Women move to the highlands for summer in Van

When the temperatures in Van rise, people move with their cattle to the highlands. Despite state prohibitions, the women preserve their culture.

Every summer, women from the village of Êzdînan (Konalga) in Şax (Çatak) district of Van Province move to the highlands. On the high mountain pastures Mêrgastran and Alandeşt grow different plants, which is why they are a centre of attraction in the region.

The women from Êzdînan get up early in the morning and go to the highlands after breakfast to milk their sheep. Before that the horses have to be saddled up. The two-hour trail leads past dangerous abysses, but the women talk or sing. "We experience both the sunrise and the sunset," they say.

Heybet Tarten cares for the sheep on the highlands for years. "I was born and raised there. For a while, access to the highlands was prohibited and the ban was later lifted. Life on the highland is very nice, but also exhausting. Our tents are in Mêrgastran but we ride to Alandeşt to milk the sheep. The journey takes two, sometimes even three hours. It is a dangerous way, but we do not give much to that. We pass the time with songs and conversations.”

Hicret Okan has lived for over fifty years on animal husbandry on the highland. "We get up at five in the morning and work through until eight o'clock. There are only women on this highland, the whole burden is on our shoulders. Animal husbandry is not an easy job and especially in a place like this the difficulties and the responsibility are great. I love life on the highland very much. For a while, we were forbidden to enter, but we still did not give up this life. In Hakkari and many other places, the highlands are closed. However, the population lives on, with these bans the Kurds are economically weakened and driven into poverty. We will not give up this culture and preserve it throughout our lives.”

However, Hizret Altan points out that the younger generation rejects life on the highland: "They do not appreciate it. The air in the cities makes you sick, so the highlands with their healing effect are preferable. There used to be close to a hundred families here, but that has changed.”