Di­yarbakir: The City of Hope and Fear

The Kurdish Globe - - NATIONAL -

Fight­ing is not the so­lu­tion and prob­lems should be fi­nal­ized through ne­go­ti­a­tion. The Turk­ish and Kur­dish politi­cians should trust their lead­er­ship in act­ing for their good and priv­i­lege.

A his­toric era has started in Tur­key as the Turk­ish gov­ern­ment has com­menced peace ne­go­ti­a­tions with the Kurds and their im­pris­oned leader Ab­dul­lah Ocalan. Un­like pre­vi­ous at­tempts, this time Tur­key has ac­cepted the pres­ence of Kur­dish prob­lem in the coun­try and ac­knowl­edged Ocalan’s key role in solv­ing the prob­lem. The cur­rent sta­tus of Kurds seems to be the best since the es­tab­lish­ment of the mod­ern day Tur­key in 1923, as they en­joy free­doms which were un­think­able few decades and even years ago. How­ever, de­spite great changes and op­ti­mism, decades of war and vi­o­lence has made both sides sus­pi­cious and cau­tious about the real in­ten­tion of the other side. Th­ese fears and hopes were clearly per­cep­ti­ble in my short visit to Di­yarbakir, or Amed as Kurds calls it few days ago.

“I am not happy to see gueril­las are pulling out while gov­ern­ment has done noth­ing. Why they should with­draw for noth­ing?” This is the fear ex­pressed by young Kurds in Di­yarbakir, the big­gest Kur­dish city in south­east Tur­key, who do not trust the sin­cer­ity of Turk­ish gov­ern­ment in the peace ne­go­ti­a­tions aim­ing at solv­ing the Kur­dish is­sue in the coun­try. In spite of their mis­trust to­wards gov­ern­ment, Kurds are en­cour­aged that their lead­ers know what they are do­ing and trust the im­pris­oned Kur­dish leader Ab­dul­lah Ocalan. Af­ter tour­ing the city for two days and talk­ing to jour­nal­ists, peo­ple work­ing in the Kur­dish po­lit­i­cal party of­fices and cul­tural cen­ters as well as or­di­nary peo­ple I started to sense why the city is full of hope and fear.

Maybe the first things no­ticed as one ar­rives at the city is the dis­turb­ing noise of Turk­ish fighter jets fly­ing over the city and pres­ence of few ar­mored po­lice cars in the main quar­ters. Af­ter com­plain­ing over the sound pol­lu­tion cre­ated by the jets, I was told it is nor­mal as the city’s air­port is in fact a mil­i­tary air­base with a small sec­tion al­lo­cated to civil avi­a­tion and the city hosts a mil­i­tary gar­ri­son as well. It seems peo­ple liv­ing in the city are used to this phe­nom­e­non, but an out­sider may feel he is liv­ing near a war zone, which is not far from re­al­ity.

Kurds I talked to were re­fer­ring to decades of as­sim­i­la­tion, re­pres­sion and bloody con­flict in the re­gion. Turk­ish gov­ern­ment fear­ful of the coun­try’s dis­in­te­gra­tion de­nied ac­cept­ing their ex­is­tence as Kurds which re­sulted in nu­mer­ous Kur­dish un­rest, arm strug­gle and heavy mil­i­tary re­sponse by gov­ern­ment. Their life story was one of de­nied peo­ple trapped in an ironic iden­tity dilemma. Born as Kurds in Kur­dish speak­ing fam­i­lies, they were con­fused who they re­ally are when bom­barded with the state rhetoric at schools that Kurds do not ex­ist, notices on the walls say­ing ‘speak Turk­ish’ and the claim that ev­ery­one liv­ing in Tur­key is Turk. Their par­ents were fined for speak­ing Kur­dish in front of them and even the Kurds who were satis- fied to iden­tify them­selves as a Turk were treated with sus­pi­cion and dis­trust.

How­ever, now much dif­fer­ence is felt walk­ing through the streets of the city. Kur­dish lan­guage is spo­ken freely, Kur­dish songs are played ev­ery­where and pho­tos of Kur­dish lead­ers, such as Sheikh Said, Barzani, Tal­a­bani, and Sayed Reza worked out on small dec­o­ra­tive car­pets could be pur­chased at the heart of the city. Mean­while, Kur­dish par­ties, pa­pers and cul­tural cen­ters are work­ing and it seems Turk­ish gov­ern­ment is se­ri­ously at­tempt­ing to solve the Kur­dish prob­lem in the coun­try. Many Kurds be­lieve this progress is the re­sult of Turk­ish gov­ern­ment’s fail­ure in de­feat­ing the PKK fight­ers and that is why they are wor­ried about the early with­drawal of th­ese fight­ers to the Qandil Moun­tain. In fact, the bit­ter his­tor­i­cal ex­pe­ri­ence and the fact that mil­i­tary pres­ence still makes the city re­sem­ble a war zone jus­ti­fies why Kurds are wor­ried and can­not fully trust the gov- ern­ment and re­gard th­ese fight­ers as their guar­an­tee and guardian of na­tional rights in fu­ture. How­ever, there is an op­ti­mistic side to the story as ev­ery­one I met be­lieves that fight­ing is not the so­lu­tion and the prob­lems should be fi­nal­ized through ne­go­ti­a­tion and they trust their lead­er­ship in act­ing for their good and priv­i­lege.

Hence, now Di­yarbakir; a city sub­ject to decades of re­pres­sion and as­sim­i­la­tion, where peo­ple have been in­sulted and pun­ished for ex­press­ing their iden­tity and speak­ing their mother tongue is hope­ful that peace process bring calm and pros­per­ity. How­ever, it is alarmed and waits for mile­stone pos­i­tive steps from the Turk­ish gov­ern­ment to take away the mis­trust cre­ated by decades of con­flict, a task which needs strong re­solve, sin­cer­ity and flex­i­bil­ity from the Turk­ish gov­ern­ment in Ankara as well as Kur­dish fight­ers and politi­cians.

A view of a street in Di­yarbakir city of Tur­key.

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