Monday, November 12, 2007

In Turkish mountains, an oasis of inter-ethnic harmony

In Turkish mountains, an oasis of inter-ethnic harmony - Turkish Daily News Nov 10, 2007
Clinging to a craggy mountaintop in southeast Turkey, Mardin is at the geographic heart of a region in the throes of violent conflict between the Turkish army and separatist Kurdish rebels.

But in many ways, residents say, Mardin is a world apart when it comes to inter-ethnic relations.

"We are very optimistic here, people deal with us Kurds very positively," said Mehmet, a Kurdish businessman, over a cup of tea in this ancient city with spectacular views of the Mesopotamian plain.

"It's fine, we have good relations with everyone," said another Kurd, Necmettin, a bellboy at a high-end hotel.

Turks, Kurds, Muslim Arabs and Assyrian Christians live side by side in Mardin, which has been a crossroads of civilizations for more than 1,000 years.

The city is no classic melting pot: ancient madrassas abut 1,000-year old churches and the streets are a babel of Turkish, Kurdish, Arabic and even Aramaic, the language of Jesus Christ.

People are fiercely protective of their identity, but equally proud to belong to one community.

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