An Uneasy Balance
by Mrs. Sarfaraz NAKSHABANDY (Berlin)

[Published in Berlin, in journal Havibun, 1998, No 4, pp. 167-169]

Translated from Kurdish
by Dr. Zurab ALOIAN

The events described here took place on April 1, 1991, in the city of Erbil (known as HewlÍr in Kurdish). On that day, the troops of the Iraqi regime carried out an assault on the city and quelled the Kurdish uprising.

New waves of shudder embraced his warm heart. Veins of his fist showed how weak his life was. No tent exists to cover weakness! Brain must work quickly! As a shock to his headís skin was the voice of the military commander.

Again and again, he compressed his veins together. He consumed his heartís desire to please his head: maybe the distance between his head and heart will be shorter?! Maybe his breast will utter the right answer?! He himself would find a solution until the deadline passes. His choice is clear: between survival and disappearance. Either or. The reward depends on a stone to be thrown into the scale. What an uneasy balance!

He breathed and whispered:

- Either my brother or me, one of us will die. Let him survive! One day heíll take revenge for me. Oh, I wish I knew, when and how?!

He looked at his brother who was relying upon the wall. His brother was like a water-spring which is getting dry by the sun in July.

Flash in their eyes! Feelings of longing, fear and sympathy mixed with betrayal and resistance! These emotions turned into crystal-clean tears, but the tears would soon frustrate them.

The events of yesterday were in his mind: how the aircraft of the regime were flying above human heads and shooting them with bullets and bombs. He made a short speech to himself:

- Only God knows what have happened to my kids? All the mothers, women and children, barefoot and hungry, rushed towards the border. Theyíre fleeing... Upon the road of recurrent leaving and returning, the road meaning survival for some and death for many. I wish I joined them! Well, but I couldnít leave the men in the trenches alone, could I?

The second time, his head clenched from the voice of the military commander. While looking through the documents of the captured Kurds, he had separated the brothers. All others have been taken to the wall and their lives came to an end by the bullets, shot at them one by one. As if somebody killed the flies! No, the flies are much luckier; they can fly when facing the danger. But these people... Nobody will ever release them from the death knot. Nobody will ever give a reason to their fate. 

The commander read the two documents once more. His eyes were peals of thunder, and he could do little to hide his feelings:

- Both of you must think it over, who is ready to die. Iíll set free the other. I give you this choice. So that you know how democratic we are. Even in death we give you the right to choose. Weíre not those dictators as you constantly blame us. Let God curse and punish you, Kurds! You are nothing but the Devilís offspring!

The commander made himself go hot and cold. Then, he cleaned his forehead from the sweat and turned to a soldier:

- These two demons ... Give them a quarter of an hour; theyíll make up their minds.

Suddenly a howl of despair came from a manís mouth:

- Help ... help! For Godís sake!

The commander moved his head towards the voice. An old man from the gathering of the corpses - useless rags - uttered this cry:

- Help us ... weíre poor and innocent ... Whatís our crime? Donít kill us! 

The Iraqi commander was alien to the Kurdish language:

- What did the old dog say? 

The Kurdish civilian translated. The commanderís eyes got black and blue of anger:

- You, dirty dog! Your crime is very big: there must be no place for you under the sky! Who are you to rebel against the Greatest Leader? What do you want, you, sick dogs? Our Leader arranged everything for your benefit, but youíre fond of wars and murders.

He pressed the cock. One shot of his gun was enough to silence the cry for help. The brothersí eyelashes trembled. Their eyes spoke without words. The elder brother was telling himself:

- If they kill my brother, how could I go back? What shall I say to my relatives? But theyíd never know that we were given the choice between survival and death, would they? What if I tell them, it was a question of fortune: he was killed and I was set free? No, no ... this would be a heavy burden on my soul and Iíll collapse. My heart will be unable to stay within my flesh. My soul and flesh will be separated. Who takes such a decision, his bones will never support him... Itís better if I die. Because my brotherís young, he has not seen himself and has not tried his life. But me... I am thirty-two years old, my wife and kids are lost in the darkness. Do I need such a life?!

The younger brother, too, had a conversation with himself:

- My brother has kids and, as is usual, follows our father. Iíve no dependants, so let it be me!

After having interrogated his consciousness, his heart trembled as the leaves in the autumn:

- Oh my cousin, daughter of my uncle![1] I know youíre waiting for me, I promised I would woo you, we would celebrate our wedding with dance accompanied by drum and zurna,[2] in happiness we would pierce and slide apart mountainous rocks.

But the treachery froth covered his entangled bones:

- Yet, if I choose the death for my brother... Then my cousin would despise me for my cowardice. And my relatives would distance themselves from me. Oh, what a heavy breathing I have to encounter a mountain-high balance. I want to live but Iím hard up, and the beauty of life is destroyed.

In desperation, he choked down his saliva and continued his thoughts:

- My situation puts on me the clothes of shame. Because of my ideas. Damned be a life obtained on the expense of my brotherís death. No, Iím not a faithless coward!

Suddenly he stood up and told his brother looking him straight in the eyes:

- Brother, tell my cousin that her slender waist... her free stature ... she must forgive me and marry one day.

His brother easily stood up, too, and like ember, approached him and shouted:

- No way, you wonít do it... donít!

Then, unable to stop crying, he pronounced:

- You, little silly, and our cousin must take care of my kids... if they are still alive, of course. Otherwise, I know a bit more than you, let it be me!

The lieutenant appointed to look after them shouted:

- Sit down and shut up!

The commander heard this and came out from his room. The eyes of the brothers were like tapers, and they surveyed the corpses of their comrades. But they overcame the tremble of death and strongly took in each otherís arms accreted as the Corinthian column. Now they wouldnít care of the things around them. The brothers have already entered the world of the dead. Indeed, such a death of the two equals one free life.

Sound of bullets again was heard under the sky of HewlÍr. Voiceless secrecy covered fear, dignity and love of life.


[1]Marriages between cousins are still widespread in rural areas of Kurdistan.

[2]Zurna is a traditional Kurdish wind-instrument.