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Economist: A New Silk Road: A New Silk Road: The Return Of The Scarv

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  • Economist: A New Silk Road: A New Silk Road: The Return Of The Scarv


    Economist europe/displaystory.cfm?story_id=10609214
    Jan 31 2008

    Rural Kurds revive an old Armenian tradition

    FOR centuries Armenians in the village of Agacli, in south-east Turkey,
    cultivated silk. With it they wove fine carpets and flowing scarves
    that were traded all along the silk road from China to Europe. That
    was until 1915, when Ottoman forces slaughtered most of the villagers,
    and hundreds of thousands of other Armenians. The village was taken
    over by Kurds and, in the 1990s, became a target for terrorists from
    the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). Residents began to flee when the
    PKK started raiding the area demanding food and shelter.

    Weary of the violence, Agacli's 62-year-old mayor, Yusuf Bayram,
    decided two years ago to try to revive the silk trade. He was inspired
    by his wife, the daughter of two Armenians rescued as children by
    Kurdish neighbours during the 1915 massacres. But a lone pair of
    gnarled mulberry trees planted by the Armenians were all Mr Bayram
    had-until the European Union rode to the rescue with a big grant.

    New mulberry trees were planted, silkworms and looms brought in. Some
    15 teenage girls have been trained to spin, weave and dye the silk.

    Despite finger-numbing cold, they have just produced their first
    batch of scarves. Gulay Aslan, a former seamstress who trains the
    girls, says their biggest challenge is sustainability. "The EU money
    is finished. We need to stand on our own feet, to find markets,"
    she declares.

    The women have formed a co-operative, but their only customer is
    Diyarbakir's chamber of commerce. At $35 each, the scarves cost
    far more than those of competitors in China and India. "They use
    machine-spun silk, our girls make everything by hand," boasts Mr
    Bayram. Just like the Armenians, he adds.