Sunday, November 4, 2012

Turkish Beginnings (Part 2)

          I meant to post this the day after my last one, but life has gotten into the way. This past week has been extremely busy as I have finally caught up on school work, attended many Spiritual Life week events, had a awareness day for Congo and gathering student signatures in support of our resolution, skyping with dear friends, visiting my cousin Cara in Washington D.C. and much more. So now I want to go back a few weeks and write about my time in Turkey.
          My group successfully made our way across Istanbul by tram, ferry, foot, and bus to the local Istanbul airport and got on our flight to Diyarbakir, Turkey in the southeastern part of the country. Diyarbakir is a large city of over a million people and felt much more Middle Eastern than the European city of Istanbul. The city had a much more authentic, traditional feel to it than Istanbul. Three members of the CPT team, along with a Kurdish delegate member met us in Diyarbakir, where we first had a time of introductions before dinner and a meeting with a local organization.
          So first I need to write a little about the situation of Kurds living in Turkey. This information comes from the people we met while in Diyarbakir, as well as some news sources I have come across. There as been an armed struggle between the Kurdish and Turkish government for the last 30 years, which has included 3,000-5,000 Kurdish villages being emptied, as well as countless lives lost, economic sanctions, and much more. One of the main complaints of the Kurdish people living in Turkey is that they want to teach their children in their native language, but are not allowed. School systems are now offering Kurdish as a second language, but only giving children the chance to speak it a couple hours a week. The harsh conditions against the Kurds in Turkey have led many to protest. However, speaking out for the Kurdish cause can lead to arrest. Since 2009, 10,000 people have been put in prison for working for the Kurdish cause.  I would encourage you to read about the local hunger strike going on in the prisons and the protests it is causing. and
          The local organization we met with was working on behalf the children who had been displaced. When villages are emptied, the people move to the cities to try to find work. However, work is hard to come by and it seems to be the children who suffer most. We saw many children out on the street begging during our time in Diyarbakir. The organization then tries to help children deal with conflict and create centers for the children.
          The next morning we met over a delicious Turkish brunch with a social worker is facing 18 years in prison. She told us a lot of the horrible situation in Turkey and her own views on the Turkish government, as well as feminism and other topics. I was just amazed at her story and her humbleness as well as hope. She did not want us to use her name when telling her story because her story is not unusual...she is just one of many facing prison, but she was lucky enough to be waiting trial outside of prison instead of inside so she was able to meet with us and tell us her story. She really was an amazing person who believed it was her duty to work for her people and their rights despite of the terrible consequences she faces. I felt so blessed to have been able to interact with her and learn from her.
          The rest of the day was spent exploring the city walls of Diyarbakir, looking out towards the Tigris River (the birthplace of civilization!), playing with kids on the streets, and eating amazing food  while getting to know the people in my delegation. The next day was spent traveling by a public bus (really nice bus I must say) along the Syrian border to begin the next phase of our journey into Iraqi Kurdistan.

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