by Gordon Taylor | 10/19/2007 01:11:00 AM

I want to look again at this beautiful girl and try to figure out the usual--who, what, why. But current events keep getting in the way. As everyone knows, the Turks have massed--what, 60,000?--troops on the border, and they're threatening to go into Iraq after the PKK. In other words, they want to go to where Aynur is standing in this photograph.

What everyone doesn't know is--this is absurd. The bulk of the PKK forces are not in Iraq anyway: they're in Turkey. And they're certainly not going to hang around their home base on Kandil Mt. (approx. 12,000' alt.) waiting to be attacked. What's more, the Turks' tanks are useless in this terrain, and they would have a very hard time staging a helicopter-borne raid 100 miles into Iraq--which is where Kandil is located. This is a tough army, the PKK. They walk everywhere. They move at night, live in caves, and subsist on caches of food. They strike at Turkish military targets hundreds of mountain-strewn miles from their base on Kandil Mt., and they flee on foot. If they survive, that is. Many do not. The HPG web page features complete rosters of their martyrs, year by terrible year. And yet, despite all their losses, they seem to find no trouble attracting young people not only from Turkey, but also from Iraq, Iran, Syria, Armenia, France, and Germany. And they are unique because, in the Muslim Middle East, they use women as the equals of men.

Before we look at Aynur's life, and try to figure out how it could end so tragically, I'd like to take a closer look at the right-hand photograph itself. Obviously, it is springtime: green grass is peeking through, and yet no leaves have appeared on the scrub oak in the background. Then there is her clothing and equipment. First, the shoes. They look like good quality merchandise, with nylon laces, leather uppers, and thick rubber soles for walking (quietly!) in the mountains. Obviously the HPG provides well, for these are a lot better than the stuff I've seen Turkish peasants wearing. Next, the shalvar (or shalwar), the wide pantaloons that are traditionally worn by mountain Kurds. These are essential for climbing steep slopes--try doing it in tight jeans sometime. Around her waist is the cummerbund (Persian: kemer-i-band) that the Kurds always wear. The uniform shirt and photographer's vest are also standard guerrilla issue for PKK/HPG fighters. All in all, let's take note--she has good, sturdy clothing. These are not cheap. When I was at Ani, the ancient Armenian city on the Soviet border, in 1977, the Turkish soldier who showed me around, a conscript, was literally in rags--patched-up, sewn-together, frayed-at-the-cuffs rags. His rifle was an American M-1 Garand rifle, WWII-issue, no doubt handed down to the Turks for their participation in the Korean War. Aynur, by contrast, looks sharp indeed. If you look at the left photo above, Aynur's head shot before the flag of the PKK, you can even see the manufacturer's name sewn into the lining of the shirt. And of course, she has a Kalashnikov--doesn't everybody? In a 1990s issue of Harper's (you'll have to trust me; I don't remember the issue #), the Harper's Index listed the price of a Kalashnikov in Uganda: two chickens. That's how hard they are to get.

I am blogged out for the night. Tomorrow we'll return to Aynur and try to guess why she would end up where she did. From there we'll move out to other images from the mountains and the stories they have to tell.

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