As of today fighting between the Turkish armed forces and PKK guerrillas in Semdinli province in southeastern Turkey continues for fifteen days. Since Turkish security forces do not allow press into the greater region, no citizen reports could be verified. The national media waiting for approval from the officials on any bit of news report is not eager to report from the region to begin with, and International media is occupied elsewhere.
Whatever information leaks from Kurdish news sources or from local citizens is tainted by uncertainties or propaganda. State sources and the military high command was in total silence until the early hours of Sunday, August the 5th when PKK attacked a military post again in Hakkari province, officially killing 8 and wounding many more. Social and mainstream media was immediately filled once more with nationalist cries for fallen “martyrs.” That is the tune of the story for thirty years now. Turkish state with its renown vanity trying to put out an ethnic fire with gasoline and not learning a bit from past experience, is causing havoc in its own country and seem to care less for doing so.
But, did I say not learning from experience? Turkey is devoid of written history. For centuries historians were considered simply public servants. They spent their time putting official statements and narratives in paper. Press is considered much the same. Except for maybe some short lived periods of “enlightenment,” the primary function of press in Turkey was traditionally to “create a suitable climate” for the state that knows what is good for its “subjects” better than the subjects themselves. So if you dive into the newspaper archives of yesteryears, all you will be able to find is the official history which in most cases misses out the facts completely. The only exceptions to this rule, some out-of-line printed media of the past were destroyed periodically thanks to the military interventions of almost every decade in the second half of the 20th Century. So the written social “experience” Turkish society owns is biased or full of utter lies in most cases. Surely there are books of rarity giving an accurate historical perspective, but in a country where the Prime Minister openly bloats about not reading any books, those few cannot find their way into the minds of bureaucrats who are assimilated into the state structure at a very early age. That leaves out only the verbal tradition.
But there is another very powerful tradition in action here: the xenophobic nature of official Turkish politics and society. We are talking about a culture where differences are not tolerated unless they come in the form of temporary visitors who pay dollars, i.e. tourists. Even the Turkish guest workers in Europe, with their “westernized” habits and different Turkish dialect is not welcome in Turkey, but of course they brought Deutsch Marks or Francs or Florins (and now Euros) into a once very strict monetary regime, they were tolerated to an extent. But even that didn’t prevent them to be abused further through fiscal or religious schemes which poured their hard earned savings into fraudulent Turkish economy.
All ethnic minorities at home faced discrimination, alienation if not total annihilation both socially and economically. Kurds of Turkey are just the last link in the chain. Turkish state uses one of the most ancient rules of government: keep the population uninformed, create an internal or external enemy to keep them united (for there is no uniting glue for the population of Turkey which consist of predominantly immigrants having diverse cultural backgrounds) and keep that animosity alive by substituting enemies in time. For the Turkish mind humans are mortal but the state is everlasting. For a nation who is proud to have formed ten-something different states in history, even that preamble tells much about the role experience plays in the learning culture of these lands.
Today, there are more than 20 million people living in Turkey as citizens who identify themselves as Kurds. They have various cultural and political demands as citizens. Without acknowledging this fact, Turkey is trying to destroy their lives in order to invalidate these demands. (A Turkish minister of education is famous for saying it would be a fair to manage education if there were no schools.) And as the conflict goes on, the government is veering towards a post-modern pre-Armenian genocide era. As can be learned from history, there is never a winner of a fight when a state is against its population. People will die, society will disperse and values will be lost and people, societies and values are very difficult to replace.
If we try hard against all odds we can learn from the past. But whatever we do, if we never consider the option of communication and bully our views today, despite the outcome we will always lose; our lives, our country, our friends, our values. We will continue to live yesterday in all our tomorrows.
And no state, no ideology, no thought, no god is eternal. The only constant is change. History is full of examples. Even Turkish history.