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Massacre in Aleppo: the Short Story Written by Selahattin Demirtaş

Massacre in Aleppo: the Short Story Written by Selahattin Demirtaş

I was wrong, life is too long. 

Anything strange? No, I don’t think so. The usual Middle East.  Exploding bombs, dozens of ruptured bodies, scattered dead bodies all around.

The number of the dead is 68, sixty eight.  Death was an ordinary, normal thing here or maybe we have overrated its meaning?  People die; a lot of people die constantly. The bombings in Aleppo do not affect people gathering for dinner at a restaurant in Sydney.  And the Canadians running to work in Toronto do not even know what had happened. Soon they will hear about it from the news but will lose it on the wind. 

The closest town to Aleppo is Hatay. It is so close that if the inhabitants of the town prick up ears they will hear the explosions.  

The famous snacks or Hatay are the beautiful dishes and utensils... Hatay does not have its own cuisine, its cuisine has absorbed the traditions of different nations: Arabs, Armenians, Syrians, Turkmens, Kurds, Farsi, Persians, Greeks.  Throughout the history these people ate or drank something and the residents of Hatay maintained the recipes to this day. If you end up in Hatay and leave the town without tasting its legendary dishes then you lose a lot. 

Arabs from Hatay cook kebab best of all.  Here the dish is a piece of art. You should try their kebab in the restaurant located in the Old bazaar.  The chef and the owner Hamdullah is probably the living version of nomadic traders whose description one may find in the old novels. After learning about him the tourists started to come to this place. It cheered the chef up and he decided to revamp the place a little.  The hairdresser Sadretin whose salon is on the opposite side, also suggested him the idea. "Brother you need to change the concept a little bit as there are many tourists on the streets. If each owner revamps his place a little bit, we will become a touristic street."

They decorated the café with plastic trees.  The food is the same but you can eat in a greener forest atmosphere. Although the plastic consists of cheap nylon, which as you know collects dust that is why the trees need to be thoroughly wiped. But that is fine, instead the food here is wonderful.

68 dead lives

The restaurant has only one waiter. By and lare he managed to serve all the seven tables. He is Hamdullah's nephew, he has been working here since childhood, as good as 19 years. His name is Bereket.  Last year his wife died in a car accident, he is bringing up two children by himself. She did not die in her car because she went over the speed limit. The bus hit the woman. Bereket is very attached to his job and the chef so he works with pleasure.  Everything is wonderful in this restaurant, especially the meat dishes.  

68 ruptured bodies

Prices are so low that they can surprise you.  We ate and drank the three of us and we also ordered dessert, and when they brought the bill we were surprised that that it was so cheap.   I was mostly astounded by the calmness of the chef Hamdullah. Regardless how full the restaurant is, even if it is overcrowded, not a muscle will move on his face.  He takes the orders from Bereket, fills in the plates and gives them to Bereket. I visited his place three times in a week and the situation was always the same.   

Actually Hamdullah is from Aleppo. But his grandfather decided to move to Hatay and since then they have been living in Hatay for over 60 years.  They are hereditary restaurateurs. Also in the historical part of Aleppo Hamdullah's uncle has dry-goods store. Before the war their families often visited each other.  But when the war began his relatives and friends from Aleppo fled to Hatay. Hamdullah set up a tent up in the yard of his two-storey-house, where he sheltered 48 people. Later on the situation inveigled him to speak to the owner of the first floor to allow the refugees to stay there.  

Master Hamdullah was never married. As a young man he fell in love with a girl whose name was Rukie and was mad at fate when she was married off at the age of 16. Therefore, he could no longer love anyone else. Rukie and his husband together with two children stayed in the lower floor of the house that Hamdullaf set up for the refugees. In order not to meet her, he always found a reason to leave the house early. And Rukie did not forget what is impossible to forget. She is still beautiful, she can not allow herself to look, she can not allow herself to look at him. Sometimes their random glances met. And as if they say "Let's leave everything and run away together."

68 dead, damn it!

Hamdullah was afraid that somebody might find out what was between them so he tried not to met Rukie. When he came home, he went to sleep right away.  Years later, Rukie, fearing that the foreigners could notice the fire of her love, stopped the rare conversations with Bereketin.  

It may be unsignificant, but every day they fell asleep thinking of each other. Is't it happiness to know that she is among those sleeping in the house.  There is no answer to the question. Even if they are not together, but all the same, years later they sleep under the same roof. No matter what you do you cannot make that insidious bird remain silent. It is easy to banish that bird during the day.  But it is hard to do it at night time, when you are in your bed with closed eyes. Abd in your dreams the bird is more impudent and shameless. And the hardest thing is to wake up and start a new day. Maybe he will hold off. Just a few more seconds...No, don't you dare!

The market in Aleppo, where only sadness is sold on the counters, reminds shots from the movie.   Since the war began, there is no joy, no smells and no colors in the markets of Aleppo. It is like a soulless hospital room where people go to buy food and fill their stomachs. 68 ruptured bodies.  And Rukia is among them.

Two days earlier beofre the explosion she and her husband went to Aleppo market to buy things for the house. In the evening she went to the market to buy kunefe for dinner (Turkish sweetness)

"Allah Akbar!", shouted the terrorists who blew themseles up.  Rukie was torn into parts.Hamdullah was praying Namaz, he felt pain in his chest. "Getting old", he thought.

The flavour of kunefe is the cheese that is added to it.  And also the cooking technique that is special in Hatay. Go to the market "Famous kunefe" and try it there.  

Rukya's husband was able to recognize the remains of Rukye’s body only by scraps of clothing.  Hamdullah could not bear the funeral of Rukie. The next day he locked up his restaurant and drank all the pills from his first-aid kit.  The restaurant did not work for several days. Bereket is till working in the restaurant. Rukie's husband is also waiter in the same restaurant.  His two children clean the restaurant and play in their free time. If you ever go to Aleppo, go to chef Hamdullah's restaurant, his kebab is still the most delicious. 

Author: Selahattin Demirtaş the opposition politician, the member of the Democratic Party of the Peoples of Turkey, the member of the Parliament, ethnic Zaza (Iranian people). Demirtaş is one of the active fighters for the creation of democratic Turkey, for the equality of rights and freedoms.

Other stories of Demirtaş: SeherDaughter of the Sea


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