Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Helmut's Story

Helmut Hainzlmeier, a 65-year-old Bavarian mountain-climber [pictured above, right, with his companions], was one of three German tourists kidnapped from Mt. Ararat by a PKK platoon on July 8. He was released along with his companions on Monday July 21. They have now returned to Germany.

When the story first broke, Reuters Television did a report from Bavaria. Here is a partial transcription, which gives some background on Mr. Hainzlmeier, who evidently volunteered to be a hostage. Following that I have reprinted an interview with Helmut Hainzlmeier from the German magazine Stern, which I translated via Google and then cleaned up using a German dictionary. Thus I am responsible for any errors. The details are sparse but vivid: lava caves, a bear's den, and guerrillas who "knew very well where they wanted to go."

[Reuters Television]

Elsewhere in Germany, a friend of one of the kidnapped tourists
described him as a man who had his feet firmly on the ground.

Otto Kneitinger, who runs a hotel in the small southern German town of
Abensberg in Bavaria where at least one of the kidnap victims is from, told
Reuters Television "he is a serious person and a super buddy."

"There aren't a lot of people like him around. That explains why
he volunteered to be a hostage, instead of the others. He is a great person
and that's one reason why he will master this. I just know," Kneitinger

According to Kneitinger, the kidnap victim, identified in the local
paper as Helmut Hainzlmeier, "volunteered to be a hostage, instead of the

And now the interview, from Stern:

Helmut Hainzlmeier is back home. For 13 days he was in the captivity of the Kurdish terrorist [sic] organization PKK. In an interview with he speaks about the hijackers, a failed transfer and his fear of the Turkish army.

Mr Hainzlmeier, how are you?

I feel very good.

You were in the hands of the PKK almost two weeks. Can you describe this time?

It was tough, no doubt. In particular, the "walking-tours" -- if you want to call it -- in the night. We changed our location almost daily, always at night. During the day, we slept and ate.

Did you have a rough idea where you were?

We had often clear starry nights. Ararat we always had in sight. Even the Polar Star I always saw. We moved towards the east and came to a bear's cave. We were there three nights.

How big was the group?

It varied between four and nine PKK members. Up to 15 people alternated being with us. It seemed as if every four kidnappers belonged together.

The constant change of location sounds like aimless wandering.

The hijackers knew very well where they wanted to go. Everywhere they had a kind of base; lava caves, for example. Before the border with Iran, they knew well that the Turkish army there had cut off the routes. That is why we then cut back again in the direction of Ararat. They had to stay in the area of the mountain. The military kept out of that region -- thank God, in our view.


We saw a direct clash of the kidnappers and the Turkish army as the biggest danger. That would be disastrous.

Otherwise you had no fear?

I never feared for my life. We had to trust the PKK statement that they viewed us as guests. We heard Deutsche Welle [German Radio] just about every day. We were kept informed.

Still, 13 days in captivity must have been gruelling.

We learned that on Monday a week ago a transfer - always the hijackers spoke of an "event" - failed. They wanted to deliver us to neutral mediators, so it could be objectively determined if were not pleased with the PKK. Almost one week later, it worked.

How will you spend the next few days?

I want especially one thing: peace.

Interview by Martin Rutrecht

Article 22 July 2008

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Fire Burn, Cauldron Bubble

"I am not making this up."
--Dave Barry

Things remain at a rolling boil in the kitchen of Turkish politics. Like the Janissaries, whose signal act every time they revolted was to run to the galley and overturn their soup kettles, some of today's actors seem ready to throw over the whole apparatus at any time. I won't attempt to make sense of it; rather, I'll point you in the direction of those better equipped to try. Most of these stories are old news to Turkey-followers. But like a good off-color joke, they keep on giving.

First and most important (I guess), the duly-elected government of Turkey, headed by the AKP, or Justice and Development Party, is about to be tossed out in a coup conducted by hardline secularists of the judicial branch. This will happen in a couple of weeks. In Turkey judges and prosecutors live, like the Army, in their own little Green Zone of the mind, perpetuating the power of the authoritarian state (i.e., themselves) no matter how nonsensically contorted their rulings have to be. Saban Kardas, in Eurasia Daily Monitor, gives a rundown on the closure case, as does Turkish Politics in Action. Everybody agrees that the court decision will oust the AKP and outlaw its leaders, including the current Prime Minister, and practically everybody thinks it will lead to political chaos. Eventually the chaos will subside, and that weird mutation, the Turkish State, will marshall its spastic limbs and stagger on, but nobody knows exactly how. At the same time as the AKP case, the "pro-Kurdish" party in Parliament, the DTP (Democratic Society Party), is also in danger of being closed. Like the "mildly Islamist" [don't ask; it's like a "moderate Republican"] AKP, they're expected to form the same party under a new label, just as they and so many other banned political parties have done so many times before.

Then we have Ergenekon. This is not, as you might expect, a Klingon ruler. Nor is it a new virility drug. It is, in fact, the name given to what is either (a) a bunch of right-wing thugs who just talk a lot and occasionally kill somebody, or, (b) a bunch of right-wing thugs who have formed a massive conspiracy to overthrow the duly-elected government. For more, see here and here. But wait, you say, wasn't overthrowing the government what we were just talking about? Right, but that was judges. They will overthrow the elected government legally, i.e., by arbitrary judicial force. Ergenekon (allegedly! allegedly!) wanted to use arbitrary force of a more traditional kind, like finding liberals and anyone else they didn't like and putting a bullet between their eyes. Turkish Politics gives a rundown on this gang, and as readers might remember, I did a few paragraphs about them a couple of months ago.

In Turkey, besides the earth-shaking cases, there is always plenty of news on the micro-legal front. Here it's impossible to choose the stories, so thickly do they lie upon the ground. There's Bulent Ersoy, for example, a transsexual singer and television hostess who is in trouble for having said that, if she were able to have a son, she would not want him to go to war in the Southeast against the PKK. Obviously this is "Discouraging people from military service"--a major no-no. Then there's YouTube, which is constantly being banned in Turkey for allowing people to post unflattering videos about Ataturk. Another defendant, a newspaper reporter (there are already 23 [!] of them in jail), has been sentenced to six years in prison for contacting the PKK, even though he was proven (by the police!) to be nowhere near the scene of the crime at the time it was committed. This is truly a classic. Details here.

Elsewhere (at Istanbul's Ataturk airport, presumably in the Ataturk Customs Hall, close to the Ataturk Men's Room) the Fatherland was barely saved from subversion when a seven-year-old boy named Welat was denied entry. His crime? The little twerp sports a name that begins with W. The letters Q, W, and X are forbidden, you see, in Turkey. (If your name is Xavier Kumqwat, don't even think about going.) Welat, born in Germany to Kurdish parents with dual German-Turkish nationality, tried to sneak past customs and immigration, but luckily the little terrorist was caught and sent packing back to Dusseldorf.

And speaking of juvenile delinquents, in June Turkish prosecutors once again proved their mettle when they hauled into court a children's choir from Diyarbakir in the Southeast. The kids' offense: singing a song in Kurdish. God knows how many W's and X's it must have contained. Not only did they do this, but they did it in a foreign country, specifically the Queer People's Republic of San Francisco, where they were attending an international choral festival in the fall of 2007. In a rare display of judicial flabbiness, the Diyarbakir court acquitted them. The woman who catalogues their sheet music, however, will probably get life.

Amid this legal maelstrom, the war continues in the East of Turkey, with daily clashes big and small. Just this week the PKK announced that they had shot down two Sikorsky helicopters, with one downing caught on video. See Mizgin's announcement here. If and when she posts a link to that video, I'll update this posting to include it, and we can all sit around and watch combat porn.

Meanwhile, the 3 German climbers captured on Mt. Ararat last Thursday (7/11) are nowhere to be found, even after a week of intensive search by the Turkish Army. Some people (i.e., me) have noted that, with the recent massively-publicized release of Ingrid Betancourt in Colombia, this is hardly the time for the PKK to be taking hostages if they want Europeans to think of them as "freedom fighters" rather than "terrorists." (Americans don't even know they exist, so it doesn't matter what we think.) However, my feeble opinion cuts no ice with the PKK, and take them they did. In Germany, chagrined Kurdish associations are calling for their release.

It should be noted that the German climbers were taken at Camp #1, or Yesil (Green) Camp, the main camping place on the standard summit route for tourists on Mt. Ararat. Ararat (16,950') is basically a long hike to the summit, with no technical difficulty involved except the possibility of oxygen sickness. Lots of people do it. Moreover, as Mizgin Yilmaz has pointed out, having just visited the area, the vicinity of Ararat is crawling with police and military. And yet, the PKK team just walked into the camp about 10 P.M. and took the climbers. And now they can't be found. This on a mountain that's totally bare--not a single tree anywhere to hide behind.

But of course it's not as simple as that. Ararat is big. Very big. And actually there are two of them. The second, or Lesser Ararat, is over 12,000 feet at its summit, and thus is itself a formidable peak. Put these two volcanoes together and cover their slopes with hectare upon hectare of black, ugly, fissured lava, and you end up looking into an abyss. Think, by comparison, of Steve Fossett's plane and all the effort that went into finding it, to no avail. And it was yellow! The PKK, au contraire, do not wear bright colors.

In fact, the slopes of Ararat and neighboring peaks have proven to be ideal guerrilla country for over a century. At the beginning of the 20th century Armenian guerrillas of the Tashnak, a revolutionary organization based in Russian territory, used these slopes and surrounding areas extensively. Later, in the 1920s, Ararat was the base for a revolt of the Jelali Kurds, a major tribe in the area. So after a week on the run, the PKK and their captives could be anywhere. And just 35 miles to the southwest, easy walking distance for guerrillas, another volcano offers even better cover.

This other volcano is Tendurek. It looks, as you can see from the above photograph, like a giant paint ball splattered upon the moonscape of eastern Turkey. Tendurek, though high enough (11,500') is not iconic like Ararat or other famous volcanoes, such as Mts. Rainier, Shasta, or Fuji. No lovely cone adorns the skyline, with a perpetual patch of snow to lend it grandeur. Tendurek is a shield volcano, rather like Kilauea on the Big Island of Hawaii. Tendurek spews (or spewed, for its last eruption was in 1850) liquid lava, not ash, and this lava has spread over a vast area in the surrounding terrain. W.A. Wigram, an Anglican missionary who lived in Van before the Great War, describes Tendurek's lava flows:

The lava flows from Mount Etna, which are out and away the most magnificent in Europe, are not to be compared for a moment with the twenty miles square of "black glacier" that have streamed from the fissures of Tendurek Dagh.

And here, their importance to the Armenian guerrillas of the Tashnak:

Nature aided the Tashnakists, by giving them practically inexpugnable strongholds in the land, with ready exits into Persian territory. The great crater of Nimrud [Note: Nemrut, at west end of Lake Van], some six miles across, was one of their refuges; and this is paved for much of its area with a maze of corrugated lava whence no man who knows the runs can be dislodged. Here are also hot springs, just of a temperature to sit in comfortably, in which some of these fellows actually lived for weeks during an Armenian winter, with the thermometer far below zero. They had rigged up an ingenious arrangement, so that they could lie in the water and sleep with their heads above the surface.

Their strangest stronghold, however, was the giant lava­flow of Tendurek. Here either the lava has streamed from great horizontal fissures, or possibly the whole mountain has been blown away by the discharge of an accumulation of energy. Whatever the cause, an area some twenty miles square [Note: "twenty miles square" = 400 sq. miles] has been covered with a sea of black lava; which has split and fissured in every direction as it cooled, and now resembles nothing so much as a gigantic black glacier. It is a place where any number of men, and any amount of stores, could lie Perdu for as long as they wished; for there is an abundant supply of water in the crevasses. One edge of the field is admittedly in Persian territory [Note: not now, I believe, since the border was adjusted during Ataturk's time.], and so cannot be policed, even if it were a simple matter to put a cordon round such a place. All the guns of the empire might bombard the stronghold to the crack of doom without inconveniencing its occupants, except by an occasional lucky shot; and the garrison could issue from it at any point to cut up any isolated post. It is an absolutely ideal guerrilla stronghold; for men can move from end to end of it unseen, while every movement of the besieger is conspicuous to them on the bare downs that surround it. [Wigram, The Cradle of Mankind]
That's Tendurek. Less than a month ago, on June 25, 2008, three guerrillas of the PKK, two women and one man, were killed there. As I said, this is just 35 miles--or less--from Ararat. And the Germans are nowhere to be found. Today's press release from the PKK says that continued military operations by the Turkish Army are jeopardizing the security of the hostages. This does not mean that the PKK is threatening to kill the Germans. It means that if the TSK manages to corner the guerrillas and their captives, all bets are off. Everyone who knows the Turks knows that they don't negotiate and they don't take prisoners. Captured PKK fighters are usually shot in cold blood, and their bodies have been mutilated, which has included decapitation. Thus, there is no reason for them to surrender. And with no surrender, the German tourists would be right in the middle.

[also posted at Progressive Historians]

Monday, July 7, 2008

Nazim's Story

Sirnak, SE Turkey: "Happy is He Who Says, I Am a Turk."

Long ago I read a review by John Updike of "They Burn the Thistles," by Yasar Kemal, a novel dealing, as do most of that writer's works, with the lives of Kurdish villagers in the Cukurova, the rich agricultural plain at the base of the Taurus Mountains in southern Turkey. My memories of the review are dim, but as I remember, Updike found the book heavy going. The sheer weight of human suffering and violence described in its pages soon left him surfeited. At one point he wondered how human life, in such a country, "was scarcely even possible."

I have probably not quoted Updike's words accurately, but of his sentiments I have no doubt. For I share them. It's hard to talk about this place, Turkish Anatolia, and I for one have not nearly the stamina needed to become a consistent, long-term commentator about it. The temptation is great simply to wash one's hands of people caught in such circumstances, especially among the urban and rural poor. The combination of backbreaking work, extreme poverty, a cruel social system, and a government both oppressive and relentlessly self-congratulatory, all combine to cripple many of its victims beyond hope of succor. And yet their generosity to the stranger, plus the fact that so many manage to liberate themselves--through education, hard work, and sheer luck--and, moreover, to actually go forth into the world and make real and positive contributions, means that for me, at least, the history and people of Anatolia are just too special to ignore.

I found the following courtesy of Kelly Stuart, a playwright and faculty member at Columbia University. It was published on the website of Barnhill, a psychotherapy partnership in Wembley Park, England. Specifically, the page dealt with trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder, and the use of poetic language in psychotherapy to treat it. Nazim's is a simple story, one that could be told by many millions of village boys and girls. I imagine I'm scarcely the first to feature it online. But it bears repeating. I have inserted [notes] in several places, which are explained at the end of the text. The following appears in the original paper:

The Medical Foundation Caring for Victims of Torture is a U.K. human rights organisation . Survivors and their families are provided with medical and social care, practical assistance, and psychological and physical therapy. The Medical Foundation also raises public awareness about torture and its consequences. The majority of clients are people who have fled their countries because of persecution. Interpreters are needed for much of the work, including talking therapies.

Richard McKane (poet & interpreter) and Paul Burns (psychotherapist) started to work together with Nazim, a survivor and a client of Medical Foundation, over two years ago, after the National Health Service had referred him. Nazim has also been supported at the Medical Foundation by a doctor, a psychiatrist, a neurologist, the Asylum and Legal Teams and been part of a writing group. Paul and Richard have helped Nazim to obtain better housing, education and social support in the wider community.

The original link is here:

Nazim’s Prose Memoir: A Kurdish Childhood in a Turkish Village

(Part of this account was written in a Medical Foundation Writing Group and part comes from psychotherapeutic work. Both were translated by Richard McKane.)

I came into the world unaware of the world’s badness, ugliness and beauties. I grew up in a humble family in an unfortunate village without a hospital or shop, far from the city and in winter the roads were closed for five months. If, God forbid, you got ill, either the old women would give you medicines or the Hoja [1] would read things over you and blow on you and with luck you’d live through it.

Spring was incredibly beautiful, nature became festive, the trees and flowers opened out, the meadows turned green. The birds celebrated, the waters swelled and flowed noisily. Children’s voices, birdsong and the sound of the trees swayed by the wind mixed together on all sides.

But it was a pity that we were not able to experience these beautiful things to the full as a Kurdish, Alevi child [2]. Ethnic Turks in the village looked down on Kurds, and Sunni Moslems looked down on Alevis. Often mothers or older brothers would come and break up those good childhood games or they’d move away from us and say ‘Come little one, these are dirty, bad people, don’t play with them.’ As for me I wondered what was dirty about me and couldn’t find anything. Yes, the clothes I wore were a little different, but these clothes were what my ancestors or grandparents had worn.

We had sheep and together with my elder brother we took them to graze. Before dawn my mother would come to my bedside and say: ‘Come on little one, you’ve got to go to the lambs.’ I used to say to myself: ‘God take my soul’, because I was still a child, a baby of six years old, and I had started to get to know the difficult life of looking after lambs. We were given ‘omach’, a flaky bread made by the village women which you slice and spread with butter.

We gave all the lambs different names and when we called them by their names they came up to us bleating. Believe me, there is no better thing. All your tiredness is taken away, especially when you play the shepherd’s pipe and they listen as you share your woes and talk to them. And when it’s time to go back with the sheepdog, the lambs get in a single line with you calling them behind you as they make their way home to their mothers.

I first saw a dead person at about the age of seven. Turkish soldiers brought a body down from the mountains to our village and made the adults gather round to identify it. With the other children I climbed onto the roof of a house [3] to see what was going on. I saw it was a man from the village aged about 25 who had been shot in the head and chest. The entry wound was very small and the exit wound very large. I could see the parents of the man looking on and not acknowledging that this was their son. I felt more sorry for the parents than for the son.

At the age of 8 or 9 I first witnessed my home being raided and also around this time my uncle was shot while working in his fields. Kurds in the village were pressured by the guerrillas to provide food and threatened if they did not. The Turkish authorities and forces also used terror to stop any support being given to the guerrillas.
Before I was born the village had more people but then many had left because of terrorism. Four uncles had gone to Germany, and my father went to France for four years when I was 10.

My paternal grandfather and uncle had been both been shot dead by government forces. I do not know the circumstances but they had both served long prison sentences for their political views. The Turkish authorities would not allow their relatives to bury these two men in the village. Perhaps they feared a crowd gathering to mourn. Raids on Kurdish houses became frequent, both by Army Special Forces and heavily armed police. After the age of 9 I witnessed about a raid a month while I was living in the village. A typical raid would begin early in the morning, just before it was light. Between 150 and 200 armed men would drive in trucks to near to the village then make their way on foot so as to give no warning. They would position themselves in teams of 10 to 15 at each Kurdish house, including on the roofs of the houses. Once all were in position each house would be entered at the same time without warning. Doors would be kicked in and most of the men would rush in carrying automatic rifles and begin searching all of the rooms, throwing things to the ground. They would find adults and children in bed or in nightclothes. If anyone asked what was going on or said anything else they were hit with the butt of a rifle. At other times, beatings would be inflicted at random. I regularly saw my father and other relations beaten during these raids.

The worst violence that I witnessed would take place in the village square. After some raids older men up to the age of 60 were bound hand and foot. Then with the whole village looking on they would be kicked and hit dozens of times with rifle butts and heavy belt buckles.

I was first detained and tortured when I was 15. After a raid I was taken with my parents and older brother to a police station. I was held there for three days in a bug-infested, damp and cramped cell with four others. In the cell there was a drain covered by a grill used as a urinal. The guards routinely ignored pleas for access to toilet for defecation. No food was provided. Those who had money could buy water.

Throughout the stay I could hear the screams of other people being tortured until they lost consciousness. On my first day I was taken from the cell, blindfolded, and taken to the torture room. I was made to remove all of my clothes and my hands were tied to an iron bar above me so that I was forced to stand on my toes. I was asked about guerrillas, which I did not know much about. As my answers were not the ones the interrogators wanted to hear, the beating began. I was first hit with a truncheon on my right wrist with such force that the arm was broken. When I later went to hospital for treatment of the wrist, it had to be re-broken in order to set it correctly. This wrist is still painful.

I was also hit with a wet rope on the back and then falaka [4], beating on the soles of the feet. Falaka by itself is a very painful form of torture, but after the beating stopped, I was made to put my feet into cold water. This felt like being slashed with a razor. After falaka my feet were swollen for at least 10 days and I could not put any weight on the soles of my feet.

The torture lasted about one hour altogether. I think it may have ended sooner because the torturers realised from the swelling of my wrist that they had broken it.

With torture your whole soul changes. You were a clean, innocent kid and you became a rough child out to protect yourself, Nazim. Your way of looking at other people changes. You don’t trust closeness. You can’t tell anything to even the closest people. They would be upset for someone else and they wouldn’t have anything that they could do for you.

I was tortured a second time at the age of sixteen and then at intervals I have regularly been assaulted and tortured. I have never supported violence, but in Turkey even belonging to a legitimate opposition party is dangerous. When I was conscripted into the army I was tortured for reading a liberal newspaper.

Towards the end of my time in Turkey I received death threats. If I did not become an informer I would be killed.
[1] hoja -- village imam; religious teacher
[2] Alevi -- a sect separate from both Sunni and Shi'a Islam.
[3] roof -- village houses have flat roofs.
[4] falaka -- the bastinado

Friday, July 4, 2008

Spreading Out, Hunkering Down

This place--Giresun, on the Black Sea Coast--is a long way from Kurdistan. The mountains are greener, the trees more plentiful, the summer heat not nearly so lethal. It is more like the Pacific Northwest than the Middle East. Fruits grow in abundance hereabouts. The Roman general Lucullus, according to legend, brought the first cherry tree back to Europe from this very port--then called Cerasus. But hazelnuts, not cherrries, now predominate. Turkey's Black Sea Coast is the Persian Gulf of hazelnuts. "The Turks control everything," a Washington State filbert grower once told me. "Every year, until they set the price they want, I have no idea whether or not I can make a profit." And it's not just nuts. That Italian olive oil that you bought last week? You don't really think it's Italian, do you? Or olive, for that matter. Don't be surprised if it contains a big glug of hazelnut oil from these same shores.

This is, in short, a province humming with commerce, the last place one would expect a guerrilla war to arrive. And yet it has.


Here is the map posted at, the official website of the PKK's armed force, the HPG. Just your standard Mapquest item, but with a difference. The blue expanse is the Black Sea. At the far right of the map, past Hopa, you can see the frontier between Turkey and Georgia. Between the towns, hemming in the roads, are mountains. (If you think of Turkey as nothing but mountains, you won't be far wrong.) The map tack shows the location of the latest clashes between PKK guerrillas and the Turkish Army, near Gumushane, a major town on the highway between Erzurum and Trabzon. Previously they were directly southeast of Giresun--beyond, in other words, those peaks in the above photo. According to the PKK, 3 Army soldiers were killed and 4 wounded in the fight, which took place on 28 June. All in all, the PKK's "war tally" for June, just issued, claims 66 clashes across a wide slash of territory, with 158 Turkish soldiers killed, many more wounded, and a flurry of forest fires deliberately set by the Turkish Army. A PKK unit even attacked a police barracks in Hakkari province, in retaliation, they said, for police brutality against young Cuneyt Ertus during the Newroz celebrations.*

All the casualties, of course, are unverifiable, and since guerrillas rarely take and hold ground, the PKK themselves would have a hard time counting the dead. 158 is an improbable number. But numbers are not the point. The point is in the geographical spread. A PKK unit (or units) is operating near the shores of the Black Sea. Further south, near Erzincan and Tunceli, many other guerrillas have long been active. Add to these units further east, near Kars on the border with Armenia, and the geographical spread becomes amazing. From Mt. Ararat, at the Armenia-Iran border, to the mountains behind Iskenderun, on the Mediterranean, all of this is territory that has seen PKK-government fighting in the past six months. For a guerrilla army that moves solely on foot and supplies itself with hidden caches, this is astonishing. The PKK, which by the year 2000 seemed almost finished, has come back, with new recruits coming in all the time and plenty of angry, unemployed teenagers waiting in the wings. For this, as so many have stated so many times before, the Turks have no one to blame but themselves.

The guerrillas, meanwhile, are using the Internet for all it's worth--as long as, that is, their website doesn't succumb to vandalism by the Turkish government. Several new portfolios have recently been posted on the HPG website, and I recommend them to anyone curious about these people and their world. [Just go to, and click 'Foto Galeri' on the right.] One photograph shows the late Halil Uysal, the German-born PKK film maker and photographer, sitting in a plastic-roofed shelter using a laptop connected, no doubt, to the Internet. In the background are other guerrillas working on other laptops. And these laptops and the websites they serve are fed by digital cameras, shooting both stills and video, as well as press releases, essays, and poems posted by men and women in the ranks.

Two videos in particular have shown up recently. The first shows an attack by some 150 PKK guerrillas, one of the largest they have ever made, on a Turkish military outpost in the mountains of Semdinli, near the Iraqi border. This happened in May. In the video we can see the guerrillas, men and women, hiking through the mountains. We see their mules and their weapons, but also we see the terrain. On a mountainside a pillar marked "TC" (Turkiye Cumhuriyeti: Republic of Turkey) denotes the border. As the guerrillas prepare to attack, with the target far below in a gorge, and a gun emplacement high above it to provide covering fire, we get glimpses of the scenery: naked spires flecked with snow, a Yosemite-like rock wall that must be thousands of feet high. As night falls and the attack begins, the video becomes more frenetic: streams of tracer rounds dance about; a shaky handheld camera moves here and there; an ammunition store in the army outpost is burning out of control. It was, claimed the PKK, their first "aerial" attack.

The second video is shorter, more intense, and more brutal: a piece of combat porn rather than a revealing look behind the headlines. Amid a din of small arms fire, in broad daylight, two big army trucks are ambushed on a mountain road somewhere in Turkey. The first comes round a bend into a wall of bullets. It veers off the road and plunges into a ravine directly below the photographer, its wheels pointing skyward. Immediately the camera looks up. Another truck is coming around the same bend. As the lens focuses and zooms in, we can plainly see the pocks and splintering of multiple hits on the front and windshield of the vehicle. The truck stops, and for some reason, amid this hail of bullets, the passenger door opens and a soldier falls out onto the road. Immediately he picks himself up, but by this time the driver has put the truck in reverse and is backing wildly away. The soldier, alone and in the open, runs for his life. All around him the road is erupting in spurts of dust. He jinks left, then right, then left again, his feet bracketed by gunfire as he chases after the truck. He makes it off the road into the low brush, where by now the truck is even farther away, weaving in reverse amid the scrub. And there, with no hint of the man's fate, the video ends.

And who perpetrated this violence? Well, it could have been someone like this:


Or maybe this guy.


"Defeat this!" he seems to be saying. After all, this war is at 24 years and counting. Meanwhile, as of 3 July 2008 General James Cartwright, vice-chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, is in Turkey to confer with the generals on intelligence-sharing, weapons-buying, and "rooting out" the PKK. Just fifteen minutes from my house, at the south end of Boeing Field, expensive new Boeing AWACS planes with "Turkish Air Force" printed on their sides are being prepared for just such service. As if there is any mystery. As if any ordinary person couldn't tell you that if you treat your citizens decently, respect who they are, and become the European democracy that you claim to be, perhaps you'd get somewhere in "rooting out" these problems.

Ah, but I am so naive. It's so much easier just to buy AWACS planes.

*Revenge seems like the last thing Cuneyt would need. He needs therapy for his mangled arm--and anonymity.
[Cross-posted at]