In Turkey / Türkiye

By ROAR Magazine collective, June 30, 2016  (see the related photo essay at the weblink)

People from Yüksekova have started to return to their homes after Turkish authorities recently lifted the curfew, but what they find is a city in ruins.

Kurdish town of Yüksekova (Gever in Kurdish) in southeast Turkey, following destruction by Turkish military (photo from June 2016, ROAR Magazine)

Kurdish town of Yüksekova (Gever in Kurdish) in southeast Turkey, following destruction by Turkish military (photo from June 2016, ROAR Magazine)

When Egid [not his real name] and his friend returned to their hometown of Yüksekova – or Gever, in Kurdish – after a two-and-a-half month forced exile in Van, they felt angry. Yüksekova had been under curfew – ‘military siege’ would be a more appropriate designation – for 79 days while Turkish military and special forces were waging battle with local Kurdish youth and PKK guerrillas that had descended from the mountains to lead the armed resistance struggle against Turkish state oppression.

Mostly, the two friends are angry with the Turkish army, whom they hold responsible for the destruction of over 6,000 buildings. But they also criticize the PKK. “The PKK is fighting for autonomy, but we didn’t know what this meant nor that this would lead to so much aggression from the state,” Egid conveys over the phone from Yüksekova. “We’ve got little trust left in the municipality [led by the BDP (Peace and Democracy Party), a sister party of the HDP].”

Map of Turkey, Yüksekova is south and east of Van

Map of Turkey, Yüksekova is south and east of Van

After the curfew was lifted on May 30, people slowly started to return to the town. But for many there is not much to return to. A large share of the population is still forced to live in camps on the outskirts of town or to seek help from relatives, living with two or three families in a single flat because so many buildings have been completely destroyed.

People feel as if their past has been destroyed. There is not much to do in the town as there are no jobs and the authorities are not giving permission for the people to start rebuilding their houses.

Egid asserts that the government is lying when it says it has started reconstruction: “They haven’t started in Cizre, Sur or Silopi, so they won’t start here either. This is just a story they tell the media.”

Citizens can apply for compensation from the state, but only after signing a document stating that it is the PKK who is responsible for the destruction, something very few people are willing to do.

For now, the fighting has stopped, but the war is far from over. For the majority of the people there is little else to do but to be patient and to slowly start rebuilding their lives.

The photo essay at the weblink above showing scenes of destruction in Yüksekova were all taken by Egid.

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