The sounds of Diyarbakır

Somehow I have got used to the sound of shutters being opened in my street, around 7.00 in the morning. It doesn’t wake me up anymore. I still wonder which shop it is that opens at that hour. The pharmacy? The furniture shop? The small bakal maybe, or the tea house?

F16 skimming over the city. The red roofs are the Diyarbakir prison. Pic by me, click to enlarge.
F16 skimming over the city. The red roofs are the Diyarbakir prison. Pic by me, click to enlarge.

Across the street the owners of a car cleaning business have been pimping up their place. It was always open on the front, but now it’s almost totally closed. I heard them doing their construction work. Let’s see if from now on I don’t hear anymore the high pressure hose that they use to clean all kinds of vehicles.

They were not the only ones doing construction works. Close to their business, three families were building an extra floor on their houses. Or a roof terrace, to be accurate. It’s poor across the street. Gecekondu it’s called in Turkish: built overnight. Whenever the owners have some money, they add some space to their property. In spring, of course, after Newroz, the new year celebrations, and before the summer heat sets in. I could see them doing the work from my office window. Pouring concrete, bricklaying walls, painting. And when I wasn’t looking, I heard hammering. Then later I saw kids running around on the newly made roof. Mothers hanging out the laundry.

During the day, the eskici, the second hand buyer, is passing by, which reminds me of my small street in Üsküdar, Istanbul. Eskiciiii, eskiciiii! Sometimes a vegetable salesman, sometimes a fish seller. Or I hear the sound of a rattling wheelbarrow. Often the same three young boys, sometimes one of them is sitting in it. I think they try to earn some money with it.

Election night at the BDP, 30 March. Pic (by me) worthless without sound ;-)
Election night at the BDP, 30 March. Pic (by me) worthless without sound 😉

I live close to the headquarters of the BDP, the Peace and Democracy Party. When was it that I last heard their sounds? Election evening, 30 March. The results of the local elections were not even in yet when the partying started. Thousands of people flooding to the building, clogging up traffic. Car horns, fireworks, slogans, songs, gun shots. I went to take a look. The election results from smaller towns were already coming in and projected on the wall of the BDP building. Cheering whenever the BDP had won, booing when some other party, usually AKP, did. After I went home, the cheering, booing, the car horns, slogans, fireworks and songs went on for hours.

I hear the BDP often from my house. Walks and demonstrations always turn left from the BDP, then pass by my house. I don’t have to go out to hear what the occasion is, I just listen to the slogans. ‘Government take a step!’ to demand democratic reforms, or the protestors just shout a random and always suitable: ‘The PKK is the people and the people are here!’

BDP protest passing by. (Pic by me, click to enlarge.
BDP campaign passing by. Pic by me, click to enlarge.

I remember a day, more than a year ago, I was walking on the street, and the F16’s started to fly over the city again. The military airport is very close to the city. For some reason they find it necessary to take off not south or westwards, but east or northwards, right over the residential areas. I was about to pass a huge junction. Just when I started crossing the street, an F16 passed so low and so incredibly noisily, that as a reflex I jumped back onto the pavement. My sub consciousness apparently detected danger – as if the plane could hit me. I must have looked weird and funny. A newcomer to the city, still alarmed by war plane sounds. Now I just shake my head or curse the planes when I see and hear them pass. Where are they going today? Qandil mountains? Syrian border? Or is it just a training flight?

From my home office, I have quite a view for a journalist. I see every plane skimming over the city, coming from the airport or descending to it. Visually right over the infamous Diyarbakir prison, that I can see perfectly while I work. No sounds coming from there – at least not audible to me.

While I work, usually twice a day my door bell rings. I take off my slippers – I think they make a sound and I don’t want the person at the door to hear I am at home. I peek through the looking glass. Nine out of ten times it’s a mother and a child. Beggars, most often from Syria. I never open. I feel bad about that, but I have this rule: I only give to women, and only to women without children. Is that a good rule? Should I offer the next beggars the homemade soup I often have ready in the kitchen?

Fireworks! Election night, 30 March. Pic by me, click to enlarge.
Fireworks! Election night, 30 March. Pic by me, click to enlarge.

A few days ago, I saw a young man with forms in his hands through the looking glass. I opened the door. ‘Are you interested in following a Quran course?’ ‘No, I am not, thank you. Have a nice day’. ‘You too, madam.’

While I write this, I hear fireworks in the distance. Some two hours ago, I heard them very loud, as they were coming from the concrete apartment block next to the block in which I live. Sprawling red and yellow in the sky, plus fireworks that sound like bombs. In the smaller villages, the wedding season only starts after Newroz, since the weddings are usually celebrated outside. In Diyarbakir, it goes on all year round. God I’m glad I only hear the fireworks and I am spared a wedding hall close to my house!

Sound wise (not heat wise!) I am looking forward to the warm summer nights. Then the teahouse in my street puts all their small stools and low tables outside. I cannot hear the tea spoons tinkling in the glasses, but I can hear the stones being passionately moved on the backgammon board. It goes on for hours. I will fall asleep with that sound. The closing of the shutters, around 1am, won’t wake me up anymore.

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