Who wiped Van off the map in Southeast Turkey?

Amy Bean

By Dr. Amy L. Beam:

Where is Van?

In 2011 Van had the feel of the New York City of eastern Turkey with new high-rise condos and brandname stores with large plate-glass windows. Sidewalks and cafes were crowded with shoppers, businessmen on iPhones, and wealthy tourists from Iran. The population had exceeded one million and Van was sprawling into the arid countryside. Clearly, Van was on its way to becoming the power center of commerce for eastern Turkey.

Van is a three-hour drive south of Dogubeyazit, the town at the foot of Mount Ararat (Agri Dagi in Turkish) 36 km from Iran. Mountain climbers arrive at Van airport and visit the 10th century Armenian church on Akdamar Island in Lake Van before driving north for their Mount Ararat Trek. The map below was created from the Distance Calculator website in 2011.

Van to Dogubeyazit is 180 km

Van to Dogubeyazit is 180 km

In 2013, I want to calculate the distance between Van and Hosap Castle to plan a summer tour with visits to archeological sites. The Distance Calculator is one of the most accurate websites to calculate distances between cities in Turkey. It includes airports and the smallest villages as well as all cities, of course. Except for Van. Van has disappeared from the database along with Van airport. It was not just omitted from the database by mistake; it was removed.

A search for Van shows “Sorry. No matches found for Van.” A search for Van airport oddly returns a match of Bodrum airport in western Turkey and five Istanbul airport hotels. Van airport does not exist.This is sure to translate to a loss in tourist dollars this year. If a place does not exist, how do you get there? If its name has been changed, how do you find it?

Who wants to wipe Van off the map and why?





Lead-up to Van’s Evacuation

As Van expanded in recent years, so too did the conflict between the Turkish Kurds and Turkey’s central government. In April 2011 Kurds began boycotting the Turkish state Imams to protest the use of religion as a tool of assimilation. In May 2011 Ankara removed the names of 13 Kurdish candidates for parliament from the ballot, then quickly reinstated 12 of them in the face of massive demonstrations.

In June 12, 2011, Mr. Hatip Dicle, an independent candidate and former political prisoner, was elected to Turkey’s parliament to represent Diyarbakir, but on June 21, the Ankara 11th High Criminal Court ruled he could not take his seat in Ankara. All 35 Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) MPs refused to take their seats in parliament in solidarity with Dicle.

KCK supporters under arrest

KCK supporters under arrest

On a weekly basis since the summer of 2010, an estimated 2000 Kurdish mayors and other elected officials, journalists, human rights activists, and representatives from NGOs were taken into custody in towns and cities throughout eastern Turkey, many under the charge of aiding a terrorist organization, in the government’s campaign to destroy the KCK political party described as the urban arm of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). As arrests escalated, so too did PKK attacks on Turkish soldiers and government-supported Village Guards, culminating in an attack by the PKK on October 19, 2011, in which 24 Turkish soldiers were killed near Hakkari, 130km southeast of Van on the border with Iraq.

On October 20, 2011, the Turkish government sent 10,000 troops to southeast Turkey to cross into northern Iraq in pursuit of the PKK rebels headquartered in the Qandil mountains.

Survivors of the 2011 earthquake lived in container houses

Survivors of the 2011 earthquake lived in container houses

Three days later, on October 23, 2011, an earthquake of magnitude 7.2 struck between the cities of Van and Ercis on the shore of Lake Van, displacing a million people and killing several thousand. Did the Turkish government redirect those 10,000 soldiers to help in earthquake disaster recovery? No. Turkey launched ground and air strikes against the rebels while it refused international earthquake aid leaving donors worldwide puzzled.

Van is not empty: demonstrators in Van, Turkey, Jan 2013, after assassination of Sakine Cansız, Fidan Doğan and Leyla Söylemez

Van is not empty: demonstrators in Van, Turkey, Jan 2013, after assassination of Sakine Cansız, Fidan Doğan and Leyla Söylemez

Millions of dollars in private donations were sent to Turkey after the earthquake with only some of it trickling east to Van survivors. Half-a-million people left Van, many permanently. Those who had nowhere to go survived the winter in tents before government and private donors provided container houses. One-and-a-half years later, Van is recovering and rebuilding. The city of Van did not disappear off the map although it is possible that was the intention, or at least the hope by some.

It’s Still All About Oil

On December 15, 2011, the United States military left Iraq after a decade of war. The U.S. signed a $111 million dollar deal with Turkey to move its equipment, including drones, to Incirlik Air Force base in Turkey, and to sell AH-1W Super Cobra helicopters with Hellfire missiles to Turkey to attack the PKK.

Roboski massacre, December 2011

Roboski massacre killed 34 innocent Kurds

On December 28, 2011, the Roboski massacre killed 34 innocent Kurdish youth crossing the mountain pass from Iraq to their home in Uludere, Turkey, sending a clear message that the mountain passes should be closed. The U.S. admitted flying the drone and Turkey admitted flying the bombing mission. The government said it was an unfortunate mistake.

In March 2012, NATO, primarily staffed by American military, opened its radar base for its missile defense shield outside of Malatya in southeast Turkey next to Iran. Residents protested outside but international media took little note.

On June 7, 2012, Van Mayor Bekir Kaya and other mayors were arrested on charges of aiding a terrorist organization. He was imprisoned for nearly a year without trial. According to a Firat News report: “The government after trying every means to prevent our Van Municipality to heal the wounds of earthquake decided to employ judicial means to this end. Realizing that they cannot win Van after it was listed as to-be metropolitan municipality, that Prime Minister Erdoðan said ‘I want Van’ was a precursor to this operation”.

From 2011 to 2013, Exxon Mobil, Total, Chevron, and Russia’s Gazprom Neft signed deals to buy oil from the regional government of KRG Kurdistan in northern Iraq. In 2013, Turkey entered into agreements with these oil companies to buy oil from Iraq. The Iraqi government has threatened legal action against Erdogan’s government for by-passing Baghdad, stating this provocation can lead to civil war.

On March 21, 2013, the PKK began its historic ceasefire and departure from Turkey to northern Iraq. In spite of the peace agreement, the Turkish government forces continued ground attacks and air bombardments of Kurdish villages in southeast Turkey into May 2013.

It took over a decade, during which time Iraq was destroyed along with hundreds of Kurdish villages, but the United States and Turkey finally have access to Kurdistan’s coveted oil without having to negotiate with Baghdad or worry about attacks from the PKK. Estimates of oil imports from Iraq to Turkey are projected to reach 70,000 barrels per day by the end of June.

How will this affect the Kurds?

A History of Displacement

Turkey has a dark history of destroying villages in eastern Turkey, forcing Kurds to move west to cities to be assimilated, and changing both place names and family names from Kurdish to Turkish names. Tunceli used to be Dersim (1938). Diyarbakir used to be Amed (1937). Doğubeyazıt used to be Beyazit (1930). Erciş used to be Ardjish (1915). Van used to be Wan (1916) before the Kurdish language was outlawed and W was made illegal.

The letters W, X, and Q do not exist in the Turkish language.

The letters W, X, and Q do not exist in the Turkish language.

Massacres and displacements took place in all of these cities and then the names were changed to perpetrate a great forgetting. In 1925, Turkey introduced the “Reform Plan for the East” which forced Kurds to relocate to other cities. This was followed in 1927 by the “Law on the Transfer of Certain People from Eastern Regions to the Western Provinces”. In July 1930, 44 villages were destroyed in Zilan Valley on the north side of Lake Van, and 15,000 people were massacred under military orders to “clean” out the area. Settlements were banned until 1980.Is the attempt to wipe Van off the map a continuation of this forced assimilation and removal policy, so Turkey and its partner, the U.S., will have unfettered access to build pipelines from Iraq across southeast Turkey?

Was the Van-Ercis Earthquake Man-made?

It is a great coincidence that the Van-Ercis earthquake occurred three days after Turkey sent 10,000 soldiers to southeast Turkey to cross over the border into Iraq in pursuit of rebels. Not everyone, however, thought at the time it was a coincidence.

On the day of the Van earthquake, a report allegedly received in the Kremlin from a naval intelligence official in Russia’s Black Sea Fleet stated that the United States had attacked Turkey with one of its feared “Earthquake Weapons” to “severely disrupt” Turkey’s massive ground invasion of northern Iraq.

This report was posted on the internet, but disappeared several days later. However, one website picked this story up and apparently has servers able to withstand efforts of making the story disappear.

As far back as 1996, a U.S. military Air Force report outlined plans for using weather as a weapon of war by sending droughts, floods, and earthquakes to its enemies. Many scientists state it is possible to direct an earthquake at a targeted location using the United States’ High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program (H.A.A.R.P.) technology located in Gakona, Alaska.

H.A.A.R.P. antennas, Alaska, bounce radio frequencies off the atmosphere to modify weather

H.A.A.R.P. antennas, Alaska, bounce radio frequencies
off the atmosphere to modify weather

Amy L. Beam, Ed.D., an I.T. specialist and political analyst, has worked in tourism in eastern Turkey sending climbers to summit Mount Ararat (Agri Dagi) since 2007. She blogs on Kurdish issues and is writing her book, Climbing Mount Ararat: Love and Betrayal in Kurdistan. She may be contacted at amybeam@yahoo.com . Follow her on Twitter @amybeam.

Copyright © 2013 Kurdistantribune.com

12 Responses to Who wiped Van off the map in Southeast Turkey?
  1. Ari Ali
    June 9, 2013 | 12:33

    Thanks for this elegant piece of writing.

    • Amy L. Beam
      June 9, 2013 | 14:00

      Thank you Ari Ali for your generous compliment of “elegant” writing. I hope readers will bookmark this page and return as they have time to read each of the links which were very carefully selected and saved over the past two years as I work on my book.

  2. Dr. Sherzad
    June 10, 2013 | 18:58

    I am sorry but this article is totally misleading. You only need to type in Van Turkey in Google to see all the images, maps and hotels etc. Mixing some pseudo scientific with other news or ”facts” is totally misleading and dishonest. H.A.A.R.P. antennas that some very unscientific people claim is controlling the weather in the world or is used as an earthquake weapons etc is playing on peoples fear ignorance or used as an advertising machine for some “books” etc. Just some simple questions: who made all these tornados which are hitting the US from times to times or the terrible floods that hit the US only a few years ago?

    • Amy L. Beam
      June 10, 2013 | 20:14

      You are diverting the focus to Google maps. I did not say Van was not on google map. I explained it has been removed from an important database when searching a particular website for distances between cities in Turkey. I have specialized in database design and could go into a more technical discussion of this, but that also would not be to the point.

      The point is that southeast Turkey appears to be being cleared out for oil pipelines.

      HAARP has been around for some years and it is time for people to be aware of it. I refer readers again to the title: Who wiped Van off the map? It is a question. I urge people to do their own research and draw their own conclusions. I have not stated that HAARP caused the Van earthquake. I have stated that the coincidence of coming three days after the invasion of Iraq by Turkish forces raises questions. I wonder if DoD and the Pentagon consider HAARP as pseudo-science.

  3. Banumu
    June 11, 2013 | 01:40

    I searched for Van aswell and it didi not come up yet if I search Lake Van , Van is right there on the map. I think they might be having problems with search algs.

    • Amy L. Beam
      June 11, 2013 | 21:29

      For a search for “Van airport” to find a match of “Bodrum Milas airport” is not a mistake. This is intentional.

  4. Dr. Sherzad
    June 11, 2013 | 09:06

    What invasion by Turkish troops on Kurdistan? The Turkish army and air force are being doing these bad acts for over a decade. But what you are implying is that the “US” caused an earth quack in southeast Turkey to stop this incursion. How great if only true that the US will help protect the Kurds! But this is just rubbish. The internet is full of these types of crazy news.
    Incidentally, I abhor the Turkish policy against the Kurds in Turkey.

  5. GB
    June 11, 2013 | 11:39

    This article is absolute nonesense; I lived in Van for several years prior to the quake and have been back several times post-quake; the vast majority of my friends who live there have praised the government reconstruction efforts and the city is without a doubt not only back on its feet but in an improved condition – as one example, two five star hotels, including one in the centre of the town, have opened up recently. Also, there is absolutely no logical reason to run a pipeline through Van, unless it were to be coming from Iran and any suggestion of a pipeline from Iraq running through Van is absolutely absurd given the geography. Also there are numerous NGOs monitoring the cease fire there and it is nonsense to suggest that attacks continue while the PKK retreat to Iraq.

    • Amy L. Beam
      June 11, 2013 | 21:47

      I refer you to this website for weekly press releases on military actions in southeast Turkey: http://www.hezenparastin.com/eng/

      From May 7, 2013, it states: “Turkish state army carried out obus and mortar bombardments on the areas of Paygeha Kemaloke, Mil Bahare and Birezer, in the district of Semdinli/Hakkari.”

      I am not there, so I have no way to verify this. Perhaps the NGOs aren’t in touch with people in the villages.

      I am glad to see this reader confirm that Van is indeed recovering. I did not know so many people are so literal minded. Nonetheless, Van IS missing from an important database and that is not by accident. So, the question is Why?

  6. Ari Ali
    June 11, 2013 | 20:41

    You nasty bunch leave Dr Amy alone . You are free to agree or disagree with the article . PLEASE BE NICE at least for her lovely smile . We kurds are truly nomads .

    • Dr. Sherzad
      June 12, 2013 | 09:36

      Dear Ari you are missing the point. My objection was that we should not accept wired and totally un scientific piece of news: that is there is a state power how can start an earth quicke at will any where they choose. Of course the world especially our area in Middle east is full of conspiracy theories and always blaming our problems on the outsiders. I do not think that putting ones views is a personal attack on Ami. I do not think also that responding to an outrageous view (or news) is a nasty or nomadic thing. However, applauding any article just for the smile of the author perhaps is nomadic.

  7. john
    June 11, 2013 | 21:13

    Hear, hear Ari. And who can doubt (especially after the latest whistleblowing revelations) that the powers-that-be will promote their interests however they can? Thanks for the thought-provoking article, Dr Amy.

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