Turkish Kurds charmed but unconvinced by PM's rhetoric: Hugh Pope watches Tansu Ciller on tour as she tries to end a conflict that threatens to bring further division and loss of life

FOR THE rebellious Turkish Kurds of Hakkari, the launch of an attempt by the Turkish premier, Tansu Ciller, to win back their hearts and minds was not just a matter of adding to the asphalt spread in her honour on the dusty roads of this remote mountain town.

The question was whether Mrs Ciller was ready to respect their Kurdish identity, to allow Kurdish television programmes, to permit teaching in Kurdish or even discuss the concept that Turkey's unitary state should evolve into a Kurdish-Turkish federation.

Turkey's first female prime minister did not come close to such demands, despite hints at ethnic equality and democratic compromises in parliament. Indeed, she took no clear stand in the debate over military, economic and political solutions to a conflict which, if left unsolved, may one day split the country and spill much blood. Her ideas were a concoction of many elements, including appeals to Islamic brotherhood, apparently hoping that her conquering style could overcome an intractable substance.

The mere fact of her visit signalled acknowledgement of a need for radical measures to bridge a growing ethnic rift between Turks and Kurds after nine years of guerrilla warfare that have killed more than 6,500 people. About 12 million of Turkey's 60 million people are Kurds, a group with a Turkified culture, but they are also part of the 20 to 30 million Kurds divided between Turkey, Iraq, Syria and Iran.

'Turks and Kurds are all the same . . . we are like the finger and fingernail,' Mrs Ciller said in her speeches, brandishing a manicured hand at sometimes dubious, sometimes enthusiastic crowds of Kurdish townspeople watched over by crack Turkish police commandos girdled in Rambo-style ammunition belts.

Mrs Ciller described her tour as a goodwill gesture. She forced her Cabinet ministers, half of whom had never been to the poor Kurdish south-east, to meet in Hakkari and unveil a pounds 140m plan for farmers and foresters of two provinces on the Iraqi border. She repeatedly promised a mother's love, thousands of new jobs, many visits to the region, and an equal share for all in Turkey.

For many Kurds this may not be enough, having heard many unfulfilled promises of investment or jobs before, and living in towns still dominated by old slogans like 'how happy is he who says he is a Turk'.

'This economic policy is like the asphalt. It will be used up in a few days. The whole basic concept is wrong,' said one of a group of Kurdish youths at a Hakkari tea shop. Whereas Mrs Ciller, the Turkish state and many Western governments treat the rebel guerrillas of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) as terrorists because of their massacres of women and children, the youths identify with the group as the heart of their Kurdish struggle.

Human rights violations are in full swing on both sides, as alleged in a handbill of complaints pushed into reporters' hands in Hakkari.

'Three nights ago the army came and surrounded our village, Ikizce. They forced us out and burnt it down,' said Mehmet Katan, a 26-year-old truck driver.

The armed forces chief of staff, General Dogan Gures, accompanied Mrs Ciller to an empty mountain landscape at the point where the Turkish, Iranian and Iraqi borders meet. The army is pressing for a military solution to the insurgency.

Mrs Ciller had added a pair of walking shoes to her favoured white suit and large scarf.

'Do they have hot water here?' she asked, inspecting a tiny, two-man army tent at a mountain base attacked twice by rebels in the past month. (They did). 'I love to camp,' she said. 'But there wasn't the sound of artillery fire.' Mrs Ciller's charm may be a show, but it sometimes worked as well on hard-bitten Kurds as it has on the Turkish population as a whole. The town of Sirnak was so devastated during a controversial army counter-attack after a rebel raid last year that most houses are still riddled with bullet holes. Buildings along Mrs Ciller's route that had been bombed had to be disguised with wooden hoardings. Yet many Kurdish inhabitants applauded her with gusto.

'I know she'll let us down,' said one youth. 'But we don't often see anything nice and pretty here. We'll do anything for a bit of hope.'

(Map omitted)

Suggested Topics
News
scienceExcitement from alien hunters at 'evidence' of extraterrestrial life
Life and Style
Customers can get their caffeine fix on the move
food + drink
News
newsRyan Crighton goes in search of the capo dei capi
Extras
indybest

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Arts and Entertainment
Actors front row from left, Jared Leto, Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep, Ellen DeGeneres, Bradley Cooper, Peter Nyongío Jr., and, second row, from left, Channing Tatum, Julia Roberts, Kevin Spacey, Brad Pitt, Lupita Nyongío and Angelina Jolie as they pose for a
film
Sport
sport
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
Sport
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
Voices
A meteor streaks across the sky during the Perseid Meteor Shower at a wind farm near Bogdanci, south of Skopje, Macedonia, in the early hours of 13 August
voicesHagel and Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise, says Robert Fisk
News
peopleEnglishman managed quintessential Hollywood restaurant Chasen's
Life and Style
food + drinkHarrods launches gourmet food qualification for staff
Arts and Entertainment
Michael Flatley prepares to bid farewell to the West End stage
danceMichael Flatley hits West End for last time alongside Team GB World champion Alice Upcott
Life and Style
Horst P Horst mid-fashion shoot in New York, 1949
fashionFar-reaching retrospective to celebrate Horst P Horst's six decades of creativity
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
i100
Life and Style
Black Ivory Coffee is made using beans plucked from elephants' waste after ingested by the animals
food + drinkFirm says it has created the "rarest" coffee in the world
Life and Style
news

As Voltaire once said, “Ice cream is exquisite. What a pity it isn’t illegal”

Life and Style
food + drinkThese simple recipes will have you refreshed within minutes
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Network Engineer - CCNP, Hedge Fund, London

£50000 - £60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Network Engineer - CCNP, Hedge Fu...

Senior Network Engineer-CCIE, Multicast, Low Latency

£60000 - £70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Senior Network Engineer-CCIE, Mul...

Network Infrastructure Engineer

£30000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Network Infrastructure Engineer (...

Network Engineer (CCNP, BGP, Multicast)

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Network Engineer (CCNP, BGP, Mult...

Day In a Page

All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
What happens to African migrants once they land in Italy during the summer?

What happens to migrants once they land in Italy?

Memphis Barker follows their trail through southern Europe
French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
Frank Mugisha: Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked

Frank Mugisha: 'Coming out was a gradual process '

Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked
Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

Radio 1’s new top ten

The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
Florence Knight's perfect picnic: Make the most of summer's last Bank Holiday weekend

Florence Knight's perfect picnic

Polpetto's head chef shares her favourite recipes from Iced Earl Grey tea to baked peaches, mascarpone & brown sugar meringues...
Horst P Horst: The fashion photography genius who inspired Madonna comes to the V&A

Horst P Horst comes to the V&A

The London's museum has delved into its archives to stage a far-reaching retrospective celebrating the photographer's six decades of creativity
Mark Hix recipes: Try our chef's summery soups for a real seasonal refresher

Mark Hix's summery soups

Soup isn’t just about comforting broths and steaming hot bowls...
Tim Sherwood column: 'It started as a three-horse race but turned into the Grand National'

Tim Sherwood column

I would have taken the Crystal Palace job if I’d been offered it soon after my interview... but the whole process dragged on so I had to pull out
Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard admits he is still below the level of Ronaldo and Messi but, after a breakthrough season, is ready to thrill Chelsea’s fans
Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition