I had never heard of Midyat until a few days ago, but a couchsurfing host told me I could stay at his place there so that’s as good a reason to visit a town as any. As the sun sets a truck driver drops me off in town and I meet up with Osman, my couchsurfing host. We walk down the busy high street and then down some dusty back streets till we get to his flat where I’m in for a surprise. A large collection of books lines the walls of the room I’ll be staying in. As I scan the spines familiar names spring out: Foucault, Žižek, Judith Butler. I ask Osman if he’s got anything by Gramsci and he smiles and pulls the Prison Notebooks out of his backpack.
Midyat proves to be a surprisingly beautiful city full of sandstone-colored houses and old churches. It reminds me more of Lebanon than of a city like Van which I visited just a few days ago. At the weekend Osman and I set out to visit a few churches and monasteries out in the countryside where we stumble upon an Assyrian wedding and are, of course, invited to join in with the festive meal.
The buildings and people are an important reminder of the fact that a hundred years ago the demographics of this place were entirely different and to this day this part of Turkey has a very uneasy relation with the powers that be. Something which Osman, a Kurd himself, is keenly aware off as the village in which he was born has been razed to the ground by the government.