It’s midnight and bitterly cold when Muhammed Sik’s corpse arrives from the border. Mourners stand at a petrol station 15km outside Diyarbakir, Turkey’s unofficial Kurdish capital, rubbing their hands together to keep warm. When the coffin arrives, they lead the way to the city’s morgue accompanied by the wail of the siren: another ‘martyr’ has arrived.
Sik was killed by ISIS militants in the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobani in late October. He had left his home near Diyarbakir to defend neighboring Kurds from the tightening ISIS siege, but was trapped by the jihadists. His body was found riddled with bullet wounds to the neck, sides and leg.
In Diyarbakir, a city of 1.5 million in the southeast of the country, funerals for young fighters killed in Kobani are now common. It’s a pain that brings back memories of the worst days of Turkey’s war with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). During the thirty-year conflict, around 40,000 were killed on both sides as the Kurdish group fought for rights and self-rule. This time though, the bodies are coming from the spreading civil war across the border in Syria.