In July, Gökçe Akyuz joined the ZAM team as an intern. She loves Africa, investigative journalism and struggles for freedom and justice, that’s why. On the 20th of July a tragedy occurred in her home country. Here is her story.
By Gökce Akyüz
“It is not my country. It is the country of people who want to kill me.” This is a well-known notion among many young people in my country Turkey. I would like to explain the reason.
But first, I should introduce myself. I am a Turkish citizen and have been an intern at ZAM Magazine. I kindly ask you to except my excuses for deviating from the main focus of ZAM, because I have a strong desire to share my story with you.
On 20th July 2015, I lost friends due to a suicide bomber. They were 32 young people who believed that the world can change. However, people with power, such as the Turkish government, the military, media owners, and wealthy people did not allow this.
My friends were on their way to Kobané, the city, which was destroyed by ISIS but now controlled by Kurdish guerillas, YPG. Their purpose was to rebuild the city with parks, libraries, a forest, theatre and music events and much more while our president was grumbling: “Kobané is not our business, ISIS and YPG are both terrorists."
The leader of the Nationalist Movement Party (Milliyetçi Hareket Partisi, MHP) added: “There are poor villages in our own country, why not helping our own people first?” Politicians already drowned in their selfishness and nationalism while my friends were dying. Their first stop was Suruc, a small town in Turkey, just near to Kobané. On 20 July 2015, those 300 people with golden hearts wanted to announce a statement of their aim before going to Syria. They gathered at a cultural center in the town.
In the end, when the clocks showed 11:50 AM, 32 of them were killed by a suicide bomber who had infiltrated into the group. Left behind were only the broken toys and fragmented bodies.
After the massacre, the only thing I heard was a thousands of “but”. Media, politicians, people in the street, everyone repeated the same thing: “We are sad but those kids were terrorists!”, “Nobody should die like that but they were brainwashed kids, who were already going there to die just for provoking!” But, but, but… I wonder if the conscience is lost in the world. What was the reason for these hearts of stone?
They were people with the heart in the right place
If you are asking me why these power-holders positioned them like the Other, I know why; because they were socialists, anarchists, activists, more importantly, in my view, people with the heart in the right place. Some were just 18 year’s old and would had gone to university if they had survived, some were students who were already damaged by the government a number of times before.
Who could tell my friend in the hospital, whose leg was badly injured that his girlfriend died in this attack? Because his parents couldn’t. She had been more than a lover, a comrade - she was the person who held his hands when he lost his eye by a gas capsule thrown by police during the Gezi protest in 2012.
The rest is the same story. People hit the streets to protest and are attacked by police (because it’s forbidden to question the state). Turkey sent aircrafts to Syria to bomb the camps of ISIS and PKK but killed some civilians “accidentally”, and consequently a feared outcome became reality: the war began. Nobody knows how many innocent people my country killed or will continue to kill?
The main reason why many people in my society are angry with the government is not just only because of their ruthlessness but also the fact that they helped ISIS by sending guns. A journalist, Can Dundar disclosed the documents, even the pictures of trucks full of ammunition on the road to Syria. Now, he is standing trial for have been exposing the official secrets as a spy. Also four public prosecutors were arrested for the reason that they searched for the trucks and it is claimed that they were attempting to overthrow the government. Clearly, there is no answer or should we just obey the decisions the politicians make?
The reason why I am angry at Turkey is that I know what happened there. I know those people. Not only 1, 5 or 10, but a large number of the injured people. Witnesses claimed that the police were around but not for protection, rather the opposite. While people were lying on the floor in blood, under the body parts of their friends, police officers were smiling, and laughingly watching the view. When local people tried to save them by carrying injured people to hospitals, these policemen blocked the road and didn’t allow them to pass. The ambulances and the police were too late even though the hospital and police station is not that far away.
This doesn't surprise me, because it isn’t the first time that I am facing their brutality. Like in 2001, when police officers and soldiers were watching the death of the 10 years old girl, Xezal Beru when their dogs attacked her on street, in front of her sister. She and her sister were picking plants on a warm spring day when the dogs were ordered: “Attack!” She died there and soldiers unconcernedly said: “The rule was not to leave our guard position.” And justice then? Of course there is no in Turkey. How could I otherwise explain you the reason why my friend Veli Sacilik has to pay 725 thousand lira to the state although the state itself ripped his arm off by dipper dredger. Right? For sure, in Suruc, it seems as if the Turkish police share the responsibility of the murders with the suicide bomber, like always. And in some cases, they are the killers themselves.
Today, my country is pretending as if it modern, western, capitalist and liberal enough to be the leader of the East and a brother of the West. However, as a Turkish citizen I can definitely say: No, we are not! I recovered myself in a short time because, unfortunately, it was not the first time my friends were tortured or killed and I know tomorrow won’t be the last.
After this occured, being in Amsterdam made me feel guilty because I couldn’t join, not only the funerals but also the protests. Thus, I decided to do my own protest here, to digest what I felt and to replace my endless sadness to anger. So, I created my banner and sat down on the middle of Dam Square (main square in the city centre of Amsterdam) to invite people and raise awareness.
First, I wanted people to understand that ISIS is real, not the devil in Middle Eastern tales, it is dangerous for everyone because people in Europe are also going there to join them. Secondly, I don’t want my country to mislead others by pretenting to the outside world how developed and contemporary it is while bloodshed is a daily affair.
Weirdly, during the protest at the square in Amsterdam, the only group of people who agitated against me, was Turkish. They asked me who I am. A communist? An enemy of our government? Which party am I a member of? They wanted me to stop and go home. I answered: “I am not a partisan, just a person mourning of her friends.” They were mad at me: “You are presenting our country so bad! Now we, the Turks living abroad, have to experience the prejudice and discrimination!”
Weirdly, the only group of people who agitated against me, was Turkish
A man in the middle, Huseyin, seriously said: “Those dead people were all terrorists, communists, and followers of Kaypakkaya (a partisan who died in the 70’s)! They deserved to die!” A man on the right side of me, Ali, said: “Europeans also murder their citizens. In Turkey, our police feel hesitation to beat even if a person attacks them, but here in Europe, police can directly shoot you.” I told him how I was beaten by six police officers, with batons in the middle of the night. How they yelled at me while beating like: “If you are outside that late, you are a bitch or son of a bitch”! And I told them that my aim is not to compare, but that night I saw the president on TV saying “I gave the order to police to be that harsh! So what?”
A man on the left side of me, Atilla, was ashamed of his identity, due to assimilation in Turkey. “My family is Kurdish, but luckily I am a Turk!” he said. And added: “Perhaps, you can also find some good people who are Kurdish, but generally they are terrorists, traitors!”
And then, of course, they stopped listening to me and offered me a walk to the pub. I was a woman in the end, what could I know about politics, right?
This story is a summary about why I am in the Netherlands right now. Journalists are in prison, youth is underground, some already died, people who disagree with the government are punished, so if you see a mistake of the state, you have to gouge out your eyes, there is no other option.