Kurdish Resistance Against the Curfews in Bakur: An Overview and an Anarchist Message

From a comrade in Turkey:

After the stalling of the peace process between the governing Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the Kurdish freedom movement (in short, the KFM, which supports the legal political party called the People’s Democratic Party [HDP]),  a new phase of oppression has begun through the imposition of draconian curfews. According to HDP Co-Chair Figen Yuksekdag, the curfews have so far affected 1.3 million people, with 200,000 forcibly displaced. Resistance against the curfews are emerging in Kurdish cities in Turkey (in the region called Bakur in Kurdish). Anarchists and libertarian socialists should give global support to this resistance.

The peace process was broken by the current President Tayyip Erdoğan. The AKP quickly turned back to its conservative, nationalist and right wing roots during the election cycle on the pretext of maintaining public order. This means the use of security forces (mainly special police forces) to pacify the Kurdish population in Turkey. It should be noted that the Kurdish side was also not happy with the peace process due to the AKP’s disallowal of  communication with their imprisoned leader, Abdullah Öcalan, since January 2015. Much of the Kurdish side has maintained dismal feelings from an additional unwillingness of the AKP to make any real reforms for the collective rights of Kurds, as well as the AKP’s hatred of the Rojava insurgency and its covert support of ISIS.

In this atmosphere, after the bombings of an HDP demonstration in Diyarbakır (known in Kurdish as Amed), of anarchists and socialists in Suruç and, most recently, of the peace demonstration held by different NGOs and trade unions in the middle of Turkey’s capitol city Ankara — the peace process was completely stalled. In the context of these bombings, in which hundreds of people were killed (not including the ongoing civil war between Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) guerrillas and the army), the KFM started to declare “self-governance” in many cities in Bakur in order to push the Turkish state to return to the peace process. These “self-governments” are forming citizen solidarity committees to help the sick, poor and disadvantaged, as well as to work on cultural and political projects. Speaking objectively,  behind their revolutionary rhetoric of refusing to accept unjust state institutions, these are modest and practical attempts at a social solidarity organizing that will remedy the evils and alienation caused by the state criminalization and punishment of ethnic minorities. Most of these “self-governments” are in working class neighbourhoods and are organised by residents themselves, who are already excluded from most of state services. The municipalities, however, are held by HDP co-mayors (from the Democratic Regions Party [DBP], the fraternal party to the HDP) who support the declarations of self-government. In response, the State has currently arrested 20, discharged 22 and is searching for six of the HDP and DBP co-mayors. Despite the arrest of municipal co-mayors, the people have elected replacements (without the consent of the state) and the municipalities continue to function extralegally in Bakur in a way that is reminiscent of a dual power situation.*

Residents of the city of Silvan protest against Turkish military occupation and curfews.

The Turkish state’s fight against what it considers to be a terrorist population has now taken a new form under these emerging conditions. From 1987 to 2002, the Turkish state maintained a “state of emergency” and martial law (called OHAL — Olağanüstü Hâl Bölge Valiliği) in all cities and provinces where the Kurdish freedom movement was strong. In this way, the state burned thousands of villages and displaced hundreds of thousands of people in the hopes of destroying the base of support for the Kurdish movement guerilla forces. These policies resulted in a massive increase in the urban Kurdish population, who are now very aware of the assimilationist policies of the Turkish state and its constant threat of violence against all popular demands for democracy, equality and freedom. The lifting of the state of emergency was one of the demands that the EU placed on Turkey for its membership accession process, and its lifting was also a component of the peace process. With the end of the peace process, the current AKP government is oppressing the urbanized Kurdish population more precisely. The new model of oppression is based on targeting “the problematic neighborhoods and towns” (which translates to the areas where the KFM is strong) to destroy the established Kurdish solidarity and political organizations. By this, the state aims to terrorize the rest of the Kurdish neighborhoods and cities into abandoning their emotional and political ties with the Kurdish movement — in hopes of later integrating them into the AKP’s Islamic capitalism project, all with the help of reactionary and Islamist Kurdish organizations active in Bakur.

Against these attacks the Kurdish youth, especially those whose family members were directly killed by the Turkish State or ISIS in Syria, have taken a stand to protect the democratic autonomy project and the Kurdish population. Many people in cities and towns began building barricades and digging trenches to counter the police raids. This resulted in terrible clashes between unarmed youth and militarized police equipped with tanks in city centers. The police have attacked civilians with automatic weapons, and used artillery and helicopters to shell neighborhoods. After the elections of June 7th (in which the AKP lost its majority in parliament thanks to the rise of the HDP), a total of 163 days of curfew were implemented in 6 cities and 17 towns. As of December 10th, 161 civilians were killed by the state during the curfews.**  These curfews also have had a terrible effect on women, children, the elderly and the sick. It has also caused many people to migrate to other cities.

The streets of the historic central district of Sur, Diyarbakir, after a curfew by the Turkish state.

The Kurdish freedom movement certainly has a complex past, which includes problematic actions and a hierarchical structure. On the other hand, with their continuous fight against the state, the Kurdish population developed a certain anti-statist notion and feeling that is evident at the micro level in their daily interactions, civil rights organizations and neighbourhood assemblies, as well as on the macro level with their attempt at forming an autonomous administration in the Rojava cantons across the border in Syria. This transformation is also expressed in the mass legal civil movement and extends to the more hierarchical military side as well. At the most basic level, the Turkish state’s attacks to kill the will of the Kurdish people is unacceptable in any humanist, anarchist, or progressive terms. The practices of Rojava can be criticised, but the AKP government continues to oppress the Kurdish people and continues to support ISIS. Moreover, the mainstream media is making government propaganda by presenting the murdered children and young teenagers as terrorists. In this way they ensure the silence and even nationalistic applause of the Turkish population. The scarcity of information and neutral witness accounts opens the way for more abuse by the state.  Those abuses include desecration of the dead: stripping murdered women nude, bombing guerilla cemeteries, and dragging corpses behind armored police vehicles. On the parliamentary level there appears to be no sign of a peace resolution on the horizon. The HDP is trying to stop the war but in the current situation the AKP is against any sort of dialogue on the issue as appealing to the to state-sponsored ideology of Turkish nationalism serves their interest and empowers them in elections. In response, the Kurdish youth restate their willingness to defend self-governance and democratic autonomy, as their relatives were killed in the past by the state just as their comrades are now killed by ISIS.

On paper these curfews are just harmless bans on leaving the house and going out into street, just as it was on national census days in the past. The the official fee for breaking curfew is a couple of hundred Turkish Liras ($60 US), but every day Kurdish youths are paying the price with their lives. People protesting or defending their streets (nearly all of whom are not militants and definitely do not have guns) are met with lethal force by police armed with tanks and artillery fire. Yesterday (December 14, 2015) two Kurdish youths were killed in Diyarbakır again while protesting against the curfew in the Sur district of Diyarbakır byl bullets from cops. Their names were Şiyar Salman and Şerdıl Cengiz. The latter was a university student at Tunceli University (another Kurdish city whose name was changed, the original name was Dersim). He came to Diyarbakır for the DEM-GENC congress. (DEM-GENC is a congress of student and young societies connected to Kurdish Freedom Movement.) His last Facebook post was:

“Politically, I am an anarchist. I hate states, laws and confinement. I can’t stand seeing animals in cages. People must be free, just as love must.”***


Many of the youth killed were pursuing the same dreams as the people killed by ISIS in Diyarbakir, Suruç and Ankara. This is the best representation of the people and their struggle against the Turkish state that is trying to annihilate them both within its borders and also in Rojava. Currently, the state has ordered teachers to leave the cities of Cizre and Silopi to prepare for another wave of attacks against civilians: anyone staying in the city will be considered as a terrorist target. Today thousands attended the funeral of these two boys, Şiyar and Şerdıl, despite the curfew. Kurdish people won’t forget their idealist youth who were murdered with police bullets just because they were trying to prove that another world is possible, a world without the state and where every living being can be free. It is now time for anarchists and libertarian socialists globally to take a stance of solidarity with the Kurdish freedom movement and support their demands for peace and self-governance for everyone everywhere.

An anarchist banner in Diyarbakir.

It is crucial for revolutionaries to engage with international struggles so that we can strengthen a global movement of exploited classes against capital, the state, and oppression. Black Rose militants have been working at their local level to organize solidarity events and build Rojava solidarity coalitions, while gradually building international political connections with the popular struggle. We encourage other revolutionaries to organize local solidarity coalitions that can act together as a unified political force.