I was born in Bitlis with a mother from Van, and a father from Bitlis. We moved back to Van six months after I was born as my mother was homesick.
Since both my parents were civil servants, we lived in Siirt for 6 months for their compulsory assignments. I was at 4th grade back then. Then, we went back to Van. In 1996 we moved to Izmir as my parents wanted to provide a decent education for their two kids. Thus, from the 7th grade onward, I studied in Izmir.
Humans are overtly adaptable. It is not very common to see someone who can hold on to life, and even become successful at it, if they do not integrate into their city, district and neighborhood. You can call it adaptation, integration or assimilation, doesn’t matter. Where we live has a profound effect on how we talk, how we act, how we speak and even how we move.
While living in Bitlis, Van and Siirt we were always situated at the city center. This turned out to be an advantage for our move to Izmir. But no matter how advantageous it was, I was constantly referred to as “the Kurdish boy.” When I went back to visit my relatives, the same thing happened: the children in Van and Bitlis often greeted me with “here come the Turkish boy.” And here I was thinking I was a child of the Turkish Republic.
Even when I thought I was in better shape than my peers back East, I was always met with disdain from both sides, claiming “he’s not one of us.” If this is what the luckier ones among us have to go through, just imagine what someone who was born and raised in a village in Hakkari, not heard a word of Turkish until they went to school had to endure as a result of their adaptation process. Can you imagine the situation of a child who was first exposed to Turkish in first grade, and had to emigrate to the West later?
You belong to a country whose language you can’t speak. You belong to a country, but deemed as “not one of us” by half the population. You belong to a country, but you have to walk for miles to school barefoot. You belong to a country, but your pregnant mother doesn’t have access to a doctor, hospital or a nurse. You belong to a country where gun shots never end. You belong to a country, but you are a step child at best. How much do you belong there?
We expect every member of our society to adapt and be productive. We expect them to be loyal to their country, their homeland, and their nation. But do we really think we have evened up the conditions between the East and the West, between the South and the North? It is futile to expect equal results in less than equal conditions.
With so many people oppressed, debauched and jaded, you would expect voters to go for parties that are more democratic, but instead you see the majority still voting for either the central-right conservatives or the Kurdish nationalists. I plan to write about this dilemma in a future article.
I have always felt sorry for those who act as if they had willfully chosen their religion, language, race, skin color, and place of birth. We are all born as babies. Every baby is as pure and innocent as an angel. What shapes us are our families, our neighborhoods, our schools, etc.
Setting the East-West paradigm aside, it is not realistic to even expect similar outcomes from a kid who was born in the slums and another who was educated in private schools. Our politicians must put the interests and the welfare of all our children.
Children are the future of this country. They will be tomorrow’s politicians, educators, academicians, doctors, engineers, lawyers, managers, business people, etc. No matter where we come from, the East, the West, the North or the East, we make up the Republic of Turkey as a whole.
I hope we can get over our differences as Turks, Kurds, Circessians and leave them a country that they can be proud to grow up in without forgetting their culture and where they come from.