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.
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.
#2, January 2, 2012
I am fed up. I was already fed up actually, but today, with only six days left to go and many friends still not visited, I have the urge to write it down. Istanbul is no longer my city; Istanbul is an ex with a bad break-up.
My relationship with pain was never with relief. I am not one of those who do whatever he can to ultimately avoid pain. I used to easily coexist with it. There were moments of prolonged adolescence where I took pain as “my fuel in life”, and although those days are long past now, I still acknowledge the power and importance of pain. In addition, as I have written before, I found a way to cope with pain in a sweet city to start learning how to cherish life.
Istanbul, however, is such a bitch that it could not stand my “cured” persona, and treated me worst ever: To, most probably, take revenge, it reintroduced the omnipresent pain engrained in herself. And although I no longer live here and now I am an outsider to this city, I am still able to notice and point out painful details of Istanbul life, and it totally ruins the whole experience of holiday and visiting friends.
As stated in the first entry of these chronicles, most of my friends are undergoing an intriguing depression in their lives and they don’t hold themselves back from expressing their resentment on my face– the tourist who came from far away after a very long time. Their fragile emotional state must have turned them into discomfort-disseminators, and their “”life” is not making my “experience” well-pursued at all.
Secondly, my inclination of hearing life not from my friends but from other people that I see on the streets, my personal preference of using public transportation, my sweet but unachievable quest for used books have taken me to many different conversations and over-hearings. What I used to notice, while I was living here, was anger—people shouting on the phone, shopkeepers cursing after a difficult customer, football fans beating other team’s fans. This time, I heard pain openly expressed by people: A shopkeeper gave me a 4-minute long monologue (uninterrupted by me, the fascinated habitant of the purgatory between local and foreing) about how he can no longer support his family despite his corner shop in the middle of Cagaloglu,; a fifth grader failed selling her used text books and her father couldn’t afford buying new ones; a girl who sat by me in Starbucks told her correspondent on the other side of the phone how her New Year’s Eve had been a disaster full of quarrel and beating with her ex; another girl passed by me in Kadikoy crying her eyes out. I was not only doomed to hear and understand all these, but I also carried them home with me. They kept me in an emotional limbo, where I constantly felt like I drank a venti Americano to an empty stomach. I felt like crashing or even passing out emotionally but something also kept me awake, and maybe even too awake.
The cherry on top has been the music, something I earlier had noticed, recognized, and admitted, but also forgotten. Last year, in a state of homesickness, I told my friends in Istanbul that they had the luxury of pain in that city. They constantly listen most painful songs, but they also could defer their blues with a good table of friends and raki—something not easily generated abroad. Anyway, this year, I noticed almost every producer is up to taking advantage of this obsession with pain. I watched a rock video where the singer was in a grave, singing how she dag her grave herself. Another “pop” video followed. A well-groomed male singer was singing a very high-beat song, with a smile in his face, but the lyrics were his cry of incapability of making people’s demands of “more” from him. And finally, I found out that one of my favorite singers, Goksel made a song called “It hurts”, and she sings this line over and over, with her melancholic and melodramic voice. The worst part in this experience is, I believe, my ongoing awe although I had had realized this long before. In my self-imposed amnesia, I probably enjoyed, deep down, this nostalgia for my prolonged adolescence. I may claim myself pain-free but the reality is not that clear-cut.
The pain rarely brings me to burst. I always burn inside within. But this time, due to my heavily altered life in Arizona, I cry that I am fed up. I am fed up with this city’s sickening relationship with pain, and I no longer hold my subjectivity back. When I first moved here, I used to refrain from complaining just because I probably was not the one to criticize this unique city. That’s why I never joined my comrades from Smyrna who used to start complaining about Istanbul the moment they step in it. Those days of respecting Istanbul for its potent place in history have passed, and my personality totally rejects its magnificence. I was never a usual-Smyrnian, I always liked Istanbul more than I did Izmir—which is extremely rare in our breed; but I feel that I am done with it. Interestingly, in a holiday of which I spent only four days in Izmir, this is the day I go back to my roots, and start hating Istanbul with all my guts.
I am fed up, and I am taking no more your BS, Istanbul.
#3, January 8, 2012
I am sitting on the benches of Istanbul Ataturk Airport, waiting for my partner in crime, Deniz, to arrive. I have thirty minutes before check-in starts, lots of alcohol in my blood, and some extra holiday pounds. They will leave me when time arrives.
I am sitting here with two major feelings: An ultimate satisfaction deriving from quality time spent with friends and family, and a major heartbreak created by two important people in my life.
I am sitting here with my coat on and with one song in my ears looping. The song summarizes the major heartbreak, the expected moment of my life. After two great nights spent with friends, who know how to love and deserve more love than I normally give them, I am waiting for my departure time to arrive with a bittersweet feeling, tending to darken due to those heartbreaks.
During this visit to Turkey, I did not have the time of my life, but luckily, last two days were amazing by all means. I reconnected with most of my dearest friends until next time—this June or another cold and rainy December. Throughout this stay, I have eaten more than enough Turkish food, many of them being delicacies I craved in the middle of warm Tucson nights. I have seen four amazing Turkish movies, took many positive steps for my academic and literary career, talked to many strangers about life in Turkey and grasped an overall sentiment about the latest developments. It was better than I expected in certain issues, and worse than in some others.
When I started this entry, I was expecting a catharsis on this heartbreak. My alcohol level, my sleepiness, the song in loop signaled this very-needed catharsis. However, as I realized and explained in these chronicles, I had changed a lot. I fire frustrations faster and easier than I used to, and this is totally new to me. I think as Istanbul becomes a more touristic, attractive, sign-board invaded city, my character complies with it: The loses are obvious, the human cost is huge, and the history is massively neglected, but to become more flexible as a person, to have a life with more lights, to welcome more people, I quit burdening friendships easier and quicker than usual. My friends at college used to mock my short temper towards people close to me. It was something funny, because although I claimed ending my relationship with many people, I never had succeeded, and my short temper was only a funny reaction of mine to human conditions.
This time, the heartbreak occurred so gradually and deep down, no one challenged me when I talked about my heart breaking. They all admitted that my relationship with those two former friends was over. It was easy, apparent, accepted by everyone around. The decadence was recognized with ease.
And just like that, after two amazing nights, I took a cab from Taksim to the Airport, and started waiting for my flight. It was that simple.