It is as green as it can get. Thick forests, tea gardens all over. Black grapes, dates, tangerines and corn typical of the Black Sea. I am in Liman village, located very close to the border with Georgia, overlooking the Black Sea, in the midst of plenty of beautiful tea gardens. Liman is where the roots of my wife’s family are, but apart from that it is a very special place. My father-in-law relayed to me a story of his grandfather who invited an Arab friend he met during the hajj to this village. According to the story, the Arab visitor likened the little village of Liman to “heaven on earth.” Coming from a barren village in Central Anatolia, I am in agreement with that description. The natural beauty and hospitality of the people of the Black Sea is truly commendable. At every corner of the village we are stopped and questioned about where we are from; whose family we are related to and whether we would honor them by accepting their invitation for tea or food. Their accent, which is a mixture of Laz, Georgian and Turkish, is funny and equally agreeable to the ear.
While I write these pleasant lines on the balcony of a village home overlooking a plentitude of green, there is much pain and agony in this country of mine. Hundreds of Kurds are on a hunger strike in prisons in Turkey. We have no peace in this country until and unless we solve what has been described as the Kurdish problem. I almost feel guilty enjoying myself here in the Black Sea. My conscience is not comfortable writing about the natural beauty of the Black Sea when I know that we have a great wound that we have not treated.
The sun is now shining brightly in Liman. We are very lucky. The Black Sea is not known for sunny days. My wife’s aunt is singing in the garden while collecting fruit for us before we leave today. The voice of Kazım Koyuncu, a renowned Black Sea singer, can be heard from the inside. My followers on Twitter are a little bit distressed that I am not in Çankırı, where I am from. Life here seems to continue disassociated of the ills and shortcomings of our democracy. It is almost surreal. The combination of nature and good people allows one to forget. I sometimes wish to forget that I live in a country with an incomplete democracy.
As much as you wish to forget and get on without modern technology, the ease of information reaching me on my cell phone forbids me to ignore what is happening. The ongoing war in Syria, the backroom deals that seek a solution to the violence there, the fight against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), the Kurdish question, the hopelessness surrounding the quest to reach a consensus for a new constitution, the uncertainty around 2014 and the issue of succession… So much to be troubled about. The days of predictability are over. Thanks to Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan and his able team, the economy continues to be stable, but even he is grappling with populist voices challenging him about the course of the economy.
The news that Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin is about to visit the Kurds on a hunger strike has just reached me. I hope that he will be able to convince them to stop their hunger strike and a process of negotiations will start. Am I optimistic? No. While we are calling for a cease-fire in Syria during the Feast of the Sacrifice, we should also see to it that there are no deaths due to the hunger strike. It is our responsibility to exhaust all possible means to prevent a tragedy in our prisons. May this Feast of the Sacrifice and Republic Day be joyful and happy. May it allow our nation to regenerate and resolve its deep divisions. May you enjoy beautiful places as I am, here in the tiny village of Liman located along the Black Sea.
(Suat Kinklioglu is a writer for the Turkey-based Today’s Zaman where this article was published on Oct. 25, 2012)