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(en) Kurds Learn to Lean On the Remote Control

From Tom Burghardt <tburghardt@igc.apc.org>
Date Sun, 24 May 1998 20:10:19 -0700 (PDT)
Cc aff@burn.ucsd.edu, amanecer@aa.net, ats@locust.etext.org, bblum6@aol.com, mnovickttt@igc.org, nattyreb@ix.netcom.com, ozgurluk@xs4all.nl, pinknoiz@ccnet.com, sflr@slip.net

      A - I N F O S  N E W S  S E R V I C E

     Monday, 25 May 1998
     Rebels have found a useful weapon in satellite television,
     Chris Morris in Diyarbakir writes
     At seven o'clock every evening Turkan and her family gather
round the television set in their small high-rise flat. Thanks to
a fuzzy satellite signal they watch the news in their own
language, Kurdish.
     It is illegal, but they don't seem to mind; nor do their
neighbours, who are watching the same programme next door.
Technology has opened a new front line in the long-running war in
south-eastern Turkey.
     "It would be very bad for the Kurds if Med-TV had not
started," said Turkan. "We understand their programmes, and we
like the news. They tell the truth."
     Med-TV is a Kurdish-language satellite channel which
broadcasts from London in open support of the violent Kurdish
rebel group, the PKK. The Turkish government still bans all
broadcasting in Kurdish, and it wants the British government to
close the station down.
     "I think it's the most significant thing the PKK has
achieved in the last few years," said a journalist in Diyarbakir.
"A lot of people who don't approve of their methods still watch
Med-TV. It proves that Kurdish nationalism is alive and well."
     At first, say local residents, the police paid children to
steal parts of new satellite dishes. Now they have given up the
fight, and satellite dishes are on every rooftop.
     That means the PKK and its elusive leader, Abdullah Ocalan,
who is based in Syria, can get their message across to thousands
of people every day. They no longer have to carry their fight
physically into Kurdish-majority cities like Diyarbakir, where
the army has restored state control.
     The real war has moved further away, to the mountains in the
     The army says it has the PKK on the run. This year it
launched one of its biggest operations ever, involving up to
50,000 troops backed by fighter jets and helicopter gunships. For
the past few weeks they have combed the mountains north of
Diyarbakir, hunting down what they call the remnants of the PKK.
     "The terrorists aren't able to operate in our region now,"
General Nihat Senogul told a group of journalists flown in to a
hillside encampment. "That's because of the effectiveness of our
military campaign."
     Bolstered by better weapons and a greater understanding of
how to fight a mobile guerrilla force, the army is confidently
predicting the PKK's demise.
     There is no doubt that the PKK has lost ground to the army
in the past few years, but the price has been terribly high -
thousands of people killed, thousands of villages forcibly
evacuated and human rights trampled underfoot. Nevertheless, the
Turkish state is once again proclaiming a new dawn in the
     "Things are going very well here," enthused Hakki Urun, the
deputy governor of six districts which are ruled under a state of
emergency. "Diyarbakir is a normal city again."
     On one level that is true, certainly compared with a few
years ago, when the city was under siege. Now families head out
to the edge of town for evening picnics, and a tourist bus on a
city street raises few eyebrows.
     But the underlying causes of the conflict remain. Many Kurds
still want greater recognition of their cultural identity, the
right to educate their children in their own language, and a
measure of political autonomy.
     "They say they've won, but who have they beaten?" asked an
official of the Kurdish political party, Hadep. "It's just
propaganda. The Kurds are still here and nothing much has
     Undaunted, the army insists that it now wants to win local
hearts and minds. It will have to compete with the message coming
out of the sky.
     Copyright Guardian Media Group plc. 1998
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