Turkish Kurds: some back the state
Though embattled, not all Kurds support the militant Kurdistan Workers Party.
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"Sirnak people hate PKK terrorism," says Gungor, as a video of the rally plays on his computer. "Though Sirnak is small, there are many people [at the rally] – they are cursing terrorism."Skip to next paragraph
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Contrary to the view of many Kurds and their lawyers, Gungor claims that Kurds and Turks share "equal rights" and that "we can't see discrimination."
"We are all Kurds living under the same flag; if they choose, they must accept that Turkish sovereignty," says Gungor. He says the PKK fight is pointless: "There was no cease-fire. They said they gave up their arms, but in fact never gave them up. If they find any excuse, they fight."
The renewed violence has brought a host of applications to join the village guards, to bulk up the 12,000 already attached to Sirnak region. Gungor asserts that people who "go to the mountains" and join the PKK are "tricked and forced" to go.
"Sirnak citizens are really innocent, [so] they are easily tricked," he says. "We have many who were tricked in the 1980s and 1990s – generally the poor."
This hillside town – adjacent to one of three areas near the Iraq border where the military established special closed zones for the next four months – has lost 325 citizens to the conflict.
The seventh soldier from Sirnak to die (all males must serve in the Turkish military) was buried last month after being killed on June 4 with six other soldiers in a PKK bomb attack. News reports noted that, at the funeral, the mother of Private Burhan Yalcin sang Kurdish songs as she mourned.
"My son is murdered for the state," says the soldier's Kurdish father, Yusuf Yalcin, a senior police officer. "As Turkish citizens, we raise our children with the aim to protect our country and its people."
In Turkish tradition, the family sent their son to the military 10 months earlier with celebration and singing. The father says that his son's calls home always included these words: "Our heart is for our country and our body can be sacrificed for our flag."
Mr. Yalcin remembers one conversation in which his son spoke of setting up his own carpentry shop after his tour. Instead, the father has a black plastic bag full of official condolence letters: Turkey's prime minister wrote that "the fire only burns the place where it falls," and that the son's "immortal spirit is still protecting their country, and protecting us."
The father, his gray mustache and hair well trimmed, receives visitors on the wind-swept roof of his house, overlooking a verdant ravine that gives way to brown fields. Inside, the family has set aside a room for a memorial, which is unfinished but includes portraits of their son in uniform and a triangle-folded Turkish flag presented by senior officers.
The family says their son's funeral was the largest ever in Sirnak, with 2,000 mourners. "One Birhan is killed, but 1,000 Birhans will be reborn," Yalcin says stoically. "Turkish soldiers are very young, very fresh, like saplings. At the same time, they resemble an oak tree that lives long and has lots of roots."
Yalcin expressed his thanks profusely, twice, to all Turkish authorities for their support.
"By killing, shooting, or slaughtering the innocent ones, [the PKK] can't do anything. That's not a solution," says Yalcin. "If they feel themselves to be brave, I suggest the PKK [fight] face to face, not with suicide attacks."
• Next: Ethnic Kurds who say that they are proud to back the PKK.