**Exposed to police arbitrariness**
On my first day in Silopi I planned to repair my bicycle and went with Ridvan outside to search a workshop. But just after the first couple of metres we encountered heavy police presence because of us.
Silopi is a so-called military zone. There is a curfew from 11pm to 3am and regularly (armoured) military vehicles are passing by.
So we were stopped by at least 12 police men and further in five armoured vehicles. We were searched, asked to show our documents and to take the hands out of our pockets. Calls were made, bosses had to come over and the same questions were asked to our reason for being on the street. After 40 minutes we were free to go. Unfortunately all the bicycle shops only had 26 inch rims, so I had to order online with the help of Serkan from Samsun.
My teeth pain meanwhile got unbearable especially during night so I decided to pay a doctor a visit. Ridvan knew one working at the hospital who made a radiogram and finally said I should take antibiotics. But I hate them and bought some pain killers instead that didn’t really help though. It was not a nice time especially because Ridvan and his family very super friendly and funny but I usually had to sit among them with lots of pain. The sister of another Couchsurfing contact was working in the neighbouring region of Siirt in a hospital and could speak English. I wanted to go there February 4th to renew the filling. But this plan ended in a disaster and not at all how I could foresee.
There is not direct bus from Silopi to Siirt so via Cizre I went to Şırnak. At its city boundary I was controlled and interrogated again – of course – while all the passengers on the bus had to wait. The soldier/(military) police man/anti terror enforcement guy (you never know to which group they belong) was very grumpy in the beginning but became a bit more friendly towards the end though also needed to see all the photos on my camera.
After one hour of sitting around, asking around and waiting at the bus station I got the info that there would be a bus after another 30min. So I stayed near the street what was a huge mistake because 10min prior to departure the police appeared. I acted stressed and in pain but it didn’t help. The police men were rigid and didn’t want to understand why I wanted to go to Siirt instead of Şırnak hospital. In the end I was asked to ask their vehicle and was driven to the police station that appeared to be a little down inside Şırnak.
Four hours I was kept there. Why? No clue. They even brought someone who can speak very good English as translator. I was asked why I wanted to go to Siirt, where I’ve been with my bicycle, how I got to know the sister of my Couchsurfing contact, to tell them my Couchsurfing user name and wanted to know where I slept before in Turkey and now in Silopi. I think they opened a new Couchsurfing account because at some point I was shown a copy of my profile and the one of my contact. I needed to give them my mobile phone and camera because they needed to see the pictures. I was cooperative – what else? – but especially in the end I pointed out that I just wanted to go to a hospital where I knew I could communicate in English with the staff to avoid misunderstandings in case of treatment.
Finally I had to sign a document. It was handwritten and I was told its content was about how I got “detained” and that I can be released. I asked for a translation or taking a picture. I was denied both because this handwritten sheet was for internal use only and classified. They begged me to sign. What choice did then to sign with the remark “No translation given”. Then I was driven to the hospital because they needed a doctor to verify I wasn’t maltreated. It was ridiculous because any nurse came, quickly pulled my T-shirt up and that was it. After four hours, the bus obviously was gone and there was no other so I had to return to Silopi.
On 14 March 2016 military operations by Turkish security forces began against PKK in Şırnak. The military curfew imposed on the Kurdish city was lifted after 246 days, 2.5 months before my arrival and some neighbourhoods were completely destroyed in the war (Newpaper article). Why the police wanted to detain a red-haired foreigner or why I was a person of interest – I’ll never know. I just know that all this bullshit was not for my own safety.
On Sunday, February 5th , the sister of Ridvan arranged a meeting with a local dentist but he also just told me to try antibiotics. So we just picked up my bicycle and on Monday I cycled the last kilometres to Iraq. I would have never thought to be happy crossing a border into Iraq and leaving Turkey. But these days in the Kurdish region have been really stressful. I’m very happy having had Ridvan and his family and friends by my side otherwise it would have been way more complicated.
I had it easy because I could just leave the region and the whole fucked up situation behind me that Kurdish people day by day have to deal with.