Bitliste Bes Minare – English lyrics

Bitlis’te beş minare is a VERY popular folk song in Turkey. A search of YouTubes yielded over 30 different versions, after which I stopped looking. For more background on the song, dance, and Bitlis in general, see https://folkdancefootnotes.org/music/bitliste-bes-minare-turkish-kurdish/ for sheet music, see folkdancefootnotes.org/music/bitliste-bes-minare-sheet-music/

According to popular Turkish folklore the song commemorates a scene from the Turkish (Kurdish) liberation of Bitlis from a Russian occupation in 1916. Two fighters, a father and son, approach a mountain guarding the entrance to the town. Knowing the destructive tendencies of the Russians, the father hesitates, fearing what he might discover. He sends his son ahead. The son calls back, saying the only objects left standing are the 5 minarets. The father’s lamentation has the refrain “Come back, son, come back….”

Bitlis'te beş minare               5 Minarets in Bitlis
Beri gel oğlan beri gel Come back, son, come back
Yüreğim dolu yare My heart is full of wounds
Beri gel oğlan beri gel Come back, son, come back

İstedim yare gidem I wish to come beside you
Beri gel oğlan beri gel Come back, son, come back
Cebimde yok beş para Don't have a nickel in my pocket
Beri gel oğlan beri gel Come back, son, come back

Tüfeğim dolu saçma My rifle is loaded with buckshot
Beri gel oğlan beri gel Come back, son, come back
Sevdiğim benden kaçma My love don't run away from me
Beri gel oğlan beri gel Come back, son, come back

Doksan dokuz yarem var I have 99 wounds
Beri gel oğlan beri gel Come back, son, come back
Bir yare desen açma Don't cause another wound
Beri gel oğlan beri gel Come back, son, come back

The story doesn’t quite make sense to me. If the Russians really were as nasty as claimed (and they had a long record of being anti-Muslim and anti-Turk), one would think the first (and among the easiest) things they would destroy would be the minarets. And what about all the ancient buildings that are still standing today? Lately, another story is emerging. First, it was discovered that of the 5 minarets in Bitlis, only 4 of them existed in 1916. The fifth was built in 1924. Rumors were circulating that a 5th was destroyed sometime in the past, but no records could be found of its existence or its destruction.

I’ll now paraphrase parts of a 2013 article from this site https://www.haberturk.com/, an online Turkish magazine with a Western outlook. Here’s the article in Turkish https://www.haberturk.com/kultur-sanat/haber/874627-bitliste-bes-minare My English paraphrase:
Before I dive into the famous streets of Bitlis, I want to solve the issues of these five minarets; In this context, I leave the word to the University of Bitlis Eren lecturer – author Mehmet Törehan Serdar. The story about five minarets in Bitlis is completely imaginary and fabrication. When Bitlis was occupied and liberated, there were no five minarets in Bitlis. The number of minarets was 4. The mosque is very small, but the mosque has 4 minarets. 
The song Bitlis’te beş minare was composed by Fatih Gündoğdu of Bitlis, who worked in TRT İstanbul Radio in 1970 and the song ‘Come and Come Ever’ has been added by this person. This song is compiled from manis. It is not based on any event. And the minarets which are subject to folk are as follows:
1. The Grand Mosque and its minaret, built by the Seljuks in 1150;
2. And the minaret of Şerefiye Mosque built by the Principle of Bitlis Şerefhan in 1529;
3. The Hatuniye Mosque Minaret, commissioned by Huma Hatun, the daughter of Evhadullah Sultan from the Abbasids on an unknown date;

4. Between 1520 and 30, the Meydan Mosque and its minaret, built by the Serefhanlar; the last but not the unknown but in the Ottoman period. 
5. A minaret was added to this mosque in 1924 by Kazim Dirik, who was the governor of Bitlis.

Alternate lyrics + translation – provided by Bora Ozkok

Only one word is different in this version.  However, as it's in the refrain, it's critical. Oğlan (boy) becomes canan (sweetheart, beloved).  Other words are translated differently, changing the meaning further.

The translation supplied by Bora:
Bitlis'te beş minare Five minarets in the city of Bitlis
Beri gel canan beri gel Come near me sweetheart, come near me.
Yüreğim dolu yare My heart is filled with pain already
Beri gel canan beri gel Come near me sweetheart, come near me.

İstedim yare gidem I want to come near you my love
Beri gel canan beri gel Come near me sweetheart, come near me.
Cebimde yok beş pare I am but a poor man
Beri gel canan beri gel Come near me sweetheart, come near me.

Tüfeğim dolu saçma My shotgun is full of buckshot
Beri gel canan beri gel Come near me sweetheart, come near me.
Sevdiğim benden kaçma Don't run away from me beautiful girl
Beri gel canan beri gel Come near me sweetheart, come near me.

Doksan dokuz yarem var I have ninety-nine wounds already
Beri gel canan beri gel Come near me sweetheart, come near me.
Bir yare desen açma Don't pain me any further
Beri gel canan beri gel Come near me sweetheart, come near me.

This seems like the kind of lyrics a radio DJ would compose, though it makes a good folk song, too. If I interpret “The song Bitlis’te beş minare was composed by Fatih Gündoğdu of Bitlis, who worked in TRT İstanbul Radio in 1970 and the song ‘Come and Come Ever’ has been added by this person.” correctly, it could mean he added a different lyric to the same refrain, giving it a patriotic twist that boosted its popularity as it complemented a local legend.

Nowadays, many YouTubes of the song switch between the ‘oğlan’ refrain and the ‘canan’ refrain within the song. For instance, here’s a huge hit rendition (over 11,000,000 views) that showcases modern Turkey – stars from many cities and genres, including those living abroad.

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