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Nurcan Baysal
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Nurcan Baysal is a writer and an op-ed columnist in T24. She is the author of the O Gün (That Day), Kürdistan’da Sivil Toplum (Civil Society in Kurdistan, co-authored with Şeyhmus Diken) and Ezidiler: 73. Ferman (Ezidis: 73rd Edict). She is a committed activist and has recently been active in making the voices of people heard in demolished cities of Kurdistan.

Nurcan partipated in our Istanbul Longform Workshop in March 2017. 

Is Şırnak one of the 81 cities of Turkey?

14.06.17
4 min

I am in Şırnak, one of the Kurdish cities that was under curfew for 8 months, between 14 March-14 November 2016 . 70% of the city has been totally destroyed. 8 of the city’s 12 districts do not exist anymore. The streets that I walked on before, the parks, the main square of the city, Cumhuriyet Meydanı, where I met together with the Şırnaqi youth years before, none of them exit. There are no streets left. One of the biggest districts, Bahçelievler, with a population of 12.000 has now been flattened. It is hard to believe that there were houses, shops, parks, schools and life before. It is hard for me to believe that I am in Şırnak.

There has been huge destruction in other Kurdish cities; in Cizre, Nusaybin, Yüksekova and Sur as well. None of them are like Şırnak.  Think about a city, that no longer has a city center! 

While looking at the remains of Şırnak, the HDP parliamentarian Aycan İrmez said to me: “Most of the city was destroyed after the operations finished on the 3rd of June. More than 10.000 houses were ruined. The property of Şırnaqi  people  were distributed like prize goods of a war. The state did not allow people to enter their own houses and to save their belongings.”

A woman now living in a tent told me how she entered her house:

“I snuck into the city with my husband and my 2 kids one night. I entered my home and tried to take the air conditioners, but we couldn’t move them. Then we quickly moved to the kitchen and tried to remove the boiler, but there was water inside and we couldn’t manage it either. Suddenly, a man saw us. He was from the company, responsible for demolishing Şırnak. He said “Stop! You can’t enter your house. As a company we won the contract from the state, which includes all your belongings.  He had big guns. He took us to a bus where there were other people, like us, who tried to enter their homes. The bus took us outside the city. I was only able to take my umbrella from my home” 

Another Şırnaqi man said: “We entered our houses like thieves.”

“Şırnak is a Turkish city”

To enter the city is a different kind of hard work. It is worse than passing into another country. There was a line of cars more than one kilometer long. I waited in the car for half an hour, before deciding to walk.  I walked to the control point. What I saw was,  a control point like that of  a border! Hundreds of police, army, tanks and barbed wire fences… After the barbed wire fences there were four booths like at the borders. The policemen were checking identity cards inside the booths. After passing another barbed wire fence, I finally entered Şırnak 1.5 hours later.  

When I had visited the city 2 months before, there was a big plaque at the entrance of the city, which said: “Şırnak is one of the 81 cities of Turkey”. Now the writing on the plaque has been changed to simply say:  “Şırnak is a Turkish city.”

Şırnak, one of the main Kurdish centers was burnt in 1992 by the state. Hundreds of people died, more than 20,000 people were forced to migrate. After 24 years, in 2016, Şırnak was again   destroyed by the state.  Before the curfew, the population was 64,000. Now the population is 30,000.  50,000 people are homeless. There are no residential areas left in Şırnak. Thousands of people live in tents and have migrated to rural areas, while others are left to live in overcrowded conditions, several families living together in the few houses that are left standing.

I have learned that the state has blocked all kind of aid to Şırnak. There is no interest from NGOs , aid organizations, media and international organizations in Şırnak. The city is totally isolated from the outside world, left alone with it’s ruins and pain.  

I can’t help but wonder: Is Şırnak really one of the 81 cities of Turkey?

15.02.2017, Şırnak

Turkey, a modern day soap opera

14.06.17
5 min

Last week, I met with my Canadian friend who lives in Turkey. She told me about a Turkish soap opera that she watched that morning.  In the soap-opera, the young women gave a bunch of flowers to her mother-in-law. The mother-in-law threw the flowers to the floor and stomped on them. My friend said, “this is too much, too dramatic!” I laughed and answered, “No, this is not too much for Turkey. Turkey is a modern day soap-opera!”

Just 3 weeks ago, the cafeteria manager of Cumhuriyet newspaper said that he would not serve tea to Tayyip Erdoğan. He was immediately taken into custody after the police raided his home. Authorities said that he was arrested for insulting the president.  In Turkey, insulting the president is a crime punishable for up to four years in prison. There are more than 1,800 cases against people including cartoonists, school children, journalists and writers all accused of insulting Erdoğan. 

President Erdoğan and members of the government often make statements that “you should report the people who insulted Erdoğan”. Last month, a taxi driver recorded the voice of his passenger who “insulted Erdoğan”. He sent the recording to the police, who raided the home of the passenger. Moreover, just a few days ago the village headman (muhtar) of the Cemilli Village in Mersin, a Mediterranean city, filed a criminal complaint against 18 villagers for “insulting Erdoğan”. Investigations have been opened against the villagers.

It is not surprising to hear court cases like: “I killed my wife because she insulted Erdoğan”, “I killed her because she was a member of FETÖ” or “I want a divorce because my wife does not like Erdoğan”,“my wife is supporting PKK terrorists”.

The parliament is one of the main characters in this soap-opera.

Last week, a parliamentarian from CHP, the opposition party, called the Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım “Cin Ali”, a popular cartoon character in children’s books, due to his speech about the constitutional change. During the constitutional change process parliamentarians have fought with fists, but last week, during these fights, one of the AKP’s parliamentarians claimed that his leg was bitten by an opposition parliamentarian. The other day, AKP parliamentarians hung up papers inside the parliament which had written, “dogs cannot enter”. A few days later, a CHP parliamentarian who is also a doctor gave a detailed medical speech with x-ray films and claimed that the bite was not a human bite but a bite of a horse! 

Yesterday, we watched the drama of this soap opera unfold.

The AKP party has been pushing for constitutional changes to bring about a presidential system, likely to be put to a public referendum in early spring. During the parliament sessions regarding constitutional changes, an independent parliamentarian Aylin Nazlıkaya, handcuffed herself to the speaker’s microphone. She challenged the MHP parliamentarians to change their position and vote against the upcoming presidential system to protect the republic of Atatürk. After many hours, Nazlıkaya remained standing. Women parliamentarians from the AKP party came to remove the handcuffs. Unable to do so, they removed the microphone. At this point, physical violence broke out. CHP and HDP women parliamentarians stepped up to protect Nazlıkaya from these beatings. Two of these women were sent to hospital.

The country is like a dark comedy. The most useful term of this dark comedy is “terror”. Everyone uses this term for their own interests. Just 4 days ago, Erdoğan said the Turkish economy is also under a “terror” attack. He said that “there is no difference, where aims are concerned, between a terrorist with a gun and bomb in his hand and a terrorist who has dollars, euros and interest rates”. He also asked citizens to continue selling dollars and euros to counter the threat. 

After Erdoğan’s speech against the boost of the dollar value,  a group of village headmen in Adıyaman protested the dollar by cleaning their noses with dollars and burning them. 

The other day, Aziz Yıldırım, president of the Fenerbahçe football association, asked for Erdoğan’s help to punish the football referees who he claims are terrorists! Everyone is a terrorist in someone’s eye! “Terrorist” is also a very useful term for covering the criminals: “My neighbor is a FETÖ terrorist”, “I killed my wife because she is a FETÖ terrorist”, “the football referee is a terrorist”, “people who have dollars are terrorists”, “I raped her because she is a PKK terrorist…”

The destructive language that the political leaders are using is causing tragic consequences on the society.

Just a week ago, Alper Engeler, a famous psychologist was killed by a local shopkeeper. Engeler had built a small house to protect the cats from cold snow. The shopkeeper and Engeler quarreled, resulting in the shopkeeper killing Engeler. Last year, journalist Nuh Köklü was killed  by a shopkeeper after a snowball accidentally struck his shop window. In his many speeches to local shopkeepers, Erdoğan stated that “when needed do not hesitate to use guns”.

As a consequence of crazy politics, we now have a crazy society in Turkey! We are living in a fishbowl where people are ready to kill each other, blame each other, and assault each other while bombs explode in streets, at the hearts of big cities, on the roads…

Turkey, maybe worse than a soap-opera!

20.01.2017, Diyarbakır

Is Şırnak one of the 81 cities of Turkey?

14.06.17
4 min

Turkey, a modern day soap opera

14.06.17
5 min