Friday, December 26, 2014

Kurds: We are Ready for Both War and Peace!

Kurds: We are Ready for Both War and Peace!

Research Turkey

Kurds: We are Ready for Both War and Peace!

No one knew yet that the incidents which started with ISIS’s attacks to the Yazidis’ holy city Sinjar on August 3 would be the beginning of lots of things in Turkey and would upset the balance in the Middle East.
As a result of ISIS’s attacks, Yazidis[1] escaped to the Sinjar Mountains and began a long journey harrowed by famine and drought. Tens of thousands of Yazidis were killed, thousands of Yazidi women were raped and thousands of them were sold as slaves in Arab bazaars. The Federation of Yazidis indicate that 5000 Yazidi women are still lost. The People’s Protection Units (YPG),[2] which came to Sinjar to rescue Yazidis who were stuck in the mountain from the massacre, attempted to rescue them through a human corridor they have built on the one hand, while fighting against ISIS on the other hand.

Hundreds of thousands of Yazidis who escaped massacre with the aid of the YPG arrived to Zakho and Dohuk, and tens of thousands of them arrived to Turkey. Due to the pressure of public opinion, Yazidis who were waiting at the Turkish border in famine and drought conditions started to be taken into Turkey after a while. The border gate has been opened and closed occasionally during this process. Yazidis who were not able to cross the border legally arrived Turkey in illegal ways, such as crossing the mountains over Roboski.
Ezidi kampi_logo Zaxo Duhok2 logo
Yazidi Camp  –  Zakho Dohuk Camp
Thirty thousand of the Yazidis who came to Turkey have stayed in the camps pitched by Kurdish municipalities and in local people’s houses and they still stay there. Except for 2000 Yazidis placed in available places at the camp which was pitched by the AFAD[3] three years ago for Syrian refugees in Midyat, the Turkish government gave support neither to incoming Yazidis nor to the camps. Today, the pitched camps in some centres such as Şırnak, Silopi, Mardin, Viranşehir, Van, Batman, Diyarbakır, and Cizre are trying to survive with the support of the regional municipalities and the society.
Ezidi Kampi4 logo Ezidi Kampi5 logo
Yazidi Camps
The Kobanê Resistance is in Its Second Month
The local community who strives to supply aid and backup to Yazidis who ran away from massacre was shocked this time by ISIS’s attacks to Kobanê in September.
Kobanê, which is in the middle of three cantons that Kurds constituted in Western Kurdistan(Rojava), is very important for Kurds. Approximately 200 km west, and east of Kobanê, are Efrîn and Cizîrê. There are Arab predominant regions held by ISIS in the midst of these three cantons. If Kobanê falls, other PYD[4] cantons will weaken, and ISIS will be dominating a considerably larger area.
Zaxo Duhok4 logo
The egalitarian society established in Rojava, in one sense, symbolizes the ideal society that Kurds have been struggling for many years. As a matter of fact, it is included in the Social Contract of Rojava. The first article of the Social Contract of Rojava states:
“As the people of democratic autonomous regions; Kurds, Arabs, Assyrians (Assyrian and Aramaic), Turkmens and Chechens, for the establishment of justice, freedom and democracy in an equal and ecological society in which there is no discrimination based on religion, language, race, belief, sect or gender; for components of democratic society to attain pluralist, unique and common life values together with the political-moral structure; respectful to women rights and for the rights of children and women to take root; for respect to defence, self-defence, freedom and respect for beliefs; we accept this contract.”
A social structure which is grounded on gender equality and equality of communities resembles an oasis in the Middle Eastern desert. Perhaps being a target of ISIS was inevitable for Kurds who aim to create a society in which women and men are equal in the darkness of the Middle East.
However, Turkey being in the first place, no one could predict that this small town would resist ISIS’s attacks for several days.
It was the second month of Kobanê’s resistance when I wrote down these lines. A small unarmed town is resisting against ISIS killers, who have all kinds of heavy weapons, for two months in front of the whole world![5]
Suruç'ta Kobanelilerin Kampı
Kobanels’ Camp in Suruç
As Turkey’s support to sanguinary ISIS terrorists, when images of the ISIS members who were being treated in Turkish hospitals[6] as well as their intimate images with Turkish soldiers on the borderline started to appear in the press, Turkey once more lost its credibility in the eyes of Kurdish people. Since mid-September, Kurdish people crowded together on the border in Suruç[7] by aiming at preventing Turkey’s support to ISIS and observing the borderline. Thousands of people are still waiting on the Mürşitpınar border gate to prevent and take control of the support that their own country gives to ISIS terrorists.
On the one hand, waiting on the borderline continues; on the other hand, tens of thousands of Kobanêl Kurds who escaped from the ISIS massacre gained refuge within Turkey’s border. Officials say today the numbers of Kobanêl Kurds in Turkey constitute approximately 170 thousand.[8] Both the AFAD and the Suruç City Hall set up camps for incoming Kobanêls. 5000 of them are staying in the City Hall camps whilst 5000 of them are staying in the AFAD camps. The rest of them are being lodged in the villages and homes of the local community.

Kurds’ Unhearable Voice

To support their brothers in Kobanê, many people from Turkish Kurdistan went to Kobanê to go to war against ISIS. Some of these people arrived in Kobanê through the border gate, while some crossed the Tigris River over Cizîrê and reached Rojava and then the Kobanê canton. Turkey’s Kurds started hot on the possibility of Kobanê’s fall at any moment. And yet, in Turkey, there was nothing about Kobanê in the news, except in several alternative channels’ news about the struggle in Kobanê against ISIS, which was not appearing in the Turkish press. Thereupon, cacerolazos started in the Region, in the first days of September, to draw attention to attacks that taking place in Kobanê. The purpose was to announce what was happening in Kobanê to Western Turkey via making noise with pots and pans, but Turkey did not hear the Kurds’ voice.
The cacerolazos, beginning on the 1st of September, performed every evening at 20:00, by the participation of all Kurdish people, including the rich and poor, was not taken into consideration by the Turkish government as well. Two statements that President Erdoğan made in just the same day were: “ISIS and PKK are the same, both are terrorist organizations;”[9] and then with a slight smile which was not hiding the happiness on his face, said, “Kobanê is about to fall”[10], causing indignation among Kurds. Putting people who resist to protect their folk, homeland, soil, and honour in the same equation with ISIS, who mercilessly slaughter people, by the President of Turkey created a huge breaking in the Region. Kurds who were aware of the concrete situation in Kobanê due to the incoming funerals to the Region every day, had already begun to march on the streets. The public demonstrations that began slowly each passing day led larger masses to pour into streets with the calls for Kobanê from the KCK[11] and Kurdish political movement. The streets witnessed uncontrollable incidents because of the anger felt for Erdoğan’s “Kobanê is about to fall” statement and the lack of government support to the Kurds who were being massacred by ISIS hundred meters away, and, even worse, the reflection of support given to ISIS, who had slaughtered Kurds, in the government officials’ discourses.
Ezidi Kampi3 logo
The incidents, called Kobanê protests, spread all over Turkey in a short time. The government declared a curfew in some parts of the region for the first time after the last 34 years, following the deaths of 43 people, 34 of them were killed by the state’s security forces, village guards, and groups close to the state such as HÜDA-PAR[12]. The exhibited images were look-alikes of the 12th September military coup when the military stored up to the Region and many civilians, most of them young people, were massacred.[13]
Zaxo Duhok3 logo Ezidi Kampi2_logo2
Zakho Dohuk Camp – Yazidi Camp

Peace Process?

Today it is possible to say that there is chaos in the Region. The perception that it is possible to return to the 90’s has been created there. Tanks, riot control vehicles (TOMA), and security officers with kalashnikovs in their hands have returned to the streets of Diyarbakır and other provinces of the Region. Even the traffic cops are armed.
Every day at least 5-10 martyr funerals come to the Region. These are Turkey Kurds’ funerals who were killed in the fight against ISIS in Kobanê. The Turkish media does not find most of these funerals newsworthy.
On the other hand, the situation at the camps for both Yazidis and Kobanêls in the Region is worsening with each passing day. Since the winter has come, the need for winter tents, heating and food has still been great at the camps covered in mud. Most of these people who came here after witnessing a massacre are in need of psychological support. However, one cannot argue that they received support from the non-governmental organizations in Europe or in Western Turkey; the camps still survive only by the aids of poor Regional municipalities and of poor local people. The Turkish government and Europe closed their eyes to the humanitarian crisis happening in the Region.
In parallel with these events, there is a Peace Process which some are trying to carry on. Although the government says the Peace Process is continuing, everyone is aware that the process will fail and Turkey will rapidly slide into a civil war if Kobanê falls. On the other hand, the local community thinks that the government does not actually want to carry out a peace process, but it attempts to make the Kurdish side disrupt the process in order to avoid becoming the disruptive side.
In short, Kurds do not believe that Turkey is sincere about this peace process. As a matter of fact, after 21st of March 2013, when the process began, developments like newly employed village-guards[14], built new police stations and prisons and also did not pursue the arrest of people who were involved in massacres against Kurds, promote the opinion that Turkey is insincere regarding the peace process.
Kurds are angry! The Kurdish children who represent the 1990’s, the most death-filled period of the war, are in the streets. These lost children, whose villages have been burned, whose mothers and fathers were killed, have nothing more to lose.
The words of a Kurdish teenager I talked to yesterday, in the shadow of all these events, is just like a summary of today’s mood:
“As Kurds, we are ready for both war and peace!”
Nurcan Baysal, Diyarbakır Institute of Political and Social Studies
Editor’s Note: As Centre for Policy and Research on Turkey (Research Turkey), we are thankful to Nurcan Baysal for sharing all the photos she took in the region with us, and for letting us use the selected ones in this article.
Please cite this publication as follows:
Baysal N. (December, 2014), “Kurds: We are Ready for Both War and Peace!”, Vol. III, Issue 12, pp.6-13, Centre for Policy and Research on Turkey (ResearchTurkey), London, ResearchTurkey. (http://researchturkey.org/?p=7391)

Endnotes

[1] Yazidis: Yazidis are ethno-religious community who mostly live in Southern Kurdistan. Yazidis who speak Kurdish and named as “Kurdên Resen” (original Kurd) among Kurds, had been slaughtered throughout the history since they were regarded as “worshiped satan” as a result of the wrong belief. Yazidi population around the world is estimated to be 800,000 and 650.000 of them live in Sinjar Region of Southern Kurdistan. Until Anfal Campaigns which was actualized in Saddam Hussein’s government term in Iraqi Kurdistan, Yazidis slaughtered 73 times, most of them were happened in the Ottoman Empire era. For more detailed information; see: Fehim Işık, Who are Yazidis, What did they experience?, http://www.diken.com.tr/9-sorudaezidiler-kimdir-ve-ne-yasadilar/
[2] YPG, People’s Protection Unit, is the army of the Kurdish political party, PYD, who controls Syrian Kurdistan, also known as Rojava.
[3] AFAD: Disaster and Emergency Management Authority of Turkey, is an disaster preparation, disaster struggle, control and coordination related institution of Turkish government. Its authorization depends on the Prime Ministry.
[4] PYD: Democratic Union Party, is the political organization of Kurds in Syria. It has been established in 2003. Their leader is Salih Muslim. Their army is People’s Protection Unit (YPG) which includes 5000 guerrillas. They rule 3 Kurdish cantons (KobanêEfrîn, Cizîrê) in Western Kurdistan known as Rojava.
[5] The resistance in Kobanê is on its 79th Day as of the 2nd of December 2014 (Editor’s Note).
[6] For ISIS members who were being treated in Turkish hospitals; see:
“Pretense of  ISIS commander was treated in Hatay” http://www.milliyet.com.tr/isid-komutani-hatay-da-tedavi-gundem-1896545/
Amberin Zaman: “Turkey should come with its army” http://www.taraf.com.tr/yazilar/amberin-zaman/turkiye-ordusuyla-
[7] Şanlıurfa, which is a province in Turkey’s border with Syria, has the longest border with Rojava. Along this long borderline, there are 3 border gates between Turkey-Rojava. Among these gates Akçakale and Ceylanpınar border gates are under the domination of ISIS, therefore Mürşitpınar border gate which is in front of Kobanê, is the only passageway to Kobanê. Mürşitpınar border crossing is located in the Suruç district of Şanlıurfa. The only region left inKobanê whose all 3 sides are surrounded by ISIS,   is Suruç region, namely Mürşitpınar border crossing. Therefore, Kurds in Turkey are keeping guard at Mürşitpınar gate and struggling to avoid Turkey’s support to ISIS via this gate to prevent the opening of 4th battlefront forKobanê.
[8] The number of Kobanêl people in Turkey changes every day. But according to Suruç District Governor, interviewed on 11th October , it is 170 thousand.
[11] KCK (Koma Civakên Kurdistan) means the Union of Kurdistan Communities. It is the structural organization which controls all parties and organizations including the PKK in Kurdistan.
[12] HÜDA-PAR is a Kurdish-based Sunni Islamic fundamentalist political party in Turkey established in 2013.
[13] To see who killed people in Kobanê incidents, how they were killed, how old they were and who their perpetrators were: Zan Institute:
[14] Village guards are Kurdish paramilitary groups set up by the Turkish state in the mid-1980s. Their stated purpose was “to act as local militia in towns and villages, protecting against attacks and reprisals from the insurgents, terrorists and militants of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK)”. The rationale behind the establishment of this system was that it would be helpful for the Turkish Army to have additional forces, consisting of people who knew the region and the language, and who would assist the military in its operations against the PKK, and divide the Kurdish community into two; either ‘ally of the state’ or ‘enemy of the state.’ 65.000 village guards are still present.
*As published in Research Turkey on 02.12.2014

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