Thursday, October 09, 2014

A Journey: from Border to Border

Before these things lose and go away from my memories, I prefer to write down--as I usually do--here, a sheer piece of my huge package: learning and travelling during summer, including my first international presentation. It’s of course one of my unforgettable experiences which taught me a lot during my togetherness with participants from many countries.

Firstly never do I think that I could participate this Summer School organized by ILEM (İlmi Etüdler Derneği) in Istanbul since I didn’t get any response toward my article’s abstract on time of the deadline made by committee. However, to fulfill my holiday of the summertime I arranged my travel plan into around eastern Turkey. I highlighted some city names to visit. I kept Mardin, Diyarbakir and Batman as my route at least. If possible I would change my plan with some more cities to visit with the same interest: Kurdish culture and its lives.

Suryani, one of the early bible writings in Midyat
August 8, 2014 I went to Mardin, first city of my traveling. I went by myself and had no travel companion. I decided to go alone to satisfy my quest wherever and whatever I wanted without any limit to go through. I just contacted friends of mine on Couchsurfing without certain hope. But fortunately one friend from Mardin confirmed to host me one night. I taught it’s enough to be my first experience as Couchsurfer.  

At 6 am in the morning I arrived in Mardin. I had no problem with Turkish since I have been studying Turkish for months in Konya so easily that I could interact with local people. If I could speak Kurdish it would more passionately interest people by talking intimately; or a bit Arabic if possibly come across the street as the first time I had breakfast with some Arabic speaking people in cafeteria. Morning talks with new people are always interesting for new comer like me. I was spending for about 30 minutes talking with them and awesomely they provided me a breakfast and paid all bread and meat I ate. Lovely morning!

Old Mardin
Either Old Mardin City or New Mardin City, or even in countryside namely Midyat, had been visited while I was staying for one day and night in Mardin. Midyat is one of a must visited historical places in Mardin beside Old Mardin. Overall this city is cited as paths of the early civilizations named Mesopotamia or far before it—if we talked about Christianity and Jews history as well for its strategic location with rocky hill and plain near the Tigris River.

It was impressed me a lot to have visited Mardin. After Mardin, my travel mode was on—such a wild dream to have an experience with all Kurdish people in these areas. One thing I will not ever forget was my first hitchhiking from Mardin to Diyarbakir. I made this encouraging travel to test myself about how much deep I meant this backpacker, how to adapt with local people in such this way, and how to keep myself safe on the road. Yes, my first hitchhiking with Mercy car drove by three young Kurdish passing Mardin-Diyarbakir’s road in afternoon about 3 pm went awesome: having nice conversation, Kurdish languages, sings, and jokes.

For about 2 hours, I touched down Diyarbakir, a city intriguing me very much. I was dropped from the car before reaching the city center so I must take bus or dolmuş, such a share taxis that run set routes within and between cities in Turkey. Yes, again, I had no friends and just guessing what kind of bus or dolmuş I could have to take me into the city. Alongside the street, I met one young person and eventually, as usual, made friendly and warm conversation. He took me around Diyarbakir walls then offered me to accompany me more but I had to say enough for his kindness.

Diyarbakir city walls
Diyarbakir is like mysterious city for me, not because it’s a center for Kurdish movement. This city is such a deeply-explored city in need for any travelers to disclose more, both the surface of cultural artifacts remaining today and the people. I got many opportunities to have hitchhiking with local people around the city when I decided to visit the prophet Ilyasa and Zulkifli’s tombs in Eğil. In this place I had another unforgettable memory when my full candid camera photos were suddenly deleted without any excuse of mine. It happened while I was praying by the prophet’s graves. When I found my camera memory was full, carefully I deleted some old nasty photos and videos but, carelessly, out of my control, I deleted all the memories. And my (travel) life has just likely begun!   

A dam from Tigris River close to Prophet Zulkifli tomb
In the car to and from Eğil, I gazed alongside the street to witness how much developed they are and what the state does for people near to the borders like them. I always kept these feelings as lesson-learned from my traveling, to see the fact and reality within the people living far away from the center (Ankara). Don’t blame me if these experiences eventually reminded me of my own cities in Indonesia such as Papua, Kalimantan, or other borders which are until today involving several dispute in term of sovereign and infrastructure facility. In general, I have learned from my traveling and witnessing the reality of life near the borders.

I realized that four days staying in Diyarbakir was very short time.

My traveling then continued to Batman. From Diyarbakir to Batman I was prohibited to hicthike by one family taking me into their car in Diyarbakir. But I kept sane of everything that hitchhiking was adding my experience to fit my traveling out extremely. But it’s true that I could not stand alongside the street waiting for car to generously take me under 45 celsius in summertime like this. I surrendered to have take dolmuş from Diyarbakir to Batman, about 3 hours. I was so tired and body was burning like kebab, dozing in dolmuş and some people stared me as stranger with compassionate eyes even thought I didn’t care what they taught about me. As soon as touching down into the dawn town, I was still not quite waking up from napping.

Suddenly a mom sitting in front of me asked me “are you student?” by Turkish language, I answered “yes I am”. She quickly slipped her hand on my bag lied on my thigh with no words. When I saw from crook of her fingers that she was giving me money I tried to refuse but she insisted me to keep 50 TL. I could only say nothing and nodded to receive her generosity.

In Batman, I just stopped by Hasankeyf for a couple of hours before heading to Siirt for complying my friend request to visit his city, near the Iraq border. I came to Siirt with plain intention to see his family just because of my close friend in Konya. I met his family and his older brother who spoke up much about Kurdish rights and facts. I was so happy to be there, to “take a rest” from my challenging travel.

An old tree in Dolmabahce Palace
In Siirt, I was contacted by committee of the summer school that I was selected to join international summer school in Istanbul from August 23-29, 2014. They asked me to complete my paper which was so hard to do meantime I didn’t bring laptop. It likely punished me if I agreed to confirm my readiness to take this opportunity. But I taught very hard that it would not come for twice so then I confirmed to come.

This confirmation I made on the road heading to Van, a city near to Iran border. I contacted my friend in Istanbul to ask his willingness in proofreading my paper before I sent to committee. Alhamdulilah, friend of mine Zacky Khairul-Umum who was in that time was very busy in preparation all his stuffs before moving to Germany for his Ph.D. I was lucky to have such this friend in my lifetime so surely that I was ready to present my paper titled “Youth Peace Movement in Dilemma”.


Never did I imagine in traveling from east Turkey, Van, to directly head Istanbul which is in west Turkey—thinking of traveling from Papua to Aceh!

From plain to beach, Istanbul
Istanbul was busy city as it is, and would be fantastic to be one of journey’s destinations. I arrived in Istanbul by bus on August 22, three days before the program started. These plenty of times I used to explore Istanbul in my own ways, thoughts and perspectives. One thing I never forget about Istanbul is the way it intrigued me through one figure called Orhan Pamuk then absolutely took me to study in Turkey for my master. I felt Istanbul by his works just like I experienced Cipasung by Acep Zamzam Noor’s poem. They gave me more sensation with unlimited imaginary objects of the cities and people inside.

That’s Istanbul, a city of melancholia and very complicated to characterize!

Close to Pamuk's Museum 
The first day of my summer school was going awesome, meeting new brilliant friends. It’s my first international presentation as I said earlier even thought I had a kind of this in Indonesia. First day I met Sari Hanafi, one of prominent sociologist from Arab world. One thing I highlighted form his lecture was about the decline of social science in Muslim country. He gave an example in Lebanon as a case when around 1959 the president asked to make master plan of social science but they didn’t have good result because social thinkers in Lebanon preferred to be civil servant. Another point from him is the typology of sociology borrowed from Michael Burawoy who stressed it into at least 4: 1) Professional 2) Critical 3) Policy and 4) Public.

In the second day, we had a lecture from Muqtedar Khan, an Indian American, who addressed the topic about Islam and Democracy. From my piece of note he talked about Islamic response to modernity: 1) secularism 2) traditional response meaning this is still keeping the norms and tradition of Islam in each context and 3) political Islam. Khan is one of the leading Muslim thinkers who imposes political Islam or Islamic state to occur in intention of “freedom to be good”. He also talked about legitimization and legitimization of Islam world which in nowadays phenomena are extremely decreased among the Moslem countries themselves.

The next lecture was then addressed by Ibrahim Yenigun about Contemporary Muslim Political Thought: The Ethical Dimension. I was not in good shape in this forum and also when Abdulvahap El Efendi gave a lecture on The Future of Islamic State. But over all these lectures were profoundly insightful.

My presentation
Another distinguished lecture was coming from Wael B.Hallaq by addressing the topic of The Islamic State and the Crises of the Political. Prof Hallaq was conducting very active discussion over the audiences. He talked about theory of progress in term of political context and economy. My quote from him: “intellectuals are only producing ideas to the people but also they should be responsible to produce ethical and legal product as well.”

Overall, the urgent point as lesson-learned for me was when I knew and made friend with participants and having wonderful time together while discussing a range of topics on Islam and its challenge in contemporary issue.