The mood of Yüksekova: The journey has begun

The mood of Yüksekova: The journey has begun

Sept. 1 was the last day for Abdullah Öcalan while he was waiting for the details to emerge about the reform package the government is expected to prepare. We cannot talk about a clarified, confirmed package yet. The Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) members were out in the streets for Peace Day activities. 

I have been wandering around the Van, Hakkari and Yüksekova triangle for three days, in an area where BDP votes are at their highest. Yüksekova is a small city where the BDP literally dominates politics. I’m talking about a place where it was only yesterday that demonstrations were staged almost every day and clashes with the police and the military occurred frequently. 

Several contacts in the city are telling me all the positive and negative factors. First, they said that for eight months, there has not been a single serious clash in this tense city. Roadwork is ongoing on the main street of the city. They are happy that the long-awaited work is being done. Then they say, “The state does not invest here. They haven’t been able to finish the Van-Hakkari highway for two years. In other places, they quickly finish similar works.”

A new governor has been appointed to Hakkari: Necmettin Kalkan. He said his door was open to everybody. 

Our local journalist contacts are saying that local administrators are now using a more positive language and that they have changed their condescending, introverted attitudes. Yüksekova District Gov. Yasin Tikdağ joined the banquet given at the family house of Recep Yaşar, the deputy chair of the Turkish Journalists’ Association (TGC), who is originally from Yüksekova. It can be observed that the district governor is on good terms with local people. 

In the vocational training seminar organized by the TGC, the topic was “The language of peace in journalism and the responsibility of the media.” Local journalists, especially local reporters, complained about how their stories were changed upside down at the headquarters of TV stations and newspapers. They drew attention to the negative effects in the region of a conflicting language. 

We attended a wedding in Yüksekova after the seminar. Women and men danced “the halay” hand in hand. The colorful female dresses at the wedding were impressive. The red-green-yellow flag has turned into a symbol of identity here. The groom gave messages of their new position by saying: “In the past, we were not able to conduct our weddings as we wished. Now, there is a relaxation. Of course we have expectations and demands, but we also enjoy the happiness of having reached these days.” 

I learned that the soft-spoken person sitting across me at dinner has just been released from prison in the KCK case. When I asked him the future of the process, he said: “I am not pessimistic. The journey has begun…” 

These words reflect the general mood in the area. Everybody is aware that they have set out on a journey from which there will be no return. The ship that has left the port may encounter storms but it is out of the question that it will return. There are complaints: The building of new outposts has received a heavy reaction. News about Kurdish education and the election threshold, both of which are not to be included in the package, is being criticized here. 

The poverty of the region and the neglected situation of the border gate, Esendere, to Iran, have depressed local people. They are happy, on the other hand, about the investments made in health. 
If you ask what the general situation is, I can sum it up as “a cautious optimism.” 

Oral Çalışlar is a columnist for daily Radikal in which this piece was published Sept 2. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.