TITLE=TURKEY / KURDS (PART ONE OF THREE)
/// EDS: THIS IS THE FIRST OF THREE
REPORTS BY AMBERIN ZAMAN BASED ON A RECENT VISIT TO
THE KURDISH REGION OF SOUTHEASTERN TURKEY ///
INTRO: A semblance of peace is returning to Turkey's
largely Kurdish southeastern region as rebels of the
separatist Kurdistan Workers' Party obey a call by its
imprisoned leader to end their armed campaign for
independence. Amberin Zaman recently toured the area
and filed this (first of three) report(s).
TEXT: Haci Gokcer is a Kurdish farmer from Hazro
township in Turkey's mainly Kurdish southeastern
region. Like tens of thousands of civilians here, Mr.
Gokcer was forced to leave his village seven years ago
at the height of a 15-year Kurdish insurgency that has
claimed nearly 40-thousand lives.
/// GOKCER ACT - IN TURKISH - FADE UNDER
Mr. Gokcer says he abandoned his property and
livestock after rebels of the outlawed Kurdistan
Workers' Party (P-K-K) raided his tiny mountain
village one night and demanded that he and other men
in the village join their forces or leave.
Mr. Gokcer refused to take up arms with the P-K-K, and
instead joined a state-run Kurdish militia known as
the Village Guards to fight the rebels. Accused of
treason, Village Guards members became prime rebel
targets. Their wives and children often were murdered
Mr. Gokcer's story is a familiar one in this war-torn
But there is another side to it. Hundreds of
thousands of other Kurdish villagers were forced to
leave their homes by Turkish security forces who
accused them of supporting the P-K-K because they
refused to become Village Guards. In some cases,
their homes were burned down, their animals killed,
their crops destroyed.
Today, however, a steady trickle of displaced
civilians, including Mr. Gokcer and his family, is
beginning to return home. Mahmut Gur is the chairman
of an association - Goc-der - that is dedicated to
/// GUR ACT ONE - IN TURKISH FADE UNDER
Mr. Gur says tensions in the southeast have eased
visibly after a call by imprisoned P-K-K leader
Abdullah Ocalan for his fighters to end their armed
struggle and withdraw from Turkish territory to
neighboring Iran and Iraq.
He says that as peace begins to settle over the
region, a growing number of villagers want to return
Cemil Serhatli is the newly appointed governor of
Diyarbakir province, which includes the town of Hazro.
Mr. Serhatli confirms that clashes in the southeast
provinces have sharply declined as the rebels
/// SERHATLI ACT - IN TURKISH - FADE UNDER
Mr. Serhatli says the government's duty is, as he puts
it, to "heal the wounds of our citizens" and show them
what he terms a "welcoming lap," a "compassionate
Mr. Serhatli and his team are at the forefront of
efforts to rebuild villages destroyed in the
rebellion, providing free bricks, cement, and
engineering expertise for a number of pilot
And in Hazro township, the government is funding a
carpet-weaving project to increase employment among
Emine, a 14 year old, is among two-hundred young girls
who earn a living from the carpet-weaving program.
/// EMINE ACT - IN TURKISH - FADE UNDER
Emine explains that her wages are performance-based.
The more rows (of carpet yarn) she knots, the more
money she makes. She is very happy, she says, not
only to be back home but to have a job as well.
Mahmut Gur, chairman of the resettlement association,
Goc-der, says many problems still remain.
/// GUR ACT TWO - IN TURKISH - FADE UNDER
Mr. Gur says a so-called food embargo - under which
food allowed into villages is still being rationed by
the authorities - remains in place. The authorities
defend the rationing on the grounds that food
surpluses would wind up in rebel hands
Mr. Gur points out also that the majority of Kurdish
villagers who want to return home are being denied
permission to do so by the Turkish authorities.
Usually, they come from villages whose residents had
been accused of supporting the rebels.
Governor Serhatli denies such charges. He says some
villagers are not permitted to return home because
security in remote mountainous areas where they used
to live cannot yet - as he puts it- be 100 percent
guaranteed. He says that once P-K-K fighters come
down from the mountains and lay down their arms, then
everyone will finally be able to go back to their
28-Dec-1999 12:01 PM EDT (28-Dec-1999 1701 UTC)
Source: Voice of America
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