February 21, 2014

So there's a Berber, a Suryani, and an Armenian

The famous view from Mardin of the fields leading to Syria

Sitting in a small wine shop in the dark–there has been another power outage in the old part of Mardin–are three men, laughing and laughing. Two are arguing in Arabic while the other listens. Oh, they are funny. One, handsome in a devilish way, has a black coat and a beard straight out of the movie 300. The beard is coppery red and his eyes are light. With a grin he waves his hands in mock dismay and threatens to throw a tea spoon at his friend. I am to learn that he is a devout Muslim and a Berber, which explains the hair colour. The oldest man of the three has light skin and no beard. He seems like a wise, bemused grandfather figure. I learn that he is Suryani, which in English translates not to Syrian, but Assyrian. With laughing eyes he gives me advice in Turkish about men, which I cannot understand. They continue discussing the upcoming election and the local political parties–apparently there is a woman running in one of them–and then wish me a good evening.

I am now alone with the man who runs the wine shop. In addition to making and selling local wine, he works as a pastor and leads a prayer group in town. He mentions Armenian background and something about Bitlis. I tell him how nice it is to see three people from different backgrounds not just talking, but really laughing. Later, out of ignorance, I ask something about when he lived in Bitlis. He shakes his head.

Orada hiç kimse yok.
There's no one there.


Now I am on the Wikipedia page reading that in 1915, "Turks and Kurds, led by Jevdet Bey Pasha, massacred some 15,000 Armenians in Bitlis." The pastor had been talking about his cultural past, not personal past. I am still so uneducated in the history of this region (ok, history of every region), that I am continually mis-stepping.

The pastor asks what I think of Urfa. Before I can answer, he describes it as 'Zor' (difficult).
'Kapalı' (closed). He holds his hands like blinders on horses, and pulls them in to indicate narrow-mindedness. This is a pretty universal assessment of the city. I have yet to hear anyone praise it. At least I know that Mardin is a mere bus ride away for cultural relief.

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