The Kurdish region since the coup attempt

Especially for the young generation who believes that there is no legal way to gain rights for the Kurdish people, Turkey's government policies will inevitably have tragic consequences.

Nurcan Baysal
2 February 2017
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Diyarbakir, Turkey, November, 2016. Outside the courthouse, supporters wait where HDP co-leader Selahattin Demirtas has been detained.Depo Photos/ABACA/Press Agenc. All rights reserved. The July 15 coup attempt was a nightmare. Kurds remember the terrible army coups in Turkey. After the army coups, Kurdish people were imprisoned, sustained, killed and tortured. Kurds are against army coups. By night-time on 15 July, 2016, the pro-Kurdish party, HDP (Peoples’ Democratic Party) had immediately condemned the coup attempt.

Kurds thought that after the coup attempt, there may be a return to the peace process.

The reasons behind that surmise were:

-  The Kurdish movement has not had any links with the Gulenist movement. The Gulenist movement is a nationalist, Islamic, pan-Turkish movement. In his speeches, Fethullah Gulen, head of the Gulen movement, has on multiple occasions expressed his hatred for Kurdish people and has come out against any peace with the Kurdish people. Kurds have warned the government on numerous occasions that the Gulen movement could sabotage the peace process.

-  Today, we know that the PKK did not launch the war. Today we know that the PKK is not responsible for the killing of 2 policemen in Ceylanpınar (this event has been linked to the breakdown of the 2 year long peace process). The HDP proposed in a parliamentary bill to investigate these killings. The bill was voted down by the AKP (Justice and Development Party) and MHP (Nationalist Movement Party). In the aftermath of the coup attempt, the judges and prosecutors of this event have been arrested for supporting the Gulenist movement.

Unfortunately, after the coup attempt, the government did not use their chance to return to the peace process.

Since the coup attempt on July 15, everything has got worse. Just 5 days after the coup attempt, on July 20, a State of Emergency (OHAL) was declared. It still continues. The country is governed by decrees with the force of law (KHK). Government has used the July 15 coup attempt and the Emergency Rule to stifle all opposition.

Let’s offer just a few numbers to help people grasp the size of this “witch hunt” in Turkey:

  • More than 100,000 people have been fired from their jobs. Nearly 30,000 of them were teachers and 4,000 of them academics.
  • 40,000 people have been detained, 20,000 people were arrested, and investigations have been opened against 70,000 people.
  • 1,500 civil society organizations were closed down. 177 media outlets, TVs, newspapers have been closed. More than 150 journalists and writers were imprisoned.

These numbers grow every day. Thousands of investigations have been opened against film makers, writers, lawyers, doctors, academics…

How has the State of Emergency impacted the Kurdish region?

The war and curfews have continued in the Kurdish region since the July 2015. Many Kurdish cities have been demolished; millions of people have become homeless. The State of Emergency was declared on top of this disaster and everything has got worse.

Let’s look at what happened in the region after the coup attempt:

  • State administrators were appointed to replace elected mayors in dozens of pro-Kurdish municipalities. 

Kurds have been administering their own municipalities since 1999 in accordance with EU local governance principles. Kurdish municipalities have been under constant pressure with frequent inspections by the central government. Today, elected mayors have been replaced by appointed state officers.

These appointed people (kayyum) have closed womens’ centers, Kurdish culture and art centers. In Diyarbakır “kayyum” just closed the Yezidi camp last week. Many of the municipal jurisdictions have been taken under state control, signalling long term ramifications.

  • Almost all Kurdish media, even the Kurdish children’s channel has been shut down.

Kurds have never had a wide range of media channels in Turkey. Before July 15, they had some local TV stations, radio stations and a few TV stations broadcasting from İstanbul and abroad.  Mainstream media has not shown what is happening in Kurdish cities, because they are controlled by the government. All media channels sympathetic to Kurdish issues are accused of supporting the PKK.

This is totally ridiculous. Those channels were actually showing the violence of the state in the region. Now Kurds only depend on social media channels like Twitter and Facebook, which are also suspended by the government from time to time.

Today, 10,000 social media users are undergoing investigation in Turkey, 1,656 social media users have been imprisoned under charges of “insulting Erdoğan or supportive messages for terror organizations…”.

  • Kurdish civil society organizations were closed down by the government allegedly under suspicion of supporting terrorist groups.

There are associations that support the families who have lost their houses during the curfews or families who live under the poverty line in the Kurdish region. Associations that represent women and children’s rights, Kurdish linguistic rights, “lost” people, reconciliation, environment, Kurdish culture and language schools, lawyers’ rights – these have all been closed down by the government. Even some Kurdish football organizations have been closed.

By closing these civil society organizations, we understand that the government is trying to harm Kurdish society, to undermine the social solidarity.

  • Thousands of Kurdish teachers were fired from their jobs in the region.

The government suspended 11,285 teachers who are accused of having links with Kurdish militants. Nearly 10,000 of the teachers returned to their jobs after 3 months. 1000 of them were fired outright. There is also an education problem in the region. Many schools in the region have been transformed into police stations. Many student dormitories are used by special operations teams. Worse still, the content of their education has changed. A militarist, authoritarian, one minded educational system is gaining control.

  • The death of democratic politics

Hundreds of Kurdish politicians and activists have been detained. Even the co-presidents of HDP have been detained. 12 Kurdish parliamentarians, 67 Kurdish mayors are in prison. 3051 party managers are in prison; more than 10,000 members of HDP have been detained. Kurdish eople are living under the constant threat of detention. Every morning we regularly check to see who has been detained today.

With these policies, the government is sending a message to the Kurdish people. They have closed off all political access to Kurdish people in this country. Especially for the young generation who believes that there is no legal way to gain rights for the Kurdish people, these government policies will inevitably have tragic consequences.

Today, if you go to Kurdish cities, you will see police barricades in front of the municipal buildings, police stations and official buildings. You will see tanks, tomas, police, and soldiers with heavy weapons in the streets. You will see demolished cities and homeless people. You will see people living in tents in the rural areas of Şırnak and Hakkari. You will see thousands of teachers, doctors, academics, writers and journalists out of work. You will see check points everywhere. Inside the prisons, you will see 4-6 people trying to sleep in one bed because of how crowded it is. You will enter Şınak, Cizre, Nusaybin as if you were passing border control into a different country.

All of these changes have happened just in one and a half years.

The cultural fabric of Turkey is rapidly breaking down. The future is uncertain. We do not know what tomorrow will bring. There is no safety net, there is no turning back! I am afraid we can only be speeding towards destruction.

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