First shots in Shengal : Gulê’s story, from Nujiyan’s pen

Nujiyan Erhan/Jinda Asmen

SHENGAL – This story is the last story written by journalist Nujiyan Erhan; the Êzidî woman Gulê’s story. Even if no one knows, she was the first person to fire a bullet in Shengal’s Sinune village, [[occupied by Daesh gangs on the day 74th edict. Now, other brave women are stepping up and following in the brave Nujiyan’s footsteps, saying “never again.” And they are learning how to protect themselves.

Journalist Nujiyan Erhan, who was fatally wounded during a KDP forces attack on Shengal town Xanesor, documented Êzidî women’s stories against the edict and released them to the public. We had been following Gulê Mişko Nemir’s story a few days before Nujiyan died. Gulê’s story had a special importance for Nujiyan, who worked studiously and focused on the untold stories of the people and women with the precision of archaeologist. She killed gangs’ members run away to not surrender them in self-defense and then she was killed by them. Before the story could be published, Nujiyan passed away, and it was hard to finish a story she had left incomplete. But writing this story is our duty, and we do so in the memory of women who seek the truth in the person of Nujiyan and Gûle.

The August 3, 2014 attack on the Êzidî people received much coverage in the press. Many different stories were written. On edict day, grief and help cries rose from the lands of Shengal. Some cries turned into resistance. But have we heard the story behind every cry?

Gulê’s story…

One of those cries was that of Gulê Mişko Nemir’s. Everyone should know Gûle’s story: she took up arms so as to not surrender and she died in that struggle. Everyone should know her, understand her and tell her story… Gulê married her uncle’s son Reşo more than 30 years ago; they had a life together. Gulê had 10 children, eight daughters and, two sons. Gulê and Reşo were in their 50s. In life, both experienced the deepest of grief: two of their children, a girl one and a boy, are still being held captive by Daesh.

‘I won’t let mud mixed into your halal milk’

What kind of heroism did Gulê show when Daesh attacked Shengal and tried to capture its people? We found Gulê’s husband and daughter, who told us their first-hand accounts of the story. When we entered Reşo’s home, only one picture was hanging on the wall, Gulê’s photo. She is wearing a black ornamental blouse and a white scarf. There is a spot on her right cheek, near her lip. An inscription on the picture reads; “Our dear mother, we will never forget you. I won’t let mud mixed into your halal milk. Living without you is so hard.” From that, we understood that her children had framed her picture and hanged it on the wall.

And Reşo began to talk

Nujiyan and I witnessed Reşo looking at Gulê’s picture and in wardly sigh. When we asked, Reşo began to tell us about his wife. First we asked, “What kind of person was Gulê?” The first thing he said was: “She was a brave woman.” When he began to tell us about Gulê, we saw both sadness and pride on his face. Gulê was a source of pride for the family: even though they miss her, she has become a role model of a woman for them.

‘She was a woman, she was brave, and I waited for her’

The people’s throats had a lump in the moment we were. “Gulê was a brave woman,” Reşo told us. “She was strong-willed. She showed respect to our neighbors, to the villagers and to me. She was an understating person. She also got respect from everyone. She was a woman, she was brave…”

Reşo continued talking about Gulê; “As I remember, I was 20 or 21 years old, and Gulê was 18 or 19 years old. She was my uncle’s daughter. We spent time together when we were children. And I asked her if she wanted me or not, and she told me, ‘“I would never trade you for the world, I accept you’. But her mother was old, and Gulê was looking after her. She had an older brother. He also needed to marry. And I waited for Gulê for a year. Gulê’s words were so precious for me. I waited for her, and we got married one year later.”

‘I will come for you’

Reşo told us about the memories he has left of Gulê. Both of them were born in the Zorava village of Shengal, he said, but they opened a shop in Sinune, where he fixed sewing machines for years.

Though he didn’t want to relive those memories, we asked Reşo what happened on the edict day; “I wasn’t with Gulê at that time. I helped several of my relatives to go to South (Barzan region). We wanted to save the children first. There were so many children. We put all of them into the car and there wasn’t any room left. Gulê and my oldest two children had to stay there. I told Gulê, “Go to the mountain until I return, I will come for you”. I planned on returning as soon as I l left the children in a safe area. But I couldn’t reach them. I wanted to return, but Daesh closed the road, and they had already entered Sinune…”

‘My daughter is still being held captive by Daesh… there is no news from my son’

Reşo recounted for us how he learned of what had happened to his children: “My daughter, who was abducted by Daesh, called me and told me what had happened. She found an opportunity and called us secretly. She said first they took her to Aleppo, and then to Mosul. She was on the road to Mosul when she called us. We talked to her one year ago. We haven’t received any news from her since. We heard my son was killed in Xanesor. But we don’t know if he died or not. Daesh took my daughter and son away from each other. Until a year ago, my daughter had the opportunity to call us. She said they were going through a difficult time, and they were treated badly. We haven’t received any news from my son. My daughter didn’t know where her brother was or where he was taken to. My son‘s wife and their five children are living with us now.”

‘They shot Gulê in the center of Sinune’

When we asked Reşo to tell us about how Gulê resisted and lost her life, he looked us sadly in the eyes.

“Gulê and my two children were caught near a Sinune petrol station while trying to reach the mountain. Some of our neighbors, one of them elderly, were with them. They released the elderly person and took all the others to the center of Sinune. They caught one family as they were trying to escape and brought them to the center, too. Gulê told Daesh members to release the families. “Take men but leave the women,” she told them. But they refused, “We need families, particularly women,” the gang members said. Gulê took the gun while they were trying to drag her Gulê into a car and she shot a Daesh member.

When the other members saw what she had done, they shot Gulê. They shot her in the center of Sinune. My daughter told me there were two Daesh members there. If all people had helped Gulê, all of them could have escaped from Deash. Many people were there, Daesh took all of them. There is still no news from any of them.”

‘Gulê would always play with my gun’

Nujiyan and I were trying to understand the whole story, and we asked Reşo “How Gulê learned to use a gun?” Reşo replied; “I had a gun, and I always left it at home. Gulê learned how to use the gun by herself. She would always play with the gun. She opened and closed it. She often cleaned it.”

‘I took her death body to Pirewra cemetery’

Reşo said he learned Gulê whad been killed on the way as he was rescuing the children. He later returned to the village to find her dead body. “Two roads had been opened, and I returned to Shengal from south. I haven’t left Shengal since, I decided to stay and fight. The first place I looked for Gulê was in Sinune Square, where she was shot, but; I couldn’t find her. I heard that a woman’s body had been seen in an empty space behind the shops. I went there and looked at the body. I don’t know who took the body there, but it was Gulê’s. Only her bones were left but I recognized her from the dress she was wearing, which I’d bought for her a week before. Her bones, her hair, her wedding ring and wallet were with her, “They killed my mother and took her away,” my daughter said.”

Reşo and his children buried Gulê in Pirewra Cemetery

‘A bullet hangs on Gulê’s grave’

After listening to Reşo’s story, we went to visit Gulê’s grave. Before we reached her final resting place, we visited the Pirewra Dome, a sacred place for Êzidis. When we arrived at Gulê’s tomb, her daughter started to cry. After a while, she hugged Reşo, and father and daughter cried together. A bullet hung from Gulê’s grave.

“The bullet is a symbol of to Gulê’s struggle and resistance,” said Reşo.

‘The guerrillas came and rescued us while others were running away’

“No one protected us on the edict day,” Reşo said as he parted ways. “Those who said they would protect us “We will protect you” ran away. The people couldn’t help each other. Everyone tried to rescue themselves and their family. The guerrillas and YPG fighters came at the same time others were running away. They protected us with their lives. Those who came to protect us don’t leave Mount Shengal. All of the Êzidis would have been killed without them. We didn’t have automatic weapons. But the friends and we fought and resisted. Daesh couldn’t achieve their goal. They couldn’t reach Mount Shengal. We won together.

“Everyone will die one day. Thank god Gulê died for her honor. Gulê’s resistance is a sacred honor for me.”