There are few things more pastoral - and misleading - than the drive into the town of Dersim in southern Turkey. It is a place where central Anatolia's dry mountains explode into a fertile fantasy, complete with meandering rivers, flourishing vegetation and batteries of brand-new luxury apartment blocks overlooking the water. First impressions suggest that Tunceli is a prosperous, lively place.
But things are not as they seem. The town, predominantly inhabited by Kurds of the ShiaAlevi faith, a heterodox Muslim sect, was the site of an infamous massacre in the early years of the Turkish state and is ringed by army and police observation posts. The surrounding villages lie half-abandoned, while the province boasts one of the highest rates of unemployment and emigration in Turkey. Tunceli, a place whose rebellious spirit has repeatedly been quashed, through massacres, social engineering and torture, is scarred by tragedy. It is the victim of its history and demographics, where old people are plagued by depression and suicide rates among the young are climbing.
On its graffiti-covered streets, few signs indicate that historical, landscape-changing elections are just around the corner. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan, currently the front line presidential contender, amended the constitution in 2007 to allow for a popular vote electing the president. But in Tunceli, a town that traditionally voted for the secularist Republican People's Party (CHP) and the Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), Erdogan's right-wing, Turkic Sunni Muslim synthesis is unpopular. The town's walls are papered by the same posters and slogans from the heyday of the Turkish left, overlaid by a new skin commemorating the protesters who died in protests related to the Gezi demonstrations - all but one Alevi.
CCTV cameras and armoured vehicles patrolling the main streets betray Tunceli's geopolitical importance. It holds deep historical and logistical significance for the PKK, a Kurdish militant organisation that fought the Turkish government for decades, and is now negotiating with it.
Read more: http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2014/08/turkey-islamic-state-kurds-201487164126994317.html