Farid Medjahed was better known to his friends as Waka. He took the name Şahîn Qereçox when he travelled to Rojava in June 2018, and fell şehîd (martyr) after only four months in the YPG in an attack by ISIS on the 6th of October 2018.
Although he was a citizen of France, Waka participated in ecological direct action campaigns in the UK and became close to a number of comrades here. One of these shares memories below.
This is the third autumn I have been honouring grief for Waka.
I am shocked when 6th October approaches. But it is not quite then that I miss them the most.
I imagine what they were thinking when they were in Deir-ez-Zor. I wonder whether they were afraid by the sound of artillery. I wonder whether they knew they were about to die when it happened.
But I miss Waka most when it turns to November. Their funeral was held in their hometown Marseille. A few of us heard 2 days before it was due to happen – we were near Cologne, in Hambacher Forest, in Germany. So we made a quick decision and jumped the trains all the way down to Marseille. Three of us got 1,000 Euros in fines for that journey – a fitting way to begin our journey of honouring Waka’s memory!
Marseille was still warm in mid November. The sun was shining and it was a busy day, full of rushed car journeys, speeches, and flags. I remember smoking a cigarette on an empty stomach and little sleep in a speeding car on the way to the funeral and almost throwing up, but trying desperately not to embarrass myself or show disrespect during a conversation about the 15 years in prison that the Kurdish comrade sat next to me was telling me about. The gravity of the situation was interspersed with moments of absurdity and, of course, beauty.
After the funeral, a few of us that were Waka’s comrades spent time with their family – we went on a short day hike up a beautiful mountain that overlooks the sea. We heard a little about Waka’s childhood and met their siblings and cousins. We were welcomed, and grateful for it.
In the shortening days of November, I always remember this journey – the darkness of the forest and the mixture of excitement and reticence at such a long journey and the intimidation of goodbyes. The warmth of the sun and the colour of the sandstone in Marseille, the smiles we shared with family. The hitchhike back to the forest that was long, taking over a day and night, and transitioning into snow as we approached West Germany.
Every autumn, as it descends into winter, reminds me that one of our comrades is missing.
But this is not the only time I miss Waka. It is also strongest during periods of time when I need guidance from comrades the most. When the contradictions inherent in life in this era of climate catastrophe and late stage capitalism are at their most bizarre, when we feel most crushed, when the path forward is the least clear. I wonder what Waka would think of the pandemic, of what methods they would suggest we should use to organise collectively. They had a skill for nuance and compassion – they would see the seriousness of a situation without becoming stuck in it or falling into binary modes of thinking, and at the end, they would be able to make light of the situation without minimising it.
I find these comrades rare to come by. I knew Waka for very little time – they have been gone already much longer than the time we knew each other. But I still know that I am missing something. That consciousness is inexplicable.
Did they know when we said goodbye that it would be the last time?
I want their input on our political direction. I want to talk all levels of organising with them and discuss what constitutes certain emotions; I want to keep discussing, what is the nature of love? I want the lightness of their approach, and the brevity of their insight.
We don’t have it. We have memories, and imaginations, but they only illuminate how much is missing.
The solace I find is in the fact that grief is shared. There are dozens or hundreds of people who miss Waka – but there are thousands of people that are missed by dozens or hundreds each. As we all traverse this dimension of grief, we share something that is inherent in being alive. I don’t want to glorify pain, because it is not worth glorifying. But all of us will experience grief; we all lose someone, and we all die. I find a little ironic humour in writing this, as I can only imagine having a brilliant conversation with Waka deconstructing the Descartian cosmology the West holds regarding death, the soul, and what it means to be alive.
I’ll keep walking this path with you.
We are in constellations that move through time,
and remain in relationship across time.
We didn’t stop struggling,
I will walk more moonlit walks
and wonder at the world.
I will try to invoke
an imperfect integrity
and a gentle bravery
in your memory,