ANKARA, TURKEY. Friday, 15th of January 2016. Since we arrived in Ankara, capital of Turkey, we are trying to draw a roadmap to reach Iran. And it’s not easy. If you just look at the map you would easily see that the best choice is to drive across the whole Turkey by the E-88 and E-80 highways through Erzurum to Doğubayazıt and then cross the border at Bazargan in Iran. But it is not as easy as it sounds and we are going to explain why.
Just landing at the Sabiha Gokcen International Airport in Istanbul was a bit scary. The 23th of December 2015 there were several explosions that are still being investigated by the Turkish authorities, according to the latest information provided by the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Two days later landing at the airport, the 10th of January 2016, there was an attack in Istanbul attributed to the terrorist group ISIS. We were in Bolu, a mountain town 300 kilometers east of Istanbul, so we heard of it through the media. Four days later, on 14th of January, a Kurdish attack against a police station in Diyarbakir, southeast Turkey, took place leaving behind with six dead and dozens injured. At that time we were in Ankara, the Turkish capital, which in October 2015 suffered a serious attack that killed almost a hundred people and wounded dozens.
Turkey has become a conflict scenario this 2015
In short, Turkey is a conflict scenario. A conflict scenario in which big cities like Istanbul and Ankara suffer attacks by the ISIS. A conflict scenario that is the gateway to thousands of Syrian refugees who in 2015 participated in the largest migration crisis of all time. A conflict scenario for the terrorist actions of the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party) which broke the ceasefire in July 2015 after the Turkish attack to the Kurdish forces operating in northern Iraq. A conflict scenario in which is also growing tensions with Russia after the downing of a Russian bomber in Turkish waters in November 2015.
What route do we choose?
Well, southern Turkey is controlled by ISIS and the southeast by the PKK, which is gaining positions up in the north. In fact, in the provinces of Batman, Tunceli, Erzurum, Ardahan, Kars, Siirt and Diyarbakir there have been struggles between PKK militants and the Turkish Gendarmerie. In all of these provinces they have declared special security zones, where entry is subject to authorization by the Turkish authorities in a context in which the security situation and the actions of these authorities can vary from day to day depending on the course of action. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs states that “it should be emphasized that the risks are very high.” Obviously we won’t cross the east nor the southeast of Turkey.
Another option is to cross to Armenia, however, “the land borders with Turkey and Azerbaijan are closed”. Georgia is presented as the only viable option. It is a relatively safe country, except the provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, which are not under the control of the government in Tbilisi. Russian troops control these territories and their administrative boundaries. It is certainly a good choice. It would simply be a matter of crossing into Azerbaijan from Georgia and from there to Iran. But another problem arises again. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs recommends to avoid above all costs the visit to the cities of Ganja, Lenkoran and Nardaran, in which the Azerbaijani security forces are conducting police operations against Islamic extremism. And it turns out that Lenkoran is the most important city before crossing into Iran. Still, it is the most plausible option, since the PKK controls the entire South and East Turkish territory up to Erzurum and the Turkish border with Armenia remains closed.
This is the current scenario in Turkey, in which we have just mentioned some social and political particularities and we have relegated geographical or climatic considerations into the background, as we are usually more concern about human actions than nature.
Brief summary of recent news in Turkey:
October 2015. Attack in Ankara with almost a hundred people dead
November 2015. Turkey attacks a Russian bomber
December 2015. Explosions in Sabiha Gokcen Airport of Istanbul
January 2016. Attack in Istanbul attributed to ISIS
January 2016. Attack by the Kurdish forces in Diyarbakir, southeast Turkey