Friday, November 27, 2015

Diyarbekir Diaries – Rojnivîska Amedê 5

Acacia in Ekim Park-Diclekent--this park is where the teens go to make out

Day 5 

            Maybe you have noticed that I have called this city three different names. One is Amed, the Kurdish name of the city and the one that most activists prefer. Another is Diyarbekir—which was the original name and meant “Land (Diyar) of the Bekir tribe.” The last is Diyarbakır, the official name on Turkish maps. Atatürk coined this name when the republic was founded, presumably to make it sound a bit more…Turkish? It would mean “Land of Copper.” But “diyar” is still not a Turkish word.
A maple and a man on a bench, Parkorman, Diclekent

            We spent our last day in the city wandering the parks of a neighbourhood called Diclekent, where some really dazzling fall plumage enticed us to pull out our cameras and go on a photo binge. In one of the park, I couldn’t help but notice the free range turkeys pecking among the benches. It was Thanksgiving back in the States and it seemed like a small salute from the city to have these birds toddling along behind me. 
            The only thing that marred the golden autumn afternoon was the ceaseless roar of the F-16s, a reminder of the madness at the border.
Catalpa Trees and Sycamores at Parkorman

(More autumn pictures at the end of this blog)

            I would also like to say something about the use of Kurdish in the city—the unofficial capital of Kurdish resistance. It is very very very sparse. I heard it on the streets a lot, but most people speak Turkish to one another. As far as signs go—well the city government makes all their signs bilingual. The signs in Koşuyolu Park and the sides of the busses operated by the city all feature Kurdish, but outside of that the only place you see the language used as a means of discourse is in activist businesses like Aram Bookstore (a great resource for alternative Kurdish publishers), Babel Teras bar and the Heftrenk traditional clothing store, whose sign on the window says “Speak Kurdish!”
"Speak in Kurdish" at Heftrenk

Bathroom at Aram Bookstore
But that's it.
I keep thinking of that journalist I got in a Twitter tiff with (see my first entry), who said Diyarbakır had changed and was hardly recognizable anymore as a Turkish city. Was she on some sort of hallucinogen? Or is the Turkish mindset so deadset on the one language, one people, one religion mentality that a couple of signs here and there in Kurdish strike them as a radical revolution? I have no idea but I wish to hell people here would put more of their signs and advertisements in both languages. It’s way overdue.

            In the evening, we went to the movies at the Galleria mall next to the city hall. The place was a ghost town. Only a few lights were on and we wandered up dead escalators to get to the top floor where the alleged cinema was located. All around us were cracked windows on abandoned store fronts, blinking neon signs about to die forever and dark corridors into nowhere. An old man with a bushy moustache manned the ticket booth surrounded by independent film posters. No one else was anywhere around. Utterly utterly silent except for the Kurdish songs the ticket seller was playing on his phone. At 7, he unlocked the huge wooden doors to the theatre and let us in with a ominous creak.
            Before the film started (we’d come to see Mustang, recommend it) we heard five explosions from the old city. “Sound bombs,” my sister-in-law explained. “They’re probably attacking the trenches. It happens from time to time.” On the way home we heard what sounded like another explosion from the opposite end of the city. Apparently, someone attacked one of the police tanks, which are legion.
            Life at war with the State.
Red vines at Ekim Park

            After the movie we went to a bar called Babel—which also had a gesture toward Kurdish. The signs over the bathroom said “Mer” and “Jin”. They had Becks on tap and after a few of those, one could push the memory of sound bombs to the back of the mind and relax to all the hard rock blasting through the speakers.
Red maple at Ekim Park

            One last thing, I wrote about the markets the last entry, including one market called the “Burned Market.” After a bit of research, I found out the market Is quite old, stretching back to at least the 16th century. It burned down in 1895 and 1914. The first coincides with the date of the massacre of Armenians by Sultan Abdulhamid II when after a shooting outside the Great Mosque, a general attack on Armenians erupted. The other was the eve of the Genocide. This last fire also burned down the Armenian quarter of the city and marked the beginning of the end. Merchants fleeing the flames cried, “The market is on fire!” and that name stuck. Today, incidentally, is the date of the hated TEOG exam, the high school entrance test that my 8th graders are now taking. One of the questions on the history section was this, “Which is not true about the exile of the Armenians?” The answer? “The Turkish state wanted to erase the Armenians from the land of Anatolia.”

            And disinformation lives on.

At Ekim Park--the anti government grafitti and random love scribblings

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