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    Tuesday, October 28, 2008

    One war zone to another

    By taxi through southeastern Anatolia - Saturday, Oct. 25

    The most surprising thing about crossing from northern Iraq into southeastern Turkey, which in the Kurdish narrative are two parts of Greater Kurdistan, is that you still feel as though you're in occupied land. In fact, the Turkish military presence here is more obvious than the combined presence of the United States, the Iraqi army and the Kurdish militias in on the other side of the border.

    As we drove towards the city of Diyarbakir and into a gathering thunderstorm, Kemal and I were pulled over at a succession of checkpoints and twice made to get out of the car so my bags could be hand-searched. At each base, a makeshift machine-gun post had been constructed underneath Turkey's red-and-white crescent-moon flag. Armoured personnel carriers patrolled the highways.

    To an extent, the security measures are understandable. While it was quiet today, southeastern Turkey has effectively been a war zone for much of the past 30 years, a place where hostilities between the army and the Kurdistan Workers' Party can flare up at any time.

    The locals in this heavily rural part of Turkey are clearly resentful of the heavy handed military presence in their towns and villages. The residents are Kurds, many of them sympathetic to the PKK, while the soldiers are ethnic Turks.

    "Turkey. Problem," Kemal explained to me with a disgusted shrug after a soldier had given my dirty laundry a thorough examination. Kemal was stretching the limits of his early-career-Schwarzenegger English, but I got the point.

    Turkey most definitely does have a problem here.

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