Sur is the historical center of Diyarbakır - it is the old Diyarbakır, in a sense. Most people simply call it, the heart of the city, which is a perfect term to qualify it. Historical buildings, city walls, places of interest are all situated there. Officials say more than 50,000 people lived in the neighborhood a year ago and 20,000 of them were living in Sur's most terror-stricken streets.
I have witnessed Diyarbakır's development over the past few years, many new buildings have been built, new and chic streets have appeared and shopping malls have opened. People were saying rents were skyrocketing, just like in any big city in Turkey. Sur, however, remained the city's most authentic part, and with time, turned into a place with lower-income inhabitants.
That is the reason why the PKK has decided to launch its new wave of insurrection from this particular neighborhood. I had the chance to see the whole area with my own eyes when I visited the town recently accompanied by security forces. The charming Sur that I had known is nowhere to be found. Historical buildings have suffered terrible damage and many houses have collapsed. There are the pockmarks of explosions everywhere. It is sometimes hard to find the correct road to drive on. I had a hard time remembering the streets that I saw just one year ago, the streets we walked on with my daughter, ice cream in hand.
I asked the people who were escorting me who was responsible for all this destruction. They showed me the marks of the weapons used by security forces, these were all bullet marks. I then asked why all these buildings had collapsed. They explained how terrorists were using gas cylinders, manure, sugar and many other things to build bombs and blew the buildings up. Their purpose was to get as much debris as possible so they could block roads and stop the security forces' operations.
The PKK dug trenches, destroyed buildings and made thousands of innocent people hostages in their own neighborhoods just because it wanted to keep security forces out of Sur. Their plan was to make the area a so-called liberated neighborhood, and for that, they destroyed the city's poorest area.
Most of Sur's inhabitants are displaced now with their rents payed by the state. But some teenagers have refused to leave and joined the fighting. When they are captured, police ask them why they did not want to stay with their families, why they did not prefer to go to school or to work. They reply that they had no choice, because their "big brothers" did not let them leave. So they had two options, either get killed by the PKK's old-timers or by the security forces.
It is just not fair to frighten a population that much. Kurds are stuck between two enemies. When they talk to people representing the state they hide their faces and names because they fear the PKK will make them pay if they criticize it. It is not hard to imagine they do the same when they talk to PKK militants, fearing the state's retaliation.
The PKK has its own agenda. It claims the state is the only one to blame for what is going on. But Diyarbakır has suffered mostly because of the PKK. People are under terrible pressure from this terrorist organization.
Time will heal everything. The state and/or the government must do whatever it takes to make these people feel equal and free again. But this is not enough. All of society must contribute. The victims must be at the center of all efforts.