Travels in Kurdistan (part 1): Massacres in North and West Kurdistan

Anarchism & Activism, Kurdistan, Turkey
Polen Ünlü, an activist in the conscientious objector movement, died in the bombing in Suruç on 20th July. (Photo taken from JINHA women's news agency)

Polen Ünlü, an activist in the conscientious objector movement, died in the bombing in Suruç on 20th July. (Photo taken from JINHA women’s news agency)

It’s June 2015, and we arrive in North Kurdistan (the part of Kurdistan within the Turkish borders) at election time. The Kurdish population is ecstatic, because for the first time in the history of the Republic of Turkey, the pro-Kurdish HDP party has won 80 seats in parliament. The HDP could only have any seats if it gained at least 10% of the total vote (a rule that was put into place in 1980 to stop Kurds from ever being represented), and it achieved this. Although I’m an anarchist, I can’t help but be a bit impressed by the HDP, with their promises of women’s and LGBT rights, and their attempt to represent all ethnicities and religions.

Ghost Towns of Turkish Kurdistan

Kurdistan, Turkey
Shopping in Diyarkbakır's old town

Shopping in Diyarkbakir’s old town

It is 45 degrees celsius in south-eastern Turkey and the population is not eating or drinking anything, even water, during daylight hours. It is Ramadan – the month of fasting. Chris and I guiltily glug water all day long (it’s 45 degrees, for god’s sake!) and instead of scowling at us, people offer us iced water, even though they can’t drink it themselves.

Learning about Turkish Kurdistan

Kurdistan, Turkey

Any traveller who has spent time in Turkey has probably heard racism directed towards Kurdish people. It is believed that 20-25 million Kurds live within the borders of Turkey. I am often told that south-eastern Turkey, which is predominantly Kurdish, is dangerous, and that I shouldn’t get into cars with Kurdish numberplates. This is, of course, nonsense. I have argued with people over their assumption that their government provides everything for Kurdish people, but that Kurds are never grateful. This common attitude can partly be explained because the Turkish government presents itself “as if it gives substantial concessions to Kurdish people never granted in the history of Turkish Republic while, on the other hand, repressing the Kurdish movement by “anti-terror” measures.” (document published by Michael Albert on ZBlogs)

Mats, Robert and I arrive in Turkish Kurdistan at night, and a lovely man lets us spend the night on the floor of a petrol station! We are told about a recent attack in the town by the Turkish military, killing over thirty people.

Mats sleeps in the kitchen of a petrol station – Hitchhiking is so glamourous!