Last night was my first night in Hakkari. I arrived as the sun was setting. As we pulled into town, the first thing I noticed was the military presence. The main question on my mind was,

"Is this a typical day here, or did something happen that required the military?"

All during the night, military vehicles with mounted heavy machine guns patrolled the gravel street, dirt back roads and alleys of Hakkari. The vehicles were spotlighting would-be hiding places throughout the dark hours.

A fleet of police cars and police vans, marked and unmarked, patrolled the main roads. Soldiers carrying machine guns were riding the vans. At least 10 different foot patroled walked by in the night, all heavily armed, the uniformed soldiers were wearing black barrets. Last night was quiet. Besides the occasional spot-lighting, most of which could be seen in the mountains surrounding Hakkari, nothing happened.

Tonight the sun set and things seemed to be a repeat of last night. The same vehicles that patrolled the streets last night were out again. I could hear radio traffic from the vehicles as they drove by. They seemed to be speaking turkish. Tonight however, I heard the sound of a helicopter echoing off in the mountains, but I couldn't tell whether is was coming or going.

I smoked a cigarette and watched out my window. Earlier, I was told that there was a night-time curfew, and I would be arrested if I went outside after dark. I watched the activity for a while and then started reading a book, but I left the windows open so I could still hear the passing patrols.

Then, I heard automatic gun fire. About three one-second bursts. It was loud and sounded like it happened just around the corner. But because of the distortion of the sound echoing off the mountains, it could have been anywhere. Seconds later, I heard a much heavier automatic weapon, like the one mounted atop the armored vehicles. I looked out the window and I saw a three man patrol peering off into the distance., their walkie-talkies busy with radio traffic.

I fell asleep to gunfire and the sounds of explosions off in the distance.

(My diary continues, but it is just more of the same -- gunfire into the night.)

- ©Jamal A. Wilson, photographer living in Washington, DC.
Submitted May 1998.