by Gordon Taylor | 4/10/2008 01:05:00 AM

If I post a picture of someone in a PKK guerrilla uniform, it usually means that an obituary will follow. So it is with this young man, whose serious gaze and professor's spectacles make us wish that we could have known him. We didn't, of course, but in fact we've seen his work before.

Last October, in one of my first posts on this forum, I put up a series of photographs which I had dug out of the back pages of the PKK's website, They showed ancient carvings and grave markers in the Besta Mountains of Turkey's Sirnak province, including a tunnel carved from solid rock. The shots astounded me, and they interested others as well. They seemed to be a revelation even to pro-PKK bloggers like Mizgin and Hevallo, both of whom linked to PH and commented on the images. I had no idea, of course, who the photographer was. Now, with reports of fighting in those same mountains, and the deaths of four guerrillas, I have found out.

His name is Halil Ibrahim Uysal, and among the guerrillas he is quite well known. He joined the PKK in Germany, where, like so many other Kurds, his parents had no doubt gone seeking a better life. We can only imagine the sacrifice that he made, to leave behind the education and comfort of German society. In fact, he was one of many who have made the retro-migration from Western Europe to the mountains of Kurdistan in order to fight with the guerrillas of the PKK. (Even native Germans, and at least one Swiss, the son of a High Court judge in that country, have joined up.) Now Halil's parents have made the migration too. According to the Firat (Euphrates) News Agency, they have arrived in the town of Sirnak to claim their son's body.

Halil seems to have had an affinity for his chosen terrain. His PKK code name was Halil Dağ ("Halil Mountain"), and he wrote about his mountains as well as photographing them. I used a lot of images from the PKK's website (see some of them here), and it now seems likely that quite a few of those were actually made by Halil. But it is as a filmmaker that Halil won his biggest audience. Hevallo, at this post, gives a synopsis of the three films that Halil made while living in the mountains, and provides video clips as well.

I have not, I confess, ever seen Halil's films. Turkish newspapers have dismissed them as propaganda, and by their standards of course they are correct. But to Turkish nationalists anything (including this post) is vicious pro-terrorist propaganda when it dares to depict the soldiers of the PKK as human beings. Well, guilty as charged. The young man above looks like a human being to me.

Toprağı bol olsun. Rest in peace, Halil Bey.

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Anonymous Anonymous on 4/11/2008 10:08 AM:

I'll say the same thing I told Hevallo:
Thank you Hevalê hêja (dear friend),
it was a very sad news.
I was near to cry when I watched RojAktuel on RojTV about Halil Uysal.
I didn't know he were born in Germany and participated in Gêrilla coming from his native European country (as you said:"his parents had no doubt gone seeking a better life. We can only imagine the sacrifice that he made, to leave behind the education and comfort of German society").
This point and the fact I saw his unique films and that he would have made lots of another good films if he wouldn' fall shehîd (martyr) made me as a member of Kurdish diaspora in Europe to fully understand the sadness of this news.
I've read an article titled "PKK: from kalashnikovs to behind cameras" about the launching of the MedTV channel (ancestor of RojTV)in 1995 but Halil Uysal made the opposite: he was at 22 one of the first cameramen of MedTV in 1995 and then he went to Kurdistan mountains.
çû dilovaniya xwedê (rest in peace)


Anonymous Anonymous on 4/11/2008 10:09 AM:

I forgot to sign: Elîshêr


Blogger Jeremy Young on 4/11/2008 2:30 PM:

Gordon, I wish I could humanize a historical figure the way you can humanize a single photograph of someone you've never met. This is absolutely astounding, and so tragic.


Anonymous Anonymous on 4/11/2008 8:47 PM:

Dear Gordan,
Thank you for revealing to us the source of all these curious photos. It would have been exciting to have heard from Uysal all that he knew of the mysterious places and objects he photographed...