Tuesday, July 21, 2009

thank you for your hospital: a note from Turkey

I've been here about 6 weeks, in the beginning I was in Istanbul and my impression was one of hope, that things actually are getting better. Then I came to Diyarbakir. Every night there are fighter jets taking off. I ask why? Where are they going? People say, "There's an operation going on".

I was here three weeks ago and when I left, from the window of the plane I could see 7 fighter jets lining up on the runway to take off. And when I returned... again, the night sky is full of these machines roaring over the city towards Hakkari or Kandil.... So an "operation" which suggests that there is an event with a begining, middle and end, are endless here. The sound of these jets is really damaging psychologically, especially for anyone who knows what its like to be bombed. You hear these jets screaming and obliterating all conversation and thought, and you think of death. I talked to someone, a man who's father had been killed by the deep state. He'd been living in Switzerland for 25 years but has returned to care for his father's grave. He said "When I go to the west, and people say "The Kurds are free, they have no problems" I have to tell them, we are going to sleep with jets and waking with the helicopters. Have you ever seen a tank? We are living with Jets, helicopters and bombs, thats our life.

Meanwhile, in the municipalities, there were "operations" to seize city workers. One woman described how police came to her door at 4 am, burst in, put a gun to her head, tore her house to pieces, terrorized her elderly parents, and then took her into custody to be interrogated. And what were the questions? "Why are you working so hard? Why do you work 12 hours a day? Why are you so successful at your job? Why do you care so much about the work you are doing? Do you have an ideological sympathy with the PKK?" When I asked this woman why she was held, why the municipalities were targets of "operations" by the governement she said, "It is the Gulen people. They want to stop all our work in the municipality."

This woman was held for 5 days an nights, kept in isolation in a tiny cell, not allowed to speak to anyone except her interrogators. There is no case against her, but her future is uncertain. She has done nothing more than write grants for social programs.

What does this mean actually?

After the elections, AKP lost badly and DTP became very strong in the municipalities. It was then that the "Operations" began and many DTP people were taken into custody. Its nothing new, the government from Ankara has historically tried to destroy the local governments where Kurdish people govern themselves. But to understand the absurdity of the situation you would have to imagine that say-- Obama tapped all the phones and read the email of Bloomberg... that members the New York City council who talk to their constituents in Spanish or Chinese could be arrested for speaking in "unknown languages".

There are so many volatile developments here now that's its difficult to sort out the course things will take: AKP is really sticking it to the military for instance. They have just pushed through a new law that the military can be tried in civilian courts. This is a good thing of course. But sometimes I feel like I'm watching a battle between a tarantula and scorpion.

One funny thing that happened to me which illustrates the mentality of the "occupiers" (ie. the police and military here). I was driving back from Mardin and I was stopped by the police. After being stopped, I explained to the policeman that I spoke just a little Turkish. He asked me to wait and he sent another policeman to talk to me. Someone who supposedly spoke English.
But his English was not good, "Since you are a foreigner, we want to show you our hospital" he said. "What?" I said. "We want to show you our hospital, so we will not give you a traffic fine." "Thank you, I'm very grateful you won't give me a traffic fine, but... I'm sorry, I don't understand. I don't need to go the the hospital."
Then I realized he was trying to say "We want to show you our hospitality." And I became afraid he wouldn't understand anything I was saying, so I began to thank him in Turkish and when he spoke english I stuck to Turkish. He kept saying "You can speak English" (You can't I thought) and I said, "But I want to practice my Turkish." "WHY DO YOU WANT TO LEARN TURKISH" he said suddenly. I was speechless for a minute. I mean, aren't we in Turkey? Then he looked at me and said "Are you OKAY? Do you need HELP?" No I said. But thank you for your hospital. And he let me go.