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.”

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”

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”

Don’t turn me into a battle field reporter

It was before I came to Turkey, in 2006, that I had a conversation with a friend and fellow journalist in my home country, the Netherlands. I was already thinking of going abroad but hadn’t decided yet where to go. He asked: ‘Do you have any aspirations to become a war correspondent?’ I didn’t think for a second and said: ‘No. Wouldn’t it be way cooler to become a peace correspondent?’

peaceThe rather brilliant thought never left me. Well, brilliant… That depends on how you look at it if course. From a traditional journalism point of view, peace journalism makes no sense whatsoever. War is news. Clashes, deaths, advances and retreats of armies and other armed groups, floods of refugees and human drama, cities bombed to ruins, political games, negotiations, allies and enemies – what more do you want? Continue reading “Don’t turn me into a battle field reporter”

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”

Will those holding Molotovs remain stronger than those bearing arms?

The young generation versus the old guard: for years now, those are the two groups referred to in analyses of a solution of the Kurdish issue. The idea is that the Turkish state had better hurry up making peace as long as the ‘old guard’ is still leading the PKK, because the younger generation, which will inevitably take the lead one day, won’t be so eager to end the conflict.

It’s about time we left this theory behind. And replace it with a new one, based on two other groups within the Kurdish movement: those with and those without arms.

The ones (sometimes) holding Molotovs. (picture taken by me at opening of PKK graveyard in Lice, summer 2013)
The ones (sometimes) holding Molotovs: YDG-H members. (picture taken by me at opening of PKK graveyard in Lice, summer 2013)

I have always had my doubts about the suggestion that the younger generation of Kurds would be less willing to make peace than the older generation. Yes, they grew up during the last thirty years of war and have seen, experienced and suffered a lot, but would that not make them more willing to make peace, rather than less? Continue reading “Will those holding Molotovs remain stronger than those bearing arms?”

Atatürk statues will be replaced by Öcalan’s

Mehdin Taskin is dead. Murdered because the state can not handle a statue of a man who is a hero to many Kurds. He is the thirteenth Kurd killed by the state since the beginning of the ceasefire. Was it too early for such a statue? No, it was not, in my humble opinion.

The Mahsum Korkmaz statue at the PKK graveyard in Lice district, erected 15 August 2014.
The Mahsum Korkmaz statue at the PKK graveyard in Lice district, erected 15 August 2014.

The ceasefire is not just a state of non attacks between the army and the PKK and a period in which on high level a road to peace is being negotiated. The ceasefire also gives the Kurdish movement the chance to start building the democracy they envision in the towns and regions where they are in charge. This is one of the reasons why the ceasefire is so important to them. They are working towards the situation the peace process will eventually lead to: decentralization, and autonomy for the Kurdistan region (and for all yet to be defined regions in the country). Continue reading “Atatürk statues will be replaced by Öcalan’s”

Erdogan isn’t necessary for the peace process

Who would I vote for in the second round? I am not a Turkish citizen so I have no right to vote in the presidential elections, but even if you pressed me, I couldn’t answer this question. A religious man who speaks of democracy but doesn’t put it into practice? Or a religious man put forward by two parties that represent everything that is wrong with the foundations of Turkey? Neither of them my cup of tea, as they can’t be the cup of tea of anybody who wishes Turkey to become a real democracy. To think that the candidate I would vote for in the first round and the movement he represents, Demirtas, would support either Erdogan or Ihsanoglu, is ridiculous.

CHP/MHP candidate Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu
CHP/MHP candidate Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu

Correspondents flood to Diyarbakir these days to write about the Kurds and the presidential elections. What surprises me is that often there is no distinction made between the people and the movement. In general, the message of many articles is: if Erdogan doesn’t get more than 50% of the votes in the first round, then ‘the Kurds’ will support Erdogan and thus help him reign after all in the second round. Continue reading “Erdogan isn’t necessary for the peace process”

The peace process is dead. Long live the peace process!

‘The leader says the peace process continues.’ I am standing between the graves of Medeni Yildirim, murdered by the state in Lice last year while protesting new army posts, and the grave of Ramazan Baran, that is just being closed. The middle aged man I talk to is standing next to me. He has tears in his eyes. We look at each other and I ask him what he thinks the PKK should do now. ‘I don’t know’, he says. ‘The leader says the peace process continues’.

Ramazan Baran is burried with a flag of the Patriot Revolutionary Youth Movement, linked to the PKK.
Ramazan Baran is burried with a flag of the Patriot Revolutionary Youth Movement, linked to the PKK.

The peace process continues because Abdullah Öcalan says so. But it is an increasingly vulnerable balance between the anger of the people, the state violence on the ground and the lack of serious democratic steps towards peace by the government on the one hand, and the mantra of the continuing peace process on the other. Continue reading “The peace process is dead. Long live the peace process!”