I'm a Belgian photographer and I travel around the world with my camera. My passion for travelling trips brought me to Asia, India, Africa, Latin America, North Africa and the Middle East. A part of my work can be seen on my portfolio website www.parcheminsdailleurs.com
In April 2014, I land in Van and travel through the Kurdish territories in Eastern Turkey, for the first part of a photographic project about the different regions of Kurdistan. My project will bring me to Turkey, Iran, Irak and hopefully Syria.
Kurdistan (literally meaning "Land of the Kurds") is a geographical and cultural region in the Middle East, mostly populated by Kurds. This borderless territory extends to some parts of Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria. Of these four countries, only two officially recognize a region under the name "Kurdistan" - Iran with its Kordestan province and Iraq with its autonomous Kurdistan region.
The Turkish Kurdistan, in southeastern Turkey, is mainly populated by Kurds and Turks. The Turkish authorities prefer the term "Southeastern Anatolia Region" (Anadolu Güneydogu Bölgesi). Turkish Kurdistan occupies a large part of southeastern Turkey, representing 210,000 km ² and 41.7 % of the total area of Kurdistan. Mainly located on the Anatolian and the Armenian plateau, the area is mountainous, the highest peak, Mount Ararat, is 5165 meters high.
When the Turkish Republic was created in 1923 by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the authorities banned the Kurdish language and the Kurdish family names. Speaking Kurdish became a prohibited act. The word «Kurdish» itself was forbidden and Kurds were referred to as «mountain Turks» by politicians. Facing the denial of their identity, the Kurds have repeatedly raised. The uprisings were brutally repressed by the Turkish army. The last uprising against Turkey was made by the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). A guerrilla began in 1984. Since the arrest and imprisonment of PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan in 1999, fighting decreased , including the withdrawal of PKK troops to the Eastern (or Iranian Kurdistan ) and Southern Kurdistan ( Iraqi Kurdistan ). In total, the war has claimed more than 37,000 deaths in the region.
According to a survey of the Institute of Turkish survey, KONDA, there are approximately 11,445,000 Kurds across Turkey. According to other sources, the Turkish Kurds would be 15 to 20 million people (28 % of the national population) and constitute then half of the Kurds in the Middle East.
Hasankeyf is a small village located in the Batman province. Its population is predominantly Kurdish. Hasankeyf has a rich historical heritage and is threatened to disappear due to the project of construction of the Ilisu dam, to be completed in 2015. Locals and NGO's mobilize to avoid seeing Hasankeyf disappear beneath the waters of the Tigris, a part of its ruins dating back several millennia.
Although the state of emergency was lifted in Kurdistan, the situation has not changed much. Many Kurdish leaders are still in prison and thousands of people displaced during the repression of the 1990's are not allowed to return to their villages. Political assassinations and summary executions of activists or Kurdish civilians continue. Since 1984, three thousand villages have been destroyed by the Turkish army. The existence of the Kurdish people and its culture are still not recognized by the Turkish Constitution. Indeed, the Turkish law still prohibits the teaching of the Kurdish language and only allows the teaching of Turkish «dialects» during private evening classes for adults.
In the streets of Urfa
Diyarbakir is a city of 855,389 inhabitants. Kurds are the majority of the population of the city and consider Diyarbakir as the capital of the Kurdish territories of Turkey.
Located 6 kilometers uphill southeast of Dogubayazıt, İshak Paşa Palace embodies One Thousand and One Nights romanticism. Part of its magic derives from its setting, perched on a small plateau abutting stark cliffs and gazing at Mount Ararat across green Kurdistan plains. The palace was begun in 1685 by Çolak AbdiPaşa and completed in 1784 by his son, a Kurdish chieftain named İshak.The architecture is a superb amalgam of Seljuk, Ottoman, Georgian, Persian and Armenian styles.
In the streets of Mardin
Mardin is known for the Artuqid architecture of its old city, and for its strategic location on a rocky hill near the Tigris River that rises steeply over the flat plains. It is one of the oldest settled areas in upper Mesopotamia. This ancient town crowned with a castle overlooks the vast, roasted Mesopotamian plains extending to Syria, and the honey-coloured stone houses that trip down the side of the hillside give it something of the feel of old Jerusalem. Whatever the time of the year, the interplay of light and stone is enchanting. Another draw is the mosaic of people. Sizeable Yezidi, Christian and Syrian settlements, among others, add to the population mix, giving the area a refreshing burst of multiculturalism. This region was particularly hard-hit by the troubles of the 1980's and '90s and is now a completely safe place.
Dogubayazıt is a settlement with a long history. It lies 15 kilometers southwest of Mount Ararat, 93 kilometers east of the city of Agri and 35 kilometers from the Iranian border.
Mosque near Ishak Pasa, Dogubayazit
When Mustafa Kemal, the founder of modern Turkey, signed the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923, the Greek and Armenian minorities were already decimated. However, the huge Kurdish minority remained, occupying a quarter of the territory of the new Turkey. Mustapha Kemal could not eliminate the Kurds because they were too numerous and Sunni Muslims. However, Atatürk will attempt to assimilate them and, in any case, deny their existence. The terms «Kurdistan» and «Kurds» were prohibited. This denial of the Kurds also led Turks to prohibit the use of the Kurdish language. Speaking Kurdish in public was considered as an act of separatism and led directly to jail. «Some years ago, I would have been sent to jail for selling this», tells me a man in the Diyarbakir market, when he sees me take my camera to photograph a football jersey with the letters «Kurdistan» on it. In 2013, Mr Erdogan, the Turkish Prime Minister, broke a taboo himself by saying the word «Kurdistan» when welcoming the leader of the Kurds of Iraq, Massoud Barzani.
In the middle of nowhere, near Sogmatar
End of the day, Mardin
The enigmatic statues of Nemrut Dagi have become a symbol of Turkey. The stunning scenery and historical sights and the undeniable sense of mystique and folly that emanates from the site make a visit here essential. The spellbinding peak of Nemrut Dagi rises to a height of 2150m in the Anti-Taurus Range between the provincial capital of Malatya to the north and Kahta in Adiyaman province to the south. Nobody knew anything about Nemrut Dagi until 1881, when a German engineer, employed by the Ottomans to assess transport routes, was astounded to come across the statues covering this remote mountaintop.
Akdamar Island, Lake Van
If you want to see more of my work, be welcome to my website www.parcheminsdailleurs.com