Exploring cultures and communities – the slow way

The homeland of the Kurdish people is bisected by many international frontiers. But Kurds in Syria, Iraq, Turkey and beyond are united by their affection for a TV station that broadcasts news and entertainment to the Kurdish people. Karlos Zurutuza, a regular contributor to hidden europe, visits the small town in Flanders (Belgium) where Roj TV is based.

article summary —

Ajdar steps calmly up to the presenter’s desk, untroubled by the bright studio lights. He has been here a thousand times before. Three, two, one… action.

Roj bas, Kurdistan. “Good morning, Kurdistan” says Ajdar, with that quiet assuredness which is the mark of the experienced television presenter. Roj TV is not in Kurdistan at all, but in a rather dreary small town in the flatlands west of Brussels. Denderleeuw cuts a dash in Kurdish culture, with the east Flanders town having a substantial Kurdish minority and hosting a TV station that broadcasts to an attentive Kurdish audience spread across several countries.

Cameras are poised in virtual flight over a large map of Mesopotamia as the presenter predicts clear skies for the coming day. Kurds across large parts of Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran look to Denderleeuw for their weather forecasts, their news and their entertainment. Clear skies today for the audience, and relentless Flanders rain for Ajdar and his colleagues at Roj TV.

After Ajdar has introduced today’s guest, a teacher from Turkish Kurdistan, the phone line is open for live calls. First on is Mehmet from Diyarbakir (a city on the River Tigris in eastern Turkey) who just wants to pass on best wishes to his cousin in Germany who is about to get married. “Sorry I cannot be there with you,” says Mehmet.

This is just an excerpt. If you are a subscriber to hidden europe magazine, you can log in to read the full text online. Of course you can also read the full article in the print edition of hidden europe 30.


Not content with the conventional maps of Europe and the Middle East, Karlos decided to hit the road and produce his own! He maps the contours of cultural life: Aromanians from Albania, Yezidies in northern Iraq, Armenian villages in Abkhazia and the Georgians in South Ossetia. These and a myriad of other isolated communities are the ‘pixels’ that Karlos plots on his ‘hi-res’ maps. Were it not for the magnetic effect that the mountains of Kurdistan have on him, he would gladly spend his entire life circumnavigating the Black Sea. He travels light, yet there is always space in his small backpack for two favourite books: Neil Ascherson’s The Black Sea and Jules Verne’s Keraban the Terrible. Karlos writes in Basque, Spanish and English. His work has been published in several newspapers and magazines. He can be contacted at kzurutuza@gmail.com.

This article was published in hidden europe 30.