How long can we live without perspective

A life without perspective

A music store in a modern Diyarbakir neighborhood. Three men in their early twenties are talking. The young man who runs the shop complains:

"Business isn't going well. You don't earn anything. And we don't go out like we used to, nowhere. It's dangerous. There are handbag robbers everywhere."

This district is called Ofis and, as the name suggests, it is the business district of Diyarbakir. There are modern skyscrapers here, there are internet cafés, McDonald's, Benetton and everything else that defines a modern city. At the end of March, after the funeral of several fighters of the Kurdish guerrilla PKK, hundreds of demonstrators moved from the slums to Ofis, smashed shop windows, destroyed and looted shops. They did not make any political demands. It was pure vandalism. Because Ofis and Yenisehir, the new town, are two rich islands in the ocean of poverty that Diyarbakir represents.

Ilhan Diken, the city's deputy mayor, uses dry figures to explain how the largest Kurdish city is doing:

"In 1992 Diyarbakir had 350,000 inhabitants. Today there are 1,350,000 inhabitants, including many refugees. In the city center alone, 10,000 children aged 6 to 15 are currently working. Many of these children live on the streets. 70 percent of the people who live in the city center live, are unemployed. "

The armed clashes between the Kurdish guerrilla PKK and the Turkish military drove around one million Kurds from the villages to the cities in the 1990s. Diyarbakir was one of the most important places of escape. Even before it was a poor city, this stream of refugees has brought it to the brink of collapse. Even today, ten years later, the refugees crowd into tiny, narrow apartments, many have no clean drinking water, tens of thousands of children do not go to school. The high unemployment is due to the fact that the refugees are farmers and their agricultural skills are of no use in the city, but also because there are hardly any jobs in the region.

In recent years, some of the refugees have therefore started to spend the summer months in their former village and sow their fields there. However, since there are hardly any intact houses left in the villages and there are no schools and health centers, they return to the cities in winter. Leyla Budak and her family fled their village near the small town of Lice in 1991:

"I went there with my parents for a while, and we sown tobacco and vegetables there for our own consumption. But now my parents are sick and we can no longer go."

The Budak family now lives in a small house in the old town of Diyarbakir. The family of 15 has the equivalent of 300 euros a month at their disposal. That's 60 cents per person per day. The family's water has just been turned off. She still gets electricity, although she hasn't been able to pay the electricity bill for years. Because work is so rare in Diyarbakir, there are countless outpatient sellers in the city, children cleaning shoes, porters and the pickpockets that the young people in the wealthy district of Ofis fear. The intellectual Seyhmus Diken is not surprised that the lack of future prospects can also turn into rioting, as has happened in recent weeks:

"If the population triples to a million within ten years and unemployment reaches 70 percent, then an environment is created in which more and more crimes are committed and society becomes polarized. Insignificant events can then grow into massive, violent demonstrations. "

In recent years there have been improvements in Turkey with regard to the Kurdish problem. It is now officially admitted that there is such a thing as a Kurdish problem, the Kurds now have an - albeit severely restricted - right to Kurdish lessons and television broadcasts in the Kurdish language. But that had little effect on the lives of the Kurds themselves. Ahmet Kalpak is the chairman of the Göc-Der organization for refugees. He blames the Turkish state for the misery:

"There was a systematic policy of displacement, but there is no systematic policy for the time after the displacement. There is no serious policy to make it easier for people to return to the village now. Several projects have been developed, but none of them have achieved anything . "

Political declarations alone are not enough, which means that concrete steps are necessary. The intellectual Seyhmus Diken believes, however, that Turkey cannot take these steps on its own, that organizations must make efforts to ensure that the refugees can return to their villages:

"If you give them the opportunity to build a house again in the village, give each two cows and set up schools and health stations there, then you will see whether they want to return or not. But Turkey's national economic resources are sufficient not over, that has become an international problem. I mean, the UN has to take care of that too, starting with the High Commissioner for Refugees. Because these emigrants come to the borders of Europe and create problems there. "