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I never got to the actual city of Şırnak but I seemed to spend a lot of time in the province. I went to Cizre twice. Below is a description of what happened when I went there in about 2002. The story of the whole trip is here.


Cizre is in the underexploited oil-rich area of south-eastern Turkey. Although there is probably quite a bit of legitimate wealth-creation going on there, the number of 34 (İstanbul) and 06 (Ankara) registered Mercedes Benzes, the unusual number of expensive hotels, and the proximity to the Syrian border suggested that not everyone was paying their taxes.

Although surrounded by arid hills, Cizre had a pleasant atmosphere because of the Tigris River running through it. The river was full of children having various forms of fun. The air was dusty because of trucks moving around on the river bed harvesting alluvial sand.

Turning down multitudinous helpful offers of taxis to far-off places, I found the dolmuş to Şırnak. We set off, crossing the Tigris and watching people below splashing about on rented surf-skis. All of Cizre’s houses had blue-painted bedsteads on their roofs or in their gardens because the interiors of the houses were too hot for sleeping in the summer.

We drove parallel to the Tigris for a while, then followed a tributary up into mountains similar to South Australia’s Flinders Ranges. There was a routine check-point. Soldiers took ID from everyone including me. Soon, one soldier returned everyone’s identity cards, but asked me to go and explain myself. The commander in charge of the post called for çay and watermelon and commenced a good-natured interrogation in which I admitted that I did not have permission or any good reason to be in this part of the country. It occurred to me at this time that having nine Turkish entry stamps in a passport less than three years old was the kind of thing that invited suspicion.

It transpired that Şırnak was the one place in Turkey where my presence was not permitted. A the commander pointed out, if I were kidnapped by terrorists, how would that reflect on the man in charge of the checkpoint that had allowed me into the area? My dolmuş roared on to Şırnak without me.

In the meantime, cars, trucks, animals and pedestrians came and went. A man was found to be carrying goats in his truck, despite not having the veterinary certificate required. He protested that he only had three goats and that they were all healthy. The commander glanced at the goats and agreed, but suggested that he have the necessary paperwork next time.

“This is why I joined the commandos,” said the commander, carrying yet another load of petty paperwork to his desk and waggling his eyebrows. The other soldiers, conscripts for the obligatory 18 months, grinned and continued stopping vehicles, collecting cards and papers and bringing them to the commander.

I found out that the political situation was in a calm phase and that nothing of particular concern was happening. However, it was known that a group which had abducted some foreigners in the 1990s was still in these mountains. The commander indicated the rugged immensity behind him and shrugged. Clearly, this checkpoint stalemate was as far as I was going.

I hitched a ride with two well-dressed and voluble Kurds in a Toyota. They explained the immensity of Kurdistan, sang part of a song in Kurdish to emphasise the frustration of not being legally allowed to use one’s own language, and boasted that oil was making them rich anyway. They stopped outside the best hotel in Cizre while I slunk off to the dolmuş stand again.

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One Response to “Şırnak”

  1. Enormousfish | 81 Provinces of Turkey | Adam Kaya Heskith | Author and Writer | Enormousfish Says:
    May 5th, 2014 at 8:49 am

    […] 64 Uşak 65 Van 66 Yozgat 67 Zonguldak 68 Aksaray 69 Bayburt 70 Karaman 71 Kırıkkale 72 Batman 73 Şırnak 74 Bartın 75 Ardahan 76 Iğdır 77 Yalova 78 Karabük 79 Kilis 80 Osmaniye 81 […]

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