The fear of the PKK is greater than the fear of the state

‘Please, don’t publish about it’, she begged me with tears in her eyes. So I cannot give any further information about the case of the woman who joined the PKK, fought for them for years, got into some internal dispute and was reportedly killed by the organization. Her name, her age, her city of origin, when she went up to the mountains and when her life ended: I cannot share it. Her family is too afraid of repercussions.

Call me naive, but I hope a natural result of the peace process will be that I can publish this story without worrying about the safety of my sources, and that I can verify the story. And that somebody is held accountable.

PKK fighters in Qandil, Newroz 2014.
PKK fighters in Qandil, Newroz 2014.

Recently, several people asked me if I was not aware of the murders the PKK carried out against its own members and Kurdish civilians, and of their attacks on civilians targets in Turkey. I am, of course. Everybody who immerses himself in the Kurdish issue in Turkey soon stumbles upon these crimes.

Covered in obscurity

The problem is, however, that it is hard to publish about it. About the crimes the Turkish state carried out, you can find thousands of people willing to speak out giving name and surname and picture if necessary. You can check the stories, go to the places where the crimes were committed, as I went to Roboski many times, you can find reports written by independent experts. That’s all hard to do when it comes to PKK crimes. They are covered in obscurity. Covered in anxiety, too: the victims’ fearof the PKK is greater than the victims’ fear of the state. Covered up with the mantle of love even, by those Kurds who refuse to open their eyes to the crimes of the organization they admire so much.

It’s comparable of course, to Turks who love the state so much that they refuse to see the numerous crimes it committed. I lost count of the number of messages I have received from Turks in Turkey and abroad telling me that the Roboski massacre was ‘an accident’, even though there are so many indications that it was a deliberate bombing. The state narrative of the Dersim massacres of 1937 and 1938 is still widely acknowledged in Turkey, despite so much available proof that there was no uprising, only a will to extinguish the people of Dersim. Many Turks are not even open to considering the possibility that what they believe is not the truth.

People will feel safer

The only way to reveal these crimes, and to make both Kurds and Turks open their eyes to the crimes of the side they supported, is to carry on with the peace process. When there is peace, people will feel safer, and thus less inclined to fiercely defend either the PKK or the state. Maybe they will be able to accept that not only the other side committed crimes.

Why not now? Why does the peace process need to be concluded first? Because peace processes have a certain procedure to follow. First you solve the root of the conflict, then you set up a truth and reconciliation commission that investigates crimes by both sides in the conflict, and hold those responsible accountable.

It is currently impossible to hold the PKK leaders and members accountable for their crimes. They are up there in the mountains, not within reach of the Turkish justice system. For them to be part of a truth and reconciliation process, they will have to come down and lay down their arms, and that will only happen when the Kurdish issue is solved. Part of the solution will have to be an amnesty law. How far-reaching such an amnesty law is needs to be discussed and agreed upon in parliament. Does it only excuse crimes committed against the ones bearing arms (PKK members killing soldiers, the Turkish army killing PKK members), or does such a law also entail crimes committed against civilians?

Endangering my sources

But before talking of being excused for crimes committed, it has to become very clear which crimes were carried out when, why, , and by whom. Only then can the family members of those thousands and thousands who lost their lives maybe find peace.

As a journalist, I can’t wait to receive the last pieces of the Roboski massacre puzzle, a puzzle that cannot be completed until all classified reports about it have become public. And I can’t wait to properly investigate the story of the woman who lost a PKK family member at the hands of the PKK, and publish it without endangering my sources. Unlike what some of my readers seem to think, my work is not about protecting or praising the PKK, but about defending human rights.

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