GŁnese yolculuk (Journey to the Sun) (2001)




Director:  Yesim Ustaoglu.

Starring:  Nazmi Qirix (Berzan), Newroz Baz (Mehmet), Mizgin Kapazan (Arzu), Ara GŁler (SŁleyman Bey).

Awards:  the Best European Film, Peace Prize at the 1999 Berlin Film Festival

prejudice and discrimination against the Kurds in Turkey


Spoiler warning:  below is the entire story.

Damn good movie.  No wonder conservatives hate the arts! and artists!

Bezan is a Kurd from Zorduc near the Turkey/Iraq border and has come to work in Istanbul.   He has been in the big city for about two years and earns money by selling music cassettes from a street cart. 

Mehmet Kara is from Tire in Izmir, Turkey.  (One important thing about Mehmet is that although he is not a Kurd, he is darker than most Turks and therefore arouses suspicion that he is a Kurd.)  He has been in Istanbul for just a few months and makes a living working on the road repair crew in the city.  Mehmet watches a soccer match in a bar.  The crowd is whipped into a frenzy when their favorite team wins; as they leave the bar they start smashing a driver's car.  They shout:  "Are you a f___ing Kurd?"  Mehmet tries to intervene to stop the crowed but finds himself in real danger.  Berzan happens to be passing along and jumps in to save Mehmet from a real beating. 

Demonstrating against the abuse of Kurds in prison, Berzan gets arrested.  But he is out fairly quickly.  Mehmet sees him on TV and when he sees Berzan again he asks him about it.  Berzan reveals that his father "disappeared" and is probably dead at the hands of the police.  Mehmet talks about his girlfriend, Arzu, who works in a dry cleaning shop. 

On his job, Mehmet carries a long pipe with a listening device at the top that he and his co-workers use to find leaks in water pipes.  He takes the pipe home with him one day.  While on the bus home, the police stop the bus and announce an ID check.  Mehmet's skin color arouses suspicion and they take him down to the police station.  There they say that his listening pipe is a gun.  There is no right to an attorney.  They rough him up and throw him in prison, despite Mehmet's logical explanations. 

The police come looking for Berzan (probably because he was mentioned by Mehmet), but he gives them the slip.  But now, poor Berzan, has to leave his job to hide from the police.  He finds Arzu to ask her about the missing Mehmet.  She doesn't know what happened to Mehmet.  She then goes down to the police station, but cannot get Mehmet out because he is being "interrogated." 

Mehmet finally is freed, but he has been badly beaten by the police.  He returns to his "home," which is just a cot in a kind of dormitory room.  Mehmet suddenly becomes a threat to his roommates when someone places a huge painted X on the door to the dormitory.  The roommates are afraid, so Mehmet loses his place to stay.  To make matters worse, Mehmet then loses his job because, even though he did not do anything wrong, just to be interrogated by the police is the kiss of death. 

Mehmet goes with Berzan to Urfa outside of Istanbul.  Berzan gets his friend a job at an automobile parking lot and a place to stay on the lot. But suddenly Mahmet and Arzu finds another X on his door and he has to leave once again.  The poor fellow is now reduced to picking up bottles and other things from the huge garbage dumps.  He now lives with Berzan. 

On the 63rd day of the Kurdish hunger strike at the prison, Shafak Guney, dies.  To protest this, Berzan and a Kurdish friend grab a bus for Istanbul.  Mehmet decides to follow after them.  In Istanbul, he becomes surrounded by fleeing protestors being chased by the police with batons.  Berzan's Kurdish friend tells Mehmet that their friend has been arrested.

Arzu and Mehmet soon learn that Berzan has been killed, dying of a brain hemorrhage (obviously the result of a police beating).   Mehmet steals a truck from the auto parking lot and takes the body in a casket on a journey back to Zorduc.  Reaching Kurd territory he has to go through a military check point.  Traveling through the Kurd area, he sees a destroyed village with the infamous red X's on their doorways.  He also sees tanks in the streets of one town he stays overnight in. 

Mehmet finally reaches Zorduc only to find it flooded by a lake.  In despair, Mehmet pushes the casket into the lake and watches it slowly disappear in the water. 

Terrific movie.  Somewhat upsetting, but terrific.  I already had a somewhat negative of Turkey from the movie The Midnight Express and this movie reinforces that image.  No wonder so many Turkish critics hated the movie.   It was banned for awhile from being shown in Turkey  --  no surprise there. 

See what can happen to a country when its people become so fearful of "terrorists" (or freedom fighters) that they allow their country to become a virtual police state?

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.    

Historical Background:


About half of all Kurds live in Turkey (and from 20-30% of the population of Turkey).  Other places include:  adjacent areas in Iran, Iraq and Syria.  The area is often referred to as Kurdistan. 

The Kurds in southeast Anatolia are a minority in Turkey that suffer from prejudice and discrimination.  The are has fostered movements to seek an independent Kurdish nation that would among others would include part of Iraq where the Kurds live.

1980-1990s  --  Turkey's security forces wiped out more than 3,000 Kurdish villages in Turkey  More than 378,000 Kurdish villagers were forcibly displaced and left homeless. 

Before 1991  -- use of the Kurdish language was illegal. 

1994  --  at her inaugurations as the first female Kurdish representative in Turkey's Parliament, Leyla Zana, was charged for separatist speech and sentenced to 15 years in prison.

In Turkey there has been a struggle between the Turkish army and the rebels of the PKK, the outlawed Kurdish Workers' Party.  PKK is considered a terrorist organization by the US, EU and UK.

The director of the movie above mentioned that after she finished her first movie, the Trace, in 1994, Turkey lived through a war in which the Anatolian people were forced to emigrate. 

One of the methods of attack on the Kurds was the condemning certain villages for destruction by placing larges X marks on the doors of the buildings.  The villages became known as "cross-sign" villages.  The villages were then burned and forcibly evacuated.  The reason for this was that some Kurdish villages refused to cooperate with the "protective" system (known as korucu)  -- the receipt of money and weapons from the Turkish government in order that the villages might protect themselves from the PKK and to fight against it.

Another coercive method was the use of "floated villages."  Many Kurdish villages had to be abandoned because in the Gap project streams would be dammed, thereby flooding the villages. 

Hunger strike at Bayrampasha Prison. 

1999 (February)  --  arrest of the PKK's leader, Abdullah Ocalan, in Kenya and extradition to Turkey. 

1999 (April)  --  victory of the Nationalist Action party at the local polls. 


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