“Regardless of the consequences, you have to talk, you must not stop communicating, you should always find people who you can talk to among them. We tried to use every opportunity for dialogue. The absence of dialogue encourages those who want violence. Peace requires taking risks.”
These are the words Irish former Foreign Minister Dermot Ahern who I met on a business trip to Dublin organised by the Democratic Progress Institute (DPI) in early 2016. Ahern often emphasised the importance of dialogue.
But from engaging in dialogue, politicians in Turkey compete with each other to take advantage of the deaths of people. Unfortunately, they are far from being statesmen and acting responsibly for society and future generations.
On the one hand, there is a government trying to get more votes from a war with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), and to consolidate power by force and brutality. On the other, there is an opposition that argues about whether to attend funeral ceremonies instead of offering a strategy to prevent further deaths. Neither the government nor the opposition speaks of preventing these deaths.
Since the summer of 2015, when the peace process with the PKK ended, this land has lost more than 3,000 sons and daughters. These figures are provided by human rights organisations, that is, there are deaths that we do not know about and are not included in the statistics.
Some Kurdish cities and districts in southeastern Turkey have been destroyed; 70 percent Sirnak, and around half of Nusaybin, Sur and Yuksekova were annihilated. Families were shattered, hundreds of thousands of Kurdish people lost their homes. There are people still living in tents in the villages of Sirnak province.
The Human Rights Association’s (IHD) Diyarbakir Branch has published a report on rights violations in the eastern and southeastern Turkey in the last six months. According to the report, special security zones were declared in four city centres and 15 districts.
In 282 villages and neighbourhoods of 12 eastern and southeastern cities, military curfews were declared 16 times; 51 security officers lost their lives, and 85 were wounded in the region; 132 PKK militants also lost their lives, and at least three militants were wounded.
A civilian caught in the crossfire died while two civilians were wounded. During PKK attacks one person died, two people were detained and then killed later. In the cities of the region, two children lost their lives as a consequence of mine and bomb explosions.
Three people – two children and one male – were killed by unknown assailants. Two people lost their lives and people, including two children, were injured as a result of collisions with armoured vehicles. Four soldiers and police officers lost their lives in suspicious circumstances and were alleged to have committed suicide.
Five people were wounded, and one person died in unsolved attacks. Seven people lost their lives and 104 were injured because of mistakes and negligence by authorities. The report continues with lists of the number tortured, ill-treated, detained and subject to other rights violations.
Last week more than 10 funerals of PKK members took place, and these are just the ones I know of. Those people were buried silently. Last week, a mother and her baby were killed by a bomb allegedly set off by the PKK. Most of the people in Turkey began a race to condemn the act rather than preventing further deaths.
The stronger the condemnation is, the more applause it received. Newspapers published messages of condolence. After the incident, no one cared about the testimonies of witnesses, except for a few alternative media outlets.
Following up the incident, Mesopotamia News Agency said the area where Nurcan Karakaya and her baby lost their lives was closed to civilian vehicles. There were three military bases and a police station in the vicinity and the area could be monitored by the police station 24 hours a day.
Some of the villagers who spoke the media about the incident were taken into custody. Villagers who met with a pro-minorities Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) delegation said they were afraid and had been threatened. A few days ago, the HDP, IHD and Platform of Lawyers for Freedom prepared a report on the incident and demanded a parliamentary commission to establish the truth.
It is not hard to guess the result of this demand. The truth will probably be erased again, and the ember will burn where it falls.
“Peace” has been vilified for a long time in this country. The number of people who talk about peace is decreasing every day. It is easier to rage against the enemy, to race to accuse others of terrorism.
So what shall we do? Should we stop asking for peace because we are afraid, because it is difficult and they are punishing us?
Will racing to fierce condemnations stem the tide of death?
No. Neither deaths, nor economic, political, social crises will end. Since the peace process ended, Turkey is on its way towards economic, political and social turmoil. Empty valour and patriotism will not save the lives of young people or the economy. Unless the peace with Kurds is established, Turkey will collapse. Political parties, civil society, everyone is in a hush regarding the issue. No one wants to get to the root of the problem, or even speak about it. However, the truth cannot be hidden; it bleeds even through the smallest gap.