Kurds in Turkey`s Diyarbakir fear return to `dark years`
With Turkish Air Force F-16s thundering in the night sky and tanks rolling through the streets, many Kurds in Turkey fear a return to war after a devastating bombing left a ceasefire in tatters.
Diyarbakir: With Turkish Air Force F-16s thundering in the night sky and tanks rolling through the streets, many Kurds in Turkey fear a return to war after a devastating bombing left a ceasefire in tatters.
"I think we are all reliving the same thing as in the 1990s, the dark years... There`s a real risk of reliving clashes and fights," said Pinar Demir, a young lawyer living in the majority Kurdish city of Diyarbakir.
Blamed on Islamic State militants, the July 20 suicide bombing in the majority Kurdish border town of Suruc killed 32 people, sparking revenge attacks by the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which suspects the Turkish government of colluding with the jihadists.
Ankara, which denies the claim, has since launched attacks against both IS targets in Syria and Kurdish positions in northern Iraq and the far southeast of Turkey.
For several hours every night, people living in Diyarbakir can hear Turkey`s F-16 warplanes taking off from the city`s military airport.
Meanwhile, as Turkish police press on with nationwide raids against suspected PKK, IS and Marxist militants across the country, security forces block off many streets in Diyarbakir.
At least 1,302 people have been arrested so far across the country, according to the Prime Minister`s office.
"The people of Diyarbakir are afraid, no one leaves the house after 5:00 pm," said Hamdiye Bulut, a 49-year-old resident of the city that is home to nearly a million people.
"Why do the people of Diyarbakir have to suffer all this?" cried the veiled woman, as a Turkish Army tank rolled through the street where she stood.
Before the Suruc bombing massacred 32 people, an explosion hit a pro-Kurdish party rally in Diyarbakir in early July, killing two and wounding dozens more.
For city residents, the violence has triggered terrifying memories of the 1990s, when arrests, murders and clashes made life in Diyarbakir a living nightmare.
Demir, the young lawyer, fears an "even worse" scenario than the three decade-war that killed thousands on both sides and had paused with a fragile 2013 ceasefire.
"Residents of the region don`t want a new war, more assassinations or arbitrary arrests," she said, admitting that some young Kurds were "picking up weapons" as the violence escalates.Many in Diyarbakir blame President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for the ceasefire collapse, accusing the Islamic-rooted ruling Justice and Development party of not doing enough to protect the Kurds in Suruc from last week`s bomb attack.
"It`s the Turks who seem to want war, at least Erdogan`s supporters do," said 22-year-old Agit Sezgin, as he passed the time on a pavement cafe frequented by unemployed young people.
"The PKK has done all it can to avoid war," he claimed.
But Vahap Coksun, who teaches law at the University of Diyarbakir, believes the onus is on the PKK to keep the peace.
"If the PKK really wants it, it (can) calm down the youth, (who are) really angry after the events," he said, urging the militant group to encourage political rather than armed action.
"We know all too well that the tens of thousands killed in Turkey in the 30 years of war won`t be forgotten so quickly. The blood hasn`t even dried yet," said Coksun.
Some in nearby Nusaybin, another majority Kurdish city that is situated on the Syrian border, blame the international community for failing to stop Ankara from pounding Kurdish rebels -- who are viewed in the West as a bulwark against jihadists.
"What has happened in just a year for the whole world to forget about us?" wondered Vedat, a 45-year-old waiter.
Kurdish lives "have no value for the Turks or the West", said Ismet Alp, a local official in Nusaybin.
"Five of our youth have died in recent days" in clashes with police, Alp said, his eyes welling up with tears.
His 26-year-old son Mehmet interrupted: "If necessary we will have to organise our own security... and that will definitely mean a resort to arms."
Murat Uzun, a pharmacist in Diyarbakir and candidate of the secular Republican People`s Party in the June 7 parliamentary vote, hopes Turkey`s parliament will find a speedy solution.
"We have lived together for years, Turks and Kurds," said the 55-year-old, urging Ankara and the PKK at this tense time to "once again show the young people the road to peace".