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  • We turned off the road and headed along the main highway to Van. After driving for a minute or two I noticed Berzan began to pull over the car to the side of the road. My first reaction was that he wanted us to get out and take a picture of Mount Ararat one last time, which would soon disappear in the distance. As the car slowed down along the shoulder of the road, I could hear the sound of sirens behind me. It appeared we were being pulled over by police -- were we driving too fast?

    I reached into my pocket to pull out our passports, sure that we would need them. A small two-door police car pulled over to our left. A policeman was leaning out the passenger window with a large automatic rifle pointed up into the air.

    "Get out of the car," I heard Berzan say quickly.

    While turning to open the rear left door I felt someone's hand grab my arm and yank me out of the car. It was so fast I could barely process it, but I realized it was the police officer with his large automatic rifle in his other hand. The next thing I knew I was being thrown against the back of the car spread-eagle, the soldier screaming in my ear while another soldier was frisking Berzan near the front of the car as Berzan shouted at him. Susanne appeared to be standing alone, away from the car, but I couldn't really tell. Were there other cops? What did they want? What the hell had we done?

    I then felt a sharp pain in the back of my right thigh, punctuated by yelling in my ear. Had I been kicked? Smacked with the rifle butt? Before I could process what was happening the soldier kicked the inside of my left foot, causing my legs to swing out into a an even more vulnerable spread-eagle position.

    My mind went blank. I wasn't scared, nor did I feel angry. I wasn't sure why we had been pulled over or why they were doing this to us. All I knew was that our lives could be in a lot of trouble, and the only thing that might get us out of that trouble was in my left hand. I held onto our passports for dear life.

    "Amerikaliyiz! Biz Amerikaliyiz! Bizim pasaportlar!" I yelled, holding up our passports while trying not to raise my hands off the back of the car. The second soldier came over to me from where Berzan was being frisked and took the passports out of my hand. He thumbed through them quickly and said something loudly to me in Turkish.

    "Get back into the car," Berzan said, still spread-eagle on the front of the car. "Get in now."

    Not sure if this was Berzan's translation or suggestion, I looked over at the second cop. He nodded his head and motioned to the back seat of the car as he allowed Berzan to stand up straight. Berzan and the first cop began to yell at each other as Susanne and I returned to the car. It appeared that our passports would grant us safe conduct, though Berzan's future was far from certain.

    Once inside, I took a deep breath as soon as I closed the door. "Are you okay?" I asked Susanne.

    "Yes -- they didn't touch me," she replied. "Are you okay?"

    "I'm a little bruised, I think. I think I was kicked. I got hit by something in my left thigh before getting my foot kicked from under me. I don't know; maybe he hit me with the rifle."

    "What are they going to do with him?" Susanne asked, looking over at Berzan.

    A moment or two later Berzan was allowed to open the front door of the car in order to retrieve his keys. Apparently they wanted to search the trunk. Berzan leaned inside to pull out the keys and simultaneously handed Susanne the Kurdish music tape from the stereo.

    "Put them in, in...." he said quickly, pointing to the glove box. Berzan closed the door and began arguing with the cops again as Susanne stashed his tape.

    Ages seemed to pass as the argument continued, though in truth it may have been no more than 30 seconds. Berzan and the second policeman then called over to us, asking me and Susanne to get out of the car yet again. Unlike my first exit, this time I was allowed to step out on my own accord and walk towards them. As the first cop stared at me coldly, the second cop reached into the front seat of the police car and pulled out a two-liter bottle, holding it up towards me.

    "No thanks," I said first in English. "Hayir, Memur Bey, tesekk├╝rler."

    The first cop began to speak to me in Turkish angrily, then pointed to Berzan, hollering out English, "Who is he?"

    The second cop, now holding a liter of water, added, "How do you know this man?"

    Turkish words raced through my head as I tried to organize a thought. How could I explain that Berzan was the manager of our hotel and had been recommended to us? Should I say we knew him well or not? What would get us out of this?

    Berzan took the bottle out of the second cop's hand, giving it to me. "Drink this," he said, possibly stalling for time to give me a moment to think. "They want to know how you know me. They say I am taking you somewhere against your will. Tell them you know me."

    "Friend!" Susanne said anxiously. "How do you say friend in Turkish?!?"

    "Arkadas!" I blurted out, finally understanding what to say. "Berzan -- bizim arkadas! Bizim sofor bey! Oteli Ipek Yolu. Arkadas!" Susanne was joining in at this point, saying friend and arkadas repeatedly.

    "This man is a problem!" the angry first cop replied in broken English, his cold blue eyes staring right at me. "He is a problem, a Kurdish problem...." The policeman seemed intent on having us say something -- anything -- that would give them the excuse to drag Berzan away.

    "Yok!" I said back to him indignantly. "No problem.... Dert degil! Bizim arkadas!"

    "Why are you here today?" the second policeman asked.

    "Dogubeyazit," I replied. "Ishak Pasa Sarayi. Berzan -- Berzan sofor bey. Oteli Ipek Yolu'dun! Arkadas!"

    At this point the second policeman began to nod his head. "Okay, okay," he said.

    Berzan then spoke up again. "They want you to get back in the car," he said.

    "Take the water with you."
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