In Kurdish areas of Turkey, fear and destruction have returned as facts of life after government offensives leveled parts of rebellious cities. And a barrage of terrorist attacks by the Islamic State and Kurdish groups is starting to affect Istanbul residents’ sense of personal safety. This is the fourth part in the State of Emergency series, in which our correspondent takes us behind the scenes of today’s Turkey, a nation in crisis.
‘We’re Trapped Between Two Forces’
You’re looking at what I saw this month as I drove into the heart of Sirnak, once a busy provincial capital in southeastern Turkey. Government tanks rolled in last year to crush a Kurdish uprising here and in several other places, leaving little behind — some of these city centers are practically ghost towns, and the Kurds who still live here seem haunted, too.
Just a few years ago, after securing a truce with Kurdish separatists, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan seemed destined to become the leader who finally put a halt to decades of bloodshed here. But the negotiations broke down in 2015, and Mr. Erdogan now presides over the resumption of one of the country’s most traumatic wars.
It is hard to reach this part of Turkey, near the Syrian and Iraqi borders, at all these days, as the area is still under lockdown. There are now seven government checkpoints between Sirnak and the closest airport. When I reached the third, at the entrance to a town called Cizre, my passport was confiscated and I was questioned for an hour. Who am I? What am I doing here?
“You are crazy,” the senior officer concluded. “This place is very dangerous.”
He rolled up his sleeve to show the scar he carries after one attack here by the P.K.K., the Kurdish separatist group that encouraged last year’s uprisings in this region and is widely listed as a terrorist organization….