The Invisible Land Of Kurdistan: Iraq Oil, Turkish EU Membership, Could Lead To Official Recognition
DIYARBAKIR, Turkey — The sound of Turkish military jets taking off to unknown destinations no longer disturbs the sleep of Abdullah Demirbaş. Four years ago, at the age of 16, his son joined the PKK, the acronym of the Kurdish Workers’ Party, a guerrilla group that has been fighting against the Turkish state since the late 1970s. For decades, the planes were headed to target PKK positions in the mountains. These days, the fighters carry out surveillance missions, patrolling Turkey’s air space near the Syria and Iraq borders. They are no longer attacking the guerrillas as a peace process between the Turkish government and the Kurdish independence movement slowly unfolds.
Demirbaş, the mayor of the Sur district of Diyarbakır — the second-largest city in southeast Turkey’s Anatolia region and the unofficial Kurdish capital — hasn’t seen his son since he “went to the mountains,” as the locals euphemistically say when referring to someone who takes up arms for Kurdistan.
A few months ago, Demirbaş’ other son was called to compulsory Turkish military service, which means that if fighting between Kurdish rebels and the Turkish army resumes, his family will be among many who could find themselves with sons in opposing camps.
For now, Demirbaş and other Kurds who have no appetite for war take comfort in the dialogue under way since 2012 between the Turkish government and the imprisoned leader of the PKK, Abdullah Öcalan, even if the government’s overtures are an effort to make the country more attractive for membership in the European Union. Nonetheless, the Kurdish issue remains volatile, in Turkey and in neighboring countries with sizeable Kurdish populations, and is complicated by changing economics, including urban migrations of rural Kurds and the increasing extraction of oil and gas reserves in Kurdish Iraq.