by Gordon Taylor | 10/21/2007 07:33:00 PM

More bad news from the southeast of Turkey:

10/21/07 (AFP) The Turkish general staff said in a statement that fighting erupted in a mountainous region in the province of Hakkari after PKK rebels infiltrated from northern Iraq and attacked soldiers on patrol shortly after midnight Saturday.

Sixteen Turkish soldiers were wounded in the fighting near the village of Daglica, almost on the Iraqi border in Hakkari province.

Clashes were continuing, with helicopters providing air cover, the army said. Troops were monitoring the rebels' escape routes and heavy artillery was pounding 63 likely targets, it said.

The general staff first reported 23 PKK rebels killed, then increased the number to 32, bringing the total number of dead in the fighting to 44.

A senior PKK leader in northern Iraq said the rebels had captured a group of soldiers, but Gonul swiftly denied the claim.

None of these dispatches ever contain much in the way of images. In this case I'll provide one--a very old one. Above is a photo of the village of Oramar, in the mountains of Hakkari province in what was then the Ottoman Empire. I have never been able to get a definitive attribution for this photograph, but I believe it was taken circa 1910 - 1912 by Capt. Bertram Dickson, R.A., at that time H.M. Consul at Van, in eastern Anatolia. This village, then a home for Nestorian Christians, is now called Daglica on official Turkish maps. This, in other words, is where the attack described above happened.

In the photograph we can get glimpses of the village at the lower left and right. If you look closely you can see the flat-roofed houses that are typical of the mountains, with one poplar showing itself (left) and, most important, the terraces where the villagers farmed tiny garden plots. Notice the rock strata that been heaved up. This is major tectonic country, where the Arabian Plate grinds up against the Eurasian Plate. And, as you can imagine, it does not lack for earthquake faults.

Note the phrasing by the Turkish General Staff: "fighting erupted after PKK rebels infiltrated from northern Iraq." Well yes, they probably did come from Iraq at some time, but this makes it sound as if they had come specifically for this ambush. That, as I've indicated before, just doesn't happen. The PKK fighters don't just stroll across the border for a few hours and then go back. They basically live in Turkey, and evidently for quite long periods of time. Just look at that crumpled heap of mountains. Now imagine walking over it, or through it. And imagine trying to find someone there who is determined to get lost. "Heavy artillery," the article goes on, "was pounding 63 likely targets." Oh sure it was. I'm sure they could find at least sixty-three rocks in the area to aim at. Anything else would have been somebody's village. And those too they don't hesitate to target.

As for the village's present name, Daglica, that too tells a story. The Turkish alphabet doesn't translate well to Internet software like Blogger. (If I were to type in the proper characters they wouldn't reproduce correctly anyway.) It's pronounced Dah-luh-jah. It means, more or less, the "little place in the mountains." In the last fifty years the government of Turkey has gone through the Kurdish southeast and Turkified as many place names as it can get away with. Thus Oramar is gone, and this bland label has been slapped on. If you look at Susan Meiselas's book, Kurdistan: In the Shadow of History, you can see a picture (page 364) of a village called Ormanici that was razed by the Turkish Army in their anti-PKK campaigns in the 1990s. The name "ormanici" means "in the forest" in Turkish. In the photograph there is scarcely a tree in sight. The place used to be called Bane, but keeping that name meant that the government would have to admit that there were other people besides Turkish-speaking peasants there. And so, in 1960, some bureaucrat in Ankara probably came up with the name "Ormanici" even though he'd never seen the place. Of course, the people too have to have Turkish names. Anything that is traditionally a Kurdish name is strictly forbidden.

More images later.

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