Dead Bodies on the Street and the Unforgiving War in Kurdistan

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Taybet InanThe corpse you see in the picture above is only one example of the unforgiving nature of the war that has been escalating recently. Turkish police in Silopi gunned down 57-year-old Taybet Inan, on 19 December 2015. Taybet Inan had 11 children. She was shot by a sniper while crossing the road. Later, her brother-in-law jumped out onto the street to pull her in and he was also shot and killed.

Taybet Inan’s dead body lay in the street for a whole week. No one was able to go and attend to the body; anyone that left their house was a target for the Turkish security forces. A week later the body was taken and buried.

Taybet Inan’s son wrote a letter outlining the trauma that his family had gone through. This is what Inan’s son said:

‘They shot my mum in front of our eyes. We do not know for how many days, hours, minutes she lay there injured. My mum was shot, and all we could do for 7 days and 7 nights was watch her dead body’.

It is worth reminding everyone that there are many dead bodies scattered across the streets of Cizre, Diyarbakir and Silopi.

These types of incidents have become routine in the war in Kurdistan. Unfortunately, it is continuing.

This war has taken on a new dimension. Whereas before the war affected rural areas, now it is in the middle of cities. Not only its location, but also the method of war has also changed.

I grew up in Diyarbakir. The most vivid memories I have of growing up are of war. I have witnessed first hand how the state kills people. They tied a childhood friend of mine behind an armoured vehicle and dragged him for 2 kilometers and on the news later that night they called him a ‘terrorist’. 20 people that were killed in a village near ours were all called ‘terrorists’ the same night on TV.

For example, we still do not know where my childhood friend was buried. The state probably buried him somewhere. His mother is still praying that she finds his grave.

After a certain period of time we were able to find the bodies of loved ones that were killed by the state. However, this is the first time we are witnessing incidents where corpses are left to rot in the streets for days.

Many families are on hunger strike in Diyarbakir, in order to be allowed to retrieve the bodies of loved ones to bury them. Unfortunately, the memories of our childhood have been repeated once again. This had never ended, but there was hope that it could end. Now this hope has gone too.

But how and why did it come to this?

After a bloody war that lasted for 35 years, peace meetings were initiated between the Turkish state and the PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan in 2013. There were meetings before too, however, with Öcalan’s Newroz letter at in 2013, the meetings raised the people’s hopes.

As part of the process, the Kurds expected the state to recognise the previously denied Kurdish people’s rights, and for the Kurds to be able to govern themselves in their regions. When this happened, the Kurdish movement would disarm. For the meetings to proceed Öcalan called upon the PKK to declare a ceasefire; this ceasefire lasted for two years.

However, the Turkish state expected the PKK, who have been struggling for Kurdish rights for the past 35 years, to just disband itself. The Turks wanted the PKK to disarm before they would begin talking about Kurdish rights. The PKK’s position was the opposite, first Kurdish rights then disarmament.

Öcalan’s proposals to the Turkish state were not limited to Turkey, but had a regional proponent. He believed that a Turkish-Kurdish alliance would create a peaceful atmosphere in the region. Öcalan wanted to ensure that Turkey withdrew its support for organisations like ISIS.

The Turkish state is saying that they are conducting operations against youngsters affiliated with the PKK who are digging trenches and building barricades in the cities. The Kurds, on the other hand, are saying that these youngsters are defending their neighbourhoods against the atrocities of the Turkish state. The state is saying that the war began because of the trenches and barricades. The HDP Co-chair, Selahattin Demirtas, is saying that the trenches and barricades were built because of the war.

This said, on 20 December 2015, the Turkish Prime Minister let it slip that the current operations had been planned since 2013. This statement made it clear that the state has wanted to attack these towns and cities in which the PKK has overwhelming support and that youths are defending themselves against these attacks. Davutoglu, unwittingly, acknowledged the Kurdish side’s account of what is going on.

While many were hopeful of a peaceful solution from the Imrali (Öcalan) meetings, no one expected the war to hit these heights. However, once the anti-Kurdish policies of the Turkish state fell apart in Rojava and Syria, the peace table was pushed to aside. The AKP’s understanding of a solution was just the disbandment of the PKK. The PKK, on the other hand, was expecting the state to recognise Kurdish rights and talk about disarmament afterwards.

The Turkish state supported ISIS against the Kurds in Rojava so that the Kurds would be dependent on the Turkish state.

As a result, neither happened. Kurdish rights were not discussed; the PKK never disarmed. To the contrary, the war was reinitiated.

Why?

Because the Turkish state does not want the Kurds in Rojava to gain a political status in Syria. If the Kurds gain a status in Syria, the Kurds in Turkey will be motivated by this model and demand for more in Turkey. The gains of the Kurds in Syria and Rojava scared the Turkish government.

By attacking the PKK, the Turkish state wants to weaken the Kurds so that they can feel dependent. This is how they are trying to be effective in Rojava and Syria. This is why all bodies acting on behalf of the Kurds are a target for the Turkish state. And not just the Kurds, all those that want peace are a target.

Kurdish organisations knew that the Turkish state was not intent on peace, and made preparations in the past two years. Youth organisations were created and defensive measures were taken in the cities. The state is unable to enter many streets in many cities. A new generation of Kurdish youth is willing to die than let the state into their neighbourhoods.

When you look at the situation on both sides, it is obvious that this war will go on for a long time. On the one hand you have Kurds who say they are fighting for freedom; and on the other side you have a state that says ‘there is no Kurdish issue’ and labels all demands as ‘terrorism’. This process is going to bring about the defeat of one of these two approaches.

Who can lose?

The Kurds believe they have nothing to lose. They want status. They say that being without a status is the same as death and so will not backtrack. The Kurds are also fighting against inhumane organisations like ISIS. And so many Kurds know that they are not just fighting for themselves but for the whole of humanity; they are ready to sacrifice themselves in order to cure humanity of this virus.

This is why nobody expects the Kurds to step back.

The Turkish state, however, says that it will fight until ‘there is not a single terrorist left’. However, the future is not looking bright for the state. They are trying to maintain a policy that has been upheld for 90 years. Everyday they are eating away at the Kurds’ desire to live together with the Turks. The Kurds today are demanding self-governance and autonomy. But if the state insists on these policies, the Kurds may well demand for independence again. This is what is being discussed most amongst Kurds. In short, while wanting to preserve the status quo, the Turkish state maybe left with nothing.

The results of the struggle between the Kurds and Turks will be significant for the whole region. The winner will become a strong actor in the region.

In this regard, 2016 will be a decisive year in the Kurdish people’s struggle against the Turkish state. Many things will be erased, many things will be reborn.