Sait Dede, a pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) deputy from the southeastern province of Hakkari, submitted a parliamentary question a while ago to the Energy and Natural Resources Minister Fatih Dönmez. Dede’s parliamentary question pointed out what at first might seem like a minor practice, but in actuality, it showed in a striking way the extent to which the state has put pressure on the Kurds.
The next paragraph is not very long, but if you don’t have the time to read it, skip to the next one. It is a summary of the situation.
“Türkerler Holding, which bought 100 percent of the shares of the Van Lake Electricity Distribution Company (VEDAŞ), started a new practice in 2016. They chose Van province’s Gevaş district as a pilot region and began installing consumers’ electric meters at the top of the connecting posts, a practice never seen in the rest of the country. According to the regulation on Measures to Minimize the Losses in the Distribution System, Article 11, first paragraph, there is a clause that allows the distribution company to install the electric meters at places other than those specified within the regulation. This is to fight against the illegal use of electricity and other losses. This clause has been interpreted broadly by the distribution company against the consumer, and a humiliating practice has been introduced. Today, this practice, which has been put into effect in almost all of east and southeastern Turkey, has also created several problems. The fact that electric meters have been somehow snatched away from the access and control of consumers has made it so that the figures cannot be monitored. The consumer is unable to monitor their consumption, and most of the time they are subject to high bills. When faced with an objection, the private company accepts that the excessive consumption bills were due to software mistakes or misreading of the meters, and it corrects them. Naturally, the consumer objects to any bills they receive that are very high, and apart from that, bills that seem normal are out of their control. When the enormous number of subscribers is taken into consideration, this results in a very big total. None of the consumers know how much power they have spent in a given period. The physical search for the illegal usage of electricity, and the reading of the electric meters, are usually done by VEDAŞ during the night with the support of security forces, creating a fearful and tense atmosphere for the citizens — like in the medieval era. Often, walls are ruptured and electric systems are damaged, but most importantly, the attitude of the employees of the private company and the security forces are degrading for citizens.”
The summary is this: The electricity distribution company is installing electric meters at the top of electric posts based on the reasoning that “there is illegal usage of electricity.” Consumers who have complaints about extremely high bills are only able to object to the bill if they climb to the top of the posts and compare the meter reading with the figures written on the bill. As if this disgusting practice was not enough, the power distribution company raids the villages in the early hours of the morning, accompanied by balaclava-clad security forces. If you wonder how the children, the old, the sick and the general public are affected by those raids, then you can take a look at any of the countless stories from the 1990s.
This practice is the kind that may have been performed by colonizing states in Africa and India in the previous century. At this moment, this disgusting practice takes place in, well, only one region of Turkey.
“The villager is our master” as our motto says — but not every villager. You cannot implement this practice in any other area of Turkey; they would not let you do it.
Nobody dares raise their voice
On December 5, employees of the distribution company, with masked security forces accompanying them, raided the village of Dilekli in the Yüksekova district very early in the morning, deputy Sait Dede went on to reference, quoting from the local press. This was 10 days before Dede’s parliamentary question.
A horrible tragedy happened during this raid.
According to Dede’s statement, “At the very early hours of this morning, VEDAŞ employees and gendarmerie forces made a house raid in the village of Dilekli. During this raid, 45-year-old Fahriye Gürbüz, mother of five, suffered a heart attack and died after witnessing masked people raid her house. A private company, VEDAŞ, is using public power extensively and checking power meters in such a way that local people suffer waves of fear, panic and terror. Oftentimes, the walls of houses are damaged in the process of doing these checks. Today, unfortunately, in a deplorable incident, they have caused one of our citizens to lose her life.”
Of course, as in every violation, there is an answer ready for it. The office of governor of Hakkari has determined that Fahriye Gürbüz was undergoing treatment for her heart for the six years. “The VEDAŞ team and the gendarmerie forces have had no contact with the citizen named Fahriye Gürbüz, who was under treatment for six years and has suffered a heart attack.” At the end of the official statement, the cliché was written that “legal investigations are on-going into the matter.” An investigation of what? Of nothing.
As a result, nobody marched for Fahriye Gürbüz. No political party nor leftist organization defending the rights of the villager, the laborer, or the oppressed marched for her.
In a geographic region where production has been zeroed out, where people have reached a point where they cannot buy their bread, where poor villagers are raided through a cooperation between a private company and the army, nobody raised their voice.
And they will not.
Fahriye Gürbüz died; she was forgotten even before even a week had passed. Her five children are orphans now, and this incident was not even recorded as an incident.
In the parliamentary general assembly, HDP deputy Hişyar Özsoy brought and showed maps that proved the districts where the government has appointed trustees, replacing the elected mayors, are exactly the same regions of the notorious “Reform Plan for the East” imposed in 1925.
I guess we can add the regions where poor villagers are raided by a cooperation between a private company and the army due to the “illegal use of electricity” to those maps.
Well, where do we put Fahriye Gürbüz’s story, then?