Monday, May 3, 2010

A Vacancy in the Kurdosphere

Cengiz Candar in Yuksekova, SE Turkey

As mountain snows melt and war returns to the east of Turkey, one person is missing from the ranks of those who describe events, analyze trends, and translate important documents of that never-ending conflict. Mizgin Yilmaz, the vehemently pro-PKK proprietress of Rasti, has not posted a word in her domain since February 15 of this year. No one knows where she has gone, or why. For that matter, no one ever knew who she really was, or where she lived. But one thing is certain: this is unusual behavior in one who has usually posted at least 3-4 times a week.

I have read Mizgin's blog regularly since I first came upon it several years back. It really is necessary reading. (Even the Turkish General Staff logs on regularly.) No one else among pro-Kurdish bloggers is able to summon her range of offbeat sources and translate them so deftly into English. Thanks to her, I was able to locate the website of the PKK and copy from it photographs which now have been passed along to other sites on the Net. Thanks to her, I think I now have a much better grasp of the Turkish reality. Of course, she is not "fair and balanced." No one would ever mistake Mizgin the Blogger for a warm, cuddly person. I, who am anything but a radical leftist--Hey, I just want people to be happy! ;)--have sometimes been appalled by what seems almost a bloodthirstiness in her writing, as if all the enemies in her world deserved to be liquidated immediately. To Mizgin, Prime Minister Erdogan of Turkey is Katil Erdogan, Murderer Erdogan; any website with a positive word to say about Turkey's government is "pro-terrorist." But seldom if ever have I thought that I wasted my time reading her blog.

Now Rasti is vacant, a space on the web with a big question mark over it. In her last post of February 15, Mizgin translated a column by Cengiz Candar, in Radikal, in which the author, a prominent journalist and good guy of long standing among Turkey's liberals, analyzed the situation in Turkey's Southeast and saw clearly that the promises of 2009 were rapidly turning to dust. Now his fears have become real. The old cycle of attack and revenge has begun anew. Turkey's government, concentrating on a long-overdue reform of Turkey's Constitution, has been unable or unwilling to deliver on its promise of democracy for the Kurds. Obviously, Mizgin wrote, with an ominous link to the website of the PKK, "there is only one path left."

Meaning what? We don't know. But something about this prickly, ferocious woman has earned our affection. So while the wishes for her safety and well-being accumulate in her Comments, I will remember her by re-posting her translation of Cengiz Candar's article in Radikal. Read it, and know reality.

Oppression and Disappointment in the Southeast
by Cengiz Candar
Translated by Mizgin Yilmaz

If you make your way to the Southeast often--and not only talk to officials but also particularly have a relationship with the street--if you open up your heart and listen to the region's people, there is a result that you can easily arrive at: the ruling party's regional parliamentarians are not representing the region in Ankara but are representing Ankara and their party in the region.

I've stated this on every occasion when I met with important people in the state and in the government. The AK Party's Southeastern parliamentarians are not representing their regions; they do not convey the pulse of the Southeast to Ankara. Whenever they go to their election districts, they represent Ankara and their party.

Therefore, PM Erdogan's statement, "There are 75 Kurdish parliamentarians in my party," or the AK Party's receiving the greatest amount of votes in the region doesn't mean anything.

Have you ever heard these 75 "Kurdish" parliamentarians open their mouths to say anything about the Kurdish question? Have you ever heard them mention the unbearable oppression in the region in Ankara in front of the public?

A couple of days ago, Diyarbakır's Special Heavy Penalty Court convicted a fifteen-year-old girl called Berivan for "throwing stones at police" in addition to "cheering party slogans" during the events that took place on 9 October in Batman. She was convicted to 13.5 years at the first hearing. Yes, at the very first hearing.

Since she was a minor, the court showed mercy and reduced its punishment to seven years and nine months! At the event [during the protest in Batman], Berivan's face was covered with a scarf but police were determined that the girl with the scarf was Berivan. That girl with the scarf may very well be Berivan; but while there is more solid and concrete evidence for the generals who gathered to overthrow the government, which is a crime against the state, and while they've been released pending trial, have you ever seen any Southeastern AKP parliamentarian object to Berivan's conviction of 13.5 years for stoning police and cheering party slogans?

Do you know that there are over 1,000 children in prison in the Southeast?

In a condition where belief in justice is damaged so deeply, can we talk about the "Democratic Initiative" or the "National Unity and Brotherhood Project"?

In the Southeast there is no justice but oppression!

The other day, one of the members of AKP's executive council told me that in the council meeting PM Erdoğan was informed that people in the Southeast are very happy and very excited about the ongoing events [the "democratic" initiative]. Based on the PM's sources, everything is going well in the Southeast. Whereas the contrary is the case and the "political decision maker" [Erdoğan--i.e. Turkey's "decider guy"] is being deceived or prefers being deceived. Again, another piece of information I received from a similar source: AK Party's executive council is expecting very important incidents about Kandil around Newroz. If there are AKP members that believe this, I'm curious about what planet they're living on. Newroz is only one and a half months away; is there any indicator that thousands of armed people from Kandil will come and surrender?

Well, is there any little indication of a general amnesty to come out for the ones at Kandil? There are only two possibilities left so far. 1) America and Iraqi Kurds will have a joint military operation and finish PKK's military existence--for those who believe this, they are living in a dream. 2) The ones at Kandil disappear unexpectedly.

There are no such situations and there isn't the slightest sign that these will happen.

Meaning, within one and a half months, related to Kandil, it is impossible for any incident to happen, for PKK to disarm. A "climate" for such a thing has been removed in Turkey anyway. In the region [Southeast], in addition to 1,000 children, more than 1,000 people in political groups, including elected mayors, have been arrested.

The PKK members who came from Kandil three months ago are free; mayors have been handcuffed and arrested for having connections with PKK.

There are two ways to make the armed cadres give up on armed struggle:

1. Regarding Kurdish identity, you have to take such unilateral democratic steps that will remove the armed group's masses of supportö and the support will completely be removed. There won't be support of the masses for armed forces.

2. Open up ways for armed groups to become involved with peaceful [without arms] politics.

Until now, regarding the first, there are positive but insufficient steps. Regarding the second, just the contrary is being done. Elected people, who are involved with peaceful politics, are jailed. It is a politics of "to the ones in the cities calling 'go to the mountains'; meanwhile, to the ones in the mountains, 'stay there'" is being made.

The "negative atmosphere" and the "disappointment" in the region were reflected to Ankara as "information to the state in the governors' meeting". The governors in the East and Southeast told Interior Minister Beşir Atalay that, "initially, the democratic initiative raised expectation and excitement to their peaks in the region. Citizens became very hopeful. When the package ["democratic" initiative's packages] was presented, a serious disappointment took place. The citizens are expecting more concrete steps."

They are right.

For months, we have been saying and writing this. I forgot exactly how many articles I wrote specifically about this issue and specifically in this way. The governors who work in the region mentioned that our people's expectation became lively in March of last year due to Abdullah Gül's statement of "soon there will be good things on the Kurdish question" and with the initiative, their expectation is at its peak.

President Gül said those words to three journalists--of whom I was one--in the plane on the way to Tehran. Since that day, I am among those who've been keeping an eye on the pulse of the region. I spent a remarkable amount of the summer months in the Mardin, Van, Doğubeyazıt, and Kızıltepe regions. On 1 August [2009], I was among the attendees for the Kurdish Workshop. One month later, in September, I traveled 1,000 kilometers between Diyarbakır and Şemdinli.

Today's atmosphere is 180 degrees different from the atmosphere of those days.

It is as much a deep disappointment and negative atmosphere [now] as it was equally positive in those days.

How in the world will "national unity and brotherhood " come about without including our Kurdish citizens who live in the Southeast, who want to join with great enthusiasm and an expectation of an optimistic future?

How will a "national unity and brotherhood" will come about from a region where 1,000 children are currently living lives of misery in prisons?

The Interior Ministry said "İnşallah, soon good things are going to happen" to the governors and wanted them to wait for a while. I wish this problem could be solved with "İnşallahs" and empty promises. This is not a kind of problem that can be solved with "İnşallahs" and "Maşallahs".

And god forbid the potential of the disappointment is so great as to overwhelm the struggle against the junta members in Ankara and Istanbul, and to overwhelm Turkey's successful foreign politics that present Turkey as a "rising regional power".

PM Erdoğan needs to open up his eyes to the ongoing things in the Southeast and, without any delay, he must change track.

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