Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Turkish fieldwork notes: military terrorist perception

After a (relatively) short grumble about lost time, I recorded what I could remember of a conversation that explored the actions of the Turkish military and Kurdish guerrillas and the perception of who was a "terrorist".

At 1.10pm on the 11th of May 2007, I jotted down that,
I went to the three sites within the walls of Diyarbakır that I most wanted to see, all closed (until this afternoon, hopefully, when I should be able to find the tourist office and have a quick look around).

I lost nearly half my morning trying to find the tourist information office, which sounds ridiculous, but one [or two] verbatim exchange[s] ought to suffice.
'Do you know where the tourist information office is?'
'Aren't you Turkish Airlines?'
'What do you want?'
'A map.'
'A map?'
'Yes, a map.'
'Okay, go fifty metres down the road.'
Fifty metres down the road, I found a bank, which, thankfully, didn't try to confound me with absurdity.
'Do you know where the tourist information office is?'
'Well, this is a bank.'
'Where do you want to go?'
'... to the tourist information office.'
'This place is a bank.'
'Yes, thanks.'
I did at least meet someone (a pharmacist) who said his brother was unemployed and might be able to show me round. I also had a conversation with a Turk who'd lived in England and the USA for about twenty years (about ten in each) and had been back (farming...) for about the same amount of time.
He made a slip of the tongue about us being in Kurdistan, then quickly corrected himself, 'that's what the terrorists call it'.
We had a circular conversation in which he said that, '30,000 people were killed... Kurds... The PKK killed them all, only it [or it only] killed Kurds, the [Turkish] army was trying to protect them.'
I asked if 'it protected them by killing civilians and destroying their villages?'
He asked, horrified, 'who said that?'
I said that 'it (the government and the army) admitted that it had destroyed the villages', which he denied until I could repeat myself and finish, 'but it says it had to prevent terrorists coming back', which is the line he follows wholesale.
Then, he told me that the area was 'too high up and spread out and difficult to control, so they have to do it to stop terrorists; if the villages won't help the government and the army fight the terrorists, they have to be...', pushing his hand forward to gesticulate 'driven out'.
I offered, 'evacuated?' He accepted.

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