Welcome to Turkey. One year living in the country to realize how hard life is there

“Police force has arrested Alp Altinors, Peoples’
Democratic Party (HDP) deputy co-chair we interviewed less than one year ago”,
my college Pablo Fernandez wrote me recently. It was like a message to don’t
forget all what we did in Turkey last year and to remind us how important it

I had no idea where I was going when two years ago I
applied for being an Erasmus in the last year of my journalism career. I took a
flight on 7th September 2015 to Istanbul and when I got down, I realized I was
alone in an unknown country without no idea of Turkish and just some memories
about English. Of course I got lost looking for my hotel but thanks to that I
understood what the Turkish attitude was. I tried to ask some men I found on my
way where was my hotel, and in just 5 minutes, I had a taxi driver, two
telephone contact numbers and the hotel’s owner picking me up.

When I told my family I was going to be an Erasmus they
just thought, and still are still doing it, I took one gap year to relax and
have some holidays. But it wasn’t my case, not at all. I have been a journalist
making a big reportage with a student ID, which helped me so much. For example,
I could go inside Sur, a district in Diyarbakir, a capital of the Turkish
Kurdistan; during the curfew just cause I was a student in Eskisehir, the city
where I was living. My two colleges and me were the only foreigners inside Sur
during those days, no journalists, no freelances. Only police forces, army,
Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) members and us. And because of what we lived and
what we saw, I’m energized every time I see police men or

Turkey is an amazing country, huge and with so many
different kind of cultures, languages, food and landscapes. If you enjoy eating,
this is one of your countries. Breakfast in Turkey is like a ritual full of food
and tea. One huge table just for you as long as you want. People will try to
help you always, even if they don’t know you and they don’t speak any language
besides Turkish or Kurdish. Of course you can be unlucky as I was and you can
find awful people: Turkey was the witness of my three attempts of being

But also Turkey is one of the most important state in
international politic and economic agreements. Because of its geopolitical
location, the Republic is between Orient and Occident, so it’s decisive in
topics like Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), refugees or Kurdish
conflict. And this was my objective. One of the biggest problems Turkey has
right now is absence of freedom. And the best example is the Turkish/Kurdish
conflict: last August Government, army and PKK members came back to fight, just
one month before I arrive to Turkey. This means police started to fill the
streets up, control the university and city centres every day, and it was
normal to see even tanks and military cars driving on the roads.

So I started to asked to myself questions about why.
And this is the begging of one of my best experiences I ever had. I found out
that people around me had lived the story I was reading about and I was trying
to understand. Also, because of their kindness, I could interview people who
were in the most important demonstrations for freedom like Gezi protest or
during the demonstration in Ankara’s train station with hundreds of deaths
because of two bombs.

For me, the most shocking part of my trip was one
women: Isil Islek, I’m using a faka name just to protect her identity. I met her
in Sirnak, an important city in the Turkish Kurdistan, next to Syria’s border.
It was one week before the second general elections and she was a member of the
HDP in Sirnak. I interviewed her talking aloud about freedom, about politics and
change needed in the country. She almost made me cry. Her words where so
inspiring that she made me being involved even more in my research.

Four months later, we met again in Diyarbakir cause she
had to leave Sirnak with her family because army was bombing her home town. She
was another woman. She just started to cry when I asked about her home. She
couldn’t even speak. All her power, her courage and spirit of change had
disappeared. It was like destroyed admiration. Or what is worse, she was the
embodiment of what’s going on in Turkey.

Desperation. Frustration. Powerlessness. This is Turkey
now. This is what I found out. People who want to change their life conditions
but can’t. Only one leader, the president, who chooses the destiny and the way
for the rest of the population. And this is what happened to our friend Alp
Altinors, accused of participating in the funeral of a local HDP executive,
Zakir Karabulut, one of the 102 victims killed in the Islamic State (IS)
suicide attack on a Kurdish and left its peace rally in Ankara on October 10,


Sabela Gonzalez

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