East Turkey/Kurdistan: Whispers of War

In the province of Hakkâri daily life and especially its insecurities are dominated by violence and repression. The mere fact of being Kurdish –and expressing it- is a political act in itself. Throwing a stone in a demonstration,or holding a political flag is enough to be charged with terrorism. Even writing or singing in Kurdish in public can be sufficient to be imprisoned. Life is politicized.

Seemingly neutral infrastructural projects such as dams are seen as an attempt to control the territory and acquiring its resources.
Indeed some of the dams are constructed to bar guerilla activity and submerge hide-outs.

Whispers of War constitutes the first chapter of an ongoing larger project: the Last Free River of Mesopotamia.
For this project I aim following the Greater Zab River in Turkey and Iraq.
This key tributary of the Tigris works as a metaphor to explain the sociopolitical complexities of Kurdistan and to document the politics of water.

From 2013 till 2017 I have travelled to this area and extensive research is available both on the geopolitical situation and personal stories.

   

Hand drawn map of Hakkâri by Liza Kemman

   

My friend joked: “You see, even the Turkish government thinks this is not Turkey!” When we had to show our ID once again.

In 2016 all residents of Yüksekova, the largest town of the Hakkâri province, were forced to leave for almost three months. After the siege many parts of town
were shattered and hundreds of families left homeless.

Gunshot banged through the air and several men are fighting. A disagreement in Yüksekova can easily escalate in a violence, sometimes
leading to conflict between whole families, even tribes.

Hospitality is held high locally – supposedly the first hotel of Hakkâri was met with protest as the people wanted to host visitors instead.

This is where we are the strongest” Abdullah Öcalan – the imprisoned PKK leader once proclaimed while referring to Hakkâri.

It is here where the limits of the state are reached. The Turkish state is primarily represented by military vehicles and the subsequent violence
and repression.

Around a dozen dams are planned on the Greater Zab and its tributaries . “They want to own the root of civilization. Dams are one of the methods
to destroy the Kurdish history and culture.” (Female PKK fighter, 2013)

Hakkâri has one of the highest unemployment rates in Turkey. The Turkish state has invested little here, besides sending soldiers and
constructing military bases that are scattered all over the province.

Helicopters, drones, and fighterjets try to control the inaccessible mountainranges.

Bordering at Iran and Iraq, and laying at the crossroads of great empires, the province of Hakkâri has often been contested territory due to its
geopolitical importance.

East Turkey/Kurdistan: Whispers of War