Dear Europe,

You are so huge, so heavy, so impersonal, but still, I have this deep urge to grab you by the shoulders. If I, one of your tiny meaningless citizens, could, I would then shake you firmly. Wake up!, I would shout in your face. Come on Europe, wake up!

President Erdogan meets EU's Federica Mogherini
President Erdogan meets EU’s Federica Mogherini

I giggled last week, when I read about the delegation of high EU representatives which was coming to Turkey. There is a new European Commission, and since there is also a new President in Turkey, maybe the EU and Turkey could create a momentum again for the accession talks, a new beginning in the relationship. A new President? Was that sort of a slip of the pen of the journalist writing this piece about the EU visit, or did you really think this ‘new President’ would in any way be different than the previous man in power? That in the first night Recep Tayyip Erdogan slept in his capacity of President, he underwent some deep transformation into what the President of the Republic is supposed to be, according to the constitution: a man standing above all parties? You didn’t think that, did you? Continue reading “Dear Europe,”

A permanent ceasefire? Now? I’d be disappointed.

PKK fighter bearing arm, Newroz 2014, Qandil mountains. Photo: Fréderike Geerdink
PKK fighter bearing arm, Newroz 2014, Qandil mountains. Photo: Fréderike Geerdink

Busy travelling again these days between Ankara, Imrali and the Qandil mountains. And the topic that the media seem to get excited about is disarmament. Are the Kurdish movement and the government trying to make a deal about the PKK laying down its arms? Öcalan, after all, said a few days ago that a solution to the conflict could be reached within months. So, is he preparing for another ground-breaking speech at Newroz? Will he declare a permanent ceasefire? I’d be disappointed if he did. Continue reading “A permanent ceasefire? Now? I’d be disappointed.”

Mesopotamia doesn’t exclude anybody

I had already seen him at the symposium, sitting in the conference hall with a large framed image next to him. I didn’t ask him what it was, I thought that he must be one of the speakers and we would find out eventually. And yes, we did find out eventually. Right after the closing words of the symposium were spoken, he rushed to the front of the hall and exploded in anger, his framed image in his hands: ‘Look, these are my ancestors!’, pointing at the framed image which turned out to be, or so he claimed, his family tree. ‘The Abbasid dynasty ruled here for centuries, so why are they not even mentioned once in a three day symposium on Hakkari history?’

Rugged Hakkari mountains.
Rugged Hakkari mountains.

He then turned rude and abusive, asking for example why ‘kafirs’ were speaking at the symposium, thus losing his right to speak up for diversity, so naturally people  stopped listening.

But the guy had a point. Continue reading “Mesopotamia doesn’t exclude anybody”

One nation, one language, one flag, and one time

Six, I think every evening when I go to bed. I should get up at six. That’s around the same time the sun rises, so I would be able to catch as much sunlight as possible and not spend most of my waking hours in the dark. But of course I hardly ever manage to get up that early. There’s nothing much we citizens of Diyarbakir can do to avoid our fate of living in darkness.

Darkness
Darkness

At least, as soon as winter time has started. Suddenly, it starts getting dark right after 4 in the afternoon, and towards the end of December it starts even earlier. This is not, like in the north of Europe, because the days are so short, but because the time on the clock is just not in line with reality. Continue reading “One nation, one language, one flag, and one time”

The lack of democracy is creeping up on me

A friend of mine has been living in Turkey for years, but has now moved to another country. From Turkey to a country with a full and working democracy. She said that she has just begun to realize again how nice it is to live in a democracy, after which she asked: ‘Don’t you miss living in a democracy?’

Lentil soup
Lentil soup

Intriguing question of course, especially since I was in my home country last week, which is one of the democratic countries of the world. Whenever I am in the Netherlands I realize what I miss from there: friends to open a bottle of whiskey with and talk of love and life in my mother tongue, a more international cultural life with something as basic as good documentary films on TV, racing through the city on a bicycle, and restaurants where you can choose from more than Adana kebab, Urfa kebab, Iskender kebab and lentil soup, lentil soup and lentil soup. But do I miss democracy? Continue reading “The lack of democracy is creeping up on me”

Kurds are savages, aren’t they?

The beards are a good example. The beards that were shaved off by men in Diyarbakir and other south-eastern cities and towns, because they feared that if they did not shave their beards, they would come under attack from pro-PKK Kurds for being ‘Islamists’ or ‘IS supporters’.

scherenMany papers published articles about it, everybody took up the subject, and the juicy story even made it to many foreign media outlets. The stupid thing is, of course, that nobody actually checked it. Well, one journalist did. Pinar Tremblay of Al-Monitor. She quoted Nurcan Baysal, a Diyarbakir-based columnist for the T24 website, as saying: ‘I do not think this news is accurate. Around here, many men wear beards, and neither Kurdish Hezbollah nor IS members are concerned about hiding their identity’. Then Tremblay wrote: ‘None of the members of Huda-Par (a Sunni Islamist party) that Al-Monitor contacted had shaved their beards.’ Continue reading “Kurds are savages, aren’t they?”

Kürtler, veya: yüzeyin altındaki kimlik ne?

Ne zaman Kürdistan’a gitsem ve onlarla konuşsam her zaman Kürt olmak dışındaki diğer kimliklerini keşfetmeye çalışıyorum. Bir Kürt kendini Kürt olarak tanımlayan birisi ama bunun altında hangi kimlik saklı? Bu, 25 Ekim 2014’te Bilgi Üniversitesi’nde düzenlenen ‘Sınırlar Aşılırken Kürtler: Değişen Mekanlar ve Kimlikler’ isimli konferansta yaptığım bir konuşmanın konusuydu.

(Read the English version of this speech here)

Kürtler, tek bir vücut olarak
Kürtler, tek bir vücut olarak, Newroz 2013

İki bin on iki ilkbaharı, Van. Bir kahvehanenin damında, kulak kabartanlar ne konuştuğumuzu duymasın diye oturduğumuz hoparlörlerin yaydığı gürültülü müzik altında genç bir Kürt öğrenci ile röportaj yapıyordum. Adına Fırat diyelim. İki bin on bir Van depreminden sonraki günlerde gönüllü çalıştığı süreçten konuştuk. KCK soruşturmasında gözaltına alındığında, sorgu sırasında sorulanları konuştuk.  Örneğin, “Neden battaniye dağıtıyordun” diye sormuş polis. Continue reading “Kürtler, veya: yüzeyin altındaki kimlik ne?”

Don’t turn me into a battle field reporter

It was before I came to Turkey, in 2006, that I had a conversation with a friend and fellow journalist in my home country, the Netherlands. I was already thinking of going abroad but hadn’t decided yet where to go. He asked: ‘Do you have any aspirations to become a war correspondent?’ I didn’t think for a second and said: ‘No. Wouldn’t it be way cooler to become a peace correspondent?’

peaceThe rather brilliant thought never left me. Well, brilliant… That depends on how you look at it if course. From a traditional journalism point of view, peace journalism makes no sense whatsoever. War is news. Clashes, deaths, advances and retreats of armies and other armed groups, floods of refugees and human drama, cities bombed to ruins, political games, negotiations, allies and enemies – what more do you want? Continue reading “Don’t turn me into a battle field reporter”

Kurds find cold reception as they flee Kobani into Turkey

As the battle for Kobani rages, up to 200,000 Syrian Kurds have fled into Turkey, where long-running animosities mean a suspicious reception at best. Frederike Geerdink reports from Suruc, close to the border.

(written in cooperation with a foreign desk editor) Continue reading “Kurds find cold reception as they flee Kobani into Turkey”

Back to the dark days

‘Life in Diyarbakir’, some Turkish media reported, ‘has returned to normal’. The curfew that applied for a few days was lifted. As I drank coffee, I heard the sound of teargas shots outside. Around 7 in the evening (every evening since a few days) a protest started in which people banged pots and pans on their balconies in support of Kobani and against the AKP’s inaction against IS. At least ten Diyarbakir citizens died in clashes over the last three days, and some guerrilla fighters who died were brought to the city for their funerals. F16’s left from the military airport, the army was present on the streets and a helicopter was keeping an eye on the city and its people from the air.

For once, the Turkish media are right: life in Diyarbakir has returned to normal.

Army in the streets of Diyarbakir, 9 October 2014
Army in the streets of Diyarbakir, 9 October 2014

For almost two years, life has been extraordinary in Diyarbakir. There was hope, although not much faith, that the peace process that started early in 2013 would actually lead somewhere. Continue reading “Back to the dark days”