Diyarbakır in Western media vs Diyarbakır in reality - MERVE ŞEBNEM ORUÇ

Diyarbakır in Western media vs Diyarbakır in reality

The trip to Diyarbakır began in the early hours of the day… During the flight I read an article in the U.S. weekly magazine, The Nation… The article written by Jesse Rosenfeld is titled, “Turkey Is Fighting a Dirty War Against Its Own Kurdish Population.” I have lost count of the number of articles that have been published in international media with a similar title since July.

I scroll down to continue reading Rosenberg's article filled with sentences that are each more problematic than the other:

“ This is not Syria, nor is it Iraq. It is Turkey, America's NATO partner, now in the throes of a rapidly expanding war against its Kurdish population in the country's southeast.”

“ Cizre and the old city of Diyarbakir – the de facto capital of Turkish Kurdistan – have seen the most severe fighting in an urban rebellion that has spread across what Kurds call northern Kurdistan. It's a homeland the Turkish government refuses to recognize.”

“ According to PKK fighters and commanders that The Nation spoke to behind barricades in the embattled city of Nuysabin, on Turkey's border with Syria, it was the government's unwillingness to accept national minority rights during peace negotiations nine months ago that led to the collapse of talks. They say this new war – the latest phase in a three-decade conflict – will expand, and they vow that the PKK will move its guerrillas into eastern, Kurdish-majority cities in the coming months while also bringing the war to the country's major metropolises, like Istanbul.”

“The smell of death is everywhere, three weeks after the end of fighting.”

“A sense of betrayal is common among Cizre's survivors, who want to know why the West supports the Kurdish rebels in Syria but calls their allies in Turkey terrorists, even though they have the same leader and ideology.”

“Now, on the streets of the de facto Kurdish capital of Diyarbakir, the example the YPG has set of liberating Kurdish territory by force in Syria is increasingly popular. Turkey's siege and bombardment of the district of Sur, lasting more than 90 days, has become a driving force in this changing attitude. Reports of civilians trapped by the fighting and stories of women fighters killed in action being stripped naked and left in the streets to rot for weeks have incensed the population.”

“Inside Sur, the staging area for the Turkish offensive is filled with military vehicles. Next to the bombed-out buildings of this UNESCO world heritage site, recaptured buildings are draped in massive Turkish flags.”

“Alongside their military campaign, security forces have invited the media to observe the formation of a two-hour humanitarian corridor to allow civilians and the wounded to leave … Not a single person emerges.”

“'Everywhere is Sur, everywhere is revolution!' the crowd chants, followed by calls of 'The PKK is the people, this is the people!'”

“ Amid the omnipresence of war and repression, it is common to hear Kurds compare their current situation with the violence of the 1990s and early 2000s, when Turkey carried out a brutal counterinsurgency in the countryside, where it torched an estimate 2,400 villages.”

All carefully selected sentences, written after meeting with Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) forces and their supporters, with PKK-affiliated activists. It is a text that was prepared diligently without leaving any gaps to make sure that Americans see the PKK as a group of freedom fighters fighting on behalf of Kurds…

As I mentioned earlier, this is one of the countless news, articles, analyses meticulously written and published in international media in the name of reflecting and instilling in minds that the war started by the PKK against Turkey is a “war started on Kurds by [President Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan.” So much so that it is enough to make even me have doubts about the kind of place Diyarbakır – which I have not seen for at least six months – has become.

Yet, when we got off the plane in Diyarbakır, where we felt the first signs of spring, there was not a trace of the feeling compared to Syria and Iraq in the cold U.S. newspapers. Of course you sense the sorrow after leaving the airport and making your way toward the city center, but there is no state of civil war here.

In Sur, where The Nation reported that not a single person emerged when the humanitarian corridor was formed, more than 5,000 families were taken out of the four neighborhoods in which trenches were dug. The Diyarbakır governorate then settled these families into other districts and hotels mainly in Diyarbakır. In addition to providing TL 1,000 financial aid to each family, they are also given food, educational assistance and psychological help.

When we spoke with the families who left Sur, we hear them talk about the state that rescued them from the PKK's violence, not about a war Ankara waged on Kurds. Although not intriguing to us, it is intriguing to those who read nothing but organization propaganda, they know nothing about “the war the state started against Kurds.”

One of those families that risked opening their door to us despite all the pressure and threats, was in tears when talking about the bullets flying over their roof and then hitting their walls, about how strangers with their faces covered came to their door and first threatened them for votes, then for their children. Three families that took refuge in the same house, five-six people sleeping in the one room, children frightened at the creak of a door, teary-eyed mothers, explain how they had to send their 13- to 14-year-old children to Ankara, Istanbul, to stay with their relatives in distant cities to protect them from the organization. One teary-eyed mother, whose name I cannot share, says, “I would rather have him away from home and miss him than have him tricked with drugs, cigarettes or TL 50 placed in his pocket.”

They are the real sufferers who have had to migrate from the rural area to Sur in 1992, and have now lost their homes in Sur, whose voices remain unheard among lies and deceit, because U.S. magazines and Western media cannot get an opinion that will suit their needs. They have no names, no faces… If they did, we would not be able to publish any of this as both them and their relatives may face death.

I have Rosenfeld's The Nation article in my head, I see the tear-eyed mothers before my eyes and hear Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu's wife Sare Davutoğlu's words in my ears: “It is the stance of Diyarbakır's women against terror that makes the provocations ineffective.” I am not sure which to believe. However, I am returning to Istanbul with the concern of how we will overcome the never-ending lies and the plots hidden behind fancy words, and with the sorrow of the stories of the women resisting PKK oppression.

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