To know some people

Sunday night, I decided to go to Diyarbakir, ‘capital’ of the Kurds living in southeastern Turkey. The Turkish government and army have been threatening for weeks to cross the Iraqi border to attack PKK camps, and I wondered how the Kurdish population felt about the plans and what the atmosphere in the city was like. It struck me how silent people are about the PKK. My translator spoke in euphemisms sometimes, for example when we talked to a family in a poor neighbourhood. ‘They know some people too’, for example. Later, somewhere indoors, he explained that on the street, people will not use the word ‘PKK’, either positively or negatively. If you ‘know some people’, then you know some PKK guerillas. People are scared to talk too openly about their political beliefs. You never know who might overhear, you never know what the consequences may be.
During the last few years there have been many improvements in the rights of the Kurdish minority in Turkey. But over all the preceding decades, fear and distrust got a grip on the people in this crowded, poor city. Laws and rights don’t change that so easily.

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