With the PKK ending its unilateral ceasefire after the opposition lost the elections and the hope on a road towards peace negotiations was diminished, I feel that my hope turns to the longer-term future instead of on any progress now. And it leaves me wondering if this can be called hope at all.
Throwback to summer 2015, when I was living and working in Amed (Diyarbakır). There had been hope for a few years that maybe, just maybe the state would be open to make real progress on solving the Kurdish issue through democratic means. This was of course great from a human rights and democracy point of view, but also as a journalist, I found it very inspiring. Conflict and war are usually the times when journalists pour in to countries and regions while peace is what chases them away, but I would of course stay if peace would break out and report it.
I was curious to see how a de-centralised Turkey would function, more specifically of course to see how Bakur (Kurdistan in Turkey) would be governed with local people actually having something to say about their lives. The Kurdish movement had been investing in educating and organising people for years and finally, we would really see what it would look like in practice.
But I was thinking of going elsewhere in the country too. What would a democratic solution do to, for example, communities in the Black Sea region, where Turkish nationalism has always been fierce? They too would have more to say about their own lands, could maybe ban the hydro-electric power plants that are being imposed on them by central power in Ankara. And what would peace do with how they identify themselves and others?
Then it all fell apart. The peace process ended in that summer. Violence resumed. I saw it from up close in a valley not far from Gever (Yüksekova), where the PKK and the army were clashing and where I was with a human shield group that tried to stop the fighting. At night, in our tent, we heard the weapons roar. In the evening, a wounded guerrilla fighter was brought to the human shield camp to receive some basic health care – read: bandages and pain killers. A few days later, i was on a plane to Amsterdam against my will and until today, I haven’t been able to go back.
Less than a year later, I was in a PKK camp in Qandil to research my book about the PKK – I stayed for a full year. I talked to an experienced guerrilla fighter about the struggle. He explained to me that the struggle was eventually a long-term one against patriarchal suppression, including capitalism, nation-states, militarism. That one day, these structures were going to fall because they were not sustainable, and that the PKK was not about weapons, but about building an alternative for these structures: socialism, community, respect for everybody’s culture, religion and heritage. The weapons were necessary in war but in essence just for self-defence.
I remember how that made me less sad about the end of the peace process. As human beings only living on this planet for a couple of decades, we overlook that massive change can happen in a lifetime but in general, stretch over much longer periods of time. We can contribute to the outcome in the lives of the next generations and this is our responsibility, and we shouldn’t expect it to directly benefit ourselves.
It is surely something to hold on to, and I try to in times like these, when a prospect for better times seems to be fading away. Of course, we don’t know what the developments would have been if the outcome of the presidential and parliamentary elections would have been better, but like a decade ago with the peace process, it would have sparked some hope. Instead, Turkey and Kurdistan are further spiralling towards more violence again. Of course, it is impossible for the PKK to uphold the (umpteenth!) unilateral ceasefire in the face of the destruction, war crimes and countless extrajudicial executions by the AKP-MHP alliance. This fascism must be fought.
Does it help me this time to look at the larger struggle? To know that I may be here on this planet maximum some thirty, forty years, but that after that, the struggle for a better world continues and will eventually lead to something better? That it is also inspiring to live exactly now, just because now as a journalist I can contribute to reporting the current phase in the global struggle for democracy and justice?
It is, but there is also a voice in the back of my head that it has to be. Because you could rephrase the cause of the struggle as a world with less suffering. Hoping that, and forcing myself to trust that in generations from now, this planet will be a better place for all, is maybe just a distraction of today’s reality: more lives will be lost again. The struggle now is for future generations, but they are already alive now, being born today.
Let’s scale that down again from a global perspective to a more local one. Eventually, in some point in time, the war between the state and the PKK will end. This is inevitable. Every single day that the negotiating table is not being set up, more lives of both soldiers and guerrilla fighters, and more lives of ordinary citizens, will uselessly end. I find that hard to deal with.