On Friday 23 October 2015, a group of twenty people gathered in The Hague to discuss ways to bring across a message of peace towards the Turkish and Kurdish communities living in The Netherlands. People from very diverse backgrounds met and shared their experiences and vision on how to move forward, away from the current segregation.
The current escalation of the conflict between the Turkish State and the Kurdish PKK has strong repercussions on the Turkish and Kurdish minorities who live in Europe and elsewhere. Tensions between the two groups become more and more visible, also in The Netherlands. To counter these developments, a citizens initiative was recently started to bring moderate people form diverse ethnic and political backgrounds together in order to start a dialogue.
On Friday, several personal stories were shared. A teacher told how she was shocked to hear her pupils talk with approval about the Ankara bombing when more than one hundred people died during a peace demonstration. Someone else told how she cannot be in one room with her family when they talk about the elections because they refuse to accept that she has a more moderate opinion towards people whom they generally regard as ‘terrorists’. But also positive stories were told: someone explained how he used to hate Turkish people because the army had destroyed their home town, but he had changed his opinion because he understood that he should judge people as individuals, not as representatives of a group. Now some of his best friends are Turkish. Another person explained that she used to hate Kurds for being so violent, but since both of her daughters married Kurdish husbands she also had to change her mind. All of her grandchildren are now part of both histories: Turkish and Kurdish.
The participants decided that coming together to openly discuss each other’s points of view is very useful. It serves as a way of building trust between communities in conflict. This mutual trust is essential to eventually push for positive change. Together the participants decided that first a common vision should be developed to give this initiative a strong and independent foundation. The next step will be to organize activities to promote a real dialogue. Some suggestions were: organizing discussions at schools and in neighbourhoods, making informative video’s, organizing soccer matches, sharing information via facebook and collecting personal stories of Turkish and Kurdish people who desire peace. These people could serve as a role model and their stories can show a larger public that it is not necessary to support an extremist position, but it is possible to choose for peace instead.