An elderly Kurdish man walks along the outskirts of Diyarbakir.
Young Kurdish women sit at a cafe at the old perimter wall that once surrounded the ancient city of Diyarbakir.
Children huddle around a street fire for warmth on the street in downtown Diyarbakir. The Turkish State Planning Organization (SPO) has ranked Diyarbakir 63rd out of 81 provinces in terms of development.
Women walk past an armored Turkish police vehicle in Diyarbakir. As the capital for Turkey's Kurds, the city has been the longtime center for Kurdish nationalism. While there had been a relative calm in the last few years, tensions between the local Kurdish population and Turkish authorities erupted again in October over Turkey's lack of intervention in the battle with ISIS for Kobane - a Kurdish town in Syria, and Turkey's prevention of Kurdish forces from crossing Turkish territory to enter the fight.
Muslim men walk through the main mosque in the center of Diyarbakir.
Mohammed, a small-business owner. "We speak Kurdish at home so we don't lose our reality. I want my son to be dedicated and in service to his society with his language."
Ahmed, Mohammed's son. "I speak Kurdish. My mother and father teach me. I also speak some Turkish because they teach Turkish in school. Sometimes it's difficult to speak both."
Seyhmus, a baker. "Being Kurdish means freedom. My family tells me not to be shy or afraid of what you are. They taught us our language at home and our traditions. When you know your language it is easier to understand yourself."
A Kurdish bride and groom are celebrated at a traditional Kurdish wedding in Diyarbakir. Turkey had long suppressed certain expressions of Kurdish culture such as teaching Kurdish language in school or the use of Kurdish names and even letters in the alphabet.
Kurdish women watch as young men dance by in a traditional Kurdish wedding ceremony in Diyarbakir.
As is tradition, a man is showered in dollar bills at Kurdish wedding in Diyarbakir.
Mulkiye, a Member of Parliament and an administrator of the Kurdish party Kongreya Civaka Demokratik. "Your being as a society cannot exist if you don’t have your language. When a child enters school with a new language and has to restart everything it has learned how do you think this will psychologically affect the child? The child will maybe be shy or will react on those around him. All the fighting here is from the ways we’ve been denied our culture."
Kurdish school children walk back into their Kurdish school, Ferzad Kemanger in Diyarbakir. The pirmary school teaches children in Kurdish has been closed four times since it opened in XXX, with authorities citing XXX
"Language is your being, your honor," says Mazhar, the director of Ferzad Kemanger Primary School in Diyarbakir, "The mother language is like your skin and foreign languages are like your clothes. You can’t change the color of your skin. I speak Turkish very well. Also I speak Arabic, but when I speak in my language, when I cry in my language, I feel better. It comes from inside.”
"Children have been educated in Turkish for many years so they have lost a lot of things about their culture and who they are," explains Zurideh, a primary school teacher at the Kurdish school Ferzad Kemanger, "Their parents wanted them to be closer to their culture so they chose to have them educated in Kurdish. My responsibility is really big because it’s the first time they're learning Kurdish and can be free. If you are free and improving in your culture and your language, you are free in your being too."
"As Kurds we want to have a life like the Turkish," says Salih, "We want to have our schools and we want to have our language in the schools. We want to have our rights and equality."
"In class I have to speak Turkish and in some ways I feel like I am assimilating my (Kurdish) students," says Semra, a teacher in Diyarbakir, "Every woman has to live in her own language and cultural values. Language is the thing that makes our character."
"The language is more important than anything," says Zeki, "Your mother language is the reason of your being. Every time we have problems speaking Kurdish though. In the courthouses, the police stations - we can’t speak our language there. They have to solve this issue or there will be wars and wars. We want all the Kurds all over the world to stand up. If we are not going to be united we’re not going to get anything."
"The police asked me who was responsible for my son's death," explains Said whose son, Suleman, was killed in Diyarbakir on October 7th during protests that ignited along the city's streets because of Turkey's inaction over the seige of Kobani by ISIS. "I said 'if you’re asking me the murderer of my child, it is your prime minister and your ministries.' Everything is linked to the state. On one hand the Turkish are talking about peace and on the other hand they are arresting us and giving problems. The future is very dark. We don’t know what will happen."
Suleman's mother, Nezhat, sits with her daughter in their home. "Being Kurdish is my history. It is my being and it is my life," she says, "Now when my two other boys go out its really hard for me. I feel crazy until they come home. We want a life for our children without any war without any worry without any fight. We want peace for our children."
A young Kurdish girl walks past a group of Kurdish men and women in Diyarbakir.