Hope and despair in Diyarbakir: they ripped our heart out

Yetvart Danzikyan went to Diyarbakir for “News Watch” and reported from there.

We are in Diyarbakir for “News Watch”. The first group of journalists came and went back last week. We are the second group. Evrensel Newspaper Editor-in-chief Fatih Polat, Pınar Öğünç from Cumhuriyet Newspaper, Mesut Bayram from Sol News Portal, freelance journalist Tuğba Tekerek, journalist author Fehim Işık, Zeynep Yüncüler from Birgün Newspaper and Elif Akgül from Bianet are in this group. This watch will continue. Every Tuesday, a group of journalists from the west of Turkey will come here for acting with solidarity and reporting from here. It is true that our reports won’t be extraordinary, but making what is happening here to be heard in the west is important. It is obvious that receiving news from the cities where clashes are still going on is really difficult. There are several reasons for this. First of all, the government turned up the pressure on media and it only allows the reports that are favorable to the state. The mainstream media, which was faced with attacks like beating and raids, hasn’t chosen to resist and we didn’t expect them to do so anyway. So, the journalists who are working under hard conditions here became the only ones who reports from here. Most of them have been subjected to violence while they are working. However, the problem is that the west doesn’t hear them either. I mean, this is a tough situation. It is true that it is hard to report from here, but we don’t know to what extent the west is interested in those reports. 

So, we hit the road to take up the position. We just wanted to try to make people in the west know what is happening here.

Football game under jets

Our first destination is the game between Amedspor and Fenerbahçe. We all think that we shouldn’t miss such an important game. Amed was unjustly punished to play without spectators and its top player Deniz Naki was also punished because of “political” reasons and he will be missing for the next 12 games. The children who came to give flowers to the players catch our eyes; seeing something nice after days makes us feel good. In the tribune next to us, there is a huge poster, on which the pictures of Amedspor supporters are printed. So, they are here indeed. We know that they will be outside the stadium for cheering. And the second nice thing: both teams are carrying a poster which reads, “Don’t let the children die. They should come and watch the games.” Fenerbahçe is also behind the poster. This is important.

And the game starts. But wait… Amed stands still for about 30 seconds for protesting the decision of the football federation. Fenerbahçe players act like gentlemen and just pass to each other. We are watching the game with the sound of the jets above us, which is also extraordinary for us. Anyway, I will keep it short: you should have seen the joy in our tribune, when Amed scored. It is obvious that Amed gives hope and will to resist to the locals of Diyarbakir in these dark days. They also play well, which indicates that they are not here by luck. We are talking about a team playing in the minor league. However, when the game ties, it becomes hard to follow the game, for we begin to see the tear gases thrown to the supporters outside.


 Afterwards, we try to feel for the troubles of Diyarbakir. We visit Diyarbakir Bar Association and meet with Vice Chairman of the Association Ahmet Özmen. He calmly says that these curfews are unconstitutional. And he desperately tells about the case of Tahir Elçi murder; there is no suspect and the investigation doesn’t go anywhere. By the way, the most crucial footage is recorded by the security cameras belonging to a restaurant, which is located right across the point where the police officers opened fire. However, prosecutor’s office says that they cannot take this footage, because it was recorded by an old technology; meaning, they couldn’t have watched it. Özmen says, “In fact, we are on the same side with the prosecutor’s office. However, this is how the investigation goes.”

Funeral of Bulak

We hear another bad news. In Bağlar neighborhood, during a protest for Cizre, Mahmut Bulak was shot dead by the police, according to the witnesses. He was 16 years old.

The other day, we go to his funeral. I am with İMC TV crew; I am “appointed” to that crew during the watch. The crowd is furious, but silent. Almost 1000 people begin to march to the cemetery. Elder people walk unperturbably, but they are fast and the slogans of the young accompany them. Bulak is buried with the wailing and screams of his family; they shout “Êdî beşe! (It is enough).” I cannot forget how his father looks at his picture and says, “Don’t look at me like that.” Bulak is buried next to another young boy who was killed recently. In the cemetery, there are a lot graves belonging to young people, born in 1996 or 1995…

Suriçi is restless

After the cemetery, we head to the neighborhoods of Suriçi which are not under curfew. We enter Melik Ahmet district under a strict control. The shops are open, but there are just a few people on the streets. We hear the clashes in other neighborhoods. However, it is hard to understand where the shots are aimed at. On this moment, I come close to understand what the journalists here are going through. Restlessly, we go on live and leave the district. I guess, what I saw there is not much.

On the way back, we try to talk to the shopkeepers. Naturally, they are restless too. The hardest part is not having any prediction. When will these clashes stop? Or what can cause them to stop? No guess, no prediction and no clue. This is what exhausts the locals of Diyarbakir most. And the possibility of being injured or killed by a stray bullet in their own city. They say that a civilian died like that a few days ago. We know how lively Suriçi was and because of that, what we witness is really bleak. That crowded streets are empty and the city looks desolate. A shopkeeper sums up the situation: “Sur was our heart. They ripped our heart out.”

Journalism is even more difficult

We talk to the journalists. Experienced journalists like Faruk Balıkçı and Fehim Işık, who have been working among clashes for years, say that this is an unprecedented situation. Of course, ‘90s was hard, but now, the civilians and the journalists became targets and it is exhausting. The city is a dangerous place now. Even the ones who know the city like the back of their hands feel uneasy. They cannot predict what the security forces will do; especially to the dissident press members. Ferat Mehmetoğlu, whom you may remember from the incident when a cameraman was detained, notes this fact. He says that the journalists follow the protests from a distance now.

By the way, Ferat also tells what happened after that incident. He says that he caught that police vehicle 3 times after the detention and tried to save the cameraman. Then he waited in the anti-terror bureau until midnight.

Picture of Dink

Baran Ok, who is the detained cameraman, is also with us. He was kept under custody for 4 days. He also says that after a police officer saw the picture of Hrant Dink on his phone, he was also subjected to, nicely speaking, “hate speech”. Then he says what that officer exactly said: “Son of an Armenian.” He took no offence.  He has a particular interest in Hrant Dink. He issued a magazine called “Ahparig” when he was a university student. He says, “Having been beaten because of him is nothing.” He will be tried with the accusation of being a member of a terrorist organization, though he is just a journalist.

To sum up, “the region” is going through hard times. And in this process, it doesn’t feel the support of the west. This fact causes the human rights violations in Kurdish cities to be normalized or worst, ignored. It also intensifies the feeling of “disengagement.” Yes, nobody talks about disengagement, but we can see it in their eyes. I walk around feeling bashful.

Last note: I had some concerns before I went to Diyarbakir. I was thinking whether going there and walking around few days would mean anything. However, when I see their warmth and friendship, I realized that going there is better than not going. 


News Turkey Press Agenda

About Author

Yetvart Danzikyan