Life continues

Life continues

 

When was I last in Diyarbakır? Five years ago? More? Definitely before the November 2015 murder of peace advocate Tahir Elçi, the Bar Association chief of the city.

On the walls of the Sur district most of the scars of the 2015 operation are gone, but some bullet holes are still visible.

The military operation aimed to take back the city from terrorists who had infiltrated there with all sorts of weapons because of an atmosphere of gross security negligence produced by an insincere “Kurdish opening.”

The front facets of the houses and shops were all renewed with a wholesale mentality. Shop signs were replaced with an awful example of tastelessness. How could someone think of placing the same style of distasteful shop signs all through a neighborhood? A direct result of government-ordered reconstruction of a neighborhood devastated in 2015 security operations.

The aim of our visit was to meet with local journalists, listen to their problems and explain how they might benefit from an EU-funded “Democracy for media / Media for democracy” program we just started at the Association of Journalists in Ankara. Our initial intention was to gather the region’s journalists at Mardin. All of the hotels were full because of revived tourism. Batman was in much of the same situation. So was Urfa. Thus, we ended up in Diyarbakır, and colleagues from Siirt, Mardin and Batman attended our meeting there as well.

Problems are abundant. Free media and press freedom are the fundamental demand.

The Emergency Rule period has ended. Yet, because of an awkward requirement of law, people sacked from public offices or private sector companies under emergency rule decrees, these people cannot be officially employed. Hundreds of journalists were laid off, or their magazines, newspapers or news agencies were closed down under Emergency Rule decrees.

Pluralism is a requirement of democracy. No one is obliged to conform to the ideology of people in power. If uniformity was to be the rule, how would it be possible for mankind to come out of that cave of the Stone Age? However, progress comes only through conflict and confrontation of ideas and perceptions.

The area around Surp Gragos Armenian church is still closed to public, but the historic Minaret with Four Legs, the very same spot where Elçi was murdered in November 2015, was surrounded by domestic and foreign tourists on Sunday. Despite bullet marks, the Minaret was standing tall as a witness and victim of life in 2015, particularly to the murder of Elçi, meters away from its four legs. With terrorism being replaced with tourism, the cafes were full, hotels fully booked with tourists… Life, despite difficulties, is continuing.

Yusuf Kanlı, Tahir Elçi, Diyarbakır