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Few dengbejs remain to sing Kurdish stories

In the old city of Diyarbakir, a dengbej house was established for the few remaining Kurdish storytellers to gather and try to keep their tradition alive, although younger generations are resorting to pop culture to convey the people’s suffering.
A Turkish Kurd plays the citar as smoke rises from the Syrian town of Kobani, as seen from the Mursitpinar crossing on the Turkish-Syrian border in Sanliurfa province October 26, 2014.  REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach (TURKEY - Tags: MILITARY CONFLICT POLITICS SOCIETY) - RTR4BMFX

DIYARBAKIR, Turkey — Rotating his prayer beads in his hand, Mehmet Ince sings songs of struggle and grief in a small courtyard. A 62-year-old man of tall stature and a short grey beard, he learned the art of storytelling through song from his father 46 years ago. Known as a “dengbej,” he is one of dozens of Kurdish storytellers preserving a fading tradition: performing their songs to recollect the history of their people.

Others like Ince gather in a house established for them by the local municipality in 2007. Located in the old city of Diyarbakir, hundreds of Kurds find solace here in the aftermath of tragedy and persecution.

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