About

What was the main purpose of my 2015 trip to eastern Turkey? To track down previously unvisited Armenian ruins to 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.

7 thoughts on “About

  1. Thank you so much for these photos and sharing your story. My Garoogian ancestors were from the village of Khulakiugh, which was later called Hulvenk and, most recently, Sahinkaya. Though it is a dream that may never be realised, I hope to go there someday myself. Thank you for sharing these pictures. If I never get to go, at least I’ll have these!

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  2. This is truly fascinating. I am working with the Alevi communities in the UK to produce educational materials for schools – this is non-profit. Please would you let me know asap if/how I can use some of your text and photos to do with Alevis and cemevis to help teachers explore Alevism with pupls in English schools?

    Many thanks and looking forward to hearing from you, Bill Moore.

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    • Hi, Bill. No problem: I’m involved in education myself, so like the idea that some of the text, etc. might be used in educational settings such as schools. I have no objection if you extract the text and photos and use them in resources you generate yourself, provided the source is acknowledged. Nor do I mind if you generate your own resources but quote from posts on the website (with the source of the quotes acknowledged, of course). In other words, use the content of the posts in any way you wish (or simply provide links from your resources to my website). And there’s no charge.
      If, when the resources are complete, you can let me know where I can access them (either electronically or in hard copy), I would be very grateful. I think what you’re doing is excellent. Phil.

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      • Phil, you are a star! And thanks not just for being so generous, but also for getting back so quickly. We hope to have the school stuff ready in the next couple of months and I will certainly both reference your work/provide links and also let you have access to the materials when they come out. Where are you based?
        I found your blog so interesting – too much so, actually, as I got lost in it when I should have been doing the school materials! Armenia/Anatolia looks so fascinating and beautiful, and the people seem so friendly, open and welcoming. Going from one of the most ancient to one of the most modern cemevis must have been wonderful experience. I find Alevism deeply interesting, not least because it defies categorisation. The communitiy with which I am working see it as a separate religion, whereas another community in London, just 12 miles away, sees itself as Muslim. Thanks again and I will keep in touch. Cheers, Bill.

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      • No problem, Bill – and thanks. And what you say is very interesting.
        I’ve encountered this difference of opinion among the Alevis about whether Alevism is a manifestation of Islam or a completely distinct religion (and I recently read a book about the Alevis in Germany which, among many other things, explores whether this is so). Myself? Just as I’d say there could be no Christianity without the prior example of Judaism and there could be no Islam without the prior examples of Judaism and Christianity, I’d argue that there could be no Alevism without the prior example of Islam (and, additionally, that Alevism most emphatically traces its origins to Shia rather than Sunni Islam). This said, many/most of what might be termed mainstream Sunni and Shia Muslims incline toward condemning Alevis as heretics/non-Muslims (and Alevis are thus subject to persecution, especially by Sunni Muslims). If looking at the world from the rather narrow and very rule-obsessed perspective of Sunni Islam, I can understand why Sunni Muslims might look upon Alevis with suspicion when at least some Alevis insist that they are Muslims (for example, Alevis have what I deem a refreshingly cavalier attitude toward the five pillars of Islam), but there are enough aspects of Alevism, especially in terms of belief if not practice, to confirm that the roots of the religion lie within Islam. But, given the persecution they have suffered at the hands of more mainstream Muslims, I can understand why some Alevis insist that they are not Muslims at all.
        If you detect in the tone of this reply a strong sympathy for the Alevis, you have weighed me up. Phil.
        P.S. I’m based in Darlington. As for Armenia and Anatolia: they do get under your skin, although this year I am travelling to neither, partly because a trip in 2016 to eastern Turkey involved two troubling encounters with the police. Normal service will resume next year, I hope, especially if travel to the Alevi heartland (Tunceli) is easier than at present.

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      • Hi Phil. I have just finished the final draft of the educational materials and put them on Drop Box. If you are interested, send me your email and I will add you to the access. I would welcome comments, suggestions and questions.
        Cheers, Bill.

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