Crackdown in Turkey: ′Do not make us victims of others′ fantasies′ | World| Breakings news and perspectives from around the globe | DW | 29.12.2015
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Crackdown in Turkey: 'Do not make us victims of others' fantasies'

A curfew imposed by Ankara and ongoing fighting in Turkey's southeast between Kurdish and state forces is being sharply felt by the people of Sur district in Diyarbakir. Journalist Tulin Daloglu went to talk to them.

It looks like two different worlds are intertwined in Diyarbakir. The outer parts give the impression of a clean, peaceful and active city. However, in the center it looks like a black hole that could engulf the whole of Turkey. That part is the Sur district, which is surrounded by the remaining walls of an ancient fortress.

Sur has been under curfew for more than a month. There are frequent power cuts. Children play with balls in the streets - the state schools have been shut by the government, an enforced holiday. The situation has been catastrophic ever since a handful of people dug trenches in the neighborhoods of Sur and declared autonomy after they took orders from Kandil, the mountain headquarters of the banned Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK.

Such developments are not restricted to Diyarbakir - they can also be seen in neighboring provinces. As a result, the bloodshed and tears which dominated the conflict between the Turkish state and the PKK in the 1990s have come back again but more dramatically. Since the beginnings of this conflict, after peace talks between the PKK and Ankara broke down in July, at least 44 have children died, including a baby not even a month old.

'It is a civil war'

Although people refrain from naming it as such, it is a civil war. The town hall and the shops are closed. There are no services even in the center of the city. The restaurants, which once upon a time used to stay open until the early morning hours, have shut their doors. Jewelers, food wholesalers, marketplaces - all are closed.

Türkei Sicherheitstruppe Anti Terrorismus Eingreiftruppe Polizei

Turkish security forces launched operations against the PKK in Diyarbakir in October

Alican Ebedinoglu, the president of the Diyarbakir Union Chamber of Craftsmen and Artisans said that so far some 10,000 workplaces were closed and 15,000 people had lost their jobs. Ebedinoglu criticized the government's decision to allow shop owners to delay making tax and social security premiums for six months.

"The work places are closed; they can't make out any invoices ... so what will they pay taxes on? We are in a disaster here. The government declared a state of emergency during the [2014] mine catastrophe in Soma or when bombs exploded in Reyhanli [a town in southern Turkey] in 2013. However we are not under a state of emergency now. We are complaining about this."

The people I spoke with in Sur are also reacting to the developments. A restaurant owner who asked not to be named explained the situation the people were living in.

"Autonomy doesn't mean anything to us. We just want to work and earn our money. Everybody is in bankruptcy here."

A congress of Kurdish groups, on the other hand, announced its support for both the trenches and greater autonomy measures on Sunday.

'Don't make us victims of others' fantasies'

Sah Ismail Bedirhanoglu, who used to manage the Southeastern Industrial Promoters and Business Association, is against both the people who dig trenches and the state. He also criticizes the leftist people of the country:

"The Turkish left tries realizing their fantasies over the Kurdish people. Don't make us victims of other people's fantasies. What does it mean to say 'We will not make you the president?' [a quote of Selahattin Demirtas, a leader of the pro-Kurdish People's Democratic Party (HDP) which has since become a catch-cry of activists who are opposed to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's plans to expand the powers of the presidency - the ed.] Is it the job of the Kurdish people? The opposition parties should do it."

Anger at the left

People on the streets have the similar view. The owner of a dried fruit shop which was the only open shop in Sur complained about the people on the Turkish left as well. He said, "They wind our politicians up. The politicians get agitated after hearing that and talk very negatively. And then we suffer. Look at us. There is no job, nothing!"

He continued: "And look at those leftist people - those big, powerful guys who talked on behalf of us in the past. Now they are all silent. Is that humanity? Is it moral? Here we lose our lives, our beloved ones. We don't have anywhere to go. We have experienced many things, we have seen many things but we were never so pessimistic. We are done!"

Demonstrators cover their faces as they clash with riot police during a protest against the curfew in Sur district, in the southeastern city of Diyarbakir, Turkey, December 14, 2015.

Demonstrators have protested against the curfew in Sur district

There's also plenty of criticism from the public of the Kurdish politicians who make defiant statements against the government. They give the statements of Sirri Sureyya Onder, a member of the HDP and parliamentary representative for Ankara, as an example. Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu had asked the HDP for an appointment to talk about negotiations for Turkey's constitution. Onder replied using a well-known Turkish expression signaling that he would show the customary hospitality but there was little to discuss: "If he comes before the fighting stops, then I will offer him a cup of tea, which he can drink and then leave." These remarks ended up hindering a meeting.

The people I talked in Sur explained their views of Onder so: "He had stood in front of a tree in Gezi [Istanbul's Gezi park protests of 2013]. He should come here and stand in front of a trench, too."

Indifference in the west

The people in Sur also expressed their sadness about the indifference of people in the western parts of the country to their plight.

A citizen, who again asked not to be named, said back in the 1990s people in other parts of Turkey viewed everyone from the south-east as militants of the PKK.

"They still think the same. Nothing has changed. If they would come here and know us, maybe everything would be different. However they were just indifferent as our children died…"

He grimaces and leaves. Nobody here wants to give their name. They are afraid of both the state and the PKK.

This report from Tulin Daloglu in Diyarbakir was translated by Basak Sezen.

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