Debbie Bookchin spoke at the memorial for Memo:
I am very honored to stand before you today and say a few words about Mehmet. Mehmet spoke words of inspiration effortlessly, from his heart, channeling a river of passion for justice and righteousness, with a wisdom that it sometimes seems he was born with, though we all know that he worked hard to become the extraordinary person he was. Unlike him, my words don’t come easily, especially at a time like this. So please forgive me for reading a few comments.
On this day, commemorating a year since Mehmet’s death, it sometimes seems as if the pain is as fresh as if it had happened yesterday. It’s easy to become distraught that Mehmet is no longer with us, guiding us with his intelligence and dedication, his commitment and sure and steady hand. Sometimes, I feel like the work we need to do is simply impossible without him—especially now when there is so much uncertainty about the future, about democracy, about the sustenance of Kurdish autonomy in Northern Syria, about stopping the crushing force of the Turkish murderers in Bakur and their army and gangs in Afrin.
When I become overwhelmed and feel at a loss, I look to Mehmet’s words for comfort. I often go and find his last letter to his family.
I see, first, the photo of Mehmet, one of my favorites, sitting at a table in front of two bottles of spring water, proudly wearing his YPG insignia badges, with those gleaming eyes and that warm smile of his that lit up the world. And when I see his face, I find it difficult not to cry, because even though he was so much more yours than he ever was mine, it was impossible to know Mehmet for even a few minutes without admiring him, wanting to work with him, losing your heart to him. And when I see his smile in that photo, his absence seems impossible to endure.
And then I read his words, slowly, closely and carefully. And it is in that act, that I find the courage to go on. It’s especially here where Mehmet says:
“Since my childhood, I have always sought, created and tried to increase love, friendship and sharing. And I am lucky, I have had very beautiful friends. I am sending them my greetings and love from here. Each one of them is invaluable to me. However, I have found the most beautiful friendship in this movement, in this party. I am above all here for that comradeship.”
With these words, Mehmet in his own way, is telling us that nothing is more important than our ability to love, hold each other close, and also let each other go—so that we can each find our path to building a better world, so that we can experience the exhilaration of the great communal struggle for a new society, the struggle with like-minded comrades, the struggle that makes life worth living.
Mehmet had to go to Rojava because he had to belong to a revolution underway, a movement that would give him that most important gift, that of solidarity in struggle with his own people to create a free Kurdistan, and a free world. And Mehmet had the strength to go to Rojava because of his beautiful family and friends, because of all of you—because of the love, nurturing and solidarity in this community. He knew he could go, even at the risk of death, and keep each of you close even though he was thousands of miles away. And he knew that if the worst happened each of us would work even harder to carry on his project.
Mehmet knew that we would summon the strength to find our own paths toward that comradeship and commitment to change, because in that act of engagement we have already begun to build the democratic, feminist society that represents true freedom, that will allow us to experience our truest humanity—a world of genuine equality, of harmony between all peoples, of shared resources and communalism, a place of mutual aid instead of competition, of caring instead of selfishness, of justice and solidarity and love.
Mehmet knew better than most what those values meant because he lived them every day. He knew that human beings could be so much more than we are allowed to be in this vulgar capitalist society. He modeled that new world for us with each breath he took. And today, when we think of how great our loss is, we must also remember the beautiful inspirational words of his parents: his mother, Zeynep who said: “Always, always, always. I will always stand behind you, my son.”
And his father, Kalendar, who said: “Mehmet was a drop. He became a river. He became the sea.”
Never have these words been more true.
These days, because of my father’s writings, I travel all over talking about the politics that Mehmet cared about so deeply—the politics of democratic confederalism and women’s liberation. And I talk about the Kurdish example in Rojava and Bakur and how much we can learn from it. And everywhere I go, inevitably, Mehmet’s name is known and people come up to me and they talk about him at length, and with surprise, I say, “Oh did you know Mehmet?” and they invariably say “Actually, I never met him in person. But I so wish I had.”
These people all over the world are carrying on Mehmet’s work in his name: in neighborhoods and villages and towns and cities—in the West and the East, in the Global North and Global South—they are trying to create a politics on the Kurdish model, a politics that empowers people of all races and ethnicities and genders to build an ecological, cooperative, feminist society where we can steward this precious earth and love and care for each other the way that Mehmet taught us to.
In closing his beautiful last letter, Mehmet said he loved his family to eternity. We will love him to eternity as well—doing it by following in his path, by doing the work Mehmet taught us to do. Mehmet will live on in much more than our hearts; he will live in our every day struggle.
Strengthened by his words and memory, the Kurdish people will lead the world in creating a free society where everyone can flourish. This is Mehmet’s legacy and we shall carry it forward, sometimes with tears, but always with vigor, with the strength and renewal that Mehmet’s life and words imbue us with every day.