Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Turkey fieldwork notes: visiting warred villages; doublespeak

Kurdistan/Turkey fieldwork notes extracts

After another (again, relatively) short grumble about lost time, I worked through the practice of visiting warred villages and the Turkish military's doublespeak for those damaged and destroyed sites as 'evacuated villages' or 'abandoned villages'.

At 1.10am on the 12th of May, I sighed,
that's five-and-a-half hours of my life I'll never get back. [I can't think why, but I didn't record the debate I had with some proselytising Muslims outside Ulu Camii.] I hope Allah knocks it off my time in Purgatory, for enduring this-worldly suffering, rather than adding it on for stubborn disbelief.

If truly merciful, Allah would've struck me down before I'd even made it to the tea house, but I guess it's proof that Allah doesn't intervene and delivers other-worldly justice on arrival.

After my unsuccessful attempt to find the tourism information office, I made an unsuccessful attempt to find a map. I asked around and knew it had been a bad idea as soon as I entered the third shop.
Hi, do you have a road map of Turkey with the villages on it?'
The young man answered, 'no, would you like a glass of tea?'
'No thanks, if there isn't a map here, I ought to leave, go and find it somewhere else.'
The old man said, 'wait a minute, I might know where you can find one.'
After a minute or two of small talk, the son went and looked for him [his father] and came back and told me, 'he's drinking tea'.
I picked up my bag but before I could say goodbye the son went again then came back, uttering the dreaded words, 'your tea's ready'.
We talked a little, then they asked which willages I wanted to go to.
I sighed, then began, 'my work in Cyprus is with the villages'.
Their nods and 'ah's of understanding made me think they knew what I meant already, so I came out with it.
'I want to go to Lice, Bismil, Kulp...'
They nodded again, with heavy heads.
A friend of the family's came into the shop and asked who I was; they explained, 'he's going to the warred villages'.
That term succinctly communicates the history and experience of those sites; it is unlike the original, clinical euphemism of 'evacuated villages' and far from the truly Orwellian Newspeak [his B-vocabulary, which later took the name of Doublespeak] of 'abandoned villages'.

With the advantages that it doesn't presume, require or exclude the possibility that whichever of the villages is under discussion was fearfully abandoned, forcibly evacuated or actively erased, I believe I will adopt this terminology for my discussion of warred villages in Cyprus, as well as in northern Kurdistan/south-eastern Turkey.

I've discussed how I might go about visiting these places with a dozen or so Kurds now (all men (of various ages)) and we've all arrived at the same inconclusive conclusion.
When I say or they realise that I want to visit the warred villages, they nearly all say the same thing word-for-word: 'it's a difficult thing you want to do'.
I agree then ask them, 'is it better, will it be easier if I hire a car and go by myself or if I take a taxi? Because I heard that it's difficult to find the places if I don't have a guide, but if the military stop me and I'm with a Kurd, it will be (even) more difficult to say I'm just a tourist.'
A few have argued that, 'it doesn't matter. A taxi driver drives, you give him the money, he goes wherever he's told. What can they say? They can't say anything!' Those few have all pretty much instantly changed their minds though.
They've all helped me as I thought out loud. 'I'll say I'm a tourist.'
'What is there for a tourist to look at?'
'I'll say I'm an archaeologist, normally, but here I'm a tourist.'
'You don't look like a tourist.'
'I'll dress differently, be more like a tourist, I'll wear an American hat [a baseball cap].'
'It'd be easiest to go to the district by bus or dolmuş, then get a taxi to the villages.'
'Yeah, but...'
I don't know what to say about the proselytising Muslims, but as an aside, one thing that I must have known before but not thought about hit me when one of them menntioned where he'd done his military service: what do Turkish Cypriots think of the Kurds who serve in northern Cyprus?

They should see them as allies, "normally", but they're there serving the Turkish occupation. Do many Kurds get sent to Cyprus for their military service, so that they're as far away from the South-East as possible? Has the Turkish army learned from the Roman Empire and/or the Ottoman Empire?

No comments:

Post a Comment