We’re in the Hotel Karavansary, on the old Silk Road, a hotel built right into the basalt walls of the Byzantine fortifications built by Julian the Apostate.
Diyarbakir is the city where we’ve just purchased seeds for the refugees. It is also, at the same time, one of the early-20th century killing zones of Christians and well as the present-day unofficial capital, apparently, of Kurdistan.
First the seeds: After consultations with those who routinely cross the border, Fr. Dale was told that the customs agents on both sides would be suspicious of a tourist party carrying a thousand pounds of seeds in which could easily be hidden a wide variety of illegal substances.
Fr Dale determined that the best course would be to have a commercial trucking company haul the seeds, and we would bring a variety of samples of what the big haul contains.
This afternoon’s shopping, then was to pick up the samples of the larger haul and package the samples for distribution.
We’re also hearing reports that the Turks have escalated their military maneuvers against the PKK Kurds. We understand that there were some hostilities at the border crossing yesterday, and Fr. Dale’s people are keeping a close eye on that. It worse comes to worse, we may be obliged to take a plane across the border.
The Turks have taken the opportunity—as they join the coalition conducting airstrikes against ISIS—to resume their air campaign against the PKK. Sadly, the PKK had laid down their arms two years ago in an armistice with the Turks, but apparently, the Turks considered an opportunity to drop bombs on their old adversaries an opportunity they could ill afford to pass on.
We understand from our conversation with some local young people that Diyarbakir is 80% Kurdish, a number that surprised all of us.
Sadly, as well, there are only three Syriac Orthodox Christian families left in Diyarbakir,
thanks to the ethnic cleansing of 1915 during which (as I’ve recently read in William Dalrymple’s From the Holy Mountain: A Journey in the Shadow of Byzantium) “sadistic Ottoman Governor of Diyarbakir, Dr Reşid Bey, was responsible for some of the very worst atrocities against Christians – both Armenian and Syrian Orthodox – to take place anywhere in the entire Ottoman Empire: … One Arab source close to those who carried out the 1915 massacres in Diyarbakir Province estimated the number of murdered Christians across the governorate as 570,000: a high, but not entirely unbelievable, estimate.”
Apparently, mass murder of infidels is not something new to the region, practiced only by the Islamic State.
Today we’re off to Mardin, Midyat and monastery Mor Garbriel, with a couple of refugee camps along the way. More to follow.