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?

Isa Encü, shot in the stomach by the army when he confronted them about closure of smuggle routes and pastures in Roboski. The wound got infected and they had to open him to clean it up. July 2015. Photo: Fréderike Geerdink
Isa Encü, shot in the stomach by the army when he confronted them about closure of smuggle routes and pastures in Roboski. The wound got infected and they had to open him to clean it up. July 2015. Photo: Fréderike Geerdink

Yes, so many measures the government is taking at the moment are pointing to a return to the 1990s. I predict more regions will have ‘security zones’, the HDP might be shut down and leaders jailed (like so many people are in jail and being prosecuted already for peaceful activism), the violence will further spiral out of control.

And it’s the government’s responsibility. They are supposed to provide safety for their citizens and they have been totally neglecting that core task of any state. Not only this government, by the way, since it is of course the modus operandi of the Turkish republic.

Those who blame the PKK just as much for the current situation are out of touch with the realities in Turkey and especially the South-east. Did the government take the opportunity to enhance democracy while the ceasefire was holding? No, not at all; Turkey only became more authoritarian, if not dictatorial. They couldn’t even come up with a law that would monitor the withdrawal of the PKK, as Selahattin Demirtas explained clearly and convincingly in the interview that Radikal’s Ezgi Basaran had with him last week.

Right to defend

Besides, the killing of citizens and the attacks on the HDP continued (you haven’t yet forgotten the bombs on HDP offices in Mersin and Adana, have you, and all the other attacks on the HDP which have still not been investigated, just like the Diyarbakir bombing on 5 June, the way the Suruc massacre has been handled, and this is only part of the list). Because of the ceasefire and because the people desperately want peace, the PKK couldn’t do anything to protect the people. And now that the AKP is starting a war against the Kurdish movement by attacking PKK camps, and by trying to silence and criminalize those who are struggling peacefully, just to win the unavoidable early elections, the PKK and those who support it should refrain from defending themselves?
When states react to attacks on their army or people, like Turkey justly does to the ISIS attack in Kilis, Turkey’s right to defend itself is not questioned by anybody. When a non-state armed group like the PKK defends it’s people (because nobody else does) it’s condemned widely and even called terrorism. Why this difference? If you don’t have a state, your rights mean nothing in the international community.

Whoever pulls the trigger

Don’t get me wrong, (and I know many of you just love to get me wrong), I hate it every time anybody in this conflict is murdered, be it a soldier or a policeman or a PKK fighter or a citizen. But whoever pulls the trigger these days, it’s the state which has the deceased’s blood on its hands.

Still, we are not really going back to the 1990s. The Kurdish movement was young in those days. Now, they are a very well organized mass people’s movement, with tens of thousands of ultra-dedicated women and men who are not afraid to be prosecuted, jailed or to die, who know their rights very well and will not let go until they get them. They won’t allow the destruction of villages (like when the people rallied to put out the fires in several districts which the authorities refused to fight), they won’t allow the progress that they have already secured to be taken away from them again, they will use every peaceful means possible to struggle for their rights.

And, there’s another way Turkey won’t return to the 1990s. In a certain way, Turkey never even got there. Let me say again that the Kurdish movement doesn’t demand anything extraordinary. What they demand is solidly anchored in international law: nations have a right to self determination. The important treaties in which these rights are clearly written down, in the first article, were adopted by the UN decades ago, in 1952 and 1960.

Internally occupied

Remember, those were the days when African nations were fighting for their independence and finally managed to kick their occupiers out. This process was completed halfway through the 1970s. The African nations were externally colonized, meaning by a country far away, and the Kurds are internally occupied, but occupied their lands are. Turkey doesn’t recognize that. Turkey is stuck in the 1970’s, in a conflict that doesn’t belong in this century.

The only way forward now is to shut the weapons up and solve this previous-century problem once and for all. Government, the ball is in your court.

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