A perseverant Kurdish man at the Turkish school in Siberia

Abdulhamit Bilici
Abdulhamit Bilici

Date posted: April 4, 2013

This is the story of a Turkish language teacher of Kurdish-descent from Turkey who worked in Yakutia, Russia. He is one of the volunteers in Hizmet (the Gulen Movement). We speak of a peaceful solution to the Kurdish issue these days. HizmetNews hopes that this story will give you hints of a sustainable solution for the issue. It was originally published on June 25, 2011.

Muharrem was a teacher born and raised in Diyarbakır from a middle class family with 4 children. Many reasons that made his friends rebel against the Turkish Republic and join the PKK were probably valid for him too. Yet he proceeded in a different direction. He wanted to finish a vocational school and start working as admission to a university was a distant dream for him. Until he bet with someone and started college preparation courses with the help of a relative. At the end of the academic year, he won the bet and entered the Economics Department at Marmara University in Istanbul.

A surprise was awaiting him when he finished college in 1994. He was offered a Turkish language teaching position at a Turkish school in the capital Yakutsk of the Sakha Republic (Yakutia), Siberia, Russia. He was only 24. Nothing popped up in his mind when he heard of Yakutia Republic, a country with the second largest diamond reserves after South Africa and three times larger than Turkey. He could not place this country, he never heard of before on the map. Along with its location he learned the long nights and long days of the country. His family left the decision to him and he accepted the job. On the way to Yakutia he was supposed to go through Moscow where he had to wait for 3 hours. They stayed in a hotel-like place at night. He was adviced to wait until the next day and never open the door for anyone. He only knew how to say yes and no in Russian anyway. The next day he arrived at the Yakutsk Airport all by himself only with the address of the school written in a piece of paper. The cab took him to the building he would spend the next 9 years of his life through an icy road. There was no housing so along with three other teachers he was going to live in a tiny room at the school, where the students were from the elite of the country including the grandchildren of the President.

During their stay at this tiny room, they had all sorts of problems. Since the weather could be as cold as minus forty eight degrees celcius, all the windows were covered with a thick layer of ice throughout the year. Because of the freezing weather, they needed special outfits to survive. But as Muharrem couldn’t afford a fur coat, he had to do with a horse-hair one for a year.

Another issue he faced was communication with his family back in Turkey. Since there were no phones of any kind that he could use at the time, the only way for him to communicate with his parents was through letters that took one-and-a-half month to reach Turkey. Although it was by no means a solution to all these issues, after six months of struggle in this tiny room, they finally found an apartment.

Fed up with all the hardship, Muharrem was reluctant to stay another year in this far away land. His love of teaching stopped him from going back home so he stalled his return thinking he would return after seeing his first students graduate. He was planning to get married with his fiancée after going back to Turkey. But nothing went as planned, a return was not in near sight, so the fiancée was only able to wait for two years, deciding to break up with him. Broke up gave them both hard time. In the end, he would only return after nine years of struggle. Going back home, he would find out nearly all his friends were married and pursuing different goals all around Turkey. As a man of perseverance, he would only get married at thirty-five, seen quite late in Turkey.

Muharrem has been living in Moscow for seven years. So I ask to this hardworking Turkish language teacher of Kurdish descent who managed to survive nine years in one of the toughest countries where Turkish schools are present how he feels when he watches the Turkish Language Olympiads held every year in June. “Seeing the outcome of our effort makes us even more grateful to God, I didn’t have the brightest life of all, but if Lord asks me about what I did for him, I can claim to have struggled nine years in Yakutia,” he says. Seeming absolutely okay with the idea of teaching Turkish as someone with a Kurdish descent, he adds, “Language is not the only value we share as Turks and Kurds. Religion, history and Hizmet (Gulen movement) won’t even suffice to tell you the one-third of these values.”

Stories, with this kind of unknown heroes, were the reason why, during the finale of the Turkish Language Olympiads, the well-known Turkish film producer Sinan Çetin got emotional and expressed his appreciation to Fethullah Gulen for inspiring this movement.

[Original news is in Turkish]

Source: Zaman Newspaper , June 25, 2011

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