Yol: A monument to human endurance

By Jalal Jonroy*/ December 1983 / Azadi / San Francisco

When shown at the Cannes Film Festival ’82, YOL received a
standing ovation and won the coveted first prize. YOL is a Kurdish
drama made by Yilmaz Guney –a Kurd- while serving 19 year
prison sentence in Turkey. Y. Guney escaped prison and now
lives in Paris where he and other Kurdish artists in exile have
formed (The Kurdish Institute) to help save the Kurdish culture –
a much neglected and maligned treasure of mankind’s cultural

On the surface, YOL relates the sufferings, the loves, and the
hope of five Kurdish prisoners while on temporary leave. On the
way –YOL- to their homeland Kurdistan, occupied by fascist
military Turkey, the film slowly and sensitively reveals the terrible operation and hardships of
the Kurdish nation. YOL is a long harsh road into Kurdistan –deliberately kept backward
socially and economically, by successive Turkish governments. Poverty, bad transportation,
luck of schools and hospitals (witness the dentist’s scene), deprived children smoking
cigarettes, villagers crammed in tiny mud houses, and farmers still having to work with
antiquated tools are all shown in dramatic contrast to the purity and natural beauty of
Kurdistan. The only signs of 20th century progress the Kurds see daily are the machine guns
of Turkish soldiers!

    The five prisoners soon find themselves in the greater and
    more oppressive prison of Kurdistan. Through lack of
    education, the Kurds are held under and old feudal system with
    its blood feuds and complex codes of honor –for example with
    the respect to adultery. Today, this medieval web coupled with
    religious ignorance, and compounded by Turkish political and
    economic oppression, reduces much of Kurdistan to a rigid
    backward social structure with both men and especially women
trapped as victims. (Witness during the snow scenes the unspoken painful dilemma of
husband and wife who had “betrayed” him martially.)

To ease its exploitation, Turkey dupes the people with confused brand of religious and
archaic moral standards, hence, for example, the mass hysteria and the tragic scene of the

YOL is a compassionate journey through Kurdistan kept under a permanent state of siege by
Turkey since the dawn of this century. Here, over one and a half million Kurds (and similar
numbers of defenseless Armenians) have been massacred. Persecution, tortures, gallows,
mass deportations, aerial bombardments, napalm, poison gas, mass trials, organized terror,
forced assimilations, and total destruction of towns and villages are marked in blood on
Kurdish mountains as the unwritten history of Kurdistan. To talk about basic human rights
would be futile, when Turkey, in order to add insult, calls the Kurdish nation “Mountain Turks”.

To this date, mere speech in Kurdish or Kurdish costume carries a
mandatory prison sentence! Of course, since twelve million Kurds in
Turkey are not supposed to exist, any mention of even the word Kurd
is banned, let alone Kurdish culture! (Last March, a non-Kurdish
sociologist, Ismail Besikci, was sentenced to ten years for merely
describing the Kurds as a separate ethnic group.)

Turkey, a member of NATO, receives over one million dollars a day from the United States as
military aid. The corrupt fascist Turkish junta uses much of this to destroy Kurds, Armenians,
Greeks, and liberal Turkish people. As recently as last May, Turkey in conspiracy with Iraqi
military fascists staged a back-handed attack on Iraqi Kurdistan, and burned Kurdish
villages. Two thousand Kurds were captured, most of whom are now under torture in the
already over-crowded Turkish prison camps.

Robbed of its oil, food produce, and other natural resources by its more powerful neighbors,
Kurdistan lies in a singularly strategic position –between the Middle East, Russia, and
Europe. Due to this quirk of fate, Kurdistan has always been the battlefield of aggressors with
Kurds used as worthless pawns in a brutal game of greed and power.

Today, the fascist governments of Iran, Turkey, and Iraq are shamelessly ganging up to
exterminate the Kurdish nation –something no one has been able to do for 3000 years from
Alexander the Great, the Mongols, the Persian and Ottoman empires, to the British. The
Kurds are some 40 million people. Descendants of the ancient Medes, they have lived in
Kurdistan long before the Turks existed.

    YOL is a monument to human endurance; to the sick
    and wounded in Kurdish mountains; to thousands of
    lost orphans and homeless families. YOL is a poem of
    tears and flowers dedicated to the bereaved women and
    weeping mothers of Kurdistan.

    If you add up the hardship of the freedom-loving peoples
    of El Salvador, Vietnam, South Africa, Afghanistan,
    Palestine and Poland, it may not equal the plight of the
    Kurdish nation whose very existence is endangered. Yet
    ironically because Kurds are being massacred by Iran,
Turkey, and Iraq, and not directly by “white” or “big” powers such as Russia or America, the
Kurdish cause, though a unique tragedy, does not get the media exposure of the support
automatically given to other national causes. How apt, even today, is the sad, age old proverb:
“Kurds have no friends”!

YOL is hymn to the unsung heroes of the Kurdish nation, who against all odds and modern
destruction machines, fight alone for the preservation of their dignity, and identity. Form the
heart of Kurdistan, YOL is a gift of spirit and hope to the oppressed people everywhere in the

December 1983/Azadi Kurdistan/page: 3

San Francisco.

Jalal Jonroy's other articles:

Suspension of disbelief
Why write?