What was the main purpose of my 2015 trip to eastern Turkey? To track down previously unvisited Armenian ruins so I could connect with the tragic events, no matter how vicariously, that began in April 1915 and resulted in the death of between one and 1.5 million Armenians in what was then the Ottoman Empire. This, the so-called “forgotten genocide”, is still not widely known about other than among Armenians, for obvious reasons, in scholarly circles and in the Turkish Republic itself, where it is still official policy to deny that a genocide took place.
Although the desire to somehow connect with an Armenia that has almost completely disappeared in eastern Turkey was the main reason for the trip, I also wanted to connect again with the region’s hills, mountains, valleys, rivers, flowers, small towns, villages and people. I hoped, of course, that I might encounter a few Armenians, whether living permanently in the region or merely visiting, the latter, perhaps, to see places associated with their family history, but for the first time ever I intended to spend time in Tunceli province, the only province in Turkey with an Alevi rather than a Sunni Muslim majority. I also wanted to spend time among the Kurds, whether they spoke Kurmanji or Zazaki, and hoped to meet some Kizilbash. As you will soon find out, I fulfilled all my aspirations, but also managed to see, do and encounter a lot more in a relatively short period of time. In fact, the trip turned out to be one of the best I have ever had to Turkey, perhaps because I confined travel to a relatively small area of this vast and rapidly transforming nation state.