Sunday, January 15, 2012

"given to the earth"

"Given to the earth" is a literal translation of the Turkish idiom for being buried ("toprağa verildi"), which is seen often in Turkish (and especially Kurdish) news outlets reporting on the endless war between the PKK and the Turkish government.  In these papers and websites, someone is always being "given to the earth," as if the dirt of Anatolia felt an insatiable hunger for human flesh.  I made this musical collage in about a week, combining images from a multitude of online sources and Philip Glass's haunting music for "The Hours."  W.H. Auden famously wrote that "poetry makes nothing happen," and he was probably right.  If this minor attempt at art results in anything, it is likely to be only a transient sense of awe. Turkey's police state remains the same.  Formerly it was run by the "security forces" in collusion with statist prosecutors and judges, and the ever-changing "democratically-elected" governments only pretended to rule.  Now the "deep state," as it is known, is under new ownership.  Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his AK Party play at being democrats, just as before, but as 2012 begins they have convincingly taken over the machinery of repression.  My few readers will know current events in Turkey as well as I.  If my brief video collage survives in "the valley of its saying" (Auden again) for a day or two, that will have to suffice.

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Monday, November 21, 2011

Middle Earth?

Sine Dağı, Zab Gorge, Hakkari. Photo by Tahir Yilmaz

Sometimes real things do not seem real at all. They appear to be constructed, as if a designer in Hollywood sat down before his computer and assembled them, exaggerating reality for cinematic effect. Such is this photograph, which I found on Google Earth. It shows a section of the Cukurca-Hakkari highway in the gorge of the Greater Zab River, as photographed by Tahir Yilmaz. The bridge is modern, and it has to be, for it carries heavy trucks, tanks, and materiel for the Turkish Army. Its concrete slab is the only jarring note in a mythic landscape. In the 1950s, before this road existed, the English traveler Freya Stark passed through the Zab gorge. She wrote this:

As the day waned, we seemed to be entering a prison between the beetling crags. Their summits led towards what looked like gulfs of a dark conflagration, because of the flame-like soaring outlines of the rock. Satanic was the word. I hunted for it and found it, thinking that no living flame but some stationary fire long petrified and dead, with no alteration within it but decay, can alone picture the immobility of Hell. The sun by day and the moon by night travel here far away, not unseen but sterile, and the stars can get no answer from dead heights. Ruin alone seemed to depend from those tiered buttresses untouched by vegetation. The sides of the great gorges of Euphrates...are polished like the pillars of a temple, but here the masses of the mountains crumble away in pleats of shale and lie at the feet of all their precipices as baseless, shifting, and nameless as sand. [Riding to the Tigris, 1958]

The man who framed this picture was, I believe, as much a poet as Dame Freya herself. I am grateful to both of them for their efforts.

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Wednesday, June 1, 2011

South of Van (II): More from Mahmut Özdemir

In this world, so unhappy in so many ways, beauty is where you find it. In this case I have chosen to find it in the photographs of a schoolteacher from southeast Turkey. From the town of Hizan, in Bitlis province at the west end of Lake Van, Mahmut Özdemir has explored his small corner of the world with a digital camera and posted the results on (See my previous post.) The results are remarkable. Mahmut Bey not only knows how to frame a picture, he knows when to take it. The above shot is of Akhtamar Island in Lake Van, with the mountains of Artos Dağı in the southeast, behind the town of Gevaş. This is a standard subject for tourist photos, but I'll include it anyway. The grandeur of the scene is best viewed at Panoramio.

In the mountains behind the southwest shore of Lake Van, Mahmut Bey found this village. Called Nüh, it may once have been Armenian, like so many places hereabouts. (Like the entire nation of Turkey, this is a place with a past.) Now of course it is Kurdish. But even when these lands were part of the ancient Armenian empire, the names by which it was known--Corduene, Gordyene, Kardu--indicate that the Kurds' ancestors were always here. Note the mountain setting, the terraced fields, the poplars grown for their timber, the dwarf oaks clinging to the rocks. This is a village that would be buried in snow for much of the winter, and probably subject to avalanches as well. Its houses look more prosperous than average, and a close-up look confirms the impression:

In the lower left those are electric poles poking up above the fields, and on the rooftops, satellite dishes! The houses appear multi-storied, but some of the space, no doubt, is used for keeping animals in the winter.

Here is another place near Hizan, the valley of Nurs. This is probably more famous than any other place in the area, because it is the birthplace of Said Nursi (1877-1960), one of twentieth-century Turkey's most prominent Muslim theologians and religious leaders. So famous was he, and so powerful his appeal, that after the military coup of 1961, Alpaslan Türkeş, a famous militarist and leader of the fascist right in Turkey, dug up Said Nursi's body and made it disappear completely. The map-makers in Ankara, as usual, have done their best to erase any memory of a person they don't like, and Nurs village is now officially called Kepirli. Of course, this has had no effect whatsoever on the reverence felt for Said Nursi, who preached a brand of Islam that should be open to scientific thought and innovation. In fact, many of the present government that rules Turkey could be called followers of Said Nursi, and his disciple Fethullah Gülen.

This is the village of Nurs itself, and this humble structure is the mosque of "Bediüzzaman" ("Wonder of the Age", his nickname) Said Nursi. I'll close this mini-gallery with three classic shots.

This needs to be enlarged to get the full effect. Anyone who has visited Anatolia knows this as the classic scene it is. And this:

Needs no introduction.

And with this, the final image I'm going to post, we'll close our look at Hizan and environs. For which I say,

Thank you, Mahmut Hoca!

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Sunday, May 29, 2011

South of Van (I): Diocletian's Castle (?)

Gayda Valley, Gerzevil Mt. Photo by Mahmut Ozdemir

To the traveler, Anatolia means mountains. Not literally, of course: in Greek the word means "dawn," or "place of the dawn," much as the Levant, from the French, denotes a place where the sun is "rising." But if you set a person down anywhere in Anatolia and order him to check all the points of the compass, it is unlikely that he can proceed thirty miles in any direction without encountering either a mountain or, at the least, a very high hill. Truly, they define the country.

Unlike the Americas, with the Andes, the Rockies, and the Sierras, Turkey has few distinct and linear mountain ranges. It might be said that the entire country is one big mountain range, extending into the Greek Islands (which are a sunken range) and on into mainland Greece and the Balkans. Even the Taurus, certainly a discrete range between Konya and the Mediterranean, begins in a mass of peaks by the Aegean and disperses into an undifferentiated jumble as it proceeds eastward. But if there are not ranges, there are certainly massifs galore, rugged regions where outside travelers have rarely explored and only the local people (or PKK guerrillas and their pursuers) know their way around.

Such a place lies south of Van, the massive high-altitude lake that is one of the jewels of eastern Turkey. Lake Van (alt. 1648 m., approx. 5400 ft) lies in the middle of mountains and was formed by a mountain--Nemrut Dağı, the extinct volcano whose lava flows at the west end sealed off a valley (aeons ago) and prevented all that water (its max. depth is 451 m., almost 1500 ft.) from joining with the Tigris. South of the lake are more mountains, and it is among those that the photograph above was taken.

I cannot understate my admiration for this picture, a perfect assemblage of light and shadow recorded by Mahmut Özdemir, a school teacher in Hizan, Bitlis. Mahmut Bey knows what he's doing, as anyone can see in the gallery of beautiful pictures posted here. His photographs represent that massive widening of human perspective made possible by digital cameras and the Internet. In previous posts I have displayed photos taken by PKK guerrillas during their wanderings. By posting these the guerrillas have provided a startling look at places that very few people could ever see. The Turkish government, for those who bother to look, is doing the same thing, as are an abundance of new online Turkish newspapers which concentrate on news at the local level. All Turkish provinces, and most sub-provinces, maintain websites, and all of them, like the online newspapers, sport a "Foto Galeri" devoted to local images. Like the PKK's images, much of the content of the government websites is public relations (or propaganda, to those on the other side). But that doesn't mean it is without value. Only by wading through scores of poor and mediocre photographs can you find jewels like the one above.

Mahmut Bey's photo shows Gerzevil Dağı and the Gayda valley, a sparsely populated corner of Bitlis province, south of Lake Van. This unknown valley is as good a place as any to begin the story of lands that few outsiders have traversed.

My story begins with Wigram. In The Cradle of Mankind (1911 and later editions), W.A. Wigram, a priest and emissary of the Church of England, wrote one of the defining accounts of Central Kurdistan and the "Nestorian" (or "Assyrian") Christian mountaineers, who inhabited the high mountains of Hakkari, near what is now the Iraqi-Turkish border. Wigram also wrote about the area south of Lake Van, and in doing so he raised questions that have intrigued me for years. The English travel writer Freya Stark referred to one of them in her book Riding to the Tigris (1958). In The Cradle of Mankind, Wigram refers to the ruins of an ancient fortress, laid out in a perfect square of the Roman type, which lies "somewhat to the west of the Urmi-Van road." Here, in its entirety, is the paragraph:
Somewhat to the west of the Urmi-Van road, and up among the highest of the mountains, stands one interesting memorial of the past. One particular valley runs down from the edge of lake Van to the Tigris; a pass open practically all the year round, between the plain of Mesopotamia and the Armenian plateau. It should be a high­road for commerce; but the Kurds who live in it are too turbulent to allow any traveller to pass that way as a rule, and it is very little known in consequence. It was a passage of strategic importance, however, in the days when Rome held Nisibis as her frontier post on the Persian border; and when Armenia was a buffer state of most uncertain loyalty, between the Roman and Sassanid Persian empires. Hence it was a road to guard; and Roman engineers planted upon it one of the grandest of Roman fortresses, which stands to this day practically unruined. Diocletian, who fortified this strategic frontier, was probably its builder; and it must have been evacuated when Jovian ceded the provinces to Persia some fifty years after his day. Since then it has remained derelict, for anyone to occupy who cared; and so it stands still-one of the grandest Roman relics anywhere.
The "Urmi-Van" road, an ancient caravan track, still is the main highway between Van, in Turkey, and Urmia [Urumiyeh] in Iran. He mentions having visited this ruin in the company of the English military consul in Van and says that the local Kurds had taken it over, building their stone houses in the rubble. Freya Stark, referring to this Roman castle and the nebulous directions given by Wigram, confessed her bewilderment at where it could be.

In 1979, provoked by this mystery (so minor that it might be called a mysterette), I too got into the act. I knew that Freya Stark was still alive, and I knew that she lived in Asolo, in northern Italy. I had no other address for her, but I wrote a letter anyway. Had anyone found this fortress? I asked. Did she have any further clues about where it might be? I included kind words, of course, and the necessary apologies for having intruded. At the time Freya Stark was 86 years old--she would live to 100--and of course I expected no reply at all.

Still, there it is, a sheet of light blue airmail stationery with a printed address, pasted in one of my old notebooks. The date is handwritten: 10/3/79 (10 March 1979). The address says, "Via Canova, Asolo; Treviso. Tel. 52732". Dear Mr Taylor, it begins,
I should be so delighted if you could find that Roman fortress. All I can tell you is that it is not along the track from Julamerk [i.e., Hakkari] to the Tigris along which I rode, & that it was not found by the young Scot who was Captain of HMS Mercury & went hunting about for it in that tangle of the Kurdish hills. It must of course be on one of the tracks that wind among the tangle of valleys that mark the Iraqi-Persian border (unsafe just now I should say).
Who this Scotsman was, I cannot say, but I do know that his "ship", HMS Mercury, was in fact a "stone frigate", a shore station for signals training, and not a floating vessel. Dame Freya is certainly off the mark when she says that the fortress "must of course" be among the valleys that mark the Iraqi-Persian border. Those valleys are not "somewhat to the west" of the road mentioned by Wigram; they are east of it. In fact, as I now believe, the "Roman fortress" mentioned by Wigram is at the western end of Lake Van, very close to Mahmut Özdemir's home.

The critical clue comes from that young military consul mentioned offhandedly by Wigram. After the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-78, the Ottoman government was forced to accept the presence of British military consuls in its eastern provinces. Their job, ostensibly, was to observe the Turks' adherence to the Treaty of Berlin, especially their treatment of religious minorities (i.e., Armenians). For obvious reasons, the presence of these officers became a great source of humiliation to Turkish nationalists. In fact, these consuls, like other members of the English aristocracy, were in general more sympathetic to the Muslims than they were to the Armenians. Greater scholars than I will know about the political work of these men; I am concerned about the time they took for that most English of hobbies, Oriental exploration.

Two English consuls (that I know of; there may have been others) published excellent articles about their journeys in Kurdistan between 1878 and 1914. The first, Capt. F.R. Maunsell, R.A., read papers at the Royal Geographical Society in 1894 and 1901. His 1901 paper, "Central Kurdistan," is available online through He drew wonderful maps as well, and one of them can be found at the University of California-Berkeley library, where I obtained a photocopy in 1976. [Note: Maunsell called this area "Central" Kurdistan; the subtitle of Wigram's book refers to it as "Eastern" Kurdistan; and modern Kurdish nationalists call it "Northern" Kurdistan. I have no opinion on the matter.]

It is a second consul, however, that W.A. Wigram would have known. Capt. Bertram Dickson, R.A., appears to have succeeded Maunsell as British consul in Van. Like Maunsell, Dickson explored the region and presented a paper about his travels at the Royal Geographical Society. Unlike Maunsell, however, he took photographs, one of which was used in my book Fever and Thirst. His article "Journeys in Kurdistan", published in the Geographical Journal of April 1910, puts to rest once and for all any mystery about Wigram's Roman castle.
Jezire and Mukus were Roman outpost provinces in the time of Diocletian [A.D. 284-305], and it is interesting, while travelling, to pick out traces of their occupation. In the picturesque valley of Khizan [Hizan] is what I believe to be a Roman fortress, in a wonderful state of preservation; this may very possibly have been the capital of the Roman capital of Moxene, lying between the buffer states of Armenia and Mesopotamia.
Jezire (Cizre) is near the Iraqi border, on the Tigris. Mukus, a village near Hizan, is an obvious derivation from Moxene (or Moxoene), a province of ancient Armenia. It retained its ancient name (Müküs) on Turkish maps until the 1980s, when the government map-makers in Ankara Turkified it into its present name, Bahçesaray. Dickson is obviously speaking about the same fortress as Wigram. Rev. Wigram says this about their visit:
The writer once visited the spot, in company with the British military Consul of Van; being attracted both by the interest of the building itself, and also by a story that there was a hoard of ancient documents in some unknown tongue in one of the rooms of the castle. The tale is quite probably true, though the documents may be of any date; but the present owner of the place politely denied all knowledge of them. His guest was a marvel of erudition, he declared, but had been misinformed in this particular; and so he changed the subject to something that interested him more. This was the Consul's Mannlicher rifle, a beautiful tool that always excited envy everywhere, and was invaluable as a topic of conversation. Our host examined it, dandled it, played with it; and finally proposed a fair exchange-that rifle against his newly married wife! A deal which the Englishman rather ungallantly declined.
Both Dickson and Wigram relate that the local Kurds built their homes ("hovels" is the actual word used) in the walls of the castle using its stones. Dickson describes the castle at length (250 yards square, walls originally about 25 feet high and 15-20 feet thick, with towers), leaving no doubt about its reality. The reference to Diocletian makes sense as well, for that Roman emperor spent much of his rule living in Asia Minor (in Nicomedia, now Izmit, near Istanbul), visiting Rome only once. (There is no record, however, that he ever visited this particular fortress in Armenia.) Before the end of the 3rd century, the Roman general Galerius fought a major war with the Persian Empire to regain control of Armenia, their client state, and this remote province would have been near the center of the action. External threats loomed everywhere in Rome's waning centuries. The building of fortifications in the Empire's borderlands was a major preoccupation of Diocletian during his twenty-one years as Emperor, as Freya Stark notes in her Rome on the Euphrates. In eastern Asia Minor, she writes (p. 305),
"[T]he number of troops was more than quadrupled and the accent was placed on forts and garrisons. The diminished legions were multiplied to about sixty, and new and smaller ones with effectives of one thousand men were created. Early in the fourth century we find them still based on Melitene [Malatya] and Satala [Gümüşhane], on Trebizond [Trabzon] for the Black Sea convoys, and in Armenia. [my emphases]
Obviously Dickson and Wigram are on the right track. If it looked like a Roman fortress, and was laid out like a Roman fortress, it probably was a Roman fortress. Hizan is not, strictly speaking, along an easy, direct route to the Bohtan Su, the river Centrites of ancient times, which would quickly take the traveler to the Tigris and Mesopotamia. Still, it possessed one advantage for an army garrison in those remote valleys: it provided sustenance.

This, in another Mahmut Özdemir photo, is Hizan (the Gayda valley) today. It is the kind of place where grain could grow, and where you could quarter a sizable garrison. It only remains to show another photograph, not by Mahmut Özdemir but by Jelle Verheij, a Dutch scholar and historian who has a knack for going to exactly the places that I want to go. Here is his photo of what I believe to be Wigram and Dickson's Roman fortress:


This is Eski (Old) Hizan, and the place, according to Jelle Verheij, is called Kayalar (lit., Rocks) by the locals. The tower is there, as the English travelers described, as are the Kurds' houses built among the ruins. I can find no other photos that give a sense of the fortress's size. Still, it seems obvious that this is Wigram's Roman castle, wondered about by Freya Stark and now found through the invention of digital cameras and the Internet.

In my next post I will explore further this area south of Lake Van, beginning with the Roman general Lucullus and possibly earlier, with a mountain-top shrine that so far is undocumented.

Addendum. Pursuant to comments, please note: For further information, see the Wikipedia article about Roman concrete: In the article it specifically mentions that the concrete was seldom left bare and always had a facing on it. Among the facings mentioned was Roman brick set in a herringbone pattern. Now look at Jelle Verheij's photo again. Are those stones? Or are they Roman bricks that have eroded into irregular shapes? Either way it seems likely that this is Roman concrete construction. Among other things, how else would it have lasted so long? Further comments welcome.

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Monday, May 3, 2010

A Vacancy in the Kurdosphere

Cengiz Candar in Yuksekova, SE Turkey

As mountain snows melt and war returns to the east of Turkey, one person is missing from the ranks of those who describe events, analyze trends, and translate important documents of that never-ending conflict. Mizgin Yilmaz, the vehemently pro-PKK proprietress of Rasti, has not posted a word in her domain since February 15 of this year. No one knows where she has gone, or why. For that matter, no one ever knew who she really was, or where she lived. But one thing is certain: this is unusual behavior in one who has usually posted at least 3-4 times a week.

I have read Mizgin's blog regularly since I first came upon it several years back. It really is necessary reading. (Even the Turkish General Staff logs on regularly.) No one else among pro-Kurdish bloggers is able to summon her range of offbeat sources and translate them so deftly into English. Thanks to her, I was able to locate the website of the PKK and copy from it photographs which now have been passed along to other sites on the Net. Thanks to her, I think I now have a much better grasp of the Turkish reality. Of course, she is not "fair and balanced." No one would ever mistake Mizgin the Blogger for a warm, cuddly person. I, who am anything but a radical leftist--Hey, I just want people to be happy! ;)--have sometimes been appalled by what seems almost a bloodthirstiness in her writing, as if all the enemies in her world deserved to be liquidated immediately. To Mizgin, Prime Minister Erdogan of Turkey is Katil Erdogan, Murderer Erdogan; any website with a positive word to say about Turkey's government is "pro-terrorist." But seldom if ever have I thought that I wasted my time reading her blog.

Now Rasti is vacant, a space on the web with a big question mark over it. In her last post of February 15, Mizgin translated a column by Cengiz Candar, in Radikal, in which the author, a prominent journalist and good guy of long standing among Turkey's liberals, analyzed the situation in Turkey's Southeast and saw clearly that the promises of 2009 were rapidly turning to dust. Now his fears have become real. The old cycle of attack and revenge has begun anew. Turkey's government, concentrating on a long-overdue reform of Turkey's Constitution, has been unable or unwilling to deliver on its promise of democracy for the Kurds. Obviously, Mizgin wrote, with an ominous link to the website of the PKK, "there is only one path left."

Meaning what? We don't know. But something about this prickly, ferocious woman has earned our affection. So while the wishes for her safety and well-being accumulate in her Comments, I will remember her by re-posting her translation of Cengiz Candar's article in Radikal. Read it, and know reality.

Oppression and Disappointment in the Southeast
by Cengiz Candar
Translated by Mizgin Yilmaz

If you make your way to the Southeast often--and not only talk to officials but also particularly have a relationship with the street--if you open up your heart and listen to the region's people, there is a result that you can easily arrive at: the ruling party's regional parliamentarians are not representing the region in Ankara but are representing Ankara and their party in the region.

I've stated this on every occasion when I met with important people in the state and in the government. The AK Party's Southeastern parliamentarians are not representing their regions; they do not convey the pulse of the Southeast to Ankara. Whenever they go to their election districts, they represent Ankara and their party.

Therefore, PM Erdogan's statement, "There are 75 Kurdish parliamentarians in my party," or the AK Party's receiving the greatest amount of votes in the region doesn't mean anything.

Have you ever heard these 75 "Kurdish" parliamentarians open their mouths to say anything about the Kurdish question? Have you ever heard them mention the unbearable oppression in the region in Ankara in front of the public?

A couple of days ago, Diyarbakır's Special Heavy Penalty Court convicted a fifteen-year-old girl called Berivan for "throwing stones at police" in addition to "cheering party slogans" during the events that took place on 9 October in Batman. She was convicted to 13.5 years at the first hearing. Yes, at the very first hearing.

Since she was a minor, the court showed mercy and reduced its punishment to seven years and nine months! At the event [during the protest in Batman], Berivan's face was covered with a scarf but police were determined that the girl with the scarf was Berivan. That girl with the scarf may very well be Berivan; but while there is more solid and concrete evidence for the generals who gathered to overthrow the government, which is a crime against the state, and while they've been released pending trial, have you ever seen any Southeastern AKP parliamentarian object to Berivan's conviction of 13.5 years for stoning police and cheering party slogans?

Do you know that there are over 1,000 children in prison in the Southeast?

In a condition where belief in justice is damaged so deeply, can we talk about the "Democratic Initiative" or the "National Unity and Brotherhood Project"?

In the Southeast there is no justice but oppression!

The other day, one of the members of AKP's executive council told me that in the council meeting PM Erdoğan was informed that people in the Southeast are very happy and very excited about the ongoing events [the "democratic" initiative]. Based on the PM's sources, everything is going well in the Southeast. Whereas the contrary is the case and the "political decision maker" [Erdoğan--i.e. Turkey's "decider guy"] is being deceived or prefers being deceived. Again, another piece of information I received from a similar source: AK Party's executive council is expecting very important incidents about Kandil around Newroz. If there are AKP members that believe this, I'm curious about what planet they're living on. Newroz is only one and a half months away; is there any indicator that thousands of armed people from Kandil will come and surrender?

Well, is there any little indication of a general amnesty to come out for the ones at Kandil? There are only two possibilities left so far. 1) America and Iraqi Kurds will have a joint military operation and finish PKK's military existence--for those who believe this, they are living in a dream. 2) The ones at Kandil disappear unexpectedly.

There are no such situations and there isn't the slightest sign that these will happen.

Meaning, within one and a half months, related to Kandil, it is impossible for any incident to happen, for PKK to disarm. A "climate" for such a thing has been removed in Turkey anyway. In the region [Southeast], in addition to 1,000 children, more than 1,000 people in political groups, including elected mayors, have been arrested.

The PKK members who came from Kandil three months ago are free; mayors have been handcuffed and arrested for having connections with PKK.

There are two ways to make the armed cadres give up on armed struggle:

1. Regarding Kurdish identity, you have to take such unilateral democratic steps that will remove the armed group's masses of supportö and the support will completely be removed. There won't be support of the masses for armed forces.

2. Open up ways for armed groups to become involved with peaceful [without arms] politics.

Until now, regarding the first, there are positive but insufficient steps. Regarding the second, just the contrary is being done. Elected people, who are involved with peaceful politics, are jailed. It is a politics of "to the ones in the cities calling 'go to the mountains'; meanwhile, to the ones in the mountains, 'stay there'" is being made.

The "negative atmosphere" and the "disappointment" in the region were reflected to Ankara as "information to the state in the governors' meeting". The governors in the East and Southeast told Interior Minister Beşir Atalay that, "initially, the democratic initiative raised expectation and excitement to their peaks in the region. Citizens became very hopeful. When the package ["democratic" initiative's packages] was presented, a serious disappointment took place. The citizens are expecting more concrete steps."

They are right.

For months, we have been saying and writing this. I forgot exactly how many articles I wrote specifically about this issue and specifically in this way. The governors who work in the region mentioned that our people's expectation became lively in March of last year due to Abdullah Gül's statement of "soon there will be good things on the Kurdish question" and with the initiative, their expectation is at its peak.

President Gül said those words to three journalists--of whom I was one--in the plane on the way to Tehran. Since that day, I am among those who've been keeping an eye on the pulse of the region. I spent a remarkable amount of the summer months in the Mardin, Van, Doğubeyazıt, and Kızıltepe regions. On 1 August [2009], I was among the attendees for the Kurdish Workshop. One month later, in September, I traveled 1,000 kilometers between Diyarbakır and Şemdinli.

Today's atmosphere is 180 degrees different from the atmosphere of those days.

It is as much a deep disappointment and negative atmosphere [now] as it was equally positive in those days.

How in the world will "national unity and brotherhood " come about without including our Kurdish citizens who live in the Southeast, who want to join with great enthusiasm and an expectation of an optimistic future?

How will a "national unity and brotherhood" will come about from a region where 1,000 children are currently living lives of misery in prisons?

The Interior Ministry said "İnşallah, soon good things are going to happen" to the governors and wanted them to wait for a while. I wish this problem could be solved with "İnşallahs" and empty promises. This is not a kind of problem that can be solved with "İnşallahs" and "Maşallahs".

And god forbid the potential of the disappointment is so great as to overwhelm the struggle against the junta members in Ankara and Istanbul, and to overwhelm Turkey's successful foreign politics that present Turkey as a "rising regional power".

PM Erdoğan needs to open up his eyes to the ongoing things in the Southeast and, without any delay, he must change track.

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Saturday, April 24, 2010

On the Origins of 'Istanbul'

Author’s note:
The following article is contradicted by a Wikipedia article on the subject: All who read my article should see that one as well. It seems well researched and makes sense, and it may very well be the more correct of the two. But I like my own arguments.
Warning: any comments on this subject that promote hatred or nationalism will be instantly rejected.

Why did Constantinople get the works?
Nobody knows but the Turks.

--1950s novelty tune

Actually, it's quite easy to figure out why the Turks changed Constantinople's official name in the 1930s. The old one was obsolete. No one had called the city by those five (actually six) syllables for centuries, at least not in ordinary speech. (In Greek newspapers, where they haven't yet recovered from 1453, it is still resolutely 'Konstantinopolis.') Stamboul, it was called, or Stambul in other spellings. The Turks heard the m as an n, which made a bit of difference in the spelling, and they added an i at the beginning: other than this, they were simply making official what had been common parlance for centuries. Still, there is confusion. Why Istanbul? It looks so different from Constantinople. Where did it come from? Even a proper English tome like the John Murray Guide to Turkey, 1853 edition, noted this question. One answer, they reported, derived from the city's Greek residents. It came, they said, from 'eis ton polis,' Greek for 'it is the city,' a reference to the exalted place which Constantinople has long held in the Greek imagination. In many places, including the Wikipedia article cited, this explanation for Istanbul's origin survives to this day.

In the Wikipedia article, the conclusion is only slightly expanded. Istanbul, the author says, comes not only from ‘eis ton polis,’ but from ‘stin polis,’ meaning ‘to the city,’ supposedly a common reference which became enshrined as its name. But this seems unsatisfactory to me. It raises other questions, which make it necessary to go back to the beginning and consider the whole phenomenon of cities and their nicknames.

One thing should be obvious: over time all long names get whittled down to one or two syllables. English-speakers, especially Americans, know this. A small example, Hopkinsville, Kentucky, is simply 'Hoptown' to people to live down there. Elsewhere Philadelphia is Philly; Los Angles is LA; San Francisco (to outsiders, at least) is Frisco. The compression works in other ways too: New York is often 'Nyawk,' almost a monosyllable, to Manhattan doormen; Milwaukee is 'Mwaukee,' with a beginning consonant that is really a fused m and w; and New Orleans is 'Nawlins.' English-speakers abroad have done the same thing, with Kuala Lumpur becoming 'KL' and Dar-es-Salaam just plain 'Dar.' Somehow the lovely Italian word Livorno became 'Leghorn,' a really boring breed of chicken. Even Constantinople, we must remember, long and unwieldy as it is, is still an Anglicized abbreviation of the Greek Konstantinopolis.

The same thing has happened in Turkey. Turkish, like English, tends toward short words. (The long words one sees in Turkish prose are root words adorned with the suffixes that give the language its meaning.) And the old names are often pared down, like those in English. Pick up a map of Turkey and look. Nicaea is now Iznik; Hadrianopolis is Edirne; Phocaea is Foca; Sardis is Sart; Trebizond is Trabzon; Heraklion is Eregli; Caesarea is Kayseri; Sebastaeum is Sivas; Iconium is Konya. And then there is Niksar. This little town in Tokat province, originally called Neocaesarea, has shrunk from six syllables to two. [Remember that the modern English pronunciation of Caesar is quite different from the original Latin, which would more closely resemble the German 'kaiser' or the modern Turkish Kayseri; thus the k in Niksar.]

So, one might ask, if the Turks can get Niksar out of six-syllabled Neocaesarea, why can't we get Istanbul out of Konstantinopolis? (Well, there's that matter of the 'i' at the beginning, but we'll get to that later.) Still, skeptics must admit that kon-STAN-ti-no-POL-is (it actually sounds rather nice, spoken with an Greco-Italian swing) has the two requisite syllables in it to produce, with a bit of softening, the word Stamboul. In the 4th century, when Constantine so generously gave his name to Byzantium, which he had previously dubbed New Rome, it’s doubtful that the common people paid any attention. As official legends grew, however, about Constantine and his conversion to Christianity (In Hoc Signo Vinces, and all that), and with the increasing Christianization of the Roman Empire, the succeeding centuries would have seen the new name take hold. No name like this six-syllable monster, however, could have remained intact for very long. Remember, communications at that time were primarily oral. Only a minority could read and write. There were no mass media, no print, television, or Internet, to establish a word like Konstantinopolis and preserve it, the way words like Philadelphia are now kept intact by constant repetition in news datelines and over the air. Ordinary people, communicating with each other through speech, would have taken over very quickly from the emperor Constantine and his ego. The full name could have yielded, in succession, con-stant-polis, stant-polis, stan-poli, and stamboul; or, just as likely, it could have shortened itself to stamboul in a year or less. Or it could have become mixed up with the common expression, ‘stin poli,’ as the author of the Wikipedia article would have it. We simply don’t know.

But if Konstantinopolis contains the seed-syllables of Stamboul, -stan- and –pol-, and today’s Turkish cities show a consistent pattern of abbreviation from older names, why then are we attributing the origin of Istanbul to phrases like “it is the city” and “to the city”? It doesn’t convince me. I for one believe that Istanbul’s name is probably derived from Constantinople, pure and simple, the same theory that the Wikipedia author says is now “obsolete.”

But a problem remains: the ‘i’ at the beginning of Istanbul. It is out of place, an extra syllable, and there is no precedent for it in Konstantinopolis. But this is easily explained. The objection ignores a fact about the Turkish language: Turkish abhors consonant combinations (e.g., st-, sp-, sk-, kr-) at the beginning and end of words. For example, my own dictionary, the Langenscheidt New Standard Dictionary: Turkish (2006), contains no Turkish words beginning with sp- that are not foreign loan-words. Look at these: spam, spekulasyon (speculation), spekulatif (speculative), sperma (sperm), spesiyal (special), spiker (speaker), spiral (spiral), and several words derived from spor (sport, sports). This last is a very common word in today’s football-mad Turkey, being appended to the names of cities all over the country (Bursaspor, etc.) to name their clubs. And many Turks, try as they will, cannot quite manage a consonant combination that is alien to their native tongue. S-por, they pronounce it, as if an extra vowel had been slipped in, much like the English word support, and it is often spelled that way (sipor, with the Turkish dotless I). The same pattern extends to st- words (stad, standart, statuko [status quo], steysin [station], striptiz [guess!]), pr- words (pratik, prenses, prifiks [prix fixe], profesyonel), and kr- words (krem, kredi, krater, kritik).

When possible, Turkish-speakers try to get around these consonants. By adding an extra vowel at the beginning of some foreign loan-words, Turkish-speakers get a running start, as it were, to get into a word. Examples of this abound, beginning in the city of Istanbul itself. Directly across the Bosphorus, on the Asian shore of Istanbul, lies the former village of Scutari. (Please, do not pronounce it ‘scootery,’ as if the place abounded in Vespa dealers.) Scutari is where Florence Nightingale established her hospital during the Crimean War, but now it is called Uskudar, with the final i dropped and an extra vowel added at the beginning. The same thing happens in Macedonia, where Skopje is called Uskub by the Turks, and a Slav is Islav. In Europe the list goes on: Scotland (Iskocya); Sweden (Isvec); Switzerland (Isvicre); and Scandinavia (Iskandinav). In Turkey the city of Smyrna (Smirni) has become Izmir; the southwestern town of Sparta is now Isparta; and the Greek island of Kos, called Stanchio in Middle Ages, is called Istankoy. The pattern extends to Greek loan-words that are not place-names, like spasm (ispasmoz), spinach (ispanak), and sphinx (isfenks), as well.

One last thing. “Ockham’s razor,” the rule of thumb introduced in the Middle Ages by the logician William of Ockham, states that “entities should not be multiplied beyond what is necessary,” and thus, “the simplest solution is usually the best.” The simple fact is this: when cities are nicknamed, the components of those nicknames come from the city’s original name. This is the simplest way to look at the shortening of a city’s name. Thus, to me it makes no sense to come up with an alternate theory for the naming of a great city like Istanbul, when a simpler theory is readily found and logically defensible. So, Istanbul is derived from Konstantinopolis. Why not?

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Baby in the Iron Womb (continued)

A sign of reality?

This isn't a good time for an American to evaluate the politics of another country. We sit here with all our faults exposed: lunatic "tea-baggers" on parade; our economy trillions in debt; our politicians determined to prove their spinelessness or their stupidity, or both. But in Turkey, what a year 2009 has been: a year of hope and despair; of war and cease-fire; of initiative and inertia. It began in the spring with a political campaign, and democracy's most common ploy: an attempt to buy votes. The election: a nationwide poll for local officials. Across the southeast, and especially in the province of Dersim (Tunceli), Turkey's ruling AK Party called up their bankers, loaded up the trucks, and started delivering prizes to local voters. There is a great tradition of this sort of thing in western democracies. In England it used to be free ale. In 19th century America, it was free whiskey and cider. More recently, among big-city political machines, hams or turkeys went out by the thousands. In the southeast this spring it was refrigerators.

For the AKP, however, it didn't work out. The Kurds took the refrigerators from the AKP and voted for the other party, the DTP, or Democratic Society Party, which won big victories in local elections across the Kurdish southeast. The Turkish state responded in the usual way: they started arresting officials of the DTP. The charge: "supporting terrorism." This is what all DTP members are accused of: they won't denounce the PKK and its guerrillas as a "terrorist" organization; therefore, they are "supporting terrorism." Never mind that the PKK is a bunch of armed people organized in military units, dressed in uniforms, attacking another bunch of armed people in military units and also dressed in uniforms. The Turks insist that this makes them "terrorists." Never mind that the civilian politicians of the DTP all know families who have lost a child fighting in this war, or know people who have been driven out of their villages by the Turkish Army, or know people who are either in the PKK or have been involved with them: they must, in spite of this, denounce practically everyone they know as a "terrorist."

By May, Barack Obama had come and gone, repeating the usual State Department-Pentagon boilerplate about Turkey's "vibrant democracy" and fight against "terrorism." Abdullah Gul, President of Turkey, declared in May that, “Whether you call it a terror problem, a southeastern Anatolia problem or a Kurdish problem, this is the first question for Turkey. It has to be solved.” The AKP government, backed by business interests and hungry for its pending EU application to be approved, began to make noises about sincerely wishing to improve the lives of its Kurdish citizens, openly admitting that things had to change. In June, however, appearing at a news conference in Washington, D.C., the Turkish Armed Forces Chief of Staff stated quite plainly that his forces had no intention of making peace, and would fight on until the last terrorist was killed.

Nevertheless, by July and August, Prime Minister Erdogan and his associates seemed bent upon doing the impossible: bringing democracy to Turkey. They were calling their program, still undefined, as the "Kurdish opening." More Kurdish broadcasting hours; the restoration of Kurdish names for villages and towns; endless optimistic discussions in the news media: everything, it seemed, was going the right way, and with the PKK abiding by a unilateral cease-fire, the war seemed abated.

Except it wasn't. Low-grade conflicts continued, and the Turkish Army never stopped shelling across the border toward PKK positions in northern Iraq. Human rights monitors reported the same patterns of harassment and abuse among the populace. By the end of August the nationalist opposition was speaking out, saying that the nation was "one" and always would be, and Gen. Ilker Basbug, the Chief of General Staff, repeated that he had no intention of making peace with anyone.

In October, joy erupted. At the directive of Abdullah Ocalan, the imprisoned PKK leader, a group of PKK fighters came down from the mountains and crossed through the Khabur border gate between Iraq and Turkey. Turkish officials allowed them entry and did not arrest them, and they proceeded through Cizre and on to Diyarbakir. What followed were surely the most extraordinary days in the history of Turkey's Kurds. Masses of people flooded the roads and streets in the PKK group's path, waving banners and shouting with happiness. Peace truly seemed possible.

But this was Turkey, and nationalist Turks were offended. The celebration was "unseemly." The Army, nationalist politicians, and parents of dead Turkish soldiers did not approve. The Democratic Society Party (DTP) was accused of orchestrating the spectacle. Which of course they did. And why shouldn't they? This was the first time in thirty years that young PKK fighters had come back to their families in anything but coffins. How could the Kurds of the southeast NOT celebrate this occasion? They would have to be made of stone not to feel the importance of these events. Anyone who goes to the website of Firat (Euphrates) News,, and enters into its Search (Arama) window the word "taziye," can see why. There they are, hits by the hundreds. Taziye means "condolence," and it refers to the "condolence tents" which are erected for grieving families to receive visitors after (a) their son or daughter has been killed fighting with the PKK, (b) their child has been killed by a mine or a stray mortar shell, or (c) their husband or child has been found murdered. At Firat News page after page of "taziye" hits roll by, and anyone with the decency to look will see why the Kurds of Turkey's southeast would feel justified in displaying their happiness at seeing their children come back alive.

But it was the opening needed by Turkish nationalists. For years they had been waiting for first the AKP, and then the DTP, to be closed by the Constitutional Court. In 2008 the AKP had barely escaped closure, and after their reprieve the Erdogan government had a chance to change the laws that have made Turkey, in the common phrase, "a graveyard of political parties." Not only did they not do so, they did not try. In the aftermath of the PKK return celebrations, the court went ahead with the case against the DTP.

In the meantime, in the absence of any sign of peaceful intent from the Turkish Army, and after losing a score of their guerrillas to air, artillery, and ground attacks from the Turks, the PKK officially abandoned their cease-fire. Still, they did not pursue an active campaign of aggressive attacks. That ended in early December, when a group of PKK fighters, acting on their own initiative, ambushed a Turkish patrol in the province of Tokat in central Anatolia, alarmingly close to Ankara. Nationalist anger erupted, and within days the results came down in the case against the DTP.

The conclusion was foregone. The DTP was closed, and its leaders were barred from participating in politics for five years. All twenty of the DTP's members in Parliament resigned their posts in protest. And the cities of the southeast have exploded in what one Kurdish newspaper called "waves and waves" of riots, protests, and violence.

But it's a humble shepherd who I find, thanks to a friend, is the quintessence of all this absurdity. Abdullah Isnac (is-notch) must be the lowest-ranking municipal employee ever to get in trouble for a political demonstration. The Taraf newspaper uses the word "coban" to describe him, a word which in English, at least, has rather positive connotations. Really, it means that he looks after animals. In this case, it is stray cows that have wandered away from their owners and are blocking the streets of Sirnak, that town behind the Cudi mountain whose name means "Noah City" (shehr-nakh), after the landing-place of the Ark. In the indictment of the DTP, he is identified as a "politican" and is barred from politics for five years. So perhaps this is the way 2009 ends for Turkey, with the story of a poor shepherd, the lowliest of city employees in the southeastern town of Sirnak, a man whose job it is to round up stray cows from the city streets and return them to their owners, a man who despite his insignificance is mentioned by name in the most important judicial decision of the year and forced to "keep out of politics" for the next five years. Thus has history repeated itself, and ended again in farce.

Has Turkey totally regressed on the Kurdish question? No one can say that. The AK government says that they will stick by their program, and maybe they will. The Kurds most definitely are not going back to where they were. Near Diyarbakir, road signs (see above) point to villages whose Kurdish names are reborn. In the same city, a little girl has opened a home school to teach her classmates how to read and write Kurdish. In the Turkish parliament, a Kurdish politician has risen to describe, in candid terms, the genocide of 1915 against the Armenians. Despite police repression, people have long since ceased to be afraid of expressing their opinions or their identity. In the mountains, the PKK claims that 800 new recruits have graduated from their training camps in the past nine months. In Turkey, no one is backing off.

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Saturday, October 17, 2009

News from Hypocristan

As we were saying...

What is there to think about stories like the one below? Ahmet Davutoglu, the Foreign Minister of Turkey, stands up before a microphone and says something so totally, so stupidly, so demonstrably untrue that one can only gape and wonder if he will be Oscar-nominated as Best Actor in a Supporting Role.

Here's the background. A Turkish dramatic series presented on a state-run television channel shows Israeli troops deliberately shooting at and killing Palestinian children. Israel cries foul. Ahmet Bey says, "But Turkey does not censor." This of course is false. A quick look at the comments following the linked article will show the American reader just a few of the many media outlets that have been banned by the Turkish authorities, from YouTube to the works of Richard Dawkins. But the real question is, Why does the Turkish government continue to act this way? Why do they blandly tell these lies? Why do they promote their police state to the world as a "vibrant democracy"? Having just gone through the Bush II Administration, and faced with the ever-burgeoning popularity of such beings as Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh, Americans are in no position to give themselves a pass on this. (Think of how many times George W. Bush claimed he didn't say something that he was quite plainly videotaped saying.) But there's something so Turkish about the blandness with which Turkish government officials put out these statements about their own uprightness and morality. Contrast this with the American style. Tad Friend, writing about Hollywood in 12 October 2009 edition of The New Yorker, says,
"Hollywood's leaders work with the understanding that facts are not fixed pillars but trial balloons that you inflate with the gas of vehement assertion."
The gas of vehement assertion. How I wish that I had written that phrase. How I wish that I could buy some of that and put it in my car. It could run forever.
Davutoğlu: Turkey is not a country that censors

ISTANBUL – Daily News with wires Friday, October 16, 2009

Foreign Minster Ahmet Davutoğlu on Friday responded to complaints from Israel about the depiction of Israeli armed forces in a Turkish television series on a state-run channel. “There is no censorship in Turkey,” Davutoğlu said in a press conference Friday before he departed for Bosnia, according to broadcaster CNNTürk. “TRT [Turkish Radio and Television Corporation] is an autonomous institution. The television series’ producers are also an independent company. It is not in the ministry’s mandate to advise them.”

He criticized Israel as the actual source of tension, referring to the country’s attack on Gaza last year. “Turkey has been working toward creating peace in the region, and it was Israel that put our chances of creating peace at risk by attacking Gaza.” He cited women and children suffering the most from the incidents.
He recalled that Turkey was mediating between Israel and Syria last year, but said, “We will not be silent about what happened in Gaza,” according to the Anatolia news agency. The Israeli ambassador to Turkey was expected to visit the Foreign Ministry later Friday to express his government’s concerns about the television series.
The final stroke, the smack to the forehead, comes in the Comment form at the end of the article. Note:
"Submitted comments must be approved by Daily News staff to ensure they are in accordance with Turkish law. Comments that violate Turkish law will not be published."
And Orwell laughs again.


Sunday, October 11, 2009

Meetings in Autumn

Lalish circa 1850.

The headlines tell the tale: Armenia and Turkey, at last, have made a kind of peace. At a meeting in Zurich on 10 October 2009, protocols were signed which, if approved by each country’s parliament, will lead to a normalization of relations. After a long flirtation chaperoned by the Swiss, a history-making visit by Turkey’s President to a football match in Yerevan, and a ceremony that stalled for over three hours at the last minute, it took the combined ministers and ministrations of France, Switzerland, Germany, NATO, Russia, the EU, and the US (kudos esp. to Hillary Clinton), all of them smiling through clenched teeth and, no doubt, rolling their eyes, to hammer together this union between a rusty nail and an ironwood plank. Next step: a football match in Turkey, to be attended by Serge Sarkisian, President of Armenia. If, as seems likely, the Turkish police can keep order at the match (my guess: one out of every three attendees will be a plainclothes officer), expect a ponderous, lurching march thereafter toward the goal of rapprochement. Sworn enemies on both sides will continue to make trouble (a recent tour by Sarkisian of Armenian settlements in Europe, the US, and Russia was accompanied by cries of “Traitor!”); still, observers are cautiously optimistic.

Meanwhile, another newspaper article reminds us of a far less famous event. As I write this, the Yezidis’ Feast of the Assembly is nearing its climax. Every October 6-12, when not kept away by war and violence, Yezidis from around the world make their annual pilgrimage to Lalish, a.k.a. Sheikh Adi, a tiny complex of temples, shrines, and tombs in the hills north of Mosul. From F&T:
The classic description of Sheikh Adi comes from Henry Layard, who in the fall of 1846 took time off from his dig at Nineveh to attend the Feast of the Assembly, the annual gathering of the Yezidi clans. Layard, himself not a clergyman and with no official need to pass judgment on “devil-worshippers,” simply recorded what he saw: a festival abundant with beauty and devoid of debauchery, with oil lamps sparkling among the olive groves by night; dancing maidens; the music of flutes and tambourines and the chanting of priests; crowds of white-robed Yezidis; giggling maidens with their black hair plaited in glass beads and gold.
And who are the Yezidis? Definitely not “devil-worshippers,” as they have been labeled for centuries. Those who know about Turkey and Kurdistan, especially those who have read a certain book by me, will need no introduction. The Yezidis speak Kurdish, and yet, after years of strife with their Kurdish neighbors, they do not really consider themselves Kurds. In recent years their villages have suffered greatly from terrorist truck bombs, probably set by Sunni Arab jihadists, and they still live in fear. But they too, have shown their own violent side, as when two years ago a Yezidi girl was caught on video being stoned to death by her Yezidi relatives. (Her crime? Wearing jeans, being seen with a Sunni Arab boy.) In recent decades much more has been learned about their religion, a mixture of angel worship, Zoroastrianism, and other elements. Still, no one can really say where their religion comes from, and as to the origin of their name, whether Yezidi, Ezidi, and Yazidi, the multiplicity of theories leads one to believe that, in all likelihood, none of them are correct.

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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A State of Injustice

The following article was written by Mizgin Yilmaz, proprietor of Rasti. Mizgin virtually always writes in a state of high dudgeon, and she is virtually always justified in doing so. Such is the case this time. Note: be sure to check out the links she has posted. They are highly instructive. Again, this is a state which expects to be part of the European Union.

[TSK is the Turkish Armed Forces. OHAL refers to the emergency martial-law regime in the Kurdish southeast of Turkey.]

Cross-posted at The Pasha and The Gypsy and Progressive Historians.


"A kingdom founded on injustice never lasts."
~ Lucius Annaeus Seneca.

Picture this: A seventeen-year-old guy picks up his seventeen-year-old girlfriend after school and takes her to his family's large home. The guy kills the girl, decapitates her with a saw and chops up her body, stuffs the body parts into a suitcase and guitar case, gets a driver to take him to a dumpster on the other side of town and disposes of the body.

The guy's father is picked up by the police on charges of abetting the crime and the mother flees the country.

Six months after the murder, the guy turns himself in to the police.

What do you think should happen to a guy like this? Would it make any difference if you knew that the murderer was a member of one of the richest families in the country?

If this story plays out in Turkey, which it did, the murderer will be charged in juvenile court--because he's only seventeen--instead of being tried as an adult.

More on the murder at Zaman and another at Bianet. Note that the first of those articles claims the father of the murdered girl is quoted as thanking the police and government for helping to capture the murderer. However, that's not at all the same guy who was on NTV on the day of the surrender, yelling to know what kind of deal had been made between the government and the very rich kid's family.

On the other hand, if you're a ten-year-old kid growing up in another part of the country, in a family that was probably forcibly displaced from their home back in the 1990s, and you're a Kurd, you're going to get very different treatment from the state:

In Adana alone, some 155 children are facing trial, 67 have been convicted and five have begun to serve their sentences, says Ethem Acikalin, head of the local branch of Turkey’s Human Rights Association. All were charged under article 220/6 of the penal code, which criminalises “acting on behalf of a terrorist organisation”. The cases are tried in adult courts.

Or then there was Cizre:

If Turkish prosecutors have their way, Yilmaz, a soft-spoken 16-year-old with a teenager’s pimply face, could spend up to seven years in jail for having joined a demonstration early last year in the town of Cizre, in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast.

Yilmaz (the name has been changed to protect his identity) has already spent 13 months in jail awaiting trial, although he was recently let out on bail. Although he joined a demonstration that took place after the funeral of a young boy who had been run over by a police armored vehicle during an earlier protest, prosecutors say the event was organized by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and are charging the boy with supporting a terrorist organization.

"In each appearance in court, we were telling the prosecutors that we are children, that they should let us go back to our lives," says Yilmaz.

Yilmaz is one of hundreds of minors, some as young as 13, who have been arrested and jailed in Turkey over the last few years under strict new anti-terrorism laws that allow for juveniles to be tried as adults. Some have even been accused of "committing crimes in the name of a terrorist organization" for participating in demonstrations that prosecutors charge have been organized the PKK.

If you're the police and you torture a Kurdish kid in broad daylight, in front of media cameras, then have no fear! Your case will be dropped.

Then there are the activities of the ironically-named "Children's Day" in Hakkari.

Or, as happened several days ago, if you're a fourteen-year-old Kurdish girl gathering feed for her sheep, you can just be blown to bits by TSK mortar fire. At least Ceylan's mother was able to pick
up the pieces of her daughter that were left so that they could be buried. The cover-up is already ongoing because no prosecutor arrived at the scene of the crime and he cites "security zone" (i.e. OHAL) as the reason for helping TSK to cover up its murder of this Kurdish child.

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