Turkey should release the Kurdish politicians and start talking to them, says Turkish filmmaker Keltek

As everywhere in the world we just have to find a way to listen to each other says in an interview Turkish director Gürcan Keltek.

The movie Meteorlar of Turkish director Gürcan Keltek won the Best Documentary Debut Film at the Jihlava International Documentary Film Festival on 25-30 October. The movie captures the Turkish-Kurdish conflict during its height in 2015 in a Kurdish town in southeastern Turkey. Amid clashes between civilians and soldiers and attacks by the Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK) militants, sudden meteorite shower disrupts the fighting as soldiers drop weapons and locals find the courage to step out of their homes despite the declared martial law. We asked the director about the state of the Kurdish community and the message of his film.


How did the meteorites affect the psychology of the conflict?

As soon as people realised it was not the war, everything stopped. It was very dangerous since there was a state of emergency and civilians would just get shot because they were outside. At the same time, Turkish Army didn’t know what to do, people came out and the whole thing had to be stopped. There was this cosmic phenomenon going on and supernatural forces intervened and stopped the war. But right now, things are not looking so good.

Was there a sudden sense of unity between the two sides under a joint outside threat?

Exactly. This is very true. It was the clear message. But if you write it or show it in the film explicitly, it is sort of cliché, cheap and lazy. But I am happy that people feel that.

I had this idea that in every conflict people stop listening to each other until some other force intervenes. And this literally happened in 2015. People and media were focused on the stones and how much money they can make off them. But they missed the point. Because the natural phenomena stopped the state of emergency only for a while and then things returned to normal.

I did not want to focus on the entirety of the political conflict. I don’t care about it, I care about the region itself and how it describes itself in occasions as this. You know, the Kurdish community has a very powerful stubbornness and they keep coming back to the cities because it is their home.

Do you think the change in mentality could happen soon again? Could people change their mindsets and stop thinking about local identities and listen to each other?

Yes. It happened, actually. For a brief period, people started listening to each other, opened a Kurdish TV and people were just peaceful. There were hopes that things would get better. The problem is that there is an entire economy of war going on. The conflict is kept running because people make money from it. Also, the growth of the Islamic State messed the situation up as the Turkish army was the only force in the area capable of fighting them. But I am hopeful that it will happen again.

 

And not all families have something to do with politics. But the people are connected, they are relatives. That is why civilians are dying in this conflict.

 

Do you think there is a lot of connection between the PKK and Kurdish populations in the cities that are facing the repressions?

There is a simple answer to that. These people are relatives. When they are in trouble they go to the cities, they visit each other, go to weddings and so on. You cannot describe the Kurdish community in one word or one group. There are many classes of Kurds in Turkey. There is the Kurdish bourgeoisie, there are Kurds for Diyarbakir that go live in Istanbul. And not all families have something to do with politics. But the people are connected, they are relatives. That is why civilians are dying in this conflict. The whole thing is connected.

 

As everywhere in the world we just have to find a way to listen to each other.

 

Is there a political way to solve the Kurdish issue? Or is taking up arms as the PKK does a legitimate option?

No. It didn’t work. It is not working for both sides. If you focus on the humanitarian part of it, we can have a solution. The only place you can solve the issues is the Parliament or the system itself. I support Kurdish politicians, I have for decades. But there is a need for a change.

When Kurdish communities have suffered so much for so long, there is an impact on their mentality. The Kurds now have this very real and strict view of things. Maybe we should find a way to change the way we do things in politics and practical life – starting from things such as racism. That is why I did this movie because it is not a flat narrative. That is why it doesn’t have the conventional documentary filmmaking. It is the same with any other conflict in the world. If you talk about nationalism, it is happening everywhere.

I read about your elections and it is getting scary here too. It is unbelievable that this is happening here, or in Poland. That surprises me how can this mentality get back to this root because this region has a history of suffering from Nazism. And it is turning back again. I think the young generations are even more conservative. So, as everywhere in the world, we just have to find a way to listen to each other.

I don’t care about politicians and what they say. I don’t care about criticising them. For me, they are completely useless now.


But at the same time, you say the solution should be political and we should solve it in the Parliament.

Yes, in an ideal world it should be. But the head of the Kurdish party is in jail and it doesn’t look good. His colleagues are in jail. So how are you going to solve this problem? These people chose to go to the Parliament. They could’ve easily take a gun and go to the mountains and start killing people. They didn’t do that. They were stubborn and wanted to solve this issue politically, but the water is rising.

I am from Izmir, which is a very anti-Kurdish city, very Western and we always had this secularism bullshit going on. They even started voting for the Kurdish party because they like their politicians. Even though it had nothing to do with the Kurdish question, but now it has fallen.

 

People wanted HDP to criticise the PKK that was killing people, but how can you do that when it is their relatives.

 

So what happened with the HDP momentum? Is it lost also because of the presidential system?

Sure. It has diminished. It is not completely gone but when there will be an election, they will have a lot of votes.

 

At some point, they have to release Kurdish politicians and start talking to them.

 

Right. But in the new presidential majority system, it will not mean much. Correct?

My impression is that people that voted for the Kurdish party lost their hope for them. Because they were simply separating the army conflict and political issues. They want them to criticise the PKK that was killing people, but how can you do that when it is their relatives. So that was very difficult to do. I think it is getting more hopeless for right-wing politicians too. They used to talk about hope and dialogue but not they cannot as they are afraid they will lose votes. It is going really bad. But I have hope. It is not stupid hope. I have serious hope.

When there is a crisis going on and no solution that is when they realise they need a dialogue. So, at some point, they have to release Kurdish politicians and start talking to them.

It already happened in the early 80s. People didn’t even acknowledge the word Kurds but then they had to accept and start working with them. It is the same with every other minority in Turkey. I don’t believe that Chechnya can continue killing LGBT people. It has to stop at some point. But I have hope.

 

 

About author: Petr Boháček

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