How to get into Kobani, or: charade in a refugee camp

There we were, some sixty mostly foreign journalists, brought together in a large tent in the newly opened state refugee camp for Syrians. We were listening to the governor of Suruc, Abdullah Ciftci, who was pointing out how wonderful the camp was. I didn’t get all the details of what he was saying, since I wasn’t sitting close enough to hear. And, to be honest, I didn’t want to be there at all, just like, I can safely say, any of my colleagues. We were all just wondering about one question: when does this charade end?

Journalists on a forced tour in the stsate refugee camp, talking to the governour.
Journalists on a forced tour in the state refugee camp, talking to the governor. click to enlarge.

We, the journalists, had been pressing the governor’s office to allow us to cross into Kobani for a reporting trip. We were modest in our wishes: if we could have a few hours there, we would be satisfied and we could make our stories. Last week on Wednesday a group of journalists had already gone in, and we claimed the same right.

But apparently there was something about the first group. Their entry into Kobani went somewhat awry, and according to the governor’s office some of the reporters in that group didn’t get back to the Mürsitpinar border gate on time. This angered the authorities. Continue reading “How to get into Kobani, or: charade in a refugee camp”

Drama queen in Kurdish language class

Firaqşo. I had to walk to the kitchen to check, but yes, dish washing machine is firaqşo in Kurdish. I check that in the kitchen because I put a note saying ‘firaqşo’ on the machine, but obviously, even after seeing it several times a day, I’m not a hundred percent sure I remembered it right. There are notes all over my house. On the door (derî), the cold (sar) and hot (germ) water (av) tap (muslix), on the table (mase) and the chair (kûrsî), on the wall (dîwar) and the washing machine (cilşo – walked to the bathroom to check that one).

Firaqşo
Firaqşo. Click to enlarge.

I started learning Kurdish in 2012, in Istanbul. Teacher Apo had a small class of some six young Kurds who wanted to learn their mother tongue properly, and me. We had fun during class hours, every Saturday afternoon, but I also remember often having tears in my eyes. My class mates were obviously faster than me since they knew some basic Kurdish already and I started from scratch. I felt stupid, I thought I’d never learn. I could have quit, but I really wanted to learn, so I persisted. Not that it lead anywhere at all. In Istanbul I couldn’t practice, although I admit I never tried asking for ‘du kîlo firingî’ (two kilos of tomatoes) at the Üsküdar market. Continue reading “Drama queen in Kurdish language class”

An interview request to Tayyip Erdogan

Once again, a young Kurd has been killed by the police, again in Cizre. A twelve year old this time, and his name was Nihat Kazanhan. May he rest in peace.

Let’s try to look at trying to produce balanced journalism in Turkey on this topic. What you can do is go to Cizre, interview the parents, investigate the circumstances of his death, talk to eye witnesses, lawyers, local politicians.

Ayse Kazanhan, mother of Nihat Kazanhan, a day after her son's death. On the left Nihat's grandmother and his sister.
Ayse Kazanhan, mother of Nihat Kazanhan, a day after her son’s death. On the left Nihat’s grandmother and his sister. (photo: Fréderike Geerdink)

This would most likely give you several views on the story at hand. The parents will tell you what kind of a boy Nihat was and how they heard about their son’s death. Eye witnesses will tell you where Nihat was, what he was doing, where the police were, whether the police gave any warnings before taking any action, and they will probably know if the boy died instantly or not. The lawyers will present the legal background, pointing out violated rights and what they will do to try to get justice for the boy and his family, probably saying that earlier cases don’t give them much hope of getting justice. Local politicians, most likely from DBP, will give their political view on the events. Continue reading “An interview request to Tayyip Erdogan”

Self censorship is not an option

Türkçe burada okuyabilirsiniz!

A picture I tweeted of a group of Kurdish youths at the Kobani border crossing, holding PKK and Öcalan flags. The front page of my Facebook account. A photo I took of Salih Muslim when I met him last month at a conference in Brussels, where we both spoke. Parts of columns I wrote for Diken.com.tr. Any fifteen-year-old could have compiled the file that the anti-terrorism squad made about me in half an hour: just print out some random stuff I wrote, tweeted and put on FB, staple it together, ready.

temIt was an overwhelming experience to find an anti-terrorism team (TEM) of 8 or 9 people banging on my door, searching my house and detaining me for several hours. I was totally flabbergasted and later very fucked up and angry. The house search and detention are an obvious attack on press freedom, and can’t be condemned too strongly. Continue reading “Self censorship is not an option”

The first baby and the first funeral

(Türkçe burada okuyabilirsiniz!)

At noon on the first day of this year, a few hundred people gathered at a cemevi (place of worship for Alevis) in Istanbul. They were there to pay their last respects to their friend and comrade Lütfü Taş. He died on the last day of 2014 in Diyarbakir prison. He had been sick for years, but despite repeated requests to the authorities to let him die among his loved ones outside prison, the state would not give way.

Lütfü Taş
Lütfü Taş

Lütfü Taş was incarcerated there after he came back to Turkey from the Qandil mountains in 2009, as part of the so called ‘peace group’. They came to Turkey from Qandil and Maxmur Camp to support the newly started ‘Kurdish opening’, and were not only cheered at Habur border gate by thousands of Kurds, but welcomed by the government as well. Continue reading “The first baby and the first funeral”