By Peggy Gish
“Back in 1991, Turkey bombed our village of Sergali so heavily that we left the area,” Hasni Islam, the village leader, told our team. He pointed to the mountain to the north, behind which the old village had been. “Because of the ongoing war between Turkey and the PKK (Kurdistan Worker’s Party) we couldn’t return to the village area, and so moved to this site and established it as our new village. But now, two months ago (June 2016), Turkey bombed around the village here, and half of the families fled again and scattered to other towns. The other half has no other place to go or the financial means to leave, so are still here, even though they are afraid.” At one time there were 350 families, but now there are only forty.
Walking around the current village, Hasni showed us large cracks in the buildings from the bomb blasts. “Turkey also bombed the water pipes carrying water from mountain springs to our village, and for two months we were out of water. Rationing water trucked in by the government made it hard to keep our gardens and trees watered. We are thankful that the attacks have not killed or injured our people, but the loss of at least 800 dunums of orchards, vineyards, and crop land has been devastating. “Life in our villages without agriculture is not life,” he told us, “so you can say we have lost our lives.”
A group of children gathered together with Hasni’s son under a large tree finding respite from the hot mid-day heat. We heard again what we had in every village we had visited. “This is hardest for the children!” They explained that it was not only because of the trauma they are left with from the bombings and having to flee their homes, but also the loss of the village life that, for most of them, would be their future.
Hasni and the other villagers share the aspirations of the Kurdish people to gain their rights and to be able to maintain their cultural heritage, but they feel caught in this decade-long struggle between the PKK and Turkey. When we were sitting down, he took his granddaughter on his lap and said, “She is innocent. What has she done to deserve what Turkey is doing? We wish this war will come to an end. But there has to be dialogue to find peace. We will never resolve this by war.”