Solo Travels in Eastern Turkey

The all too familiar game of a concatenation of police stops unfolds,
starting just after the sign announcing the Sirnak region. At each one i
will be interrogated by the wary and playful police and I have to reassure
them that I am really just -a botany student (my new chosen incarnation in
the endless mutations of the minor mythomaniac that I am).

At the first base I even get taken off the bus, ushered onto a chair in the
office, and hastily offered some tea, while they send my details through the
radio to their head officer who will check them through and finally give
permission to let me go on with the journey.
"Mehmet, Ahmed, Ramazaan..." they spell out my freaky christian middle name.
"Mehmet, Ahmed, Günel, Dünya..."

One sweet looking older soldier is called, ambles over, his gun flopping
over his shoulder, takes a chair and asks "you speak English?". I confirm
his assumption and am prompted into explaining who i am, what i do at home
and my reasons for travelling in this region. "You know  this region is
terror?" I calculate making a half surprised, half knowing face. "you think
it is dangerous?" I reply. Nah, not really seems to be his answer.

After exchanging a few words with one of the other soldiers and the guys on
the other side of the room still having problems with my middle name and
Mehmet, Ahmet, and Günel loudly being called for a meeting along with
numerous friends of theirs, he casts an intent glance at me, then asks "Are
you like terror?" and I laugh a negative response. He gets up seemingly
contented, I get offered some more tea and ten minutes later the message has
come through and I am handed my passport and waved out.

At the entrance of sirnak town, another barbed wired garrison , another
kimlik control and this time one of the blue capped darlings walks around
our van with something that to me looks like a metal detector. I can't
really think what else this might be but the idea obviously seems slightly
absurdist, since the entire exterior of the vehicule of course is made of
nothing else than metal. The true nature of the apparatus will have to stay
obscure to me.

I go for a walk around town aiming to use the two remaining hours to get
lost in the back alleys and scrutinize the architecture. Unfortunately all I
can remark while ambling along with the plastic bag munching cows -who
generally look like they've just scrambled out of bed without even checking
their coiffure- is that makeshift just looks the same everywhere, whether
here, in the shanty towns of sierra leone, in the hidden backyards of
Yerevan or the gypsy outskirts of Madrid and Paris.

I walk past the school which has just opened ist gates for lunch break and
has about 400, 500 white shirted, blue tied kids streaming out into ist
yard. I see only three girls- here two bowing over a book, and over there
one down with the boys.

Finally I'm on the bus, a big air conditioned tour bus with rectangle
windows on which the landscape shifts past like on cinema screens, making my
way out of town. Going down into the valley many of the hills turn out to be
actual sand dunes with green pimples on them.

Iris Neva

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