by Gordon Taylor | 3/30/2008 02:15:00 AM
About suffering they were never wrong,
The Old Masters: how well they understood
Its human position; how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or
just walking dully along;

~W.H.A., "Musee des Beaux Arts"

Once again, my apologies. You probably didn't enjoy your first "Day at the Office," and now here I am putting you through another. Never fear. I will be as gentle as possible. No self-righteous rhetoric. And no photos--links only. This isn't because I want to shield anyone else from unpleasantness. It's because I want to shield myself. I simply do not enjoy the sight of naked human suffering, especially that of a child, and I couldn't stand having the photographs in front of me as I wrote the piece.

And in spite of my revulsion, this will be a composed--though short--piece. For there is a lot for an historian to glean from this incident, concerning both the past and a very instructive present.

First, the incident itself. It evidently happened on March 22, the day after the equinox, when Newroz (New Year) would have been in full swing in all Kurdish cities. In Hakkari, a mountain town near the Iraqi and Iranian borders, the Turkish governor had banned celebrations. They happened anyway, and when the police attacked, violence ensued. As expected, there were plenty of Kurds on hand to voice their support for the PKK, which has been fighting against the Turkish government for about 25 years.

The first photograph tells you the facts. Note especially the satisfied look on the face of the Meatman [my own coinage, based on the Turkish MIT, or National Intelligence Organization, for whom he probably works]. This follows his previous expression, in the third of the series of photos I published yesterday, in which he looked like a man straining at the reluctant lid of a pickle jar. The second photo is the boy himself. His name is Cuneyt Ertuş (joo-nate air-toosh), and he is 15 years old. By God I hope he survives this and regains the use of his right arm. But as far as I can tell he is still in jail, and there's no telling what--if any--medical care he is getting. The incident took place right in front of representatives of the press (whether pro or amateur we can't tell), and both still photos and video have been published from several angles. Cuneyt may have been throwing rocks, or he may have just been in the wrong place at the wrong time. Nothing justifies what you see. He was taken in on a charge of "resisting an officer of the State," and no word was given about his medical treatment or the charges to either his family or to attorneys.

Cuneyt's father related his own story to DIHA, the Dicle Haber Ajansi (Tigris News Agency), a pro-Kurdish outlet which publishes in Turkish from Europe. Zubeyir Ertuş told DIHA that his son went on a shopping trip to the center of Hakkari (formerly Julamerk, or Colemerg), the capital city of Hakkari province, on March 22. After the events of that day he didn't hear from his son, and he thought that Cuneyt had been detained. "At last," he said, after two days of searching, "I found him on Roj-TV." If only he hadn't. Zubeyir: "The police were breaking my son's arm right in front of the representatives of the press. I looked away in horror. I didn't want to believe my eyes."

It's a wonder that he saw anything. For Roj-TV is not a Turkish channel. It is not an Iraqi channel. And it certainly is not Syrian or Iranian, two other dictatorships with sizable Kurdish minorities. Roj-TV is a Kurdish-owned satellite channel that broadcasts out of Denmark, and the Kurds of Turkey use satellite dishes in order to get it. During this year's Newroz festivities in Diyarbakir (permitted by the State), Roj-TV managed to broadcast the whole thing live--a first. This under the noses of the Turkish government, which is trying to shut them down. So far the Danish government has resisted. The Turks claim that Roj-TV is a terrorist organization. (But of course they do. If the Turks got a sunburn, they'd claim that ultraviolet rays were part of a terrorist plot.) The Danes have asked the Turkish government for more information, and in the meantime several Kurdish websites are gathering signatures to urge the Danish government to do the right thing. But if they don't, the Kurds will simply go elsewhere.

In the meantime, we have Zubeyir Ertuş and his son Cuneyt, who because of a satellite channel and the sharing of photos on the Internet, are suddenly not alone. In a past posting about the Turks' recent invasion of northern Iraq, I talked about another pro-PKK news outlet, Firat News, and the dozens of reports that they constantly get in detailing the movements of Turkish government forces. Here we see the same thing, as the Kurds have constructed their own "virtual Kurdistan" from the reports, videos, and digital photos of their own people.

Not that the father and son would really have been alone. For the family's surname, Ertuş, indicates a very strong attachment to the local population. It is a tribal name; in fact, it is the name of what was traditionally the biggest tribe in the Hakkari region and beyond. In old travel books about Kurdistan it is variously spelled: Ertoush, Hartoushi, Ertushi, etc. When Asahel Grant, M.D., of Utica and Waterville, NY, arrived in Julamerk in 1839, it was these same Ertushi Kurds and their emir, Nurullah, that he dealt with. The story remains unfinished. In the cities of Turkey's southeast, hundreds are wounded, or in jail, or both. Cuneyt's father, meanwhile, says, "My economic situation is not good. But I'm going to the bar association and I'm going to find a lawyer."

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Blogger Unknown on 3/30/2008 2:37 PM:

Unbearable and beautiful. I wish we could all write as well as you.

Pray tell, is there something we can do for this boy? Give money to the family, perhaps, or to the bar association the father references in the last paragraph?


Blogger Gordon Taylor on 3/30/2008 8:05 PM:


Thanks--I thought of that too. But the Kurds can pretty much take care of their own. This kid, Cuneyt, is all over the Kurdish blogosphere right now. These are really strong people, and Turkey does have modern hospitals. I think the best thing to do is spread the story around. Every part of the Kurdish diaspora has probably seen this video, and something will happen. I'll continue to monitor the situation.


Anonymous Anonymous on 4/01/2008 5:22 PM:

Thanks a lot dear Gordon.
That's the second time I thank you.
I think and I hope that's not the last.
As a Kurd, I can tell you that your sentence "Every part of the Kurdish diaspora has probably seen this video, and something will happen" is totally true.
Even before I saw this photograph, the mother of my wife, who doesn't speak a word of Turkish and who haven't gone to school nor can read or write,told me by phone from Kurdistan of that "incident" after seeing it on Roj-TV.

Good luck!
And another thanks, dear friend and dear human being!
Kurds never forget people who helps them in hard times.

Elishêr from France


Blogger Gordon Taylor on 4/03/2008 2:14 AM:


Greetings to the Champagne region. I wish I could join you in a toast. But speaking of toasts, that's what the dollar is ("toast"), and so I can't afford France right now.

Serkeftin to you. I hope you can understand the "argot" in what I wrote.


Anonymous Anonymous on 4/07/2008 8:10 AM:

Dear Gordon,
I understand well all what you write.
If one day, you can afford France then the Champagne region, be sure that you will be welcomed as well as a Kurdo-French can welcome combinating Kurdish hospitality and French "savoir-vivre" and that you will join in a toast without spending any "toast" in Champagne!