My brother, Christian missionary Donald Mackenzie went missing in the Ararat region of Turkey. Last contact with him was on the 28th of September 2010.
The two most likely scenarios are: accident on the mountain, or foul play.
Sunday, 30 September 2012
The Lord's day. A day of spiritual and physical rest.
I walked to the base camp today with guides. It was a different kind of day as there was no investigating, just walking in the hot sun. The Kurdish like their picnics (spelt piknik here), so we had one at the base camp, a barbecue. One advantage of using a horse.
Zaffa pointed out to me on the mountain the height at which Donald disappeared. It was strange to be so close and to think that his remains might be up there.
I have made important discoveries on this trip which I am advised would be best kept quiet at the moment.
Suffice it to say, this trip has not been wasted time.
I found the elusive Musa today. I say 'elusive' because I had always been told that he was living at the the other end of Turkey. I really didn't expect to see him. I went to his village which is pictured above in the distance. Mount Ararat is in cloud to the right. I met his father. Musa was Donald's best friend over here for years. He used to stay in his father's house with the family, I was in the room that Donald used to sleep in today.
It had been reported to me long ago that 'Musa was a bad man' and so on. Well, I asked him all the questions I could think of and at the end of the day what can you do? I can't just assume someone is lying - how truthful are the ones that criticised him? He did have fond memories of Donald and even shed tears. I am not saying that proves anything but I must give people the benefit of the doubt.
My guide and interpreter Zaffa has told me that the town has 'come alive' because I am here, and people everywhere are talking about it - word has got around. He said, 'The red lights are flashing in the town.' That is plainly the reason such decisive things happened yesterday and today.
Zaffa took me to the Mosque today (Friday prayers). I had to get out after a bit. It depressed me (enough said for the moment).
I have been mistaken: the people here are not Turkish, they are Kurdish. And they are quite adamant about it. I have been pulled up more than once for asking the Turkish word for something instead of Kurdish.
As time goes by I am becoming more informed about how well known Donald was and the local people's opinion of him.
As I walked through town today with my guide and interpreter (who is well known here, and popular it seems) the owner of an internet cafe came out of his shop to greet me because he thought I was Donald. When Zaffa (my interpreter) told him who I was the man began to exclaim how sad he was about Donald because he liked him and often joked with him. Surprisingly, this man said that he had been unaware that Donald was missing.
I had already been told by one man that in his opinion Donald wouldn't have been murdered by religious extremists because he didn't think that anyone here would do such a thing. But I spoke to another man who knew Donald and he told me that he had heard people before he went missing saying, 'He is saying bad things about the prophet.' When I asked him if he thought that someone local might have murdered him, he said, 'Maybe.'
Someone asked me for my name in the hotel lobby today, and a local businessman overheard me and asked if I was the brother of Donald Mackenzie. He agreed to meet me for an interview. While we briefly spoke, he was able to inform me on something about which I had always been unsure. And that was in which year Donald had first come to Dogubayazit and Ararat. He told me it was 2001. He was quite certain. I had always thought it was about '04. That means he had been coming here over a period of 9 years. Remembering that each time he came he would stay for months. In Safer's words: 'He lived here.'
Well, that's me in Dogubayazit. Above is a still from a video clip I took today as we drove into the town. That's Ararat towering above. It's huge. It absolutely dominates everything in sight. My hotel room here as expected, is basic, but that's OK, I'll survive.
The room here has a balcony though, which is something the Istanbul one didn't have.
Today was interesting. I have a helper/translator/driver called Zafer. He tells me he knew Donald very well and talked with him often. He tells me that everyone in Dogubayazit knew Donald.
The authorities here are very jittery. What a flap I caused in the wee airport at Agri where we landed today when I pointed my camera out through the doorway. A policewoman immediately told me that I couldn't take pictures. When I said, 'is it not OK?' she phoned someone to ask if I could. She had no English. In response to her call more police and a number of suited officials arrived wondering what we were doing. The senior man among them was initially very standoffish and when he heard Ararat being mentioned said, 'It is forbidden to climb Ararat.' but when he realised that we did not actually intend to climb it he immediately became very friendly even showing us lots of snaps on his smartphone. The policewoman who spoke to me was also very friendly.
It was extremely hot here today, much hotter than Istanbul, but cool enough in the evening to cause me to add another layer.
The hotel is called the Ararat hotel. For the moment let's just say - it's interesting.
By the way, the sandals aren't mine - they leave a pair beside every bed.
First of all, apologies for taking so long to update the blog.
You may have seen press reports about some of Donald's stuff being found on Ararat. This is unsubstantiated and dubious. The reason it is dubious is because two separate guides are independently claiming to have found it. The one who contacted me is adamant that he is the only finder. Both these individuals have promised to send photos of the stuff. Well, it's been quite a few days now and still no pictures have appeared.
I'm due to fly out to Turkey with a documentary film crew on the 24th of this month. The intention is to ask questions of the people who knew Donald to try to find out what happened to him.
There is to be an interview with me about this on Isles FM tomorrow (Friday) between 5 and 6pm.
We are looking for people who knew Donald and would be prepared to do an interview for the documentary. If you knew Donald at any point in his life and would like to help get in touch via the email address at the top of the page or call me on 01851 705081 or 0775 257 4479.