Koerden weren journalisten uit Sinjar

Short article about media denied access to Sinjar/Shengal during the military operation to re-take the area from Daesh, November 2015. Published in Dutch weekly news magazine Groene Amsterdammer.

Erbil – Sinjar is weer terug in Koerdische handen. De belangrijkste stad van de yezidi’s – Koerden die het yezidische geloof aanhangen – die vorig jaar zomer onder de voet werd gelopen door IS werd in een grondoffensief door Iraaks-Koerdische peshmerga en Turks-Koerdische PKK en ondersteund door Amerikaanse bombardementen heroverd.

Lees verder bij de Groene Amsterdammer: https://www.groene.nl/artikel/koerden-weren-journalisten-uit-sinjar

‘Ik ben een guerrilla, ik huil nooit’

(Story about the upcoming in elections in Turkey and my experiences in a valley in Southeast Turkey just before I was expelled by the Turkish authorities. Published on 7 October 2015 in Dutch weekly Groene Amsterdammer.)

‘Je had hier gisteren moeten zijn!’ De PKK-strijder zegt het met een grote lach op zijn gezicht. ‘Achttien soldaten hebben we vermoord!’ Hij verandert van toon als hij mijn verbaasde gezichtsuitdrukking ziet. ‘Het is niet grappig, klopt’, bevestigt hij. ‘Maar wat moet ik dan? Huilen? Ik ben een guerrilla, ik huil nooit.’

Echt niet? ‘Oké’, geeft hij toe, ‘ik huil wel eens, bijvoorbeeld als ik een kameraad zie sterven. Maar je weet toch wat huilen met je doet? Huilen lucht op, huilen verlicht spanning. Terwijl ik als guerrilla de spanning juist vast moet houden, want die heb ik nodig voor de strijd.’

We zijn in een vallei in het uiterste zuidoosten van Turkije. Sores is eind twintig en sloot zich tien jaar geleden aan bij de Koerdische verzetsbeweging. Hij praat hard, vertelt vol bravoure over zijn leven als strijder, maakt geintjes. Tussendoor overlegt hij fluisterend met zijn strijdmakkers in de bergen, de walkie-talkie tegen zijn oor gedrukt. Daar echoën de mortier- en raketinslagen van de oorlog tussen het Turkse leger en de PKK. De PKK’ers maken zich echter niet veel zorgen. ‘We zijn veilig’, zegt er eentje. ‘Het vuur van de tanks bereikt onze schuilplaatsen in grotten en onder de rotsen meestal toch niet.’

Lees verder bij de Groene Amsterdammer.

Enough is enough: safe zone needed in Southeast Turkey

Forty eight civilians have lost their lives in the current violence in Southeast Turkey, the Human Rights Association has estimated ( between 21 July and 28 August, so by now that number is already up again). One of the cases that especially hit me was the death of Eyüp Ergen, a nurse in the state hospital in Cizre. He was an orphan since 1994, when the state killed his parents while evacuating their village. His sibling is now the only one left of that family. It is a painful example of the fact that a Kurd hardly ever experiences one traumatic experience in his or her life. It is always tragedy after tragedy. Continue reading “Enough is enough: safe zone needed in Southeast Turkey”

No, the PKK doesn’t want the HDP to be pushed under the 10% threshold

Twenty three members of security forces have been killed by the PKK since 7 July, Anadolu Agency reported, and I’m sure this number will have increased by the time this column is published. Same goes for civilians who have lost their lives at the hands of the state, most recently three people in Silopi. And how many PKK fighters died? The army says some 390, KCK co-leader Bese Hozat, with whom I had an interview last week in Qandil, said that was just state propaganda, claiming nine of their guerrillas died. Hard to tell who’s right, but 390 seems an exaggeration when you consider the experience the PKK has in keeping themselves safe up there in the mountains for decades already.

Coffins with Kurdish flags. These two young men were victims of Suruc massacre, 20 July 2015.
Coffins with Kurdish flags. These two young men were victims of Suruc massacre, 20 July 2015. Photo: Fréderike Geerdink.

However high the numbers, the fact is that the violence is totally spiralling out of control and every day there are new families and new communities mourning the loss of a loved one. The grief over coffins is heartbreaking to see, whether the coffin is buried with a Turkish flag or with the Kurdish colours. I can only wholeheartedly join the call from HDP and CHP politicians and from academics and intellectuals to both sides to return to the negotiating table. Continue reading “No, the PKK doesn’t want the HDP to be pushed under the 10% threshold”

No, Turkey isn’t returning to the 1990s. It never even got there.

The governor of Sirnak has declared nine regions in the province a ‘security area’. This is an extension of previously established security areas, as I saw when I was visiting Roboski during Eid: the smuggling routes had been closed and the pastures where people used to graze their cattle had been made inaccessible. These no-go areas directly endanger the lives of the citizens, since they cannot earn their living and let their animals graze on good land. Eventually they may have to move away from the village, since there is no other work to be found and with the security zones the violence will increase. Is this what the state is after? Empty the villages? Continue reading “No, Turkey isn’t returning to the 1990s. It never even got there.”

Bommen op de bergen

(Background article in Dutch weekly Groene Amsterdammer about Turkey’s decision to join the fight against ISIS – but whom is Turkey really fighting? Published 29 July 2015.)

Een adembenemend gezicht was het wel, de F16’s die voor de wassende maan langs over Diyarbakir vlogen en koers zetten richting het zuidoosten. De ene na de andere steeg op, twintig op z’n minst, eerst met bulderend geraas over de stad, daarna over de vlaktes tot de bergen net over de grens met Irak. Daar lieten ze hun lading neer, op de regio’s Zap, Qandil, Hakurk, Qadesh, Habur, Haftanin, Avasin en Amediye, allemaal gebied dat onder militaire controle staat van de Koerdische PKK en waar de organisatie haar kampen heeft.

De eerlijkheid gebiedt te zeggen dat er ook F16’s in zuidwestelijke richting vlogen en bombardementen uitvoerden op IS-stellingen aan de grens bij de provincie Kilis. Maar dat was slechts gesputter vergeleken bij de stortbui die op de PKK terechtkwam. Terwijl het narratief toch is dat de Turkse regering eindelijk heeft besloten op volle kracht mee te doen met de oorlog tegen IS. Het land heeft zelfs, na jaren aandringen door de Verenigde Staten, besloten de belangrijke luchtmachtbasis Incirlik bij de zuidelijk stad Adana open te stellen voor Amerikaanse gevechtsvliegtuigen die aanvallen willen uitvoeren op IS.

Wie bevecht Turkije nou echt?

Lees verder bij de Groene Amsterdammer. 

‘Analysts’ about Kurds, show you know your subject, or shut up about it

Mind my words: soon ‘analysts’ will start writing that Selahattin Demirtas has chosen the violent approach to the Kurdish issue instead of following the ones who want peace. After all, he called for the people to make sure to protect themselves on the street, as the Suruç massacre has shown the citizens’ safety can not be placed in the hands of the state. Those who willingly or stupidly distort his words and his intentions, will for sure take this chance to bash the HDP. Just like the government’s media, which reported that Demirtas called for violence, although they know that the truth is far away from that. Continue reading “‘Analysts’ about Kurds, show you know your subject, or shut up about it”

Fasting from 3am and why it puzzles me in Diyarbakir

It’s around 1.30 in the morning, just after I lay down on my balcony bed, when the Ramadan drummer passes down my street. I don’t fast since I am not religious, but I don’t mind the noise, not even when it wakes me up. On the contrary, I would almost say it’s kind of soothing, and the drummer in my Diyarbakir neighbourhood bangs his drum with a solid, good rhythm, so I just listen and then fall asleep again. But I can’t help but wonder: why is Sahur around three, when the sun only rises some two hours later? Just because the state decided it that way? Continue reading “Fasting from 3am and why it puzzles me in Diyarbakir”

Don’t expect the HDP to change its vision to keep you on board

It’s a challenge for the HDP, I heard people say, that they attracted so many new voters. How to keep them on board in the longer run? Will they vote for the HDP again when there are new elections, be it in the short term or in 2019, when the next elections are scheduled to be held? What if the people who voted for the HDP only because they hate Erdogan won’t vote for HDP again because the 13% was so comfortably above the threshold that they think the party can do without their vote the next time? Continue reading “Don’t expect the HDP to change its vision to keep you on board”