In addition to the inherent inconveniences of living in the wilderness, the families who remain nomadic also have to deal with the presence of armed militant guerillas that roam the mountains. The militants belong to groups such as The Liberation Army of Turkey’s Workers and Villagers (better known as TIKKO) and the Kurdistan Workers Party (better known as the PKK). They tend to travel in small units composed of perhaps five or six fighters, who find shelter in caves and rarely stay in one place for too long. Though they’re usually quite friendly and have no intention of harming the shepherds, they do drop in on the nomads’ camps from time to time, looking for a good meal. This poses two problems for the herders: first, the extra mouths can be a burden on a family’s limited supplies of food; and second, it’s a crime to offer any kind of assistance to the militants whatsoever, including giving them a few pieces of bread. If the Turkish Army believes that any family is feeding the guerrillas, serious consequences could ensue. This creates a stressful dilemma for nomadic families, since they consider hospitality a great virtue and would never willingly turn a stranger away hungry.
Already, many herding families from Munzur have stopped migrating to the high country, choosing to stay in the valley during summer. Since they can’t make the types of cheeses that require cooler temperatures, they focus on other dairy products, like butter, and on selling their animals for meat, which these days brings in the highest profits – and further reduces the incentives to move up to the meadows.
“In ten, fifteen, maybe twenty years,” Efrail San predicted, “nomadic life in the Munzur Valley will be over.” The meadows of the Munzur Mountains, however, would not be empty for long, he said; herders from around Diyarbakır would most likely start migrating there – but they would have to pay the government for the privilege, since it is not their traditional grazing territory (families from Munzur don’t have to pay fees to use their high pastures).