Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Delia juxtaposed with Turkish Fascism

So many people have died in this war to claim their Kurdish identity, mostly young people. I've heard it said that when youth leave the village to join the PKK their parents mourn them as if dead on the day they go to the mountains, not later. In Diyarbekir I became wary of asking people if they had children because too many times I was silently given a photo (taken out of a wallet, saved on a cellphone) of a young man or woman who was killed as a guerilla.) A friend once told me that everyone who sat around him in school had later gone to the guerillas. None of them have survived. Sometimes he comes across their pictures on the HPG website which catalogs the lives sacrificed. "This was one of my friends" he will say.

Before I ever went to Turkey I studied Turkish with a young Turkish college student. He was very kind, very polite and helpful. One day he asked me where I would go in Turkey and I told him Diyarbakir. He was utterly baffeled by this. Why would I ever want to go there? I asked him if he'd ever been there and he said no, he'd traveled all over Europe but he saw no reason to go to one of the most "backwards" places in Turkey. I told him I was planning to write something about the Kurdish issue so I needed to go where there were a lot of Kurds. I didn't say the word that can be like a nuclear bomb for a Turk - KURDISTAN, but suddenly it was as if his eyes rolled back in in their sockets and his head spun around three times. A kind of Linda Blair moment. He became a different person completely, full of rage and possesed by a fury he was trying to contain: "Let me draw you a map." he said-- and he began to draw with violent strokes, a map of Turkey. Then he shaded in the eastern area of the map (ie, Kurdistan) and when he spoke, his voice had a tone of bottled hysteria. "There are people living here, poor people in their villages, who are ignorant and backwards. They are easily brainwashed. The PKK have come to these people and brainwashed them. It's like they're infected. There is nothing that can be done for them except cleaning. They need to be cleaned. All these villages need to be cleaned." I didn't argue, I didn't say anything. Really there was nothing to say. It was my first encounter with Turkish fascism. After that day, I got some tapes and continued studying Turkish by myself.

The real brainwashing of course, has happened to the Turkish people who have their own victimhood drummed into them from the day they are born. Everyone wants to tear Turkey apart. Ataturk saved us. The Turks never killed the Armenians, actually it was the Armenians who killed us Turks. On and on. There is no rational argument that is not countered with "we are the greater victims." This is the mentality that has led to incidents like the "Blood Flag"

A group of students in the province of Kırşehir, 150 kilometers east of Ankara, painted a Turkish flag with their blood and sent it to the Chief of General Staff in remembrance of the 13 soldiers who were killed by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) terrorists on Nov. 21 last year.

Reports said 21 students, 10 of whom were girls, met on Nov. 18, cut their fingers and painted the flag in protest against terrorism. They then framed it before sending it to Chief of General Staff Gen. Yaşar Büyükanıt.

The students also sent a letter to the Office of the Chief of Staff, noting their commitment to the country and their willingness to serve in the military.

Büyükanıt, speaking at a television rally organized to support those who fought against terrorism, mentioned the flag sent by the students and showed it to the audience. �This flag was done by a group of students with their own blood. We are a great nation,� he said.

I first read about this in Gordon Taylor's blog on Progressive Historians This blood flag incident requires no commnet. Yes, I agree, the Turkish people are victims too, because they become alienated from the the truth of their own country, from their own history. And they too are forced to sacrifice their young in a war to deny the culture and identity that should be embraced as a treasure of the country, not as a threat. I can't think of anything more "backwards" than the destruction of a place like Hasankeyf. So few Turkish people have ever been to this amazing place, or any of the other amazing cultural and archeological sites in Turkey so they aren't invested in these places as part of their own history and identity.

I am constantly being asked by Turks "What are you doing? Why are you doing this? Have you ever been to Turkey? Have you ever been to the East? Why can't you be objective? Why are you taking the side of the Kurds or the Armenians? Why don't you worry about the crimes of your own country. And I always say that one of the crimes of my own country is the support it gives Turkey, in weapons, in so called "intelligence", and in its enabling Turkey to maintain its nationalist illusions. Because of my own country's actions I have a responsibility to communicate what I've seen in Turkey. There is no taking a side. One just has to juxtapose these voices and these actions. On one hand you have a general, happy that children have made a flag out of their own blood, on the other you have a man who creates a dictionary in his own language and is then sent to prison.

Too many Turkish people, unfortunately, have no understanding of the level of oppression in Kurdistan. I've heard Turks tell me that Kurds in Turkey are free to speak their language, in fact they have Kurdish radio, Kurdish tv "Many channels!" One man said, "Maybe Kurds, they have more rights than I do." This is all a big lie. Kurdish broadcasting is very limited to 15 minutes a day (at most 45) of only music and the most innane commentary. No childrens programs are allowed. No one is allowed to take even a private course in Kurdish unless they have graduated through the entire Turkish educational system. I've heard Turks say "If they want to better themselves, they learn Turkish." But why can't they learn to write in their own mother tongue? What is the harm in that? The Turkish state has made a language it's enemy. How can a language be an enemy? In the city of "Tunceli" (Actually the place is Dersim, but the Turks renamed it after they slaughtered 100 thousand Kurdish Alevi's there in 1937-38.) the civilian population is less than the population of military and police. There's a tank, armored transport or jandarma station on every hill and mountain. How does it feel to live with guns always pointed at your head, is this "more rights than I have?" This is the oppression that drives people to the mountains.

No comments: