In 2008, I had the chance to visit a small shiite village called Örtülü in eastern Turkish Kurdistan, on the southwest side of Mount Ararat. While in Örtülü, we were invited to spend the afternoon at the local schoolhouse.
Fourteen children, ages six to eleven, darted around the grounds in nationally mandated blue smock uniforms. At the behest of their teacher, they recited the Turkish alphabet for us with zeal, but it was clear they were far more interested in our presence (particularly the presence of my camera), and the small fleet of donkeys the boys had wrangled, than in the classroom.
The majority of these girls will have attended school until the age of eleven or twelve, at which point they are married and settle into "domestic responsibilities." About half of the boys would go on to attend the middle school in a neighboring town while the other half stay to work on the farms.
I spoke (via one of my travel companions Tamer, who translated) with Gokhan, the only school teacher for a total enrollment of 32 students (we never caught a glimpse of the missing 18). Gokhan mentioned that the population of the area has been steadily decreasing.
Tamer later explained to me that Kurdish separatists come into the village and ask young Kurdish boys to join their cause, and boys who refuse are killed. Many pack up and leave the region out of fear and frustration.
Some of the above was excerpted from a blog series about
Read more from the series here.
Ever grateful to my friend Aysu and her family for making this adventure possible.