Makbule Kumlu is 65 years old. She was born in the village of Deran, part of the Nordiz highlands of Van’s Gürpınar district. Makbule Ana is just one of many women who were forced to become mothers while they were still children themselves. However, what most hurts Mother Makbule when she looks back on the past from today is the erosion of social values and collective village life. We take a brief trip to the past with Mother Makbule, and together open the door of memory: “Back then, there was the fertility of the highlands. Every family had countless sheep, and they took care of everything with those sheep. Now, there are two or three children in each family. Sometimes both the mother and father work, but they can’t manage. They destroyed the abundance of a natural life.”
‘I did not know the man I was married to’
Mother Makbule says that Kurdish women start life at a young age with a heavy burden. Makbule first reminds of the practice of child marriage, and, speaking, carries us to the past: “I was married off at a young age. I didn’t know the man I was married to. I met him through my relatives. Once I got married, my husband was always violent. My husband made a habit of it. When I was a child, I came to another house as a bride. It’s very difficult to talk about this. Two years after I got married, I had children.”
‘Women would always sing…’
Makbule insists that despite everything, people were more warm and sincere in the past. She says: “In our time people were more sincere. They would have long conversations. They always shared their pains and joys. People who didn’t even know each other were in solidarity, facing difficulties with the same natural reaction. Solidarity was important to us. Family elders always came together immediately when there was a problem with a relative or a neighbour. The idea was to exchange ideas to develop a solution. When we went up to the highlands to milk the sheep, the women would always sing in unison. They helped each other with their burdens. Now it’s not like that. The older we got, the lonelier we got.”
‘But we were always laughing’
Mother Makbule explained with a sigh that she lost her peers one by one. “There are much less people to talk to and chat with. I pass the time by looking after my grandchildren and my chickens. In our day, women would never know what it meant to be tired. Their workload was heavy, but they were always laughing. When they ran into each other in the middle of nowhere they’d sit and chat for hours. The workload didn’t seem heavy to us. That’s because when the spiritual level is solid, your burden doesn’t feel heavy. Today’s young people are totally alone. And what’s more, they don’t complain about it, because they’re walking around in another world with their TV and their phones in their hands. Now I think the biggest problem is that the elderly can’t do things even if they want to, while the youth don’t even know how. The elders have experience, but they’re not strong enough. The youth don’t have the experience; they can’t do things even if they want to.” So we finish our conversation.