Yesterday I had the opportunity to visit the central historical district of Sur in Amed (Diyarbakir) city where a curfew has been imposed on and off for the past month or so and clashes have occurred between the Kurdish YDG-H forces and government security forces. The Sur district is one of the oldest in Amed and the stone paved alleyways bears the marks of years of resistance with revolutionary slogans and images marking almost every wall. There were many incredible images that could not be captured on camera, but the ‘Patriotic Revolutionary Youth Movement’ (YDG-H) was working on all the major entry ways of the district, digging trenches and erecting barricades to preven
t government security forces who often arbitrarily enter the district, impose curfews and prevent people from leaving or entering the area or homes. The day before an intense clash had occurred leaving the community to engage in a flurry of activity to prepare for the next incursion by government forces. It was a somber experience to see
over 20 or so males of various ages determinedly working, digging and filling bags to build barricades.
More strikingly the women and young girls of the district were the most ideologically informed, revolutionary and resolute members of their community, standing proudly at the forefront of the resistance. They told me stories of the YDG-H women’s heroic resistance even when their male comrades had fallen back. I heard stories of women growing up with the regime detaining and arresting their parents arbitrarily, leaving young children no older than 7 or 8 to wonder if they would ever see their parents again. Sometimes months went by before a parent returned from being detained and tortured. I heard stories of government forces holding guns to children’s heads for hours at
a time while being screamed at to reveal the whereabouts of family members who were in the resistance movement. My friend, and my guide through the district, shared her personal stories with me; of being 6 years old and going to school for the first time and not knowing a word of Turkish before school. On knowing that she did not speak or understand Turkish her teacher deliberately asked her to come to the front of the class and respond to a question in Turkish. When she obviously could not her teacher slammed her head so hard against the desk that she even now bears the marks of the stitches that she received. This was her first day at school and her, and that of her peers introduction to the Turkish state- a state whose repressive ideology denies the rich fabric of Kurdish culture, history and language. These experiences led to feelings of fear and shame towards her Kurdishness. She tried to learn and speak Turkish as well as she could as a child to prevent this abuse; it was much later, in her late teens, that she began to learn of her Kurdishness and awaken her identity. Her resistance was deeply personal but also informed by a high level of knowledge of a sophisticated ideology, one that was based on a purposeful determination for personal freedom as a woman and as a Kurd from the Turkish state. She was an incredibly impressive young woman, whose determination shone with an inner light in her earnest brown eyes, and whose quite inner wisdom impressed me deeply.
It was surreal to walk around the sweets, spice and specialty markets and then suddenly enter a district that resembled a war zone. The barricades pictured here were not just simple cloth coverings, but represented the ideological frontier between an existential rebellion for Kurdish human rights and the Turkish state’s oppressive, violent and soft cultural genocide policies. Currently as part of its psychological terrorism the state has been engaging in the systematic destruction of graves of martyrs who have fallen while resisting. Clashes continue in particular districts at the moment as the government is determined to gain a strategic win against the so called ‘terrorists’ before the election on 1st of November. The streets of Amed are littered with large, ugly, and heavy armored cars, with a heavy presence of government forces. The problem is that the government has yet to grasp the notion that this revolution is not something that will dissipate; it is not something that will fade away. It is as much a part of the city of Amed as it is the air and the rich fabrics hanging from the store windows; as much a part of this city as the laughter and the sounds of the little children speaking Kurdish.