Deq is an ancient Kurdish art of tattooing with ink made from the milk of a woman giving birth to a baby girl and soot or ashes.
Head to southeastern Turkey, in the remote villages of Mardin, Şanlıurfa and Diyarbakır provinces in Turkey as well as in Kurdish-inhabited neighborhoods, and you'll find the art of embellishing faces and bodies. with very popular tattoos.
Older women have tattoos on their chin, hands, nostrils, forehead, neck, ankles and even on their breasts. Some tattoos are geometric, others resemble stars, birds, the sun or the moon. They represent the baseball jerseys custom main Kurdish art of ancient tattooing known as deq in the local language. Although this art of tattooing is increasingly lost, deq was once a way to beautify the face of women here. Each symbol has its own meaning, derived from satisfaction, hope, pain or fear from the human body itself.
Traditionally, tattoos were created by mixing the milk of a woman who had just given birth to a daughter, mixed with soot or ash. The reason for using the baby girl's mother's milk is from the belief that breast milk can make the tattoo never disappear. Sometimes, tattoo ink mixtures can be made from the gallbladder of an animal. As a first step, an old woman draws a front shape on her skin and makes small dots with a sewing needle. Deq is a very painful tattooing process for women, but the completed tattoo will last forever.
The symbols of the deq tattoo have many different meanings, but most represent the desire to protect women from the forces of darkness. They are believed to bring good health, cure diseases, and are associated with fertility and connection to the community.
One eye tattoo is believed to deflect evil eyes, while an antelope tattoo will bring good luck to the tattooer. The shape of the sun or moon is meant to bring good health to life, and the shape of millipedes like centipedes can help with better family management. With the desire for beauty, the Kurds will tattoo the moon or a star. The V symbol means the identity of the tribe. Geometry or animal figures often represent a desire for reproduction.
The fading over time
Deq is an "accessory" that elderly women in southeastern Turkey are proud to Christmast clothing show off to the world. In 2016, American photographer Jodi Hilton traveled to Syria and later moved to a refugee camp in Turkey. There she took many documentary photos of the last women still using deq tattooing. Jodi shared on his personal website: "Several symbols from Yezidi - the ancient Kurdish religion, including the sun, moon, star, peacock, are found on the tattoos."
Around the mid-1960s in the Kurdish regions of northern Syria, many women avoided getting the deq tattoo, because it not only showed disrespect but also because it was outdated. Today, traditional markings can be found in simple small dots on a woman's forehead, nose, or chin. The tattooists in Kobani (a Syrian city bordering the southern Turkish border) are living artifacts for people in the past.