Farmers protest Turkish economic policies
By Abdennour Toumi
Mardin, Turkey — Last week, fire and barricades blocked the roads for three days as farmers protested their electricity and water being cut off to irrigate their corn fields. In the southern districts of Derik and Kiziltepe.
Residents of these districts are angered by the lack of water and electricity in this harvest season, going to the streets in response. They have created large barricades of stones and burnt tires, crippling the traffic between Kiziltepe and the city of Mardin.
Farmers from 170 villages in these districts have been blocking two sections of highway since Wednesday and Thursday. Security forces have been trying to clam the farmers and some young protest down and to remove the blocked rocks from the Mardin’s airport entrance.
The farmers went to the Turkish Electricity Transmission Company (TEİAŞ) building and entered by force. After the farmers and TEİAŞ officials had discussed for some time, the farmers took to the Mardin-Kiziltepe highway that is also on Mardin’s airport and the Mova Park Mall, the only attraction park in the area in this heat wave season.
Up until now, the farmers’ demand seems about their survival rights; the region is considered as the country’s bread basket.
Young boys chanting anti-Ankara sentiment slogans and carrying the BDP (Peace and Democracy Party) banners, yellow color marked in the middle by a pine tree, joined the farmers in the city Liberty Square (Ozgür Meydan), and later on, they broke in to the Deputy-Governor’s Office (Kaid-makam), burning office supplies.
Last month, the Youth movement of the BDP party, showed their anti-Syrian Kurdish refugees sentiment after a street fight between young Syrians and local Kurdish, (there are about 20.000 Syrian refugees, majority Kurdish-Kobani live in the city of Kiziltepe).
Several hours of protests, military forces trucks carrying soldiers entered the city, escorted by Jandarma (gendarmerie) and anti-riots police. During the intervention, the farmers and group of youngsters were shouting in Kurdish at the order forces. The security forces used tear gas and pressurized water cannons to disperse the protestors in the national road between Mardin and Şanliurfa.
For hours the entire city went dark, ghost city, all the shops and businesses were closed for safety reasons, and the high smoke of the burnt tires — a dusty city by nature has become deadly polluted one.
During the protest, was noticed, the mayor of the city, Mr. Ismail Aşi BDP (Peace and Democracy Party) a popular mayor in the region, has shown his public support to the protesting farmers, he has challenged publicly the Deputy-Governor, leading an anti-Electricity Company march-protest because of the high electricity price and the disruption.
These riots are not only a matter of farmers and villagers are fed up with the Electric Company’s greed, but it is an anti-Ankara sentiment AKParti’s government public policy decision to privatize the national Electric Company — people suspect the AKParti this policy, either cronyism or corruption comportment in the AKParti system.
Yet, Ankara did not express any concern about these riots, the government is in a negotiation process with Kurdish legalist movement — Turkey is in an army conflict with PKK, which is pressing for an independent Kurdish state, has been on for more than 25 years, and has claimed more than 40,000 lives over the period.
The southern-east of Turkey (from Batman to Şanliurfa) is vital for Ankara, notably the provinces of Batman and Mardin because of the oil supply that goes to the center and the northern regions of the country. The Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) could use any social demand opportunity as a political avenue to challenge the central government in negotiation process with the moderate Kurdish movement.
The riots happened to take place on the day when President-elect oath taking ceremony day. President Erdoğan’s new appointed Premier, Dr. Ahmet Davutoğlu who succeed President Erdoğan; his nomination was a surprise to many political observers in Ankara, though, Dr. Davutoğlu has a clear support from his boss to carry out an effective struggle against the “parallel structure.” as the new President put it.
The new appointed Premier faced his first test in the Kurdish region, he immediately ordered the local authorities in Mardin to meet with the farmers, in the perspective to re-establish power to irrigate their corn fields and cool off the youngsters who are waiting in the corner for any faux pas from Ankara.
What would worry more the new President and his Premier, not the corn growers and their frustration with the continuous shortage of power but eventually the time bomb that would go off any moment for political power that would legitimize the idea of an autonomous Turkish-Kurdistan region.
(Abdennour Toumi is the France correspondent for The Arab Daily News. He is the editor-in-chief of www.bareed-areej.com. Toumi is a political consultant at IMPR a Think-Tank based in Ankara, Turkey. And, Toumi is a member at the European Observatory for Arabic Language Teaching based in Paris, France.)