Why did I walk one thousand and fifty-eight kilometers for the Kurds?

To do this 1,058 km walk, as a person from Edirne, was my dream for the last 20 years. I always wanted to do some activity for the region. However, like anyone else, I had my concerns about how the public would perceive my statements and what troubles would my statements bring on in the future. Nevertheless, I had to overcome these concerns at one point and start acting “brave”.
Petitions, meetings, public panels et cetera – everything was being done. There is almost no unspoken phrase left under heaven about the Kurdish problem. All that can be said have been said and these statements do not have any effect anymore. No doubt, all these are recorded in history as “intellectual richness” but they do not alleviate the pain of Kurdish people, reduce the “cruelty” of the state, or wipe away the tears of the people of Sur. Because of this, I thought I should be doing something different. What do I have? Against the cruelty of the state, I have my physical strength, my energy, one heart and two feet. I thought, maybe, just going out on the road and walking could be a better way. In addition, I thought I would meet new people on the road, talk with them, and visit villages, homes, and small businesses. Although this was my personal goal at the onset, many victims of the governmental decree laws joined me throughout the thousand-kilometer walk. With the addition of these people, this activity almost became both about Kurds and also about decree victims. I believe this was good. During the 27 days of the walk, we sometimes walked through regions like rural Kırıkkale, Kırşehir, Kayseri, and Kahramanmaraş where the majority of the electorate is made of nationalists and conservatives. We also visited cities like Gaziantep, Şanlıurfa, and Diyarbakır where the majority of the population is Kurdish.

It’s remarkable that a person from Edirne is walking for the pain of the Kurdish people!

The sole goal of the Walk for Brotherhood was not just walking. We used every opportunity to be in touch with people, like engaging with our citizens that we met on the road and visiting villages, homes, and small businesses. In our talks we addressed many sensitive issues ranging from the assimilation policies of the state against the Kurdish people, education in mother tongue, assignment of trustee practices against HDP, unjust arrests to the imprisonment of the Presidential Candidate Selahattin Demirtaş almost like a political hostage, from European Union provisions on Autonomy of Local Governments to demands for a federative state. Although we came in contact with nationalist and conservative electorates, we didn’t encounter even a slightly negative experience during our whole walk. I think the fact that a person from Edirne was walking for the Kurdish people arouse a curiosity amongst the nationalist and conservative groups. We built on this curiosity and asked the empathy of all groups on the expectations of the Turks and the disappointment of the Kurds.

I published my first tweet in Kurdish from Kayseri!

Both peoples have experienced deep agony in both languages. There was a strong prejudice against Kurdish language amongst the nationalist and conservative groups. I also wanted to break this prejudice. In Kayseri, I wrote my first tweet in Kurdish as a person from Edirne. But, I wanted to take opinions of a few Kurdish politicians. I received support from a very respective Kurdish member of the parliament, whose membership is now repealed. Kurdish is a difficult language and is getting extinct. For this reason, the language I was using had to be on par with our stance and goals. I published my first Kurdish tweet in Kayseri. It got quite an attention. Later, on the road, I tweeted many times in Kurdish.

We took the millionth step in Suruç!

Our millionth step coincidentally happened in Suruç. Leaving wildflowers that we picked on the road at the place where we lost 34 young souls in 2015 was one of the activities we did outside of our planned program.
We have been under police surveillance since the day we founded the Hayır [homonym meaning “Goodness” or “No”] Party in 2017. When I set on this road after 20 years of yearning, I was well aware of the many potential problems and hinderance. Thinking about the possibility of getting detained, I told everybody that I would continue from where I got stopped after each time I would get detained. Therefore, I promised to complete this walk as long as God gave me health, and I could stand on my two feet, even if it took a year. Although we were being followed by police all the way, they did not cause any serious problem until we got to Diyarbakir.

They were worried about us going into Sur with tens of thousands of people!

According to the plan we made for the Walk for Brotherhood, we were going to walk only the last 4.7 kilometers of the road with the public. On the morning of the last day, police came to the location we were staying and wanted to talk with me. The police explicitly stated that “they could let me walk by myself, but they would certainly intervene if the public walked with me”. They wanted to confirm many times in front of police video cameras that I understood this. No doubt these police came there under instructions, and they were ready to intervene. That day, there was an incredible rain in Diyarbakir, beyond description. Despite this, hundreds of people began to gather at the welcome point. When I started the walk and was advancing towards the welcome point, police were trying to disassemble the people gathered at the welcome point one by one. Because the majority of the people at the point were not from political parties or non-governmental organizations, police was able to quickly disassemble them by causing disruption. However, hundreds still attended the welcoming despite police warning. When I reached the welcome point, a few people from the group started running towards me. They were both crying and hugging. Since I was not expecting such a welcome from the public, I was psychologically affected very much. I didn’t know what to say. If the police did not obstruct, there would have been easily a few thousand people in front of Ninova that day. I guess, what scared the police was the possibility of thousands of people walking into Sur. After this, I did not insist on having the public walk with me. I could have. Inarguably, they wouldn’t be able to hurt me. But, I couldn’t accept the possibility of even one Kurd walking with me getting hurt in the slightest way.

The crowd running away from the police were like naughty kids having fun

The people that came to the welcoming were not organized. Most of them were not affiliated to any political parties or non-governmental organizations. They were the people who were following our walk on social media. When I started to walk towards the last stage, some of them wanted to walk with me. Police dispersed them, too. I couldn’t turn around and check what’s going on. Because what happened really hurt me. I was extremely sorry. I didn’t want to see them. With that mental state, I walked all the way to the Dört Ayaklı Minare. The public was running in the side streets. They would enter one street; encounter the police but come back through another street. My sorrow suddenly turned into cheer. I could smile again. They were like the naughty kids in the good old days of Sur. The press that could elude the police could catch up for an interview from time to time.

Was it I, the public, the minaret, or they that were captive, I’m still trying to figure out!

I took the last step under the Dört Ayaklı Minare where Tahir Elçi was killed, but his ideas, dreams, and hopes remained fresh. Police intervened there one more time. The president of the Diyarbakir Bar was also there to meet me. I was just going to have a photograph taken. The press was on the other side. At that moment a policeman yelled to the other police offices saying “He will not get photographs taken with anybody”. Meaning “He will not be with the public”. “He will not be with the president of the bar either”. Then he ordered all the police to “Put up a wall in between”. That was the moment when that famous photograph was taken. When the police took a position between me and the public. Was it I, the public, the minaret, or they that were captive? I’m still trying to figure it out. After the last step at the Dört Ayaklı Minare, police asked me to leave Diyarbakır immediately. Police even asked which airlines and flight I was going to take. It was like when one is getting thrown out of a country. The police  followed me until I got on the plane.

If you are Turkish you can make a walk but it is forbidden for the Kurds to take even one step!

The famous photograph taken at the last day of the walk was both a statement of the obvious and a clear indication that life would not go back to how it was for me ever. The things I went through and being continuously followed by the police reminded us one more time that it was “forbidden” for a Turk to understand the Kurds. I believe the Kurdish struggle is the most important building block of democratization and normalization of Turkey. If the resistance cannot rejuvenate and strengthen its
institutions, the chance of success for this struggle inside Turkey will diminish every day. Therefore, I believe an organized resistance is needed, a resistance that acts in accordance with its principals, that is truly new and young, that clearly establishes its message and goals, and that is both dynamic and pluralist.
As more time passes since the walk, we get the opportunity to better assess the situation. Frankly, it has become impossible to continue this resistance only from inside the borders of Turkey. Because this country is not “free”, it is “captive”. Instead of “giving up” in the face of meaningless police surveillance and the pressure I’ve been subject to since returning from Diyarbakir which also makes me feel that my life will never be as it was again, I believe an alternative and complementary resistance should be organized abroad. I believe what we are going through is a journey. The genuine social journey that we set upon with the Hayır Party, that we founded, took its place in people’s hearts with the 1,058 km long Walk of Brotherhood. Now it’s time to organize a resistance that rejects any form of violence, and that is both pluralist, brave, honest, clean, ethical, and legitimate. The era of cold war is over. The Belin Wall is demolished, communication media have diversified, struggles have changed; but the solutions have enriched.
Turkey has changed, too. The world has changed, too.