Turkish Author Breaks Ground with New Book about Kurdistan

07/01/2013 RUDAW By HEMIN KHOSHNAW – ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – What is it about the title of her new book, Kurdistan: Our New Neighbor, that has earned Turkish author and journalist Simla Yerlikaya reproach, and even accusations of treachery to the homeland?

In Turkey, where a decade ago the Kurdish language was banned in schools and on air, it is hard for some to come to terms with a place called Kurdistan, the region in northern Iraq that gained autonomy after the 2003 US-led invasion.

“Many Turkish officials use the term Kurdistan, but people still do not know that fact,” says Yerlikaya, the bureau chief of Turkey’s TRT TV in Kurdistan.

“To the Turkish foreign minister the term Kurdistan isn’t a big deal anymore, but to the ordinary people of Turkey the term is still a taboo: they don’t want to hear it,” she told Rudaw. The 240-page book that hit bookstores last week, ruptured not only a taboo, it broke new ground: This is the first time a book with the word ‘Kurdistan’ in the title has been officially licensed for print in Turkey. “I faced no pressure from government institutions,” says Yerlikaya, referring to her book. “My publisher also stood by me and I will always use the word Kurdistan from now on.”

But not everyone has been forgiving, and some have made their feelings known through Twitter and Facebook.

“They call me a traitor to the homeland,” Yerlikaya says, adding that even her family and relatives have reproached her for using the word Kurdistan. “But I tell them that Kurdistan is a reality and we must accept it.” As the Kurdistan bureau chief of TRT for the past year-and-half, Yerlikaya says she did not know much about Kurdistan before her posting to Erbil, and that she had never thought of writing a book on the region.  But she ventured forth after realizing that most people in Turkey knew nothing about Kurdistan, an energy-rich region which a recent US intelligence report said could gain independence by 2030.

“I felt that that there was a misreading about the Kurdistan Region, which was seen as a bastion of the Kurdistan Workers Party,” Yerlikaya says, referring to the outlawed PKK.  “So my book is an attempt to break that misunderstanding.”

In the book, the 30-year-old author touches on the rapid economic boom of the autonomous region, as well as the impact of the PKK on relations between Kurdistan and Turkey. “My book is not for journalists or experts,” says Yerlikaya. “I only want to give information to people who haven’t seen Kurdistan yet. I am talking about how, without even declaring independence, there is already a state in the Kurdistan Region.”