In the temple of a patient god by Bejan Matur
Bejan Matur is an award-winning Kurdish-Alevi poet from Turkey writing in Turkish and Kurdish. Her poetry has been translated into more than twenty languages. She currently lives in London.
Her father wanted her to become a lawyer, or a journalist. She graduated from law school but, having seen injustice routinely meted out across her country under the banner of the law – and experiencing it firsthand when she was tortured in prison in 1988 – she grew disillusioned with the profession. She reflects that if she had pursued a legal career, today she would be a human rights lawyer. What Bejan Matur does as a writer, columnist and poet may not serve a legal function, but it is advocacy: for human rights in general, for the Kurdish people and also for the rights of women and other minority and threatened groups in Turkey.
The poems in her chapbook, presented under the title If this is a lament, are deeply rooted in the historical, cultural and political context of the Kurdish people of Turkey. Turkey has an infamous history of systematically killing its minorities – whether it be the Armenians, the Alevis, the Greeks or the Kurds – and never recognising their suffering. The ‘Kurdish question’, as it is usually referred to in the Turkish media
and in mainstream narratives, has been ongoing for four decades. It is an armed conflict between the Turkish state and various Kurdish insurgent groups. One side claims that they fight for their freedom and the other side brands them as terrorists and separatists. The issue is far too complex to explain in a short introduction but is important to acknowledge this context as the fraught territory of Matur’s poetry. While Matur’s poems depict a lot of pain, blood and suffering, she abhors victimization, instead carving out a space to dream, to create, to hope and to love. Her poetry is spiritual, almost mystical, though not religious. While she does mention ‘god’ in certain poems, the holiness she seeks through her poetry derives from and is situated in the heart – the poet’s heart, which reaches towards truth.