During Turkey's elections on June 7, the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) won a great victory by securing 13% of the vote, which allowed its candidates to occupy 80 seats in the 550-seat parliament of Turkey -- not all of them are Kurdish, some are Turkish or of other ethnic groups. In any normal country, this would be welcomed by state authorities as a potential way to resolve a huge national issue in a non-violent manner for the benefit of both peoples, Kurds and Turks.
Sadly, Turkey does not seem to be about to do so. The recent incidents in which Ferhat Encu, a Kurdish deputy from the HDP, was threatened, insulted and beaten by Turkish soldiers in the Kurdish village of Roboski (Uludere) in the Kurdish-majority province of Sirnak are another manifestation of that. (Video of the incident: here and here, and here.)
For four months, the Turkish army has blockaded the plateaus in Roboski and banned the villagers from going to those places, Ferhat Encu told Gatestone Institute.
Heavy military reinforcements have also been sent to the village, which borders Iraq's Kurdistan Regional Government, and this has created tension in the village, said Encu.
In 2011, Turkey's air force killed 34 innocent civilians, including 17 children, in an airstrike on Roboski. Ferhat Encu lost 11 relatives in the massacre, including his brother Serhat Encu.
Between the 2011 massacre and his election to parliament in June 2015, Ferhat Encu had been detained by the police six times under to various pretexts, and then released.
On June 7, Encu travelled to Roboski, his hometown, to observe what was going on and try to ease tensions.
"Roboski is like an open prison," he said later. "On 6 July, local people started a 2-day protest to end the ban on travel to the plateaus and stop the military reinforcements to the region. But soldiers shot their long barreled weapons [rifles] at the villagers.
"On July 7, about 20 soldiers intercepted us and threw [tear] gas bombs at our car. Then, a reporter from the newspaper Cumhuriyet, Mahmut Oral, got out of his car, introduced himself and asked them not to throw gas bombs, but they threatened him.
"Then, I got out of the car and I told them I am a [parliamentary] deputy. There were about 5 meters between the soldiers and me. At that moment, a few soldiers started shooting their guns randomly."
Perhaps, they fired their guns up in the air. They may have done this just to scare him and the journalists, not to kill them. Even if they had killed them, they would have never been held accountable for that. There are lots of gunshots in the video.
Encu said that he told the soldiers they were not being resisted, and asked them to stop shooting.
"But they responded: 'You are not our deputy. You are the deputy of terrorists, traitors, and marauders. And we represent the honor of the state.'
"Then the commander told me to buzz off and walked up to me -- I tried to stop him from hitting me. Then soldiers started shooting their guns again while others battered me."
Mahmut Oral, a reporter from the newspaper Cumhuriyet, who was present during the confrontation, wrote:
"When we got out of the car, saying that we are journalists, we were manhandled by soldiers and threatened with guns. When the situation got more serious, Encu got out the car but soldiers seized him by the collar and surrounded him. The soldiers told Encu that 'we are the state here. What deputy? You are a terrorist and marauder.'... They kept insulting the journalists who tried to intervene between Encu and the soldiers... They threatened us with breaking our cameras and shooting us if we do not get back on the car."
The 2011 Roboski Massacre
On December 28, 2011, Turkish F-16 fighter-bombers launched a five-hour long airstrike on Roboski, killing 34 civilians, including 17 children, some of whom were as young as 12.
The victims had been transporting cheap cigarettes, diesel oil and the similar items into Turkey when the bombing started. The bodies of some of the victims were burned beyond recognition or dismembered.
The AKP government has not provided any written or verbal apology for the massacre. Instead, on December 30, 2011, Erdogan, then prime minister, thanked the Turkish general staff for "their sensitivity towards the issue despite the media."
Some of the victims froze to death, according to a report by human rights activists, doctors and lawyers; after the massacre, aid was not provided for hours and even ambulances were not allowed to enter the area.
In May 2012, Prime Minister Erdogan said that whoever was trying to keep the Roboski massacre on the agenda was "the terrorist organization and its extensions."
In June 2012, when families of the victims and representatives of NGOs came out to commemorate the dead, the police turned water cannons on them.
At first, public prosecutors from Diyarbakir were responsible for the investigation on the Roboski killings. But then, in June 2013, they announced that they were not going to deal with the case due to "lack of jurisdiction," and forwarded the file to military prosecutors.
In January 2014, the Turkish military prosecutor's office dismissed the investigation into the Roboski airstrike. The 16-page ruling said that "the staff of the Turkish armed forces acted in accordance with the decisions of the Turkish parliament and council of ministers and with the approval of the general staff." The ruling also stated that Necdet Ozel, chief of the Turkish military's general staff, gave the order for the airstrike from his home.
Veli Encu, Ferhat Encu's brother, said that receiving the ruling by the military prosecutors was like having the 34 victims killed all over again:
"We struggled for two years to bring the perpetrators of the massacre to court, but the state officials did not even send the ruling to our lawyers. We learnt it from TV," he said. "None of those responsible for the massacre have been removed from their posts. The perpetrators of the massacre are rewarded instead of being punished."
He added that the government is trying to ban villagers from entering the location of the massacre.
"I and my four friends took a writer to the border as she was going to write a book on the massacre. On our way back, the military officers stopped us. They had about 30 dogs with them. They detained us even though we had not crossed the border. And they gave us a fine of 2,000 Turkish liras for border violation."
Relatives, including children aged 12 and 13, who tried to go to the site to lay flowers to mark 500 days after the attack, were stopped, given fines or asked to report to the police station for "violating the passport law".
Zeki Tosun, who lost his son in the massacre, said, "We went there to lay 34 cloves. But they gave us a fine of 3000 Turkish liras for each clove. ... Here is like a cage. Every step we take is followed [by the Turkish army]. We are already in custody."
The victims' relatives were then brought to trial in court, but acquitted in August 2014.
Meanwhile, no perpetrator of the killings has yet been brought to trial, even as a criminal investigation was carried out against the survivors of the massacre, Davut Encu, Servet Encu and Haci Encu. They were interrogated in January 2012.
* * *
Attacks against this small village continue.
In June 2015, Ferhat Encu told the Bianet News Agency that soldiers had attacked people in Roboski for two days and that people were afraid to go outside.
"Soldiers broke into houses and battered women, detained four people and insulted people. A citizen was injured and the vehicle carrying him had an accident. When soldiers departed, everything calmed down.
"In this morning at 5 o'clock, without a warning, soldiers opened fire and killed villagers' five mules. If people had been outside at that moment, they would have been killed.""I cannot comprehend this savageness. What do they want from Roboski?"
That is the question: What does the Turkish army -- this flamboyant NATO member -- want from this small Kurdish village?
The answer is that the dehumanization of Kurds in Turkey is so intense and widespread that state authorities cannot stand anything related to the Kurdish existence. Not only a Kurdish election victory -- even if this election was for the parliament of Turkey, not of Kurdistan -- but also Kurds' demanding punishment for the perpetrators of a massacre is intolerable to them.
Kurds are not to be members of parliament, not to mention patriotic MPs that struggle for national rights. They are to be assimilated into "Turkishness" or be invisible, and if possible, dead. As the infamous saying of Turkish racists goes, "The best Kurd is a dead Kurd."
Experience has taught us that in the 21st century, there are two ways of dealing with a national problem.
First, there is the right way -- the moral, civilized and democratic way -- in which you treat peoples under your rule with respect. When an indigenous people say that they are suffering or that they have complaints about or demands from you, you listen to them, try to understand and come terms with them because you regard them as your equals and you know that this indigenous people have been living in their ancient lands for centuries. Actually, you do not treat them as if they are less than fully human in the first place. And you do not put them through huge grievances.
But even then, a disagreement might emerge. On such on occasion, you also clarify your expectations and want that group to recognize your right to life and liberty, as well. And as civilized parties, you might decide to go separate ways and become good neighbors. But if you want to keep that people inside your borders, you at least recognize the national existence of that people. Whatever political and cultural rights you have, you grant those things to them. This is how political leaders with moral considerations would behave.
But then, there is the traditional Turkish-Islamic or Middle Eastern way: In such a political culture, when indigenous peoples or minority groups have complaints or demands, you instantly crush them with your army. You murder them en masse, deny their existence, torture them as you wish, insult them daily and then call them "terrorists", "traitors" and "marauders". And you commit all those atrocities based on one thing: your military power. For that is the only "value" you have.
Kurds entering the Turkish parliament by getting so many votes was a huge victory, and should be cherished as an opportunity for achieving democratic peace in the region.
And Kurds have made it clear many times that they wish to live in peace. Before the elections, Selahattin Demirtas, the co-president of the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), said that "whether the HDP enters the parliament or not, we will defend peace."
But if even becoming MPs and demanding a legal way to resolve the Kurdish issue through dialogue and negotiations cannot provide Kurds with political recognition and national rights, what else are they supposed to do?
Is it not high time that the international community heard of the plight of Kurds and supported them? The US helped to liberate Kosovo. The West should now apply pressure on Turkey to act humanely, morally and responsibly towards Kurds and other minorities.
We all know that the Obama administration would never do that. But there are individuals and organizations outside of Turkey. There are thousands of activists, academics, universities who just turn a blind to the plight of Kurds as if their maltreatment is perfectly normal.
If they are ignorant and unaware of the Kurds and other minorities in the region, we need to educate them, and hope that after they learn the truth, they will "act." If they still do not care, then they are hypocrites. There are many "activists" like that. Their universities are filled with events bashing Israel. But if you ask them, they do not even know what is going on in Kurdistan and what is done to Kurds by their Turkish rulers. These activists are either ignorant or hypocritical. Their activism has nothing to do with caring about human beings; it is just about hating the Jews. When Turkey condemns Israel for "committing massacres," Israelis should start lecturing Turkey about tens of thousands of dead Kurds and about how Turkey still treats them.
Uzay Bulut, born and raised a Muslim, is a Turkish journalist based in Ankara.