“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result.” Have you ever heard that quote? Most commonly it is attributed to Albert Einstein. Personally, I doubt it. Einstein was a scientist and they tend to do the same thing over and over again all the time to see if their hypothesis is verifiable and repeatable. All too often they are getting different results and so they have to back up and find out why, but I digress.

I am not here to write about science. I am not writing about Einstein. The quote might not work for scientists, but it does work for the rest of us in our ordinary lives. Whether the quote should properly belong to Einstein, or Rita Mae Brown, or Fred Zamberletti doesn’t matter. When some one or some group continues to do something in hope of a positive outcome only to see devastating results, perhaps it is time to back up and find out why.

insanity1“Insanity.” When I heard the unsurprising but horribly sad news that a suicide bomber had blown themselves and others up just miles away on Istiklal Caddesi (Independence Avenue), that was the word that came to mind. Insanity. One could say that Turkey is on the verge of a Civil War but I would argue that what is occurring is more along the lines of a revolutionary war… and Lexington and Concord have already happened. One side, the Kurds, are hoping for justice and freedom but radical elements within their ranks (TAK) have begun seeking this outcome through violent terror. The other side, the Turkish Government, is looking for peace through subjugation. They have been systematically pursuing those ends through ever increasing draconian oppression. My prayer is that both sides will learn that the continued escalation of violence and oppression will not, cannot, ever lead to a peaceful, just resolution. The continued attempts to do so can only be described as… insanity.

In the June elections here in Turkey the ruling party (the AKP) surprisingly lost its majority as its number of seats in the National Assembly fell from 327 to 258 (276 is needed for a majority). What it should have done, what any sane government would have done was to form a coalition government across the aisle with the more moderate CHP, or link arm with the slightly more religious based MHP. The big reason they lost those seats was because a large group of their traditional supporters, the Kurds, felt they were being underrepresented and had formed a new party the HDP which ended up taking 80 seats. Personally I think the AKP’s best option would have been to make some compromises with them and hold on to power through an AKP/HDP alliance. That might sound insane now but back in June it was a very viable option.

Instead Erdoğan did the exact opposite. He called for a new November election, violently broke off the cease fire with the Kurdish PKK, and started going after the HDP the same way Hitler shut down the Social Democrats in the 1930’s. (I go in to detail on some of the methods Erdoğan and his thugs used here) The result worked insofar as the AKP held on to power but things would never again be buisiness as usual.

insanity2The first evidence of that was the July 20’th bombing of Suruç. The city had first received international recognition as the first destination of the hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees who fled from Kobani, just miles away on the Syrian side of the border. ISIS immediately claimed responsibility and their target was Kurds who were in Suruç to help with the rebuilding of neighboring Kobani. The chairman of the Kurdish HDP,  Selahattin Demirtaş claimed the bombing could not have occurred without gross, even complicit, negligence from the AKP. For such a statements he was jailed even though others, like a CHP leader Gürsel Tekin, were saying the same thing and many others in and beyond Turkey agreed with the assessment. So much for free speech.

On July 24’th Turkey began major military operations both within their own borders and next door in Iraq officially against the PKK but as the biggest of those operations, the Siege of Cizre, made clear they were really out to put down anything and everything that was Kurd. Both Amnesty International and the Council of Europe loudly and vociferously decried the horrendously disproportionate use of force and draconian measures used by “security forces” as they ground that city under their thumb. In all 173 people were killed… forty of them were PKK terrorists but none of them were police (25 were injured).

insanity3For a time such measures seemed to have worked. It looked like the PKK was trying to come back to the table for peace talks. Beyond that, a huge peace rally was slated for October 10 in Ankara. That rally, however, was just getting started when it was brought to brutally end. Two ISIS terrorists, one a brother of the Suruç suicide bomber, were responsible for the immediate deaths of 86 people while another 16 of the 186 wounded would succumb to their wounds and join that tally. Even though this was a pro-Kurd rally with a disproportionate number of its attendees members of the HDP, the government’s knee jerk response was to blame the PKK. (For more eyebrow raising concerns surrounding the attack go to 10 Questions)

For the next few months news out of Southeast Turkey was almost nonexistent. Almost daily a report of this soldier injured or that policeman killed by “terrorists” but little else. Nobody was reporting how tens of thousands of people have been displaced in Cizre and Diyarbakir. Nobody was reporting how innocent civilians caught in the crossfire were retroactively being labeled terrorists. Almost no news at all was coming out. So I decided to go in. On January 26 I flew down to Diyarbakir and took up residence in a hotel literally right across the street from the official curfew zone in Sur. I saw with my own eyes the renewed offensive begun the next day by security forces (but officially blamed on the PKK). I was detained by police or army three times. Each time they grilled me on what I was doing and if I was a journalist. The first time they deleted about thirty pictures from my phone. I watched first hand the forced eviction of over five thousand Kurds from their homes as the curfew zone expanded. I saw the leveled buildings from government airstrikes and security forces. But don’t take my word for it, see for yourself:

I am already going longer than I had planned. I don’t have space to demonstrate how the ISIS bombing in Istanbul led to crackdowns against Kurds (the biggest enemies of ISIS), which led to the Academics for Peace Initiative, which led to further “crackdowns” in Cizre and Sur (which I witnessed above), which led to the Ankara bombing last Sunday that resulted in eighteen bombings of Kurdish locations in SE Turkey and northern Iraq on Monday which led to, Istanbul yesterday? I am not yet convinced that this was Kurdish TAK (a radical splinter group out of PKK) and not ISIS but even if it is… When will we learn that the continued escalation of violence and oppression will not, cannot, ever lead to a peaceful, just resolution. This is insanity, people. Insanity.

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