A decade-long dream… has finally come true

Because the Syrian regime had all press platforms under its control, Kurds had no right to their own platform. This was only granted to them through the revolution. With this foundation, the dream the Kurds had cherished for years became true. April 22nd was set as a press day, as it commemorates the first Kurdish newspaper (which was called Kurdistan) published in Cairo on April 22nd, 1898.

At the start of a new project there are always thousands of difficulties and obstacles, but it is at least twice as difficult when there is war at home. I am currently working at Ronahî TV, the first Kurdish television station in Rojava. We order all our equipment from abroad, and if it is larger equipment, it gets stuck at the border for years, because the neighboring countries (Turkey, and the Kurdistan Autonomous Region in northern Iraq) do not let the equipment through to Rojava.

We are still missing many things. For example, it’s been five years since I started to cover the fight against ISIL journalistically, but I haven’t yet received any self-defense strategies or first-aid courses, and most of the journalists who work here don’t have such things either. [iii]

There is one day in 2015 that I will never forget. It was the day of the QDS operation against ISIL in the city of Al-Haul. We had gotten lost three times that day, were only a few meters away from ISIL fighters, and almost landed on Caliphate territory. We knew that they would behead us if we were caught, like so many others before. But luckily, some civilians had given us directions we found the right way. Journalists in war zones are often driven back and forth on a military vehicle. But you can never be certain that a grenade won’t find its target and explode, leaving you to find a similar end as Dilîşan.

For me, Dilîşan and hundreds of others who work as journalists in Rojava, there are many reasons why we do this. But in general, there are two motives that are particularly important:

First and foremost, our long-cherished dream is coming true here and now: we are able and allowed to express ourselves in Kurdish on a press platform. We have not forgotten the cruelty and violence perpetrated by the Syrian regime against us and our language. In the past, speaking Kurdish was grounds enough for a long prison sentence.

Secondly, it was the first time that our country was liberated. To experience our homeland in this way is an indescribable joy for very many Kurds. We want to show this beauty to the whole world!

Of course, the development of our work and our country is far from complete. The voices of weapons and war are still being heard. For the sake of my work I hope that the war will end soon, and that I will get a chance to develop myself into the media sector. Although I have already learned much and was honored as the best journalist in Rojava this year, I believe that I need to work on myself even more.

In general, I am optimistic for Rojava and hope, that our Situation will improve continuously. But the attacks of the Turkish state in particular continue to pose a threat to me and the people in the region. For example, they have announced that they will occupy our territories, just as they have done with the Canton and the City of Afrin.

I would like to see a museum for Dilîşans camera and for many other objects of journalistic equipment destroyed in the war, so that they and the people and stories connected with them are never forgotten.

Finally, I would like to thank this project for the appreciation of Rojava and my work.

It is my wish that everyone can participate in this living project.

Hoşeng Hesen (translation from the Kurdish to Germany by Sîlva Oso)

[i] Various Kurdish, Arab, Turkmen, Circassian, Aramaic, and Syriac groups live together in Rojava. This is also reflected in the political-administrative structures of the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria (DFNS). Rojava’s social contract, (see http://civaka-azad.org/der-gesellschaftsvertrag-der-demokratischen-foederation-von-nordsyrien/) declares equal rights for women, freedom of religion and the abolition of the death penalty.

[ii] See report by Amnesty International https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2019/10/syria-damning-evidence-of-war-crimes-and-other-violations-by-turkish-forces-and-their-allies/ [10.01.2020]

[iii] According to the NGO Reporters Without Borders, Syria ranks 174th out of 180 in the freedom of press rankings, making it one of the most dangerous countries for journalists. The Assad regime and armed Islamist groups systematically persecute, threaten and kill media workers (https://rsf.org/en/syria [12.28.2019]).

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