Monday, 3 January 2011

Dersim

Many lifts further on, evening is approaching.
Picking a random village on the map, we decide to make it our end-point for today. Two roads lead there, and we have been dropped not far from where they branch off. Rüya looks on the map and with practical judgement says: 'The road on the right is the fastest one, that's the one we have to take''. I, however, employ a different logic. I like to travel in counter-intuitive ways. The road to the left, longer and more curvy on the map, is probably the one with the nicer views. I even sometimes like to stop a direct lift somewhere, just so that I can take a side-road that took my fancy. Indeed it is the side-roads, that make me come back for more to Kurdistan. If one year I take one road, I am bound to see another one branch off, a road to take next year.
Anyways, this time around, I try to have my way: 'I think we agree, that the road itself is the goal here, and all we lose by arriving an hour later is a few cups of tea among the three of us', is how I go about persuading my road-buddies. They are not entirely convinced, but chance acts in my favour, and the first ride that comes along goes to a village that is on the way that I chose, along the longer road. So off we go.
The landscape is indeed superb, and finally sundown comes around. With the lift we just got, we have wound our way up a steep escarpment, when our driver says - 'I am taking the way to the right here, up to my village', pointing at a dirt track winding higher still. Personally, standing on the road in the dusk does not appeal to me, but taking a road further up the mountain does, so I ask, in the name of all of us, if we can come along. The driver says, 'sure, as you wish', Rüya and Onur don't remonstrate, and so we are on our way. It does not take long until I feel that this was the right choice. The views up there are sublime. The outlines of many peaks align on the horizon, beneath them the deep waters of barrages take shape, discolored by the livid twilight sky. When the driver lets us out in the centre of the small group of houses that constitute his village, the few young people lingering on the small square acknowledge our presence with a laconic ' hoş geldiniz' -'welcome'. 'You can see immediately this is a Turkish village', says Rüya, ' if they were Kurds, their welcome would be so much warmer!', and Onur had to agree with her.
We decide to walk away from the settlement, possibly make a fire somewhere under some trees, and then go to sleep in the warm summer air. The road winds its way out of the village and around the following mountain most invitingly to my eye. However, we do not get far. We just watched the mountain gulp down the glib red egg yolk of the sun fanning its last golden rays across the sky, when a car with several men inside pulls up beside us. A man with white hair and a white beard introduces himself as the muhtar, the village chief, and demands to see our papers, “You cannot sleep outside here, this road leads straight into guerrilla territory, there isn't even a last military post there”. Perfect, I think. Anyway I am more afraid of the military than the guerrilla who have a reputation of treating hostages well, but the men really won't let us go. They say they will let us sleep in the villages’ administrative building and ask us to show our ID once again. Having toured lost little mountain villages in Eastern Turkey all over, I know this is standard procedure, but Onur, unaccustomed to travel in a war zone, refuses. Or maybe it is that I am without principles. I would have just done as we were told, but he is truly anarchist. In any case, he makes a whole fuss about it, will not show his ID. So it turns out, we cannot stay, and the idyllic village on top of the world is being relegated to memory too soon: We are escorted back down to the main road in someone else’s car.
Another lift materializes from out of the dark mercifully quickly. It is a road engineer from Diyarbakir, having come to the region to work on the local infrastructure. The road until the next village feels a bit like a slalom race, so many military road-stops are there. Of course every time we are asked to identify ourselves. I cast a slightly reproachful glance to Onur. Now he is well obliged to deliver his ID, but we're already out of paradise. At the entrance to the village we have chosen as our endpoint, Yayladere, the military commander, a friendly, podgy man in glasses, does not only glance at our passports, but takes them inside the hut for a minute. When he comes back out, he adresses Onur, who is sitting on the passenger seat: ' Niye buraya geldiniz?'- 'Why did you come here?' Onur seems at a loss for a coherent answer, 'uhm, we, uh...' he stammers. I think I know what will sound good as an answer and jump in: 'We were on our way to the festival in Kıği, but thought it started tomorrow. We heard today that it starts two days later, so are taking a detour to see some villages.' The military commander seems understanding, but admonishes us: ''This is a very dangerous region. The fighting is intense. There is 80 of them out there, they are constantly doing actions. Be careful''. And he waves our car through.

Whole story here.

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