Racism Against Kurds After the Van, Earthquake

While the Turkish national response to the 7.2 magnitude Earthquake in the province of Van in eastern Turkey has been filled with remorse and a desire to help there has also been an ugly “other” face to the national Turkish response. Eastern Turkey is an area predominantly Kurdish in ethnic background. Recently in eastern Turkey there have been flare-ups in fighting between the Kurdish Workers Party (or PKK) and the Turkish military.

Speaking on the condition of anonymity a Turkish Professor of Literature named “Murat” explained, “When many Turks first heard (about the earthquake) our first reaction was happiness… It felt like (biblical) revenge from God to the Kurds for the killing of our young soldiers the week before.”

The earthquake followed on the heels of the  October 19th attack by the PKK on the Turkish military and police in Hakkari, Turkey. Hakkari is a province near the epicenter of the earthquake  in Van, Turkey. 26 Turkish soldiers have been reported dead from the October 19th attacks.

On Monday, following the earthquake center-right journalist Duygu Canbas said on the air, “Even if it is in Van we are very sad about this news.” Kurds have been offended by Ms. Canbas’ statement believing Ms. Canbas said indirectly, “Even if it is in a place where Kurds predominantly live, we are saddened by the earthquake news.”

Right Wing Journalists Müge Anlı (Left) and Duygu Canbaş (Right)

Right wing talk show host Muge Anli went a step further when she said on Monday, “Everyone should know their place. At one time you (Kurds) wanted to throw stones and hunt Turkish soldiers and then in hard times you (Kurds) go and cry out ‘Wah wah wah’ and want help.”

Following an outcry against such gauche statement the Turkish national media has appeared more sympathetic in the past few days.

Still Kurds feel uncomfortable. Dicle Kara, 29, a Kurdish woman and activist originally from the province next to Van said, “After the (October 19th Attack) and now the Van Earthquake the feeling is that one needs to pick a side. Either you are for Turks or for Kurds… But I don’t want to pick a side! I don’t support the PKK and I don’t support the Turkish army and I hate how aggressive everyone is acting toward one another!”

One Turkish journalist, Ali Mendillioglu, 38, who has worked closely in union organizing with both Kurds and Turks states, “The October 19th attacks did much to fan Turkish nationalism against Kurds.” Mendillioglu points to the comments section on Turkish news websites. “There are many comments on these websites about how the earthquake was God’s justice against the Kurds.”

However, Mendillioglu says the problem of Turkish racism against Kurds is a problem with deep roots in Turkish society. Explains Mendillioglu, “Turkish Racism against Kurds is the fundamental problem in Turkey today.”

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Sean David Hobbs is a writer and multimedia journalist who lives in Istanbul. He works to chronicle the stories of the voiceless in Istanbul and can be reached at sean.david@istanbulvoices.org. His memoir about Istanbul called "Sex and Homeland" is his second book.

7 Yorum

  1. Ronald söylüyor:

    Thanks for the info.
    We here in the US are so ill informed.
    Such pain reverberates around the world!

  2. Quentin Poulsen söylüyor:

    Good article, though the support of the Turkish public at large for the victims of this disaster has been overwhelminglysupportive and positive, naturally.

    • Sean David Hobbs söylüyor:

      The support for the earthquake victims might be overwhelmingly supportive but we ought not forget that within Turkish culture there is an ugly side of prejudice for Kurdish people. Certainly not all Turks feel this way but there is strong dislike among some Turks for the Kurdish minority in Turkey.

      • Mustafa söylüyor:

        I am a Turkish Australian and let me tell you my best friend was Kurdish and another was a gypsy while i was living in Turkey.

        When these attacks happen against Turkish soldiers and it is fresh in the minds of the people off course you are going to get racist anti Kurdish reactions.

        Turkish people then come terms with it like most normal people do and say no matter how many Turkish soldiers killed most and if not nearly all the Kurdish people suffering at the earthquake are innocent of any wrong doing.

        It only takes a small minority of bad seeds to create hatred and havoc
        You think the world and the Americans are not racist against the Muslims after what when on there.

        The Syrians harboured the number one enemy of Turkey Ocalan leader of the PKK Terrorists well guess why there were not enough temp houses for the Van earthquake victims it is because majority are being used up by the Syrians fleeing there crisis in there country guess who is looking after them the Turks.

        Nothing is going on in Turkey that does not go on twofold in nearly all cultures.

        • Sean David Hobbs söylüyor:

          Mustafa, the issue isn’t that other countries have racism. The issue is that the racism against Kurds is INSTITUTIONALIZED in Turkey. The entire economy is built in Turkey around Western Turkey and the Turkish part of the country. All the best education is in the west. All the best infrastructure and jobs and best harbors are all in the western Turkish part of the country. Then ask Kurds, a people who have been in Anatolia (Asia Minor) longer than Turks (some estimates are that 3000 years ago Kurds settled in modern day eastern Turkey) why they weren’t able to have TV channels or newspapers or road signs in Kurdish for almost the entire democratic history of the Republic of Turkey… Does this situation seem fair?
          You might respond by saying how is this situation any different than any other country. But racism and nationalism are sick and twisted everywhere in the world. To excuse racism because racism exists everywhere in the world doesn’t work. Racism and injustice is a cancer. You can only beat the cancer by starving it or cutting it out.

  3. Mustafa söylüyor:

    Sean We could go on forever here back and forth but i don’t normally get involved in these matters in fact this is the second time i have ever posted regarding these issues,

    I am not going to deny anything that you have pointed out regarding the racism issues and i never said it did not go on or for that matter it was ok for it to exist.

    Unfortunately racism much like cancer that you are relating it to is a part of life and most likely always will be unless there is some form of miracle.

    The freedom that you think that exists elsewhere in the western world does not really exist or what is left of it is close to being taken away.

    I also don’t want to get into we were there longer than you debates the Turks have a long history much like the Kurds what matters is Turkiye is Turkiye and nothing else really matters and people have to deal with it whether they like it or not.

    Let just say for instance that the Kurds were there since the dawn of man who is really going to care the Aborgines were here in Australia before the Dutch and the English you think it matters you think it matterd for the American indians.

    I did not see any African Americans with any rights in the past.

    Let me point it out again to you nothing is going on in Turkey that is not going on anywhere else in the world whether it is clear for the eye to see or it is a hidden agenda.

    I have a uncle that was killed by a Kurd shot at point blank range trying to save someone he does not even know.

    It is easy and it looks pretty convincing to post a couple of pictures of the newsreaders that have built up steam regarding the soldiers that were killed the images of the familys funerals still fresh in their mind.
    People say things under those situations that they would not normally say if you spoke to me after my uncle was killed you will get the same thing so do i hate the Kurds no do i think all Kurds are terrorists of course not like i said my 2 best friends were a Kurd and a Cingene as they call in Turkey a Gypsy.

    In Australia All the best education is in the major cities all the harbours beaches and the quality of life is in the Outskirts in the cities most of the Aborogines who were the first here before anyone are in the middle of Australia in the stinking hot desert

    Australia is working all the time to improve the quality of life to all Australians i believe Turkey is doing the same.

    I hope that all people in the world have equal rights that is the fair thing but it is not going to happen only power matters in this world and if you do not have it you have nothing and no one is going to help or save you look at the palestinians in Israel.

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