Justin Vela

Archive for the ‘Multimedia’ Category

Coal mining in Turkey

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Am posting this a little late. Last month, I visited a coal mine in Turkey’s northern Zonguldak province. Situated along the Black Sea coast, Zonguldak produces most of Turkey’s coal.

Descending into the mine was not for the faint-hearted. Last January, eight miners died after a methane gas leak. But the miners do it everyday, despite the dangers.

Here is the story

Written by Justin Vela

September 14, 2013 at 2:10 pm

Bosporus Blog: PKK-Turkey peace

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Amed Diyar,19, and Murat Cicek,19, stand in front of Diyarbakir's old city walls. Their generation of Kurds have grown up surrounded by the PKK-Turkey conflict  and faced constant harassment from Turkish authorities.

Amed Diyar,19, and Murat Cicek,19, stand in front of Diyarbakir’s old city walls. Their generation of Kurds have grown up surrounded by the PKK-Turkey conflict and faced constant harassment from Turkish authorities.

Despite Abdullah Ocalan’s call for a ceasefire and withdrawal of militants to northern Iraq, there are no clear details of how a lasting PKK-Turkey peace will be implemented. The next steps need to be announced quickly to sustain energy surrounding the new peace initiative.

This past week I was in Diyarbakir, the largest city in Turkey’s majority-Kurdish southeast region. The message from Kurdish politicians was this is the last chance for the Turkish government to make peace. The coming generation of Kurdish militants have grown up only knowing war and faced intense repression from Turkish security forces. They are likely to be less willing than their elders to make a compromise to end the conflict.

Several of these Kurdish youths told me what steps they wanted to see next from the Turkish government in order to build a lasting peace.

Amed said that Turkey needed to change its laws to work for its citizens.

“Justice must be for protecting the people,” he said. “But in Turkey it works the opposite way. The laws are working against the people.”

Ronni said the Turkish government must make public statements about why Kurdish identity was denied in the past and “confess the truth” and its “lies” to Turkish society.

Celel, 32, who was released from prison only two months ago, said the government must release other Kurdish prisoners.

Read more 

The jailed Mr. Ocalan’s historic call for peace was read at traditional Nowruz festivities in Diyarbakir. The announcement marked the beginning of the new peace initiative, which is viewed by international observers as having the best chance for solving the conflict, possibly ever, because it directly involves Mr. Ocalan and Turkey’s powerful Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The two men hold command of their constituencies and together have the power to end the conflict.

Kurds in Diyarbakir were enthralled to hear Mr. Ocalan’s words read aloud, but their response to the message was less than ecstatic. They trust Mr. Ocalan, but have little faith that the Turkish government will not betray them again.

Ceasefires are nothing new in the decades-long conflict and concessions and clear steps forward are needed for Kurds to have confidence in the new initiative. Kurdish optimism surrounding this latest call for peace stems from possessing no alternative except to continue their already decades-long armed struggle.

Tragically, while in Diyarbakir I learned that Piremerd, a young Kurd from Diyarbakir that I met in 2010, was killed fighting for the PKK. He’d just been released from jail. Over the next few years he continued to face police harassment. It became too much and he left Diyarbakir to join the PKK. Later, he died in battle.

Only a lasting peace built on clear social reconciliation between Turks and Kurds will ensure future generations do not meet the same fate.

Gulistan Akbas, 29, teachers Mirza Zana Jir, 4, to read at a Kurdish language kindergarten in Diyarbakir, Turkey on October 19, 2013. Technically illegal, the school opened in October 2012 and teaches 14 students in Kurdish.

Gulistan Akbas, 29, teachers Mirza Zana Jir, 4, to read at a Kurdish language kindergarten in Diyarbakir, Turkey on October 19, 2013. Technically illegal, the school opened in October 2012 and teaches 14 students in Kurdish, a sign that the Turkish government is now willing to allow greater cultural rights to Kurds.

Written by Justin Vela

March 23, 2013 at 12:25 pm

No one is sacred…Assassinations in Paris…Photos from the PKK-Turkey war…

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Police disperse demonstrators on March 18, 2012 after traditional Kurdish celebrations were canceled by the Turkish government.

Police disperse demonstrators on March 18, 2012 after the Turkish government announced that traditional Kurdish celebrations would be limited.

Washington DC — On Thursday, it was reported that three Kurdish women were shot dead in Paris. The execution style slayings come as the Turkish government publicly announce talks with Abdullah Ocalan, the jailed leader of the Kurdistan Worker’s Party or PKK, a Kurdish militant group. Responsibility for the killings likely belongs to elements within the Turkish state or the PKK that do not want peace.

See photos related to this long-standing conflict on this blog and here and here 

The killings occurred not long after the announcement of this new initiative to end the conflict. The deaths tragically show how difficult any attempt at peace-making between the Turkish state and the PKK will be. Past peace initiatives have ended following spikes in violence likely meant to derail a settlement on terms that do not suit hardliners.

One of the women killed in Paris was Sakine Cansiz, a PKK co-founder. With the Turkish government relying on the involvement of Ocalan, who is still regarded as the head of the militant organization, to signal the seriousness of the new initiative, whoever ordered the killings may be trying to make a point: No one is sacred.

Police disperse demonstrators on March 18, 2012 after traditional Kurdish celebrations were canceled by the Turkish government.

A Kurdish man is arrested as police disperse demonstrators on March 18, 2012 after the Turkish government announced that traditional Kurdish celebrations would be limited.

Police disperse demonstrators on March 18, 2012 after traditional Kurdish celebrations were canceled by the Turkish government.

Police disperse Kurdish demonstrators.

The grave of a PKK commander killed fighting Turkish soldiers in Turkey's Tunceli province. Diyarbaki. June 30, 2011.

The grave of a PKK commander killed fighting Turkish soldiers in Turkey’s Tunceli province. Diyarbakir. June 30, 2011. The names on the grave are both the commander’s PKK code name and given name.

Diyarbakir, Turkey. June-July 2011.

Rally for the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) in Diyarbakir, Turkey. June-July 2011.

Diyarbakir, Turkey. June-July 2011.

Rally for the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) in Diyarbakir, Turkey. June-July 2011.

A Turkish family in Istanbul mourns a relative killed fighting the PKK as a young conscript.

A Turkish family in Istanbul mourns a relative killed fighting the PKK as a young conscript.

Written by Justin Vela

January 11, 2013 at 2:01 am

An up-close look at rising Turkey-Syria tensions…a Turkish man who fights in Syria…

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A Turkish citizen named Hayretin Yildiz, 32, said he was so “angry” with the conflict on his doorstep that for the past months he has crossed into Syria to fight alongside the rebels.

Antakya, Turkey – Last week, I reported on intense clashes in the Syrian village of Azmarin. The village is now reportedly in rebel hands, at least for now. It was one of the last positions Syrian regime forces held along Syria’s 550-mile border with Turkey. Turkish citizens, and journalists such as myself, observed the intense clashes in the village from the town of Hacipasa, across the Orontes River in Turkey.

Billows of smoke rose following explosions and machine guns chattered. There was a brief pause in the fighting when Turkey scrambled two F-16 fighter jets after a Syrian regime helicopter that was firing on Azmarin approached too close to the border. The fighting continued soon after the jets left. By using a powerful camera lens, it was possible to observe the fighters in Azmarin. A group of them huddled at a corner before running down the street. A sniper positioned himself in an empty building. More explosions shook the village.

However, the news of the past week was about the growing tensions between Turkey and the Assad regime, which threatens to escalate into a regional war. Ankara is already openly backing the rebels against the regime. Increased fighting in the border region, a further influx of refugees, and recent cross border shelling has pushed Turkey into a position where it will either have to intervene more directly than it already is in Syria or metaphorically grind its teeth and hold fast while a civil war with no sure outcome rages next door.

Over the past few days I have spoken to a number of Turkish citizens in the country’s Hatay district, along the border with Syria. My aim was to get a feeling of the local sentiment towards the crisis, and also what it means for Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

Mr Fatah is among the Turkish citizens frustrated with their government’s policies towards Syria following cross-border shelling and increased clashes in the frontier region. There is little appetite for war and some fear the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) is endangering the lives of citizens with its support for rebels fighting the regime of Mr Al Assad.

Hayretin Yildiz, 32, said he was so “angry” with the conflict on his doorstep in the town of Hacipasa that, for the past months, he had been crossing the border to fight with the Syrian rebels.

“My friends are there now. I go tonight,” said Mr Yildiz, whose mother is Syrian. “I want to go, I go helping alone. We are sorting it out amongst ourselves. I don’t want Nato or Turkey to enter Syria.”

Read the full article

A boy in the Turkish border town of Hacipasa on October 12, 2012. Two Turkish jets were scrambled to the area after a Syrian regime helicopter attacking rebels in Azmarin, a Syrian village just across from Hacipasa, ventured too close to the border.

The Syrian opposition has continued to demand Western intervention in Syria, either in the form of a no-fly zone/buffer zone, or military aid. Their hope is that following presidential elections in the United States next month, Washington will change its policies towards Syria and begin taking a more aggressive stance towards the regime. At the moment, the U.S. is only supplying non-lethal support to the Syrian opposition. That is a subject that I will write a separate blog about later. The situation in Syria is very much at a stalemate. The rebels have proven themselves able to capture large areas of the countryside and some urban areas. Yet these areas cannot be considered truly liberated because the regime can attack from the air. Either the rebels are supplied with, or capture, weaponry that can bring down planes or their gains on the ground remain limited. The possibility of a political solution to the conflict currently remains slim, at best.

This leaves Turkey, a country that thought it could benefit from the aftermath of the “Arab Spring” in a precarious position. The majority of Turks remain opposed to any military intervention in Syria, with or without the blessing of the United Nations security council.

Yet the current paradigm along the Turkey-Syria border cannot be maintained for long.

Vehicles carrying aid prepare to enter Syria from Turkey’s Cilvegozu border crossing. A truck driver said that aid came from Saudi donors. 

Vehicles carrying aid prepare to enter Syria from Turkey’s Cilvegozu border crossing.

Written by Justin Vela

October 14, 2012 at 9:19 pm

PHOTOS: Aleppo, Syria…August 2012…

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Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters head into a fight in Aleppo, Syria in August 2012.

Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters head into a fight in Aleppo, Syria in August 2012.

A Syrian rebel fires on a regime jet as it swoops overhead in Aleppo, Syria. August 2012.

The aftermath of an attack by regime jets in northern Aleppo province. Syria August. 2012.

The aftermath of an attack by regime jets in northern Aleppo province. Syria August. 2012.

Syrian rebels in Aleppo’s Salaheddine District in August 2012.

Syrian rebels in Aleppo’s Salaheddine District in August 2012.

Written by Justin Vela

September 11, 2012 at 6:27 pm

Posted in Multimedia

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Turkey’s green energy village…

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Istanbul- Last week I published a story on green energy in Turkey with EurasiaNet.org

Turkey: Betting on Wind Power, One Village at a Time

The story focuses on the rural village of Akbiyik in Turkey’s Western Bursa province, which has high hopes for a windmill it built to provide green energy.

From the story:

Akbiyik, a village with 365 residents in Turkey’s western Bursa province, has a head start on the country’s plans to increase domestic energy production. The reason is simple — it has a wind turbine and villagers eager to capitalize on a government push toward alternative energies.

Read the full article with a photo essay here. 

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Written by Justin Vela

October 30, 2011 at 4:01 pm

Photos…Diyarbakir, Turkey. June-July 2011…

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Diyarbakir, Turkey. June-July 2011.

Diyarbakir, Turkey. June-July 2011.

Diyarbakir, Turkey. June-July 2011.

Written by Justin Vela

August 29, 2011 at 1:48 pm

Posted in Multimedia, turkey

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