Back Across the Border
by Jeremy Star
My alarm clock slept in so I was woken by Mirek knocking on my door. I threw my things into my backpack and stumbled downstairs. We bought breakfast - eggs, bread and cay - and then began our journey back to Turkey. With the help of a policeman we found a taxi to Zukho garaj where a father and son were already waiting. The taxi took us all the way to the border where we tried to pay with a mixture of American Dollars and Iraqi Dinars - what we had left - but the driver only accepted the local currency and didn’t seem to mind about the rest. My alarm clock finally sounded, one hour late.
Unsure where to go, we headed for a bustling parking area where we were pounced on by a Turkish taxi driver. Türkiye – yirmi (twenty) Lira. I knew the price was fifteen Lira and typed “15” into his mobile phone. Yok (no), yirmi Lira. We walked away. OK, onbeş (fifteen) Lira. The driver noted down our passport details and pointed us towards a room where we waited to have our passports photocopied. At another window the photocopy was stamped. Outside again we walked to a checkpoint where someone spoke to us with words I didn’t recognise. Mireck seemed to understand and they exchanged a few sentences. It was the first time I had heard Russian out loud. We walked on, away from our taxi which was blocked by the long stream of stationary cars. I had my bags with me but Mireck had left his in the taxi and I only half joked that he was probably carrying some extras across the border by now.
It emerged that the longer than usual backlog was due to a breakdown in the Turkish computer system. Many of the people had been waiting there all night. The cars inched forward, our taxi driver cutting in whenever he could and some people being given preference over others. Mireck found some cay and we sat and waited in the sun. Turkey was just across the river but it is forbidden to cross the border on foot, purportedly because the border guards make a lot of money out of the exorbitant taxi fares.
When it became too hot outside we retreated to the shade of our taxi. One of the other passengers had two big boxes of dates. $1 Iraq, $5 Türkiye, he explained and gave me one to try. Our driver was never stationery, darting around, arguing with other drivers and manoeuvring the taxi into impossible gaps. If he was away when the line of cars moved a few meters, whoever was around would jump in and drive our taxi forward. At one stage he took our passports to an official, presumably trying to use our alien status to move ahead. The sooner he could get through, the sooner he could bring another load in the other direction.
Five hours after arriving at the border we reached Turkish customs. Our bags were taken out and searched, the taxi checked for explosives, and our passports stamped. Our driver had one more use for us - maximising the Turkish cigarette import allowance - and pushed us towards the duty free area. I objected which was accepted. Our bags were taken out again and put through luggage scanners before we were finally cleared and allowed through.
Our driver, suddenly set free, sped along the open road to Silopi. We were dropped at the Silopi otogar where we found a bus to Sanliurfa. The bus drove west along the heavily guarded border with Syria. At a police checkpoint our passports were inspected and two people were hauled off and led away. The bus driver unloaded their bags and we left without them. I settled in for the journey and watched the sun setting, across no man’s land, in Syria.
More by Jeremy StarInto Iraq
Impressions of Dohuk
More of Dohuk
Visit to Amedi (Amadiya)
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