20 June, 2010

Political landscapes

In the dusk i sat for a while beneath eight-foot hollyhocks, talking with the owners, another off-duty policeman named Halil, and an older fellow with a dark mustache who repeatedly tells me how he dislikes Obama and Tayyip Erdoğan, and loves Bush (of the many, many people i have talked to thus far, this is the first Bush fan i've met in Turkiye).

Here in the northeast, the MHP - an ultra-Kemalist, nationalist Democratic party -  is popular. I'd never heard of MHP until the bus to Erzurum, when someone made the wolf's-head hand signal to identify his political leanings; in Erzurum, i saw novelty flags bearing a wolf inside the crescent moon.

Prejudices run deep. In Diyarbakir, the young Kurds i played futbol with were proud to identify themselves with the PKK (last night's news: ten Turkish soldiers were recently killed by PKK rebels, prompting aerial retaliation). On my way to Yusufeli, i'm chatting with one of my rides. When i say i've been to Iraqi Kurdistan, he corrects me: there's no such place - it's north Iraq. (Nevermind that the Kurdistan Regional Government issued my entry stamp.) People in Erzurum aren't fans of Trabzon; in Yusufeli, it seems sympathy for the Kurds is nonexistent.

In Yusufeli i met a lot of policemen. Looking for a place to buy simit, i met two more; they invite me back to the station for tea. (What's with this place?) Over tea at the police station, one remarks how much he dislikes Tayyip - and i learn of yet another party, the Turkish Communist Party, as he draws a crescent moon on the simit wrapper. This time it's not a star or a wolf inside the crescent, it's a hammer.