Turkey drives Kurds' trucks to the wall

"We are like stones which have been thrown away by the government," Hamad Nuri said, as he waited beside his truck just north of the Iraqi border. He had been there for 10 days, one of thousands of Turkish Kurd lorry drivers who form part of a 23-mile queue of trucks that has hardly moved since Turkey invaded Iraq.

In impoverished south-east Turkey, ravaged by the war between the Turkish army and Turkish Kurd rebels of the PKK, driving trucks to Iraq is one of the few ways to make money. Each lorry has tanks capable of holding 2,000 litres of diesel that Iraq, desperate to break the UN embargo on exporting oil, sells cheaply in the border town of Zakho. The Turkish invasion has ruined the trade.

Ownership of a lorry is often the sole means of earning money for families. The drivers, although they are running out of food, do not dare lose their places in the queue that snakes across the plain, past wrecked and empty villages.

On a day when only 25 lorries crossed into Iraqi Kurdistan at the Khabur Bridge, Ahmed Kayn was playing cards with five other drivers beside his truck. They complained that the bread and water sold by local villagers was twice the normal price. One said: "I do not even have enough fuel to go home."

Asked what the government had done for them, Abdullah Yilmaz said: "Nobody speaks, nobody asks, they don't show it on television. We could die here like animals."

Most drivers are Turkish Kurds, who look nervous when questioned about Operation Steel - the invasion of Iraq by 35,000 Turkish troops in pursuit of the PKK. "I think the PKK knew the army was coming and went away," one said.

The army's campaign has not been confined to Iraq. On the road to Iraq, east of Diyarbakir, are ruined Kurdish villages. "The soldiers used to come every night to search the village where my family lived, so they had to leave their house and go to the city," said one resident of Diyarbakir, whose population is reported to have risen in 10 years from 300,000 to 2 million.

Turkish army roadblocks are thorough. Our car, after a two-hour wait, was given an escort of an armoured car and a busload of soldiers to the barracks at Cizre, a university town now largely depopulated. Surveying the bullet-scarred buildings, a security guard in dark glasses said with satisfaction: "This town is quiet now compared to 1992."

The army says the PKK is responsible for the devastation of the countryside. Among the Kurdish farmers driven from their villages and the truck-drivers ruined by the border closure, there is bitterness. That explains why the PKK does not lack recruits.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Personal Tax Senior

£28000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Customer and Markets Development Executive

£22000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company's mission is to ma...

Recruitment Genius: Guest Services Assistant

£13832 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This 5 star leisure destination on the w...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Account Manager

£20000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Account Manager is requ...

Day In a Page

Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

Orthorexia nervosa

How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

Set a pest to catch a pest

Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests
Mexico: A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life

The dark side of Mexico

A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life
Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde. Don't tell other victims it was theirs

Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde

Please don't tell other victims it was theirs
A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border