Travels in Kurdistan

countryside around Van

On a personal side note – something the Turkish referendum news reminded me of…

Having been around Syria, Lebanon, and Iran this summer, the place I found most tense and threatening (in fact, the only place I found tense or threatening) was undoubtedly south-east Turkey. I was travelling with a couple of Kurdish guys who lived in Ankara, who took me to eat iftar with their family in Van and then the next night in Diyarbakir. Their relatives in Van lived in a compound under constant military guard; each time their car entered the compound a soldier went over it with a bomb detector. Our buses were checked every hundred kilometres or so in a similar way by Turkish soldiers at checkpoints. The Turkish army checked my passport every time this happened, and I was usually asked to get off the bus and answer questions, something that never happened in Iran or Syria. In Diyarbakir, my hosts were very afraid something would happen to me (whether abduction or just robbery); they subtly but noticeably surrounded me whenever we left the house, walking in a little defensive phalanx. Whether their fears were justified or not I have no idea. They pointed out PKK graffiti and told me Diyarbakir was a ‘terrorist city’, although they also claimed that PKK attacks were really the work of the CIA and Israel, designed to spread discord in Turkish society. The last stage of my journey across Turkey was from Diyarbakir to Istanbul; it was like travelling to a different country entirely.

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