If I would not get the opportunity to see Hakkari through an Youth in Action project, I probably would have never visited this blessed town, settled in the middle of the mountains.
Hakkari is a place situated in the South East corner of Turkey, close to the border with Iraq and Iran. It is composed of a Kurdish and Assyrian population and has approximately 57,844 people.
The history of this place takes your breath away. It was a refuge for the persecuted Christian Assyrians who ran away in the mountains to protect themselves against the Timurlane occupation (Turko-Mongolian emir) in the 14th century. Then in the 19th century, they were conquered by the Kurdish people and were turned into slaves or executed. There were also many conflicts between the Kurdish population and the Ottoman (later, Turkish) control. Hakkari was considered and it is still seen as an unsafe place to live.
Still, there is no reason to be afraid of visiting Hakkari nowadays. It is a peaceful place , even with long history of warfare.
In Hakkari, everybody knows everybody. People are friendly, kind, hospitable, poor. Few have travelled abroad, nor even visited Istanbul or Ankara, the capital of Turkey. But they have big hearts and a good soul. Most of them are Muslims - traditional and less traditional.
There has been a university in Hakkari since 2009. It is small but has big plans. They have a young, strong department which runs European projects with EU funds. Through one of these projects, I had the opportunity to come and see their life there. The students are friendly and sociable, even though they do not speak much English, but they are willing to learn. Students are both studying and working, trying to better their lives as much as possible. Some are sellers, musicians, merchants. Women are knitting, cooking, take care of the family. Indeed, being inside the house, women developed knitting skills, making beautiful hand made socks, carpets, scarfs.
Hmm…a good desert, but the people in Hakkari eat mostly lamb as they rear sheep and goats. The soil is red where only grass and mountain vegetation can grow. I am sure though that there are some natural resources inside the mountains. Indeed, the relief is amazing. Water, snow, grass, sand, hills, plain fields, stones and flowers - you can see all of these things in one single place.
And all around are mountains, capped with snow, with a foreground of grey, brown and green, and clear blue sky above. Because of the Mountains and the cold temperatures during winter, the snow increases upto one and a half meters in depth. For example, in the villages around Hakkari, when it snows, people remain inside the houses for weeks as there are no machines to clear the snow away.
But in summer, if you go in the centre of Hakkari during the day, you can see people walking on the street, still wearing traditional Kurdish clothes: men wearing light green suits and women powerful red colours, as in the picture below:
Hakkari is rich in history, culture and traditions. Hakkari is rich because of these good hearted people living here. Hakkari is a legend alive and is worth seeing indeed!