One nation, one language, one flag, and one time

Six, I think every evening when I go to bed. I should get up at six. That’s around the same time the sun rises, so I would be able to catch as much sunlight as possible and not spend most of my waking hours in the dark. But of course I hardly ever manage to get up that early. There’s nothing much we citizens of Diyarbakir can do to avoid our fate of living in darkness.



At least, as soon as winter time has started. Suddenly, it starts getting dark right after 4 in the afternoon, and towards the end of December it starts even earlier. This is not, like in the north of Europe, because the days are so short, but because the time on the clock is just not in line with reality.

Let’s take a random city in the north of Europe, Stockholm, to compare. The sun sets there now around 3.30 in the afternoon, and rises around 7.30 in the morning. All together, the Swedes get almost 8 hours of daylight. In Diyarbakir, the sun rises before 6 in the morning and goes down around a quarter past four, which is more than ten hours daylight. So we in Diyarbakir have two more hours of daylight, but it gets dark only half an hour later. We get sunlight when we are in bed.

Look at the map of time zones. The countries that are three hours ahead of GMT are yellow. Logically, all of Turkey east of roughly the line through Samsun and Gaziantep should be in that time zone too.

A logical choice

The whole of Turkey is in the orange zone, where it’s two hours ahead of GMT. A logical choice for the man who introduced the Gregorian calender and the western time zone system in this country in 1925 – who other than Atatürk. He wanted Turkey to be western, modern, close to Europe, so it’s not so strange that he chose +2, which is only one hour difference with most European countries. Also wise for economical reasons. At the time, Ankara to the east wasn’t much of a city yet, and for flourishing cities in those days, like Istanbul and Izmir, the +2 time made sense.

That it would leave the people in the east of the country in a time zone that had nothing much to do with the rising and setting of the sun, was irrelevant. The people there were savages anyway, far from civilization and economically not very relevant. Considering a different time zone for the eastern part of the country, must have been not an option. Atatürk was constructing a nation and building a state, and in important operations like this, a detail like ‘one time zone’, next to ‘one nation’, ‘one language’ and ‘one flag’, do matter.

But, are these details? Am I nagging when I claim that Diyarbakir and the rest of the east of the country are in the wrong time zone? I don’t think I am. And not only because the map linked before supports my claim.

Little ones before school is out

Little ones before school is out

I worry every day when it’s dark on the streets and I see children leave school and walk home with their colourful bags on their backs. However well kids are taught to watch out in traffic, the little ones will always be impulsive and may cross the street at any time. They are not always very visible to motorists in the dark, let alone when it’s rainy or snowy. Not a detail to me.

Also not a detail is that human beings need sunlight for their physical and psychological well being. Especially in winter it’s hard to get enough of that, so it would help if the hours of sunlight matched the hours when people usually go out. That’s not at six in the morning.

Stable night hours

I have felt the effect of this very clearly two winters ago, my first in Diyarbakir, when I was living in a tiny apartment in a neighbourhood where the electricity was often not working. The electricity situation during the day was so deplorable, that I decided to work more in the more stable evening and night hours. But working till 3 or 4 in the morning made me sleep till around 11, and I would have only five hours of daylight left. But during these hours, often the electricity was off. The house had no natural gas connection, so to keep warm I would spend some of those hours in bed. Did I soon feel depressed? I did. And yes, an extra hour of sunlight would have helped.

I don’t know if any decision makers in the Kurdish political movement are reading along here, but if so, put ‘time zone’ on your list of points to negotiate with Ankara when finally, at some point in the future, the details of the autonomous region of Kurdistan are being discussed. We need an extra hour of essential sunlight. It would create one time zone for north Kurdistan (the Turkish part) and south Kurdistan (in Iraq), together by far the largest part of Kurdistan. At some point I’m sure small, strong, brave Rojava would join the zone, and who knows east Kurdistan (in Iran) as well.

Discussing time zones is terribly separatist, I know. But, flexible as I am, I have an alternative proposal too: change the time zone of the whole of Turkey to +3. Or am I being anti-Kemalist now?



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