Turkey’s ruling AKP manipulates election outcomes in Kurdish South-east, leaves municipalities broke

The big question in the Kurdish-majority municipalities in the south-east of Turkey was whether the candidates for the leftist Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), which won the most votes in the local elections on 13 March 2019, would be acknowledged as the winners. Now that most of them have received their mazbata (official certificate) and assumed their positions as mayors, another story has emerged: the crippling public debts the mayors have discovered in their towns. In the background, another issue lingers: will the Kurdish mayors actually get the chance to fulfill their five-year terms?

Continue reading at Fanack!

Thirty-five years on, no political solution for Kurdish-Turkish conflict

Rage engulfed Turkey in late July 2018 when a woman and her 11-month-old son were killed, reportedly by a roadside bomb, after leaving an army base in the south-eastern province of Hakkari. The woman had paid a surprise visit to her husband, who worked as an officer at the base.

The deaths were blamed on the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Two days later, the PKK issued a statement claiming that it never targets civilians, and the death of the mother and child was a ‘mistake’. Turkish rage, however, was not solely directed at the PKK, as Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu clearly expressed at the funeral of the two victims. He placed the larger blame on Europe and the United States (US) for being “supporters of terrorism”, as he put it.

Published on 16 August 2018. Continue reading on Fanack website.

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”

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”

Is Turkey trying to suffocate life in Kobani again?

‘We cannot do anything to stop them coming back’, Fayza Abdi, co-president of the Legislative Council of Kobani, tells me. We talk at a conference on the rebuilding of Kobani, after in January the YPG, YPJ, the peshmerga and US bombs kicked ISIS’ butt and chased them out of the canton. ‘We tell Kobani citizens who want to return home to wait, but what can we do if they don’t listen?’
The only thing the administration of Kobani can do is to plead with Turkey to open a customs gate at the border, so not only people, but also materials can pass through. But Turkey doesn’t listen to Kobani’s pleas. What this implies really disturbs me. Continue reading “Is Turkey trying to suffocate life in Kobani again?”

The ceasefire depends on two strong leaders

(Turkce burada okuyabilirsini)

Infighting in the AKP. I’m sure many people are gloating, less than three months before the elections in which the AKP wants to win enough votes to single-handedly change the constitution. But what does it mean for the (so called) peace process? Especially when you add the possible weakening of Öcalan to the equation? The peace process, after all, has survived the total lack of progress partly because of the total faith the two leaders are shown by their constituency. What if that trust disappears? Continue reading “The ceasefire depends on two strong leaders”

What if HDP voters believe the elections were not fair?

Many people have been asking me lately if I think the HDP will cross the 10% election threshold, looking at me with an expectation as if I had some crystal ball. Like everybody else, I haven’t a clue. I also don’t know what will happen if they don’t make the threshold and won’t be in parliament. Journalists may be able to explain what is happening currently, but are definitely not clairvoyants. Continue reading “What if HDP voters believe the elections were not fair?”

Why does my writing scare you and the government you work for, Akif?

Akif Beki has a column in Hürriyet, one of the biggest papers in Turkey. Considering him a ‘pro government columnist’ wouldn’t describe him properly: he is plainly a government writer. To illustrate that qualification: Akif Beki is one of the few Turkish ‘journalists’ who still have access to Tayyip Erdogan’s presidential plane, in other words, who are fully approved by Turkey’s most powerful man.

dikencomtrA few days ago, Akif Beki wrote a column about me. It was about the court case the state opened against me for ‘making propaganda for a terrorist organization’. He claimed that everywhere in the world, also in Europe, anti terrorism laws are tightened, and that if I wrote about ISIS in Europe the way I write about the PKK in Turkey, I’d be behind bars already.
He repeatedly referred to me as ‘matmazel’, which is Turkish for ‘mademoiselle’.

Here is my answer to him. You can find it in Turkish here on Diken.com.tr. If you want to read his column, I suggest you google it. No way I’ll put a link here. Continue reading “Why does my writing scare you and the government you work for, Akif?”

Dear Europe,

You are so huge, so heavy, so impersonal, but still, I have this deep urge to grab you by the shoulders. If I, one of your tiny meaningless citizens, could, I would then shake you firmly. Wake up!, I would shout in your face. Come on Europe, wake up!

President Erdogan meets EU's Federica Mogherini
President Erdogan meets EU’s Federica Mogherini

I giggled last week, when I read about the delegation of high EU representatives which was coming to Turkey. There is a new European Commission, and since there is also a new President in Turkey, maybe the EU and Turkey could create a momentum again for the accession talks, a new beginning in the relationship. A new President? Was that sort of a slip of the pen of the journalist writing this piece about the EU visit, or did you really think this ‘new President’ would in any way be different than the previous man in power? That in the first night Recep Tayyip Erdogan slept in his capacity of President, he underwent some deep transformation into what the President of the Republic is supposed to be, according to the constitution: a man standing above all parties? You didn’t think that, did you? Continue reading “Dear Europe,”

Back to the dark days

‘Life in Diyarbakir’, some Turkish media reported, ‘has returned to normal’. The curfew that applied for a few days was lifted. As I drank coffee, I heard the sound of teargas shots outside. Around 7 in the evening (every evening since a few days) a protest started in which people banged pots and pans on their balconies in support of Kobani and against the AKP’s inaction against IS. At least ten Diyarbakir citizens died in clashes over the last three days, and some guerrilla fighters who died were brought to the city for their funerals. F16’s left from the military airport, the army was present on the streets and a helicopter was keeping an eye on the city and its people from the air.

For once, the Turkish media are right: life in Diyarbakir has returned to normal.

Army in the streets of Diyarbakir, 9 October 2014
Army in the streets of Diyarbakir, 9 October 2014

For almost two years, life has been extraordinary in Diyarbakir. There was hope, although not much faith, that the peace process that started early in 2013 would actually lead somewhere. Continue reading “Back to the dark days”