer watched any other channel. My parents watched music videos, news programs, documentaries and debates on Roj TV for days on end, hoping to see Fırat’s face again, but they never saw him again. Over time, Fırat’s appearance on the screen turned into a milestone for my father. When any of the family members referred to an event in the past, they would say “two months after Fırat’s appearance on the TV” or “a year before Fırat’s appearance on the TV.” Roj TV was on at home 24/7, in the hope that we would hear of him.

Tonight, as the television channels broadcast the Breaking News that “ROJ TV IS SHUT DOWN”, I recall my father who died in front of the TV screen and also my brother Fırat, who walked up the mountain with a weapon in his hand.