Filed under: the city | Tags: ahmet atakan, direngezi, gezi events, gezi movement, gezi park, state violence
Yesterday, the Turkish state killed another youth. His name was Ahmet Atakan, he was only 22 years old. The police shot him in the head with a tear gas capsule, and he died in the hospital. Despite the misinformation campaign of the media, we all know the truth.
I am writing this post to note this murder into history. I am writing down to remember. Last night, after the news broke, Ozgur Mumcu wrote: “They are claiming the era of political homicides without unknown suspects are over. Yes, it is over. We know who the killers are now.” An astute legal scholar, he is also son to Ugur Mumcu, a politically active journalist who was killed by unknown suspects.
Ahmet was only 22 years old, and he was protesting against injustice. I am sure he was at the most promising era of his life. I remember my 22-year old self. It was a year of breakthroughs: I finally started to really know myself, I laid ground to my biggest achievements, and I started my personal emancipation. Remind yourselves what you were doing when you were 22, and look how far you have come after that. This way, you will understand more deeply what Ahmet Atakan lost. This way, you will better realize what as a community we are losing.
I am also writing this post in order to remind one thing myself and the Others. I will occasionally go back to this piece, and please you do, too. We will never forget that by September, the state have killed 6 young people from the Gezi movement in 2013. Justice and Development Party supporters did not think these deaths were to cry for. The government did not take the responsibility, and continued blaming the protestors for corrupting peace. Worse than these, some people stayed silent and challenged neither the government nor its supporters. Let’s come back and remember who cheered when Erdogan, or any of his alikes, screamed words of violence, greed, and revenge to the microphoenes.
I will. And I will repeat this post every year, and it will pop up on your screen, on every September 10. And when it does, please do come back to this moment, and remember that the state killed Ahmet Atakan, some didn’t take the blame, some supported the crime, and some didn’t even speak about it. And when you are back at this moment, please once again remember who this “some” consisted of.
We owe this to Ahmet Atakan, and the others killed by the state.
Filed under: event, the city | Tags: gezi events, istanbul, istanbul 2020, olympics, opposition, resistance
On May 31 2013, I was watching the break of events in Taksim on the Internet. A Swedish TV Channel was broadcasting live from the Taksim Square, and Turkish TV Channels were not even showing the notorious penguins: a beauty contest on one of them, two serials representing the police as loveable patriots, and some other nonsense. Unable to predict what lied ahead, I almost wrote an open letter to the members of the International Olympic Committee, urging them not to vote in favor of the Istanbul 2020 bid. I was going to tell the committee how the people of Istanbul were forcefully denied a say about the city they live in. I was also going to ask them if they would let such government undertake organizing the Olympics, an event committed spreading sportsmanship and peace despite its problematic components like its Eurocentric conception of humankind, and racist flag. I must have forgotten what the Olympics actually are.
I never wrote the letter. I took a bus to Bodrum the morning after, and started working in a remote holiday resort on the following day. My friends clashed with the police throughout the month of June, giving a strong message to the government, and the international audience. I am not sure if any of them got the message correctly, but this is not our topic.
What really makes me think is actually personal. When did I become this person? When did I grow apart from the child who watched every Olympics with tears in his eyes? For me, the Olympics used to be the celebration of humanity. I still remember how my heart almost exploded when the arrow touched and lit the torch in Barcelona 1992. I don’t know how many times I watched the opening ceremony of Beijing 2008, and of course, a torch crown on fire, rising from underwater in Sydney 2000 is never to be forgotten. The tree metaphor of Athens 2004 was neat, and the torch of Atlanta 1996 is still the coolest thing I have seen in the Deep South.
You see; it is always the spectacle I fall, or fell, for. That’s probably why London 2012 was the only games I missed so far, mostly because of its horrendous opening ceremony. But wait… there are also those readings I did about urbanization, and gentrification, and urban displacement, and neoliberalism, and all the other evil you can encounter. Is this growing up? Is this the real enlightenment? Is this “luck?” I don’t know. The spectacle just lost its edge for me. And I couldn’t care less about the Olympics in Istanbul or anywhere else. But I am glad it didn’t hit Istanbul last night.
I thought of the letter I wanted to write as a form of opposition to the government, and later a form of resistance. Now, I think that letter, though never written, was being a part of a larger movement, and worldview. The government supporters or pro-Olympics circles are blaming people like me for being merely political. Yes, it is political, but fairly larger than AKP and its success narratives.
The Olympics are nothing but public masturbation of power holders; they are flashy masks of profitable gentrification projects in the host cities; they are new ways of inscribing (neo)colonial points of view to the host communities; they are the twin brother of what was on Turkish TV on the eve of the Gezi uprising and violent government crackdown. If you still believe the Olympics spread sportsmanship and peace, please explain the rising racism in the Premiere League, the ghost town aka the Olympic village in Beijing, which is one of the most crowded cities in one of the most crowded nations in the world, the situation in front of the banks in Athens, the wars Australia participated in the last 13 years, or maybe just tell me where Atlanta is. Not wanting the Olympics in Istanbul is not, and never was, only a blind opposition to the Turkish government. It is opposing a way of life, which is largely driven by a colorful spectacle. But just like the flag itself, the spectacle is ugly, and it belongs to an old world.
Filed under: life, the city | Tags: friendship, Love, NYC, professional life, Rain, tucson, University of Arizona
I have so much to do before I leave but I will take a moment to list some things I want to remember about Tucson. Let me tell you what Tucson did to me.
I grew up a lot in Tucson. Especially professionally. I had a certain plan about my future, and nothing turned out as planned. So, besides everything else, I once again realized the inconsistency hidden inside every plan. I came here to spend five years and get a PhD. I rather spent three years, got a master’s, and now I am moving to New York City for my PhD.
I paired up with mind-blowing professors and thinkers. I translated a novel with one of them, while I learnt a lot about my research with the other. I started learning how to research, analyze, argue, and write from scratch. They were amazing guides all along. I cannot think of a professional future without any one of the two.
I experienced the harshest of work politics, as well as friends’ support, and past-friends’ treason. Again. I have learnt how to turn everything into a learning experience, not to hold grudge, and get things done no matter what. Again. I thought Galatasaray University’s academic and social environment had taught me all. Apparently, they had only prepared me for worse.
I discovered friendship and its various forms. I made two BFFs at first sight; I saw how a high school friend turned into a partner in crime; I became a colorful figure on a multinational canvas with big words written on it. I also sadly witnessed how past-friends jumped off the ship when I was out of sight. My new life was full of such wonderful people or their wonderful versions, I really didn’t care a second as bad things happened. Life was hashtagging snapshots of my life with “#zerof*cksgiven.”
I fell in and out of love; broke some hearts and bones. I loved, left, returned, left again, but mostly wandered in the grey area between heart-shaped boxes and bed. I got addicted to the excitement of not knowing what will happen in the end. My love life in Tucson was a Tucsonan July. You knew it would rain, but you never know when and how much it would.
I became someone else. If you don’t believe in that, look at my left arm. You’ll know what I mean.
Now Tucson’s time is up. I know I will return one day for a brief visit. I’ll collect memories from the rapidly gentrifying downtown, and reflect on them whilst walking on 4th avenue. I’ll probably stop by Plush. You know I don’t like Sky Bar. I actually hate it.
Turkey caught me off guard. Again. I was about to take a trip to the north of the city for Christmas celebrations when I heard the news. I said, “Oh boy, another power worship craze.” I didn’t realize how immediate everything was to my family.
Last week, Turkish Prime Minister went to ODTU, Middle East Technical University, and the students protested his presence on their campus. Erdogan and his government crashes every aspect of academic freedom, from freedom to produce knowledge to freedom of education. PM Erdogan entered in the campus to only exhibit his power. It was a symbolic visit, and the students rallied against it. The reaction of the police was harsh, leaving students injured, arrested and tortured.
It wouldn’t be horribly wrong to put it this way: ODTU is Turkey’s Berkeley. Even though the campus was an American invention from design to education (a campus in the shape of a handgun towards the Soviets with a curriculum completely taught in English), the smartness it attracted have always given ODTU a critical edge. Throughout years, and especially in the 1970s, ODTU was the left’s castle. Even after the catastrophic apolitization of the 1980s, ODTU kept its reputation– we all know, ODTU students and alumni are natural-born oppositionals.
When I heard about the police’s inexplicably harsh treatment, I was speechless, again. Because my sister is a graduate of ODTU. My brother in law, as well. So are some of my closest friends. Hearing an ODTU student hurt in the news would mean immediate anxiety at our homes. All of them are family to us.
What made everything worse, and caught me off guard, was a declaration by some universities (not their Senates, not their administration, not their Presidents, but the UNIVERSITIES–that’s how they worded it). In this declaration, the ODTU students were represented as violence supporters, and they were condemned for being against scientific development. One of those universities was my university, Galatasaray.
Galatasaray University is almost the opposite of ODTU. Or it was when I was going there. It was proud of being apolitical. Everybody, students and the academics, were happy with their French education, Francophile tendencies, wine, and cheese. We loved talking about poetry, our trips to Europe, and the beauty of Istanbul. We had the right to do so: Our campus is at the center of Istanbul, on the Bosporus’ side. We loved being the last representatives of the Belle Epoque in Turkey.
Despite this magical environment, my school also was hurt by whatever is going on in Turkey. We have a President who has a terrible accent in French, inexplicable declarations about his political ideas, and a horrible mustache. Everyone knew he never had the potential to even represent Galatasaray, but he somehow got to lead it. And when we heard of the declaration condemning our brothers and sisters at ODTU, everybody knew that it was his idea. It would be impossible to pass such text by our professors.
The professors and the alumni association immediately released statements clearly dissociating themselves from the university’s president. I signed the alumni declaration without losing time.
Later on, when I woke up from a horrible night, I realized how immediate the whole situation was to my family. My sister and I have differences in our political opinions. We always had different visions on life. She represented the rationale in our family while I was writing poetry and going for adventures in Europe. But we never fell apart. I know what it means to be a student at ODTU, and she was always supportive of me although she hated my Francophone behavior. This is the same for the relation of ODTU and Galatasaray communities. We are maybe not the best buddies of higher education community, but never, ever a Galatasaray alumni or professor would condemn an ODTU student for his/her political opinions and activism. It is clear, we are a family.
I am writing this post to state one thing we all know. The sane part of Galatasaray is in solidarity with the brave students of ODTU. I am also writing this post to state one thing that people will read after many years. Our schools, and our country indeed, may experience horrible leadership, but we, the people, are connected with something more subtle, more delicate, and stronger. It takes more policemen than you think to destroy that.
This year has been the year of firsts. Here is what was new to me in 2012.
The first time I was left behind
Since 2003, I move. I change apartments, schools, cities, countries, and continents. I describe life as “perpetual movement.” For a long time, it hurt. Now, it just feels natural. However, for the fist time this year, I was the one left behind. A very close and dear friend of mine moved away, and I felt what my thoughtless ventures out of my “safe zones” meant to me dear friends left behind.
I met P. in Tucson in the middle of a health crisis. I had recently moved to a new apartment, went through a break-up, and had been continuously sick. I missed school for a whole week, cancelled all my sections, and stayed home for days and nights. Those lonely and dark and hazy days lead to some serious reflection about who I was, what I was doing, etc. In the middle of this, P. showed up out of the blue, and said: “Run with scissors! F*ck everything off!” We were like two kids who played a game, had so much fun, and shouted with joy: “We are best friends forever!” It was that simple.
The following months were dominated with my tumultuous love life, and his sincere attempt of making sense of American dating scene. We both failed. However, along the way, we became so close that he didn’t mind driving down to the city for 30 minutes in the middle of the night just because I called him and sounded awful. He let me spend a weekend on his couch, obsessively watching Sex and the City and reaching enlightened revelations about my life while he ran his experiments at his laboratory. But his time was limited in Tucson, and had to leave when everything was so perfect.
And he left. On a plane. Just like that. For weeks, in any discomforting situation, I said: “Oh I wish P. was here now.” For months, whenever I had the urge to instantly gossip about someone around me, I quasi-yelled at my friends: “Why don’t you speak French like P. does?” The fact that I was the one left behind, and I was the one immersed in a worse version of life without him hurt me more than I anticipated. I finally realized what I have been doing to my close friends for 10 years now. I am sorry y’all, but this is how life has been.
My First Vegas Trip
We were such good friends with P. that we decided to test it with a trip. Although we still don’t know whose idea it was at the first place, we went to Vegas. And wished we had never gone.
Las Vegas promises good time only to those who are not willing to think about the actual quintessence of things in Vegas or who are too drunk to do so. Vegas is a messy and flashy stage where a third-class play is performed with second-hand costumes and run-down make-up. Las Vegas is where people go to drink and be promiscuous, on the streets. The whole trip was dominated with an existential dissatisfaction and class-aware frustration. Vulgar use of space, abundance of tackiness, and too-many light bulbs made me constantly sick, and I wanted to get away.
We found ourselves in the Valley of Fire, and then at the Hoover Dam—a set for Cold War movies with a handsome Western agent trapped in a Soviet military facility. Who knew the best part of a Vegas trip was when we were the farthest from people?
When we were leaving Vegas, I remember mumbling about not going back ever again. I don’t know about P., but I still stand where I was back then.
My First Madonna Concert
Another first and last experience. I remember hearing about Madonna and her outrageous behavior when I was growing up. But it was not until Frozen exploded all over our teenage minds that I got to know her. Since then, I have been a Madonna fan. A loyal one. I even liked her “American Life” album.
When I moved to Paris in 2008, Madonna was on her “Sticky and Sweet Tour”, and she scheduled an extra show in Paris at the last minute, leaving a lot of tickets unsold. Until the very last day, I could get a ticket and see her with my own eyes, reaching to a level of completion in my “fandom.” I didn’t do it because I had no one to go there with, and regretted for years.
The moment I heard she was coming to Istanbul, I messaged my friend HC, and told him that I want a ticket to MDNA. I added: “You are the only one who is capable of doing so. I trust your skills. Let’s do it.” Years of organizing college events together blessed us with such a confidence for each other at moments like that. When I came to Istanbul months later this conversation, my ticket was ready. We went to the concert, and had a great time.
However, the whole Madonna experience was also a “once in a lifetime” thing for me. It was great, she was queen and all, but something about that concert told me that I could not do things over and over. Some experiences in life are meant to be done once. My first Madonna Concert was awesome, but also unique in my own story.
And other things…
This year I tried many new things, and had other firsts. There were bad moments such as when I experienced my first mobbing at work. Or there were great moments such as I went camping for the first time. There were milestones based on one little man, my nephew. Overall, I must say it was a good year. And it renewed me in many ways. I even tried those frames!
Have a good new year y’all!
Filed under: the city | Tags: Astrology, Love, proust, Rain, Running, Susan Miller, tucson
I wrote before what can happen when rain falls on this city. Today, the day that started with a great promise, it happened again. It rained in Tucson, and I found something else in life.
I have been reading Susan Miller, a famous astrologist, for the last three years. I knew she was great in describing which signs match well with each other, but I had no idea how foreseeing her monthly forecasts were. Many times, I found myself in awe at the end of a month as I reread her forecast. She knew exactly what would happen that month. When I shared my experiences of Miller with friends in Turkey, I recruited a great deal of fans. In America, the reaction was different, though. Although most of my American friends didn’t really know what “Enlightenment” or “Cartesian thought” meant, they were perfect examples of them, in a way. At least when they encountered Astrology, their smirk signaled their latent ridicule.
This month, Susan wrote that I would find the long expected love today, on November 8. Because Saturn was in the house of love for my sign, the last two years have been hell for my heart. She called this period, the time of learning. I will say she was right. I don’t remember an undisturbed moment of love for the last three years. There were moments when I said, “Yes, this is it! This is the love I have been waiting for all my life” And they were immediately followed by a disenchanting moment. (The zenith was waking up from an evening full of love in Istanbul, feeling how much I was loved, and before having my coffee, receiving an email of acceptance to the University of Arizona.) I learned a lot in the last three years, with lots of mistakes, and tears.
But November 8 was supposed to be the end of it, she said. Miller had written that October was the month in which love reemerged in my life. But she precisely said November 8 was the date I would find the love for which I have been shivering with anticipation.
I went to school. No sign of love. I went to classes. No sign, again. I came home, nothing on the road. I went to bed alone and fell asleep around 4pm in the afternoon, instead of falling in love and going to bed with my “lover.” (Please read the last word with Carrie Bradshaw’s tone when she described Petrovsky to others for the first time.) I woke up, totally devastated, and went for a run.
I got out of my apartment, ran towards the campus, and then took a northbound turn on my favorite street in Tucson, Mountain Avenue. I was in my usual pace, thinking how Tucson hell has been cooling down lately, and what a great running companion Santigold is. I had forgotten about the failed prophecy of Miller, and another day without me finding love. Then, bam. It started raining.
All of a sudden, the amazing scent of the rain and soil’s love filled my nostrils. In every step, I was getting a different scent. With one step, I remembered how I used to wander in the garden of my grandmother’s summerhouse after she watered the geraniums and four o’clocks. With another, I remembered how my best childhood friend went frantic after I articulated my love for the smell of earth after rain. She was so alarmed that she immediately warned me that I was never supposed to say that, as it could mean one’s desire to die, given the ritual of watering the grave after burial. With one more step, I remembered all those rainy Istanbul afternoons where I found myself at the stairs of Galatasaray University, looking at the Bosporus, with a similar scent around and myriad of thoughts about love and friendship, or both, in my mind. The last chunk of memories was a complicated –and drunk- one, covering our outings at a bar, which played Turkish Pop from the 1970s and 1980s. All those moments were pure happiness, though very heterogeneous in nature.
The rain got faster, and I ran home faster than usual. As I ran, I thought maybe the rain was supposed to me the love of my life. It connected me with my past life, it made me very happy, and it is actually rare in Tucson. What would one look for more in a love?
When I arrived home, I realized that I didn’t need to fall in love with my Proustian madeleine to prove an astrologist correct in life. I know one day I will find love, either while running apace or lazily laying on my couch. If it is real love, it won’t matter.
The official release date for Sezen Aksu’s album “Bahane” was February 16, 2005. I remember vividly though that it was in the record stores on Tuesday, February 14, 2005. It was a lonely Valentine’s Day, also a poor one so I had to wait until February 18, when my allowance would arrive from my parents. Those four days were painful. I would hear bits of the album from the shops of Istiklal Caddesi on my way to my apartment every evening, but I would turn up the volume of my Discman, to prevent ruining the incredible experience of listening to a Sezen Aksu album for the first time. The day came; I finished school at noon, left immediately. I was walking on Ciragan Caddesi towards Besiktas, thinking how lucky I was for going to the school I had dreamt all my life, learning the most romantic language on earth, and being about to listen to Sezen Aksu’s latest album.
I had no idea how this day would change my life forever. And maybe for the first time, Sezen Aksu had very little to do with it.
On the same spot where I had met “the loud girl from diplomacy club” a month ago, I received a text from her. Just like a month ago, she was inviting me to a party at her house. I knew my roommate’s weird classmates would be there, and I honestly didn’t want to go. I had a musical gem to discover, and I was finally able to purchase it. They were nice people actually, just like my roommate, but also a bit weird, just like my roommate. The depressed and short girl, the tall and loud Albanian girl, the cheerful gay kid, the pouty law school girl, the cool bald guy, and of course the loud girl from the diplomacy club. She probably had invited some other people, and I was dead sure she insisted relentlessly that they attended her party. I also knew that I couldn’t get myself out of this invitation. In text, she was saying that we would have fun just like last time (and I was saying inside: yeah, I will crack some graphic jokes making people think that I am total nutcase) and my roommate would also join us in the evening (and I was saying inside: yeah, as if his crazy girlfriend would let him join us.) Best thing about this party was that it started in the early afternoon. I could spend some time with them, drink a couple of beers, and then run off to Sezen Aksu’s “Bahane.”
I showed up with four beers in my hand, and they were extremely glad to see me. My roommate wasn’t there, and I was in equal distance to all the party attendees. All of them were sitting on the big, orange couch in the living room with drinks and munchies on the coffee table, and smoke was all around the house. They were playing some “alternative” music, which translated back then into Muse, Placebo, and Radiohead. They had the party started; I joined them with my beer in one hand and a ciggy in the other. I was having an OK time, thinking that attending this party actually turned out better than I expected. We had a great time for about four hours, and it was becoming late—at least for my album purchase. As they were about to have dinner and drink more, I told them I was leaving. My roommate was “still on his way to the party.”
Suddenly, the cheerful spirit of the party changed, and they were genuinely sad that I was leaving. I remember telling at least five lies contradicting with each other. I didn’t want to leave; I was having a great time. But Sezen Aksu was also waiting for me in a music store. When I left, I remember how I found my mind completely changed. I remember how much I wanted another party, and how much I would love to hang out with them, again.
I arrived to Taksim tipsy, bought the album, listened to the album as I chain-smoked. I fell in love with the album immediately, just like the rest of Turkey. That year, “Bahane” became the most selling album of the year producing super-emotional hits like “Eskidendi, Cok Eskiden” and “Ikili Delilik.” My night was complete with Sezen Aksu although my heart also wanted to be with my new weird friends.
I didn’t know this night was the simple summary of my last 8 years, my present, and probably my future. Those people, those weird friends I made through my roommate, with some additions and departures, became my family in Istanbul. Each one of them still holds an important part of my life or my memories or both. Most of them are still in my life, knowing every single detail of my everlasting academic struggle, wrecked love life, and perpetual drama. They are still the ones I make the first phone call to when I have the best and the worst news. They no longer hold these parties, especially in the early afternoon; but they still come together for me whenever I visit Istanbul.
However, no matter how much I love them, they can’t always be with me or answer the phone every time I call them. They have other lives at a different time zone than mine. In those moments, though very few, I turn on Sezen Aksu, and feel home, around my weird family. When my friends are sleeping or flying to Portugal, when I am running in the desert and they are defending people in courts, when I am teaching in the classroom and they are translating theory books, I heal their absence with Sezen Aksu with a beer in one hand and a ciggy in the other.