A couple of days ago I wrote a post on Facebook. It wasn’t against the French flag Facebook launched, thought it may have seemed that way. It was about the tragedy of ascribing different value to people, based on their geographies, culture and religion. My main point was that we mourn, care, act and react selectively, based on what we feel closest to us. Not based on a principled appreciation of human life. Which is reasonable, but we should maybe think about it more. This was not judgement. It was just highlighting a fact, based on my own opinion. Raising awareness of the reality that this is how our system works, and that this is how we are drawn to act and behave. I had no intention to downplay the Paris tragedy. Nor did I suggest that one life matters more than others, or that one tragedy deserves more attention than others. Quite the contrary. I’m as devastated as anyone who watched these events unfolding from afar. And I definitely do not see that post as any kind of “activism” – in the age of Facebook, this word has lost its meaning. It was just the expression of an opinion.
To my big surprise, the post became viral. I don’t even understand how or why. It never even crossed my mind this would happen. It has now reached close to 4,000 shares and 5,300 “likes”. As a result I started getting quite a few private messages from friends and strangers. Most of them wanted to say “thank you”. My response is this: Thank YOU! Thank you, not so much for sharing, but for caring. I know I didn’t write anything ground-breaking, I’m very conscious of that. But from what I realized, I unknowingly said what many people were thinking about.
Be that as it may, I received some negative messages as well. All of those wanted to protest one thing and one thing only that I wrote in the post: “A flag of Turkey, where two ISIS attacks over the past few months have killed more than 150 people, and where the government cracks down on Kurds indiscriminately.” Some were polite; others not. But all of them came from Turkish Facebook users. At this point I should note that many of the “thank yous” came from Turks, too. The negative comments wanted me to correct my mistake, to set the record straight, to apologize for what I wrote. They thought I was not fair with the Turkish government when I said that it cracks down on Kurds indiscriminately. They shouted that I didn’t understand the PKK (the secessionist Kurdistan Workers’ Party) problem, that I have no idea of Turkish politics, that PKK is no different than ISIS, and that I wanted to harm the Turkish government with the pretext of the Paris attacks.
This is what I will admit: I may have overstated the Turkey-Kurds problematic dynamic (in Turkey) by using “indiscriminately”. But I will not apologize and there is no distorted record to set straight. I never mentioned the PKK, and I have never condoned what it does. This, however, doesn’t mean that I don’t understand or know the plight of Turkey’s Kurds, their problems and their needs; whether they are supporters of the PKK, the HDP (pro-Kurdish party) or any other party for that matter.
It seems some forget that virtually every progress report of the EU for Turkey’s accession process mentions the human rights problems with regard to the Kurds in the country. Yes, the PKK has committed and still is committing crimes. But lets not forget that the Turkish state has since the mid-1980s depopulated (to put it politely) nearly 3000 Kurdish villages and drove hundreds of thousands of Kurds out of their homes in its effort to fight the PKK. When it comes to today, some may have not been able to follow the attacks against the Kurds at least over the past few months: the coordinated lynching of anti-government Kurds by the police; the indiscriminate and violent attacks against Kurds by government forces in certain areas of Turkey; the recent curfews and boycotts of Kurdish towns by the military in southeastern Turkey in the name of the war against the PKK, and many more. See for example what happened in Cizre a couple of months ago, and what is happening today in Silvan where the government is whipping out more Kurdish towns off the map. Is the PKK involved? Yes, it is. Does that justify state violence against civilians? Definitely not.
Below is a video from two days ago, when the Turkish army withdrew from Silvan, Diyabakir, after a 12 days-long blockade and curfew. The “farewell” of the people is depicted in the video. The youth are chanting pro-PKK slogans. No matter how much we disagree with the PKK’s methods (which I’m not condoning or justifying), we should perhaps also acknowledge that these people are pushed to joining the PKK because they are left with no alternative. We should also scrutinize the reasons behind the PKK’s persisting ability to exist and the state’s responsibilities over the years:
See also this video of a young Kurd’s outcry in Silvan:
I thus put it simply and briefly. If you are from Turkey, it is very likely that you were not even aware of these problems. Or maybe you’ve heard the stories being told on the news from a very different angle. If so, its not a surprise. It’s by now known all over the world, that media freedom in Turkey is in a big crisis. And yet if you did know and still disagree(d) with me, well, that’s your right, and I respect it. The right to your own opinion and perspective. The same right to which I’m entitled as well. So, no; I won’t apologize for my opinion. However I did feel the need to elaborate on what I wrote, mainly because thousands of people read it. This kind of impact comes with responsibility.