Go now and drive as fast as you can

Written by Chihchun Yuan and Lukasz Firla

On April 15th, the team visited a valley hidden high up in the Qandil mountains of the Pishdar District. This valley is famous for its fertile land, green pastures, breath-taking beauty, and terrible problem - Turkish bombing. A long-term friend and partner of CPT mukhtar Khidr* (name changed) invited the team for lunch and a meeting with other village leaders at his house. The team hasn't come here since the peace process between the Turkish state and the PKK (Kurdistan Workers' Party) began in 2013. Much has changed since the war broke out again in July of 2015.

Ten leaders of the valley villages gathered to discuss safety issues and problems of lack of public services. Because of the Turkish military actions and issues of regional party politics, the basic infrastructure lies either broken or non-existent. The villagers have repeatedly asked the Kurdistan Regional Government representatives to bring in power lines and to build a school and a clinic. The only public building in the village of some 120 people is a mosque. Mukhtar Khidr asked CPT to accompany him to a next meeting with the authorities and to raise their need for electricity and longing for bringing more life to his village and the valley.

He told the team, "You are like a bridge between us and the outside world. Your presence helps us feel stronger."

One of the participants told the team that some positive conclusions came out of the meeting. On one hand, we felt encouraged to see the proud villagers not loosing hopes about keeping roots in their ancestors’ land, but we also felt deeply saddened by this systematic violence against innocent people.

Around three o’clock, a sound of explosion reached everyone’s ears. Mukhtar Khidr told the team, “You have been here for too long. Go now, and drive as fast as you can!”

After we left the valley driving as fast as the mountain rocky dirt road allowed us to, a new sound of explosion caught with us from the direction we just came from. Filled with anxiety we phoned our friend Khidr and heard him respond, "The Turkish rocket hit rather far from here." We left without thoughts and hesitation because we were just guests on this land. But what about the rest of the people who have been rooted deeply into the soil for many generations - can they cut their roots and pack their lives in minutes?

The villagers, alongside hundreds of other farming and shepherd communities inhabiting these mountain regions for centuries, have been caught in the middle of a three decades old war between the Turkish government and the PKK (Kurdistan Workers' Party). The PKK wage their political and armed struggle for recognition of Kurdish people's rights in Turkey from bases in the mountains of Iraqi Kurdistan. The Turkish military in turn bombs not only the PKK bases and hideouts but also civilian villagers' houses and fields. The CPT has walked with the villagers for seven years and supported their non-violent struggle to revive and sustain their lives.