Exploring cultures and communities – the slow way

The island in Lake Van, shown on modern maps with the name Akdamar, has a more historic name: Akhtamar. The island is rich with Armenian associations, but Turkey has been keen to distance the island from its cultural history. That change of name is part of a wider tale. Karlos Zurutuza reports from eastern Turkey.

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From the small quayside at Geva? it is no more than a twenty minute boat ride to Akhtamar, an island in Lake Van. A short journey laden with meaning, for Akhtamar is full of heady symbolism. It is a peaceful spot. The island's rocky shores have never been beaten by violent waves. Here in a mountain basin at over sixteen hundred metres above sea level, Turkey's largest lake and its wild surroundings are all tranquillity.

A display of white painted stones on the slopes of Akhtamar Island proclaims a stark message reminding visitors that the Motherland is indivisible, and so alluding to the contested status of the island. Historically part of Kurdistan, politically part of Turkey, but spiritually part of Armenia. Whose Motherland?

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Karlos Zurutuza has been covering human rights and conflict along parallel 33 (from Western Sahara to Eastern Baluchistan) for the past 15 years. Other than in hidden europe, his work has been published in prominent media outlets such as Al Jazeera, IPS News Vicenews, The Middle East Eye and The Guardian, among many others. He has also published several books, his latest being Tierra Adentro (Libros del KO, 2018), which covers seven years of ground reporting in Libya.

This article was published in hidden europe 25.