Diyarbakır tense on eve of funerals

Diyarbakır tense on eve of funerals

DİYARBAKIR - Hürriyet Daily News
Diyarbakır tense on eve of funerals

Diyarbakır locals dismiss concerns of provacation during the ceremony today. ‘Will we provoke our own mourning? We expect respect for our grief,’ says one. Daily News Photo

Strolling around the streets of Diyarbakır, which is perhaps one of the most politicized cities in Turkey, is not smooth for a journalist, especially on the eve of a much-anticipated funeral ceremony for three Kurdish women who were mysteriously shot dead in Paris last week.

People, who are usually keen on speaking about the decades-old Kurdish issue with journalists, get infuriated when asked about possible provocations during today’s funeral ceremony.

“Everybody is talking about likely provocations and sabotage. But all we are going to do on Thursday is bid farewell to our slain sisters. Why doesn’t anyone pay attention to our grief while speaking about the perception of the funeral in the rest of Turkey? Will we provoke our own mourning? This view hurts us. We expect respect for our grief,” a young man lamented at a tea house near the Great Mosque of Diyarbakır while anonymously speaking to the Daily News.

Sakine Cansız, one of the founding members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK); Fidan Doğan, the Brussels-based Kurdistan National Congress’ (KNK) Paris representative; and Kurdish activist Leyla Söylemez were murdered in central Paris on Jan. 9. All three were Turkey-born Kurds.

Their bodies were set to first be brought to Diyarbakır late yesterday ahead of today’s funeral ceremony.

One could ask why a separate ceremony will be held in Diyarbakır even though the women will be buried in different cities. Speaking to a group of reporters yesterday, Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş said the ceremony would be held in Diyarbakır since the city is a “political center” for them. “Speaking about provocations insistently for days lays the ground for provocations themselves. Deep powers stage provocations, why would people stage a provocation? It’s meaningless to create useless concern for the funeral ceremony,” Demirtaş said.

Although nobody has outlined what “provocations” may take place, many politicians and commentators worry that the funeral could turn into a “PKK show” and lead to a possible rerun of the “Habur incident” of 2009.

On Oct. 19, 2009, eight PKK members and 28 Kurdish refugees from Makhmour Refugee Camp located on Kandil Mountain in Iraq entered Turkey at the Habur border gate as part of a peace group before surrendering to state officials as a sign of hope in the government’s Kurdish initiative. All 34 said they came to Turkey upon a call from Öcalan. They were immediately released by the prosecutor who came to the border before proceeding to Diyarbakır in a festive mood with thousands of people celebrating their return and hoping for a resolution to the Kurdish conflict. However, the parade-like welcome was perceived as “a show of force” and sparked a public outcry within the rest of Turkey and eventually caused the initiative to come to a halt.

However, many in Diyarbakır think no harm was done in Habur in 2009. “People were very happy that those in the mountains came back; they were so glad that they celebrated their return. However, the government did not understand the people’s joy and stopped the initiative on which they were not so sincere,” another Diyarbakır resident told the Daily News.

Diyarbakır Bar Association head Tahir Elçi, for his part, said Kurds had been emotionally affected by the slaying of Cansız, Doğan and Söylemez but that there had been no tension among people, referring to concerns over provocation.

“Everybody should act with responsibility. Security forces should treat people in line with their [depressed] emotional state,” Elçi told the Daily News.

In Ankara, speaking at a meeting of his party, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said security forces “will again be extremely sensitive and awake in order to avoid provocations and sabotage.”