Jearld Frederick Moldenhauer – Photographer, Bookseller, Naturalist

Turks and Kurds

Introduction for Turks and Kurds

I first visited Turkey during my 8 month trip abroad in 1970. I took a ferry from Crete to Rhodos where I debated crossing over into Anatolia. Rhodos was one of three or four Greek Islands with ferry service to the Turkish mainland. When I told the owners of the pension where I was staying that I would be taking the ferry to Turkey the next day, they became visibly upset and told me I would likely be murdered! Fortunately I did not heed their advice for – in 1970 – there were so few tourists in Turkey that, in the 3 to 4 weeks I was there, I never saw a single one! This translated into being on the receiving end of unstinting hospitality wherever I went. I knew then that, if Turkey were to build a tourist infrastructure, it would likely become the THE destination for millions of future tourists.

Over the next 3 decades I returned to Turkey some 18 times, gradually gravitating further and further east to keep my distance from the ever increasing number of tourists. The last two times I was in Turkey, I rented a car in order to easily access out-of-the-way places. On the last of these trips, I headed back to the Kurdish region around the Hakkari Mountains, which I had once passed through on my my way back from Iran. It had the most beautiful small villages (such as Beytüşşebap) set among lush mountains, coursing with streams and rivers.

My experiences in the region remained in the forefront of my memories and I longed to return. Somewhere near Sirnak, the military stopped me, warning of the dangers ahead due to its war against Kurdish separatists. They told me I could go on … but asked me to write a letter stating that, if I were killed, I would not hold the Turkish army responsible. After thinking about how this might play out, I sadly decided it would be unwise to go further east and turned to head southwest toward Antakya. From what I regularly read in the press, I suspect this entire area is still closed to travelers.