The back streets of Surici and Diyarbakır’s ’no cost kids’

In the district many refer to as “Surici,” the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) has implemented what you could call a Kobani model of administration. The top cadres of the PKK picked up valuable experience from their time in Kobani. They lead the way for the lower ranks. The lower ranks are what you could call Diyarbakır’s “no cost kids,” members of the PKK city organization the Patriotic Revolutionary Youth Movement (YDG-H). The PKK offers these “no cost” street kids a future of some sort. By giving them weapons, the PKK is giving them power and a sense of respect. As for the friendships formed by these youths — some with girls who are already in the ranks of the PKK — they help to keep these young people connected to life.

The back streets behind Dort Ayaklı Minare (Four-Legged Minaret) are filled with barricades and trenches. Canvas covers the street here. The bullet-ridden homes of Surici are under the control of the PKK. The walls that separate the houses have human-sized holes in them, so people can pass between them quickly. People here wait for the arrival of the security forces. There is a palpable desire to resist, to clash. There is a desire to see the security forces enter these neighborhoods, for clashes to occur, for these clashes to be won through blood and support from the people. And while the Turkish military is resolute in its determination to wipe out the PKK — especially in residential areas — it behaves carefully, determined not to hurt citizens.

What the PKK wants to see is a Palestinization of these cities; they want to see a new sort of autonomous administration take hold, as occurred in Kobani. They want resistance, and then, of course, victory. The PKK wants to see the experience and victory they had in Syria transferred over to Turkey. But somehow, these factors don’t seem to be transferring easily. The tactics used in Syria are not being repeated with the same success in Turkey. While the PKK may have successfully dealt with three big problems for the local folk here — gambling, drugs and prostitution — it has lost local support by damaging the essential patterns of private, daily life. The local people are unhappy and are without hope. People are exhausted by the constant atmosphere of worry and ambiguity. They feel stuck, and this causes fatigue. Merchants have lost their drive, as they’ve lost their work. People who can, wind up leaving. To wit, it was precisely this scenario — the PKK making Turkish towns and cities uninhabitable — that Diyarbakir Bar Association President Tahir Elci was objecting to.

The Kurdish conservatives who supported the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) in the June 7 general election wound up returning to the Justice and Development Party (AKP) in the Nov. 1 election. A rising tide of Turkish nationalism wound up scaring the Kurds in western Anatolia; the AKP seemed to represent hopes for a comfortable life in the west of this country.

In the meantime, the PKK’s undermining of daily life in the eastern reaches of Anatolia has driven Kurdish conservatives there firmly into the arms of the AKP. As for the Turkish left, non-Muslims and Alevis, these are some of the factions that still have not abandoned the HDP. Still, though, the HDP is not able to change its image from that of a Kurdish party. It is not able to fully represent the Turkish left. Neither the HDP nor its leader Selahattin Demirtas are able to get out from under the long shadows cast by the PKK. As for the Kurds who thought that post Nov. 1 the PKK would soften, that a new Kurdish initiative would start up and that daily life would get better, they are all now disappointed. No one knows now how and when societal peace is going to be reconstructed.

The only hope for Kurds at this point lies in the re-heating up of Turkey-EU relations. If visa restrictions are really lifted, there might well be a great wave of migrations from eastern Anatolia to the EU. As for the “no cost” kids from the streets of Diyarbakir, they know nothing of either the EU or Turkey. The joy of day-to-day living is sufficient for them at this point.