In Turkey, violence starts as hunger strikes end

On 27 May 2019, the Turkish army launched a military operation against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in the Hakurk area in northern Iraq. It was not just an air operation for a change but a seemingly limited ground operation as well, with soldiers dropped in the rugged mountains from helicopters.

Five days earlier, the Turkish state allowed lawyers to visit imprisoned Kurdish leader and PKK founder Abdullah Ocalan, the second of two visits since 2011, raising questions about Turkey’s intentions.

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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?”

Did I really order a guerrilla to break eggs?

‘You are in charge’, Z. said. We were standing in the kitchen and we wanted to make an omelette. Since there were no eggs in the fridge, Z. went out to get some, while I was making a basic salad. I’m no good at breaking eggs, so I poured oil in the pan and asked him to put the eggs in. He obeyed. He fried them a bit, but left the rest to me when his phone rang. I didn’t hear what the call was about, it was in Kurdish. ‘Done like this, right?’ I asked when he came back, pointing at the eggs. ‘Done’, he agreed.

Z. is a PKK guerrilla. He arranges the press contacts for his organization. I wanted an interview with Cemil Bayik, so I contacted Z. and he arranged the interview and my trip to Qandil for me. It felt very normal to fry eggs and have lunch with Z. in a house in Qandil village, behaving like friends and making both trivial and good conversation. But at the same time, I thought: ‘This is weird. Here I am, a journalist from a tiny country not working for any huge media outlet, about to have an interview with Cemil Bayik but for now frying eggs, having lunch and joking around with a guerrilla.’

While interviewing Cemil Bayik, co-leader (with Bese Hozat) of the executive council of the umbrella organization KCK - or in other words: PKK's second man after imprisoned Abdullah Öcalan.
While interviewing Cemil Bayik, co-leader (with Bese Hozat) of the executive council of the umbrella organization KCK – or in other words: PKK’s second man after imprisoned Abdullah Öcalan.

Isn’t it intriguing that whenever journalists go up to Qandil, you only see the result that they took the trip for: the interview with (usually) Cemil Bayik, or occasionally some other PKK/KCK leader. Reduced to a few minutes of video or a few hundred words article, and that is it. But while Z. was preparing our after-lunch tea (‘light for me please!’), I knew it would be interesting to share more about the trip as such. I know you readers are curious! Continue reading “Did I really order a guerrilla to break eggs?”

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!”