Eastern Turkey, Kurdistan 2012

Inside Turkey
These little essays are written by an Austrian geographer and photographer, Herbert Bödendorfer. He travelled several times in different regions in Turkey in the last decades to shoot and do research work for the multimedia shows he presents in Austrian schools.
Some of the texts are longer than others because they might be published in turkish newspapers.
My view is an outside view, a tourist’s view, a view of a stranger, who tries to understand a country and its people, - both of which I have learned to love.

Full moon over the great basalt city wall of Diyarbakir.

We were coming by car from the dusty mining settlements in the Maden Mountains. Diyarbakir greeted us, like so many other Turkish cities had done before, with a huge belt of new high-rise flats.
This had surprised us again and again. Millions of people who had moved in from the villages now lived in relative comfort. What they bought, furniture, kitchenware, cars ... was boosting the Turkish economy. But the factories which we had seen in the west of Turkey were much rarer here and we had heard about troubling rates of unemployment in the east. But still it looked as if after decades of war the peace dividend was beginning to bring some prosperity.
My wife guided me through the dangers of the evening rush hour to find a nice hotel overlooking a part of the black wall surrounding the old city. Smoke and delicious aroma of barbecued meat was rising into the air at every street corner. During the evening additional makeshift kiosks were set up in parks and main streets where moustached men prepared tasty spits of shish kebab. The city made our mouths water.

It had been arranged for us to meet some Kurdish friends of friends who were willing to help us with translation.
We wanted to learn more about the Kurds. It was sad that we arrived at a time when the nerves of the people were tight because of a hunger strike. More than 700 prisoners were starving, almost dying after over 40 days. The helpful young people we met were worried and full of despair. And I had been looking forward to delicious meals of barbecued meat in this romantic old city! That was not a time for partying!
After a day in Diyarbakir (- that will be another story!) my wife and I had dinner in the hotel room where I had brought some food, carefully and expertly packed by friendly cooks. What we had heard that day about Kurdish history weighed on our minds. I looked up “Dersim” on Google (first time I had ever heard of that massacre). I even found an account of Seyit Rizas execution that made my blood freeze. I thought: “Will that never end? Will Kerbala come again and again?” 

Someday the Turkish government must realize that Kemal Pascha’s dream of “one nation” never was real at all. Why pay this price for a fictitious idea of homogenous nationality? Is it not the mix of European and Middle Eastern cultures that made Turkey great? The Turks and the Kurds, the Armenians and the Arabs, the Syrians and the Georgians, the Jews and the Bulgarians, ...
Would Turkey, this big success state, really fall apart today, if that was recognized?

Now, looking back and reading the little we hear about the hunger strike here in Austria I still cannot overcome the feeling of hopelessness that I felt looming over the black old fortifications of Diyarbakir like an equally dark cloud. Too much history there! Too much blood shed on all sides!
The prisoners are striking for their leader who is denied human condition in his prison. By Turkey, the EU, the USA and by a number of other states they are all considered to be terrorists. Even the biggest part of the Turkish (and Kurd) people (I learn from several sources) were against the wave of fierce violence the PKK fighters brought over the East.  So now the support for the hunger striking prisoners is not really overwhelmingly worldwide. 
What I definitely realized in places like Diyarbakir, Batman, Mus, Van, ... was this: the people there want peace and are grateful for the peace that has eventually come, they want to take their future into their own (hardworking) hands and they want to enjoy the prosperity they are now beginning to see, they do not want to be prisoners of their own historical past.
“I am proud to be a Turk!” Good for the Turkish. But all the other people living in this state should at least be able to sing “ I am proud to live in Turkey!”  


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