I talk too much. I told Murat that pretty much the entire rest of the world calls that part of the world ‘Iraqi Kurdistan’ and that only in Turkey the media flinch at the thought and circumnavigate the issue by calling it ‘North Iraq’, and now he duefully repeats it, telling people I am heading to ‘Kurdistan’. At first I find myself pleased by his quick acceptance , but then things go quicker than you can say Jack Robinson and I think he may have said the word one time too many. Suspicion arises. Might I be one of those pernicious Kurdish sympathizer? Murat’s boss sits me down and even though I decline the first offer he urges me several times to have a coffee so I will sit there for a little longer and we will ‘chat’ –which means of course he is poking about in my innards with a few questions: What exactly am I doing in Sivas? -I think I will go to the turist ofisi and ask for a broşür is my answer. Oh, I love history. Yes, I want to see the historical buildings in this town. Was I appeasingly vague enough? Seems not.
As I enter the tourist information the place is peopled by a couple of superfluous looking guys in suits. That’s how quickly you get to meet the secret service in this place. As I pick up my map of the town, one of the guys tells the office clerk, as if by chance, to take my name and occupation. Not a journalist hopefully? No, a student –what subject? In a slip of the tongue I say politics. I might have done better by steering a bit further away from the truth. Biology would have been a nice innocuous topic I could have shown interest in. Not only has it never happened to met to be asked identification in a Tourist Office, because I can’t possibly find my way around town someone is sent with me. I say it’s ok I’ll be fine but he insists: ‘’No, problem.’’ After we reach Gok Madrassa, the town’s main attraction, I say ‘you surely must get back to work, don’t you?’. ‘Yes’, he says, ‘I’m not as lucky as you; I’m not on a holiday.’ But he stays.
That’s how I get my own private itihbarat agent for the afternoon.
I want to sit down and have a çay between the venerable old walls of this former Islamic school. My personal spy reaches for his wallet and says he’ll pay. ‘You know our formidable Turkish hospitality - as long as you are with us you never have to pay’ he attempts kindness. When our tray comes, I renounce sugar and sip on the bitter red brew watching his strange manner of stirring the sugary dishwater that passes for coffee here; he holds and moves the spoon as if it was some kind of miniature shovel with which he was scraping off the sediment at the bottom of a muddy brown miniature lake. Next to it the angularly lego-like structure of the sugar bowl rises like a snowy mountain. Like a wandering celestial body the red glim of the cigarette rises from ashtray to mouth. Rises like a sun, and sets again.
When our different coloured lakes are slurped empty, the single red sun dies and only the mountain still remains, it’s time to move on.
'Before we visit the museum, let’s buy your ticket out of town', suggests my friend-for-the-day. He wants to make sure I’ll move North West, as I seem to have decided, not to Dersim as I initially stated. At the beginning that was my plan, foolhardily throwing caution about PKK activity in the area to the wind. But if I chance that way now, how sure can I be I will be abducted by Turkish deep state agents wanting to throw a bad light on the guerillas? A little too sure for my taste.
He goes ahead for me asking around what time the busses go. When it comes to the crunch, well remembering his earlier words of largesse I invite him to pay with a dip of the head. His hand twitches hesitatingly as it dives into his jacket pocket, but it seems he figures he can’t go back on his earlier anouncement and dishes out the cash for me (a hundred points for the gold-digger!).
In the meantime I get myself invited to the museum and afterwards to a nargile shop. My private spy for the day is evidently starting to be annnoyed by the wonky walking attempts in the Turkish language I force upon him, but that’s just something he’ll have to sit out. It is in a stoned swagger that I make my way back to the bus station where half an hour later I am duely seen off by the man who spied on me for the afternoon. My bus rumbles West to a town whose name translates as ‘slap in the face’.
But of course, twisted roads also lead South-East.