The armed conflict between the Kurdish insurgency and Turkish forces has killed around 40,000 people since 1984.
Trabzon, known for its Turkish identity and Diyarbakir, known for its Kurdish identity are two cities at the opposite ends of the conflict.
"When people are taken away during war, women and children are the ones left behind. Women are the ones who suffer. Mothers cry."
- one actress from Trabzon
We follow a group of amateur actresses from these two cities as they travel to each others' home cities, to collaborate on a play exploring the Turkish-Kurdish divide.
It is a human exploration of people from both communities, with no political point-scoring.
The film reflects the women's personal views as they seek understanding and commonality through their performances as well as through getting to know each other and visiting the two cities.
"If we can break some of our prejudices, this will yield other results too. There is so much embedded in our memories, it's difficult to break these .... Even a small effort might relieve our conscience .... Maybe this is the meeting of people whose conscience aches every day," Meral Kaya, an actress from Diyarbakir.
By Ayse Toprak
There are about 14 million Kurds in Turkey, roughly 20 percent of the population, with the majority living in the country’s southeast, along the border with Iran, Iraq and Syria.
Since the formation of the republic, the state has not allowed Kurds (and others) to demand or advocate any rights based on their ethnicity. At the same time, Kurdish attempts to gain cultural, linguistic and ethnic rights have been thwarted by the presence of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).
This has not helped the Kurds' cause since the PKK is classified as a terrorist organisation and its role in this conflict cripples attempts to find peaceful solutions. Since 1984, the year the PKK took up arms, around 40,000 people have been killed in the conflict. Efforts by the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) which claims to represent Kurdish interests in parliament, are also undermined as other lawmakers are quick to pounce on it, accusing the party of being in the clutches of the PKK.
However, the year 2013 saw the beginning of the state’s best effort to date to end the three-decade conflict. Although hopes ride high there is still a long way to go before the conflict can be resolved. Perhaps, bringing a new approach to the Kurdish issue falls on the young adults who are involved with artistic projects such as ‘Don’t Tell us Fairytales'.
The idea of bringing together amateur actresses from Diyarbakir and Trabzon to put on this play originated from Anadolu Kultur, and the play's director Dilek Guven. Anadolu Kultur is an inspiring NGO which supports similar projects about the Kurdish and other social issues in Turkey.
While I was making this film, a Kurdish friend said that, as children, they believed that peace was inevitable and it would soon come. This was because, she added, relations between people of different ethnic backgrounds were friendlier and that there was mutual respect. However, as she got older and the conflict continued, she began to fear that this ability to empathise with each other would be lost forever.
Her words stuck in my mind for a very long time even after I moved on from this story. I wondered if she would feel different after she saw this film. What these women in the film have managed to do with this collaboration is something that lifts the spirit. It is an infinitesimal effort to tell the audience that despite the pain and the tragedy, people can relate to each other and this might be the only hope for the future. Above all, it portrays the innocence that once existed in my friend’s life when she was a kid.
This episode of Witness can be seen from Monday, March 18, at the following times GMT: Monday: 2230; Tuesday: 0930; Wednesday: 0330; Thursday: 1630.
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