Most of us wake up in the morning and start our daily routine. Some a little early, some rather late. On December 28th, 2011 34 youngsters from Gulyazı village in southeastern Turkey near the Iraqi border did the same.
You leave your house to arrive at your office if you are lucky enough to keep a job. 34 boys from Gulyazi were not. Most of them were students without any petty cash, born into the destitution of southeastern Turkey. So they needed to do what all men do there to survive: border trade.
Most families in the region are separated by an artificial border carelessly designated by powers to be after the demise of the Ottoman Empire. So they carry gas, cigarettes and such on mules and sell these heavily taxed items in Turkey to survive. Security forces know about it. It has been said that they even have a share in the trade for looking the other way. As in many rural regions of Turkey, military is the only security around Gulyazi which makes them the king, and all obey their might.
Yet when 34 young men of Gulyazi were on the steps of Roboski (Uludere) on December 28th, 2011, coming back with mules loaded with gasoline, the routine of “military action in the lands of neighboring countries” have been initiated. This is a procedure handed down to the government by the Parliament to engage in military attacks to foreign countries in pursuit of so called terrorist elements. The Prime Minister has final authority over these actions.
The ‘routine’ sent military elements to surround and keep the smugglers in position and F-16 airplanes bombed immobilized civilians. 34 people annihilated, 20 of which were under age boys. Most of their remains were not to be found. The wounded few could not be accessed early enough or to be carried to a hospital to save their lives. It was a massacre by all means.
The massacre continued after the event. The state while accepting officially ‘it was a mistake’ never offered to answer villagers’ questions as to why or by whose mistake or initiated any serious investigation on the matter. Many government officials declared the dead as potential terrorists. Many of the victims were from Encu family. Remaining members of the family cannot even travel to other parts of the country since the bombing. They are arrested on the spot and held in custody for the legal processing and then released. Several lawsuits opened against the relatives of the deceased for the statements they have made in mourning.
One whole year has passed now. Turkey continue its regular policy of oppression of the Kurds by implementing an increased pressure. Most of the active Kurdish politicians, journalists or academicians outside the Parliament are in jail facing incredible political charges. Most of them are inside more than a year now without any conviction. Harassment and abuse continue in the prisons against all political inmates. Their relatives during visits are harassed and abused as well. Degradation even extends to bugging Kurds’ cell phones and recording their conversations with loved ones and to use these recordings in open court as a method of psychological torture.
Being in Turkey threatens the life of any politically active Kurd (or any ethnic or religious minority member for that matter) today. As can be seen from the examples like earlier massacres beginning in the 80’s to murders of journalists and to Roboski massacre, living as a Kurd is sufficiently life-threatening in Turkey. Still everyday dozens are added to the list of arrests in the name of KCK trial supposedly set against the political wing of PKK, Kurdistan Workers’ Party.
Roboski is just another illustration of how a state can be a danger to the lives of its own civilian citizens who went by their daily work. Their only fault was to be poor in a border region. Like many other Kurds anywhere in Northern Kurdistan.
Roboski was pain for Gulyazı villagers. It is a shame for a whole nation now. But if current policies of Turkey is to be supported in International community, it would soon become a shame for the whole humanity. Great powers might have great plans for the Middle East. But if they keep on ignoring the transgressions of Turkey against its own people like they did during the Armenian Genocide, neither Turkish administration nor its people have the will to change the status quo.
Mothers have been mourning in Gulyazı for a year now. In the past year no wedding ceremonies took place in the village. Many other families are in mourning elsewhere in the nation for their lost ones. The state is killing boys at both fronts in its fight against its own people. Until that war ends, everything else including the politics or the economy are just background to the tears and cries of mothers heard from one end of the country to the other.
As Turks would love to say; ‘when mothers are concerned, the rest are just detail.’
Photo: December 28, 2012 Gulyazı by Frederike Geerdink. (with gratitude)