National Geographic : 2016 Apr
Ghost lands 121 Muslim Kurds occupy a strange place in the violent history of eastern Turkey. From a frontier gendarmerie who did the Ottomans’ dirty work a century ago, they have become a besieged ethnic minority, demanding more political rights in modern Turkey. Victimhood now binds many Kurds to their long-departed Armenian neighbors. Emre says his family acquired the land for his village from Armenians. It came very cheap. He lets this fact sink in. He ticks off the names of nearby towns that once were majority Arme- nian: Van, Patnos, Ağrı. Few or no Armenians live in them now. When does a genocide officially end? At which point is the act of mass annihilation complete—finished, documented, resolved? Surely not when the gunfire stops. (This is far too soon.) Is it when the individual dead dis- appear from the chain of human memory? Or when the last emptied village acquires a new population, a new language, a new name? Or is it sealed, at long last, with the onset of regret? My guide, Murat Yazar, and I inch north- ward. We trek across yellowing steppes where wolves run before us, pausing to gaze back over their shoulders in silence, then trot on. We pass Mount Ararat. The 16,854-foot peak shines to the east, smeared white with snow. The Bible links the mountain to Noah’s high-altitude anchorage. The beautiful volcano is sacred to the Armenians. (A popular misconception Mount Ararat, a powerful symbol of Armenian identity, looms over children at play in eastern Turkey. Redrawn borders after World War I left it inside Turkey, to the dismay of Armenians. Today Ararat is a fixture of Yerevan’s southern skyline—seemingly so close, yet locked beyond a border shut by controversy, pain, and history.