I am like Diyarbakır: Grieving, furious, resentful but still I stand.

I am like Diyarbakır: Grieving, furious, resentful but still, I stand.

Last Friday 370 civil society organizations were closed by the government under the allegation of supporting terrorist groups. 50 of these organizations are based in Diyarbakir, in my city. There are associations that support the families who lost their houses during the curfews or families who live under the poverty line in the Region. Associations that represent women and children rights, Kurdish linguistic rights, “lost” people, reconciliation, Kurdish culture, lawyers rights have all been closed by the government.

Sarmaşık is one the associations that was working on poverty. Sarmaşık had regularly given food support to 32.000 people every month for the past 11 years.

2 days ago, I was walking to the Sarmaşık press meeting to protest the closure. There were many tanks, TOMAs and police at the entrance of the street. At the press meeting, there was only one camera because most of the media institutions were closed 2 months ago.  There were only 10-15 people participating in the press meeting but there were dozens of police officers blocking the street.

After the press meeting, I sat in a café. Only a few tables were full.  The owner of the café told me: “After President Selahattin’s arrest (Selahattin Demirtaş, co-president of Peoples’ Democratic Party) the café was totally empty for a few days. Now the   people have begun to come again but it is not like before. There is a great sadness.”

Another shop owner in Suriçi said that people in the city are afraid and many people have not visited the Sur area for months. In a city surrounded with thousands of tanks, TOMAs, police and army, this fear is very understandable.

Apart from the fear, there are other reasons for the silence in the city.

Kurds have struggled for peace for many years.  Despite a hundred years of injustice, outrage and pressure, Kurds, with their local municipalities, political representatives and civil society have supported peace with their every cell. The Turkish state has answered these peace efforts with outrage, killings, bombings and jailing. This has been a big disappointment. Kurds have been deeply offended by the state. Kurds are desperate. People suffer here. They are resentful and sad.  It is really hard to know how these feelings will affect the future.

Everything in the city reminds us that we are in war.  Everywhere is full of police barricades. The municipality buildings, the main roads, even the city parks are surrounded by police barricades. While walking in the city, we have to pass between the barricades, tanks and TOMAs. While eating in a restaurant, we eat our food among police officers who carry big guns. Even the Anıt Park, the children’s park at the city center is full of Turkish flags. Our ancient city walls are covered with big Turkish flags. There are civilian dressed or uniformed police, soldiers and special teams everywhere, on every corner, in every street.

It is not easy to live like this, to keep standing, to hold onto hope. It is really not easy to continue living.

We no longer have our media outlets. They have been closed. We no longer have our civil society organizations. They have been closed. We no longer have our democratically elected municipal government. State trustees have been appointed to run our municipalities. We no longer have our representatives in parliament. Most of them have been detained. Imprisoning our elected representatives has been crushing. Not only as individuals, but as a city, as a community we all suffer!

While our elected representatives are in jail, we have learned that the government has selected a group of people from influential families to launch a new “peace process”. Launching a “peace process” without Kurdish representatives seems absurd.  I curse this country, who continues to make the same mistakes year after year.

My friends living in the West often call me and ask: “How are you?”

I am like Diyarbakir: Grieving, furious, resentful but still, I stand!

Nurcan Baysal

17.11.2016, Diyarbakır

***Published in Open Democracy