Turkey (MNN) — Ceasefire? What ceasefire?
A series of attacks began Monday in Turkey amid rising tension between the government and Kurdish militants. The calm has been restive since the accord went into effect in 2013. So who’s to blame for the collapse?
Turkey had been bracing itself for violence since it started moving against the Islamic State and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants last month. Tit-for-tat violence goes back nearly a year, and thousands have fled; but the issue isn’t so cut and dry.
It seems like the day Turkey began its fight against the Islamic State, Turkish forces also began an airstrike campaign against one of the very groups that has been crucial to stopping the ISIS advance. Why? It’s a grudge match. Ankara continues to regard the PKK as an enemy of the state, and the Kurds want their own state. For more than three decades, they’ve been engaged in an intermittent cycle of violence.
Who’s winning? In this case, no one.
A year ago, International Needs’ partner Behnan Konutgan took a call from the Mayor of Sirnak and some local pastors to see if there was any way to help the Yazidis who were fleeing the unspeakable horrors of ISIS in northern Iraq. “We have been working in mercy ministries for the refugees for the last two years. There are more than 2 million, officially, maybe 3 million refugees from Syria, North Iraq; and [they are] all here,” says Behnan.
He’s been back to that area several times distributing food, mattresses, blankets, clothing, and firewood for cooking and heating. This time, he was trying to answer this question: ”How can we reach those people more? We have been working with local officers, like mayors and mayors’ assistants.”
Attempting to broaden the response network, Behnan met with church leaders in Diyarbakir to see what they could organize for Sirnak, a hostile and fragile area where life is cheap and tempers are short. He explains, “Sirnak is a city in the Kurdish area at the border of North Iraq. There was infighting between the PKK (that is the Kurdish Party) and the police and the gendarme.” Unless the fighting got really bad, the plans were a “go.” Then, says Behnan, “The mayor from Sirnak called us and said, ‘Please don’t come. It’s very unsafe in this area. The Kurdish people bombed the cars and burned cars and killed people.’” That was Monday; Tuesday didn’t seem much better.
Behnan and other leadership of the Evangelical Church are still trying to figure out a 3-5 year strategy to meet the physical needs of the thousands of refugees in that area as well as deepen relationships that will lead to opportunities to share Christ’s transforming love. As it is, when the International Needs teams arrive at the refugee camps, “We love them, we touch them, and we give them hope and pray and tell them that we are coming from the Churches–the protestant churches. When they hear that, they are happy and welcome us more.”
The sad news: many displaced Kurdish families are migrating as refugees into Turkey. This will place immense pressure on the Turkish government who is still struggling with the influx of close to a million Syrian refugees brought on by the civil war in Syria. Plus, the PKK is listed as a terrorist group by Turkey, the United States, and the European Union. The pressure placed on the refugees and all who try to help them can be tremendous.
”Pray for Turkey and the Middle East. There is fire going on, and nobody knows what is happening. Every day, people are killing each other. Pray that God would send His peace and bring new peace to this country, and that people may know God.” Please pray for Behnan’s safety as he ministers to the refugees and meets with leadership of the Evangelical Church.