Nurcan Baysal
May 07 2018

“We have nothing against Kurds, just the PKK”

“I don’t have a problem with Kurdish people; I have a problem with the PKK.”

As Kurds, we hear this sentence all the time. The form of the sentence changes depending on the flavour of the day. After the Turkish offensive in Afrin, the sentence turned into:

Kurd: 3,000 people were killed in Afrin.

Turk: But they were all PKK.

Kurd: All 3,000 people?

The number of Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) members has often changed in Turkish media according to state objectives. In 2015, when conflict reignited between the Turkish state and the PKK, Turkish media reported that PKK members numbered more than 30.000

To justify the military curfews and state bombardment in Kurdish cities, these numbers were highly inflated. Even some pro-government newspapers gave specific numbers of PKK members in individual cities.

After the military curfews were lifted, the number of PKK members in Turkish media hastily decreased to 1,800 to 2,200 in 2017. No one knows what happened to remaining 28,000 PKK members. If they were killed by the Turkish state, then where are their bodies?

To justify the offensive against the Syrian district of Afrin, the Turkish media again increased the number of PKK members before the operation. The media reported that Afrin was “the main home of PKK members and the PKK has nearly 10,000 members in Afrin who have been equipped with heavy weaponry by the United States.” After three months, the Turkish media happily reported the number of what they called terrorists killed in Afrin was 3,603.

This is only one case. Think about other cases and numbers in Turkish media. It is so clear that the Turkish media is not a trustworthy source of information about Kurds.

Sometimes these conversations happen between friends, between a Kurd and a well-educated, wealthy Turk who considers himself open-minded and a friend of the Kurds:

Kurd: University students were put in jail because of whistling in Kurdish.

Turk: No, they were put in jail because they were whistling a PKK song.

Kurd: Do you know that song and what it means?

Turk: It is not important, it is PKK.

Kurd: Yesterday, two wedding singers were put in prison for singing Kurdish songs at a wedding in Istanbul. The wedding singers and the wedding hosts were accused of promoting a terrorist organization. They are still in prison.

Turk: Why did they sing in Kurdish?

Kurd: Kurdish is their mother tongue.

Turk: But they live in Turkey.

Kurd: Yes, they live in Turkey and they live in Kurdistan.

Turk: Where is Kurdistan?  There is no Kurdistan. There is only Turkey.

Kurd: There is Turkey and there is Kurdistan.

Turk: Are you PKK?

Kurd: No, I am not. I am a Kurd.

Turk: If you are saying Kurdistan, then you are PKK.

These dialogs can seem tragicomic, but these students and wedding singers are all in prison and more than 3,000 people died in Afrin in only three months.

Two weeks ago, in Diyarbakır, the biggest city in Turkey’s mainly Kurdish southeast, the state-appointed administrator who runs the municipality had bilingual Kurdish-Turkish street signs removed and replaced by monolingual Turkish signs.

This is nothing new. In the last two years, Kurdish names have been removed from public parks, streets and from every corner of cities. Kurdish cultural and linguistic symbols have been destroyed. Monuments erected to commemorate Kurdish politicians, writers and intellectuals have been removed or destroyed. It is even hard to use yellow, red and green together (which are traditional Kurdish colours). Everything about being Kurdish; language, culture, colours, songs, whistling (?!), Kurdish dance, street signs are linked to PKK in Turkey.

Turkey: We have nothing against Kurds, just the PKK

-So the Syrian Kurdish YPG is fine?

Turkey: No, the YPG is PKK.

-How about the HDP? (A pro-Kurdish political party in Turkey)

Turkey: They are PKK too.

-Kurdish songs?

Turkey: PKK.

-Street signs?

Turkey: PKK.

Last week in parliament, the speaker, İsmail Kahraman threatened to expel a Kurdish lawmaker for referring to some areas as “Kurdish provinces”. Parliamentarian Meral Danış Beştaş said members of the government should “go to Kurdish provinces and see the removal of Kurdish names and the destruction of statues by government trustees”. But the speaker responded by saying that naming some provinces “Kurdish” was unacceptable:

“Some words are strange. For example, Kurdish provinces. There is no such thing. Where is this place? There is not such a place. This is a violation of the constitution. We won’t let anyone divide Turkey”.

We don’t exist. Again! Throughout the centuries, we, as Kurds, have tried to prove our existence.  

I am writing this article from my hometown Diyarbakır, in a Kurdish province, which does not exist according to Turkey. I think, we, Kurds in Turkey, have committed an unforgivable sin in the eyes of the Turkish state: We were born Kurds.