Solidarity with Nusaybin Mayor Ayşe Gökkan
As the social scientists who conduct research on the borders of Turkey:
We know that states ban access to borders and consider people who live in these areas as potential threats or enemies in the name of sovereignty and national security.
We observe that you consider state violence legitimate. You use foreign threats as an excuse to deploy state violence in its most brutal form on the borders to oppress your own citizens.
Yet, through our own experiences, we also learn that borders have always changed and continue to change. We learn that borders have emerged as negotiations between states.
Our call is to Turkey.
Unfortunately, Turkey continues its eugenic approach, reduces borders to a security issue, and insists on identifying border people as enemies or foreign spies, even though outside its borders, countries, geographies, state regimes, economies, and homelands have changed. The wall that has been erected in Nusaybin is a recent example of Turkey’s approach.
In 1952, wires were erected and landmines were planted on the Nusaybin border. The landmines were a part and an indicator of the Turkish state’s ardent participation in the US’s Green Belt Project (the containment policy towards the Soviet Union).
In 1970, the number of planted landmines increased as the Turkish state’s role and share in the smuggling increased. In 1980, the entire border area was declared as disloyal and dangerous. Hundreds of landmines were also planted. The state’s role and share in the smuggling further increased as well. Before the failure of Turkey’s “zero problem with neighbors” foreign policy, while the Turkish government lifted visas with Syria and started legislating to sweep landmines on the border, there were 615,000 land mines planted on the Turkey-Syria border.
Not only on the Turkish-Syrian border, but also on other borders of Turkey, we have observed similar situations. We have shown and shared these findings in our academic publications, as well as in other areas of public responsibility. However, we observe how the state manipulates its borders to render border areas as ambiguous and dangerous, while oppressing the Kurdish population on the Syrian border for years.
Today, the Nusaybin, Turkey-Qamishlo, Syria border is facing a new entity. Rojava, Syria’s Kurdistan, is emerging as a new neighbor to Turkey. And Turkey is reacting to this new neighbor by erecting WALLS on the border. As it did in 1952 and 1980, Turkey still tries to cut the links between the Kurds on both sides of the border and declares its citizens as traitors. However, Turkey also loosens the borders for the groups that it sponsors in Syria.
The mayor of Nusaybin, Ayşe Gökkan, started her hunger strike over the wall erected on the border between Nusaybin and Qamishlo. Neither Ayşe Gökkan’s protests in the land-mined border area, nor the popular support for the mayor’s protests, have been reported by the mainstream media. To make authorities answer her questions about the wall on the border, a mayor had to endanger her life. The authorities remain deaf, blind, and unresponsive behind the WALL that they are erecting.
As scholars of border studies, we have witnessed the suffering that borders create. We know how states make people of border geographies subject to landmines, smuggling, military checkpoints, blackouts, and humiliation. We observe that through its borders, states sow seeds of discord among the peoples that have coexisted historically, as well as erecting walls in people’s minds. We have also witnessed how people’s lives depend on an arbitrary decision of states or on military operation accidents on the borders.
Ayşe Gökkan’s hunger strike is an objection to disregarding people’s lives. Her protest is the materialization of the struggle of the people who live on the borders, the Kurds, to determine how they wish to live.
Erecting walls between peoples on borders also means restricting the horizons of these peoples. Having authorities promise to stop erecting the wall, Ayşe Gökkan ended her hunger strike. We will monitor whether this promise is followed. We will not remain silent against new attempts to erect walls. We stand with Nusaybin Mayor Ayşe Gökkan’s protests. We support people who live on borders for their rights to determine how they wish to live.
H. Neşe Özgen
Hatice Pınar Şenoğuz
[Translated from the Turkish by Firat Bozçali. Since the drafting of the letter, due to protests organized on both sides of the border, the construction of the border wall has come to a halt, and Ayşe Gökkan has ended her hunger strike-turned-death-fast.]