Shiny, happy people

Shiny, happy people

Turn on a Turkish TV channel these days, and you will be amazed at how much entertainment is going on. The game show “Survivor” has not lost steam yet. New dramas, matchmaking shows, showbiz stuff. They are all on, all the time. Then you flip a news channel and reality hits like a bullet.

Early in the dark hours of Tuesday morning, the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) hit the gendarmerie headquarters in the strategic location of Hani in Diyarbakir, not just with bombs but also with a gas tanker. Tuesday around lunch time, we see the funeral ceremony of a young police officer killed during the attack. There are at least 38 soldiers injured. On our TV screen we saw some of them come to the farewell ceremony, all wearing white bandages around their heads to cover their wounds, wearing blue hospital outfits and slippers. Some of them couldn’t even stand up to salute their fallen comrade. The sadness in their eyes, the shock they had witnessed are going to stay with me forever. They feel isolated, forgotten.

They’re all ready to die but are tired of fighting for something the rest of the country seems not to care about. That is the moral fight Turkey is losing these days.

Monday morning, hundreds of Justice and Development Party (AK Party) supporters gathered in Şanlıurfa to greet Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu and his cabinet. It is all cheery, happy with songs, music, flags, etc. It is as if the AK Party had just won another election victory in the deep southeast against the “so-called godless” terrorists. They could not care less about the casualties in the narrow alleys of Nusaybin and the tight corners of Cizre and Sur. Mesmerized and hypnotized they all were. For these crowds, after all, soldiers were supposed to die, right? They knew what they were signing up for before they became soldiers. So it is their duty. One more, one less, who cares?

But for how long? A former soldier, Metin Gürcan, wrote in Al-Monitor this week that the army may consider sending petty officers and conscripts to fight in the southeast now that it is running out of ranked human resources. Gürcan also hinted at the possibility of Turkish Armed Forces actually bombing its own territory to destroy the houses the PKK uses. 

“Al-Monitor consulted technical experts who said it won’t be easy to destroy the concrete-and-steel structures with tank and 155-mm artillery fire from a distance. These experts, who spoke with us on the condition of anonymity, said one option is to use penetration ammunition similar to laser-guided, 2,000-pound MK-84 ammunition fired from planes,” wrote Gürcan. “Another option would be to use concentrated barrages of 203-mm artillery. The last option would be to send in armored bulldozers protected by tanks. Given the sharp increase in public sensitivity and the political pressure exerted from Ankara, security forces may have to make a decision soon.”

Despite all the pundits that appear on TV talk shows that claim the PKK is “almost finished,” when you read the reports coming from soldiers on the field, the doctors, the paramedics the ones that live with the fight every day, one thing becomes certain. This battle cannot and will not be won with half of the country living the lives of shiny, happy people.

Remember the words from the İmrali negotiations: We will neither live like before nor fight like before.