Thursday, May 24, 2007

Turkish fieldwork notes: warred villages, burned villages

Kurdistan/Turkey fieldwork notes extracts

This post comprises notes from visits to several warred villages, or 'burned villages'.

At 11.40pm on the 13th of May 2007, I breathed a sigh of relief:
Finally, a good nearly-a-day's work done. Still full of cold, I fell back to sleep after my alarms and finally awoke and got up at 10am. I was at Lice by lunchtime, but lost a couple of hours talking to locals about the evils of Anglo-American Empire and the possibility of them being guides for me for more money than I earn myself.

Afterwards, they tried to convince me that the day had finished (at 2.30pm) and that I should go back tomorrow, presumably hoping that I'd pay the extortionate rates and for a whole day too. I escaped and set off. Rain again made many or most sites inaccessible, but along the way I found out a couple more sites than expected were accessible after all.

The first place I visited was Fum (also known as Kumluca(?)). It wasn't an auspicious start; there was nothing to see. Based on the information I have, the village was evacuated and destroyed in 1993; it was rebuilt by villagers displaced from their own village by an earthquake (on the 27th of January 2003 near Erzincan or on the 1st of May 2003 near Bingöl(?)). I understand that there was 'nothing' left, but I suspect that the foundations remained, but were not visible - were invisible! - because the newly-built village is built on top of them. So, I did get two important pieces of information from it:
  • first, the 'abandoned' villages in northern Kurdistan/south-eastern Turkey are at least sometimes resettled, as in Cyprus, albeit under very different circumstances; and
  • second, because it is an earthquake-prone zone, Kurdish villagers are frequently "naturally" displaced and forced, then, inadvertantly to disguise or destroy the evidence of their own community's persecution.
(The second piece of information is obviously very important.)

The second place I visited was variously called Cepür, Cupar, Xanagale and one or two other similarly pronounced names. It's worth noting now that another place on the (incomplete) list of 'burned villages' had near-identically spelled Kurdish and Turkish names (that is to say the two different spellings of the "two" villages' Kurdish name(s) and the two different spellings of the (very different) Turkish name(s), were nearly identical, Cüper and Xanegela), certainly well within the range of accents heard, so it appears that some places in the list are duplicates. This seems especially likely here, as "Karavan Sarayı Kalesi", "Caravanserai Castle" can't be that common a name.

Xanagale was evacuated and destroyed in 1993 or 1994, then later rebuilt and resettled. I understand that the village was 'destroyed, with machine, with fire, with all kinds of things', (something like, 'götürdü, makinesiyle, ateşli, her çeşitli şeyi'). Helpfully contrasting, both of its castles were destroyed by earthquakes.

Third was Hasbeg, Mahama, Mahma, Meheme or Mehme, which was evacuated and destroyed in 1993 (or 1994?) and subsequently rebuilt. Walking up the slope someone asked, 'you're looking for old things, isn't it?' I corrected them, 'no, just destroyed things'. I felt bad.

Fourth was Kılıdar, Kiledar or Kileder, evacuated in (1993? or) 1994. [This is the most glaring example, but I'll expand all of these entries once I'm able to look at my photographs.]

Fifth was Puneyn or Püneyn, which, if I remember correctly, was evacuated in 1993, but only destroyed five years later in 1998; it, too, has been resettled. [Again, I'll fill in from the photos.]

Unfortunately, after the second power cut in two nights, my room's bulb went and they haven't been able to replace it yet; I can't stand to write by the light from the corridor any longer and only hope that this much turns out to be legible in the light of day.

Talking with people, the most commonly used terms were yıkılmak, yakılmak and, primarily, götürmek...

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