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img395Aşık İbreti is someone I would like to have met. His no nonsense plain speaking is so engaging – and, one thinks, quite courageous.  His language is simple and his is message clear. İbreti’s real name was Hıdır Gürel and he was born in 1920 in the Sarız region of Kayseri. In 1967 we was caught up in attacks against Alevis in Elbistan.  A working man, maker and seller of musical instruments and miner, he died in 1976. Musa Eroğlu, the great singer and bağlama player from Mut – often called the modern Karacaoğlan – is something of a champion of İbreti’s lyrics. He recorded the genuinely magnificent İlme değer verdim (Gördümde geldim) on his recording Yolver Dağlar and recently contributed İbreti’s Aşkın kabesi (İnsanlığa hizmet ibadetimdir) to the remarkable recording initiative by Kalan Music called Kızılbaş. Dertli Divani has also recorded the work of İbreti including Hakikat denildi erkânımıza on his 2000 masterwork Serçeşme. İbreti’s poems were published in 1996 in the book titled İlmer Değer Verdim by Adil Ali Atalay (Vaktidolu) whose publishing house, Can Yayınları, has contributed so much to the dissemination of Alevi culture.

The translation is fairly straightforward and I have tried to keep the language as ‘natural’ as possible. In the second verse he refers to Hızır (not to be confused with the despised Hızır Paşa, Pir Sultan’s nemesis) who obtained immortality by drinking the water of life – this is the concept I have tried to achieve in the translation. The other problematic word is gılman, which is sort of the male equivalent of ‘houries’. I have tried to render this with some taste – though I think there is a touch of the invective in the original. I repeat, İbreti is someone I would love to have met.

The picture is a photo of the notorious Madımak Otel (Hotel) in Sivas, which I took in 1996, three years after the fanatics set fire to the building because of the secular expressions of the artists and writers staying there who were attending the Pir Sultan Abdal Festival, killing 35 inside.

Postscript: I have made a couple of changes to the last two verses after reader Sürmeli pointed out a couple of errors. Many thanks.

Aşık İbreti: Değiliz

Translation: Paul Koerbin

Don’t climb up the minaret and cry out to us

We know this stuff, we’re not deaf

Think about yourself, don’t worry about us

We have no mind to quarrel with you

We know God is present everywhere

We know the mature human is immortal

We know anything other than this is nothing

Your estimation is wrong, we are not blind

If  there is humanity then your resolve is true

Improve you own self if you have the strength

We have no necessity for your heaven

We are not slaves to your houries and pageboys

We feel no compulsion for Arabic prayers

Consider us Muslim or infidel as you wish

To belittle the human is your biggest blasphemy

We are not unbelievers, we believe in this

Ibreti, humankind grieves for this situation

These words will anger crude fanatics

The one who is unaware of his true self will take offence

We feel no compulsion to delude of amuse them


Original text from Aşık İbreti İlme Değer Verdim (Can Yayınları, 1996)

Minareye çıkıp bize bağırma

Haberimiz vardır, sağır değiliz

Sen kendini düşün bizi kayırma

Sizlere kavgaya uğur değiliz

Her yerde biz Hakk’ı hazır biliriz

Olgun insanları Hızır biliriz

Bundan başkasını sıfır biliriz

Tahmininiz yanlış, biz kör değiliz

Eğer insanlıksa doğru niyetin

Nefsini ıslah et varsa kudretin

Bize lazım değil senin cennetin

Huriye gılmana esir değiliz

Arapça duaya değiliz mecbur

İster müslüman bil, istersen gavur

İnsan hor görmek en büyük küfür

Buna inanmışız, münkir değiliz

İbreti, bu hâle insan acınır

Ham sofular bu sözlerden gücenir

Aslına ermeyen elbet gocunur

Onu avutmaya mecbur değiliz