First they came for the trees.
Then they came for the indigenous and the itinerant,
Those reactionaries that stay rooted and will not go away,
And those terrorists that go seeding trouble everywhere.
But first they came for the trees.
Yes, they did come for the trees.
Who knows what those Kurds could get up in the forests?
It is well known that trees are friends of fugitives,
After all the only language trees speak is treason!
Of course they had to take the trees, my friend.
Why not take the trees,
When we are hungry for grain and thirsty for oil?
Selfishly keeping for their own what is due to the fatherland.
Trees stand in the way of progress and reason,
Everybody knows that about trees.
Sure you can have some trees.
We allow you to grow olives and cherries
In Afrin and Kobanê.
Grow them for the national good and be proud,
But do not grow anything besides these trees.
Liberation! Abundant trees are sprouting up!
Women and men planting
Shoulder to shoulder, with hope and joy,
To make the land green and ripe and resilient;
With sustaining, soil-embracing, water-retaining trees of liberty.
The trees bud and foliate,
Like opening mouths finding their voices again,
Expressing cool green thoughts,
In the heat of the Mesopotamian summer.
As Shakespeare knew, there are tongues in trees. He heard them.
Now ‘Operation Olive Branch’ comes for the trees,
Alongside airstrikes and mass killing,
Beneath the shuddering sky;
They are more than collateral damage,
The cut and bulldozed olive trees.
And they come for the waters too,
Enclosing and shackling rivers,
Water has memory longer than the ancient city of Hasankeyf;
Euphrates and Tigris remember humanity’s early cultures,
And will not forget what’s happening to their waters.
They come for the trees of life, our dear sylvan hevals,
Their jagged trunks wrenched and uprooted.
From a cave, sheltering from bombardment, a man cries out:
“We will stay in the Afrin region with the last olive tree;
We will sit under that remaining tree and not leave our homes and lands.”
Stephen E. Hunt, 11 March 2018
Illustration Nick Victor