Travels in Rojava (part 2): Kobanê

“All religions have the same heart. We’re all one,” a man says to us warmly as we drink tea in his home. We are in the city of Kobanê in Rojava, an autonomous and democratically run region in the north of Syria. In late 2014, Kobanê became the focus of the world’s media when ISIS…

Travels in Rojava (part 1): Cizîrê canton

“We’re solidarity activists,” we say to a man who greets us as we cross the border into Rojava. “You’ve come too late!”  he replies. Nevertheless, he smiles widely, welcomes us and shakes our hands. In a way, I agree with him. We have come too late. We are only visiting Rojava when there has been…

Black Bogies and Phlegm in Bashur

  You know you’re in a polluted place when your bogies go black and your chest starts to hurt. I’m back in South (Iraqi) Kurdistan, which is also known simply as Bashur, meaning South, to Kurds. I’m with three friends, trying to cross the border into Rojava. Bureaucracy, politics and crooked governments have ensured that…

Travels in Kurdistan (part 2) – The evil eye of Turkey’s military

Read Travels in Kurdistan (part 1) here It’s late June, and we arrive in Midyat as it’s getting dark. Unfortunately for us, President Tayyip Erdoğan has also decided to visit Midyat on the same evening, after a farcical PR stunt, giving Angelina Jolie a tour of the nearby Syrian refugee camp. Police are everywhere, roads are…

Travels in Kurdistan (part 1): Massacres in North and West Kurdistan

It’s June 2015, and we arrive in North Kurdistan (the part of Kurdistan within the Turkish borders) at election time. The Kurdish population is ecstatic, because for the first time in the history of the Republic of Turkey, the pro-Kurdish HDP party has won 80 seats in parliament. The HDP could only have any seats…

Ghost Towns of Turkish Kurdistan

It is 45 degrees celsius in south-eastern Turkey and the population is not eating or drinking anything, even water, during daylight hours. It is Ramadan – the month of fasting. Chris and I guiltily glug water all day long (it’s 45 degrees, for god’s sake!) and instead of scowling at us, people offer us iced…

Bird Killers and Gun Fire: more tales from Turkey

Whilst sitting on beaches in Turkey, I have been known to mock English tourists, commenting on their bright red, burnt skin. So I get my comeuppance when Chris and I lay in the sun on Olympos beach, then both spend the next week with blistering, lobster-like skin. Turkey is the country of good fortune: whenever…

Learning about Turkish Kurdistan

Any traveller who has spent time in Turkey has probably heard racism directed towards Kurdish people. It is believed that 20-25 million Kurds live within the borders of Turkey. I am often told that south-eastern Turkey, which is predominantly Kurdish, is dangerous, and that I shouldn’t get into cars with Kurdish numberplates. This is, of…

Friendly faces in Kurdistan, Northern Iraq (but where are the women?!)

Kurdistan is a region that covers parts of Iran, Iraq, Turkey and Syria, and where the population, culture and language is mostly Kurdish.  Kurds  are “the largest national, cultural group that has never been able to achieve a national territory”, says Noam Chomsky. I am still travelling with my Norwegian friends, Mats and Robert, and…