If it’s liberated, Mosul won’t be safe for minorities unless it adopts grassroots democracy

MAKHMUR, Iraq ― Diversity is what defined the land that is now Nineveh Province and its capital city, Mosul, for thousands of years. Like other parts of the Middle East, it is historically multi-ethnic and multi-religious. While many of those who now fight hard to kick the so-called Islamic State out of Mosul pay lip service to the beauty of this cultural richness, their proposals for governance of the region after ISIS are merely scenarios for more ethnic and religious strife. A more logical solution, put into practice already in northern Syria, is hardly ever discussed.

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Taalkamp bij de PKK – Eerst letters, dan wapens

This story was published in Dutch weekly news magazine Vrij Nederland, 14 September 2016.

Met het leren van een nieuwe taal ga je ook een nieuwe wereld binnen. Als dat ergens van toepassing is, dan is het wel in het PKK-taalonderwijskamp. Correspondent Fréderike Geerdink verbleef drie maanden in het kamp in een uithoek van Irak.

Kesif heye?’ Het is tien voor vijf ’s ochtends, ik heb mijn ogen nog maar net open en het korte Koerdische zinnetje dat in dit PKK-kamp zo vaak te horen is, rolt mijn mond al uit. Kesif heye?, oftewel: ‘Zijn er drones?’ Ik vraag het omdat heval Rûken (‘heval’, oftewel ‘vriend’, ‘kameraad’, is de vaste aanspreektitel onder PKK’ers), een van de twee guerrillastrijdsters met wie ik een tent deel, bij de tentopening zit en geconcentreerd luistert naar de geluiden in de lucht. Heval Navroj, net als ik nog onder haar deken, gebaart met haar hoofd van niet.
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PKK co-leader Cemil Bayik: ‘What are we supposed to do? Surrender? Never’

This article was published on Byline, 6 September 2016.

Why did the PKK take the war against the Turkish state to the cities of Kurdistan, which are now one after another reduced to rubble by the state’s tanks and helicopters? PKK co-leader Cemil Bayik: ‘What is a rocket against a tank, a helicopter, a fighter jet?’ A report from the mountains.
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‘Dit land haat de Koerden. Dat besef doet pijn.’

This article was published in Dutch weekly news magazine Vrij Nederland, 25 May 2016. 

Terwijl president Erdogan de media onderdrukt en deals sluit met Europa, pakt hij de Koerden onverminderd hard aan. Journalist Fréderike Geerdink werd vorig jaar Turkije uitgezet. Hoe vergaat het haar achtergebleven Koerdische vrienden en kennissen?

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Stop defending Turkey’s secularism – it’s been a lie all along

Published on the World Post/Huffington Post, on 2 May 2016. 

Finally, after over a decade in power, the true face of Turkey’s governing Justice and Development Party, or AKP, is surfacing. The speaker of the Turkish Parliament, Ismail Kahraman, said that the new constitution that the AKP is preparing will have no reference to secularism.

AKP officials quickly denied the intention but many Turks felt as if an idea was planted in their brain — an idea they would have to get used to. Fearing a secularism-free constitution would be the first step towards introducing Shariah law in their republic, secularist Turks immediately started defending secularism fiercely. Apparently, they do not realize that this secularism got them in trouble in the first place.

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Kurds in Iran: waiting for change through existing channels

This article was published on Fanack, 14 April 2016.

While developments in Turkish, Syrian, and, to a lesser extent, Iraqi Kurdistan are moving so fast it’s difficult to keep pace, in Iranian Kurdistan there is scarcely any news. In the big picture spanning decades, any new development is little more than a ripple in the strong currents of history. As Abbas Vali, an Iranian Kurdish professor at Istanbul’s Bosphorus University, said in an interview with Fanack in April 2016; “Iranian Kurds know very well that the regime isn’t going to fall any time soon.”
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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.”