AND ETC. / istanbulogy / March 21, 2016

Istanbul state of mind after the blasts

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Istanbul metro the next day  after the blast

 

Recommended music while reading:  Fazıl Say’s symphony Mesopotamia

 

Istanbul blasts and Turkey

In the last 3 months, 2 suicide attacks  took place in the touristy parts of Istanbul.  I must add that the number two is confined only to the attacks in this city, not covering the attacks in the rest of the country, say  in Ankara and Diyarbakır.  The agenda of the country and the region is ever so busy that you do not get to find the time to mourn over an agony or loss before you are rushed to the next one. Following the blasts in Ankara, Istanbul and Brussels, how do I feel as a resident of Istanbul, Turkey and the world? Emotionally complicated, to say the least.

The restlessness we have been braving for the past 3 years was to become worse after the elections in June, 2015. What I am witnessing at this moment in time is that things are literally and metaphorically  falling apart here. Violation of social values and laws, break down of institutions that are supposed to keep the backbone of the society, words/concepts that are bereaved  of their meanings, moral corruption at its lowest (Child molestation charges against Islamic institutions could well compete with those against the Catholic church), loss of trust in  the  community and justice, blood bath due to civil war, desensitization as a result of continuous exposure to violence… The list can go on and on. We definitely need a deus ex machina! Yet, despite whatever toxicity we breathe, every day the urge  to hold on to values dear to our hearts and continue to do things  we love is getting stronger and stronger.

 

A French flag hugging a Belgian flag for consolation

After the attacks in Brussels, I see a beautiful cartoon image of a French flag hugging a Belgian flag for consolation on the social media. I don’t feel bitterness over why the red Turkish flag is absent in the picture. It is somehow great that some communities feel connected to other communities and support them in times of trouble… I cannot help but feel bitter over why my country cannot feel united over 10 massacres that claimed lives of more than 600 people in the past 10 months. I cannot help but feel bitter over the pleasure one half of my country feels  for the agony of the other half. In the face of terrorism, how can I expect solidarity from the rest of the world  when my people fail to show respect to our funerals or even appreciate the shed bloodbath? Differences in secular or religious tendencies, ethnic backgrounds, or sexual preferences could well count as the excuse of so many to justify assimilation, oppression and even massacres here. I have difficulty in keeping my sanity when I hear the so-called justifications or “but”s. So at the end of the day, I have weird questions in mind such as “Could half of the Belgians be happy over the bloodshed or is the whole country mourning?” Instead of bitterness, in a childish naiveness, I envy the solidarity they offer to one another. Nevertheless, sympathy extended to the other members of our species (as further as Yemen) would be the ultimate goal in a utopian future!

 

 After the last blast in Istanbul, I started changing the places of the objects in the house, or rearranging them desperately believing that would help the earth find its realignment. 

 

The Middle East equation and suicide attacks

The past 3 years was a well-taught lesson: I learnt  how to deepen sympathy for people going about their daily lives in the Middle East. Despite frequent suicide attacks, being washed by bloody images on the media, prevailing feelings of despair, fear, anger and unpredictability, hovering helicopters, religious doctrines promoting martyrdom, sectarian conflicts, constant talk of politics, there is this dominant “Life goes on. This, too, shall pass!” feeling… Whatever happens, you need to find something to hold on to life… We feel fragile inside but we somehow find the strength to move on under the shadows of the bombs… This, I believe, is the dominant feeling of the ME psyche. After the last blast in Istanbul, I started changing the places of the objects in the house, or rearranging them desperately believing that would help the earth find its realignment.

Recently I came across the statistics on suicide attacks in Chicago University’s database and its interpretations. The suicide attacks, a violent practice employed by radical groups  since 1980 (and promoted by religious teachings as martyrdom) is observed to have increased drastically since 2000. There seems to be not one single suicide attack in Iraq before the invasion, whereas today unfortunately it ranks number one in suicidal attacks. I take full responsibility over the destabilizing ME policies that my country has been involved in and,  so do many sane and decent people all around the world about their countries’ engagement. The bombs are not exploding in Uruguay or Japan; they are mostly exploding in the ever-expanding territories of the ME targeting the countries involved in this mess. 

 

“Are you OK?”

It is quite hard to reflect how we Istanbullites feel in the wake of latest blasts. The Gezi Park protests beckoned us the imminent tough times and taught us solidarity as well as never-ending-concern for our beloved ones. “Are you OK?” is probably the most common text message for the past 3 years though it has become embarrassing to say “I am fine.”. While I was reading Ronald Siegel’s essay titled “From me to us” a few days ago,  I  was relieved to read what Desmond Tutu, the South African spiritual leader underlined about the construction of identities. “In traditional African societies, identity always involves the group. If you ask someone “How are you?”, he or she will answer “We are fine.” or “We are don’t doing well.” It just doesn’t make sense in these cultures for an individual to feel good if the rest of his or her group is suffering.” Lately, when we are asked a simple question such as “How are you?”, the answer is usually “I am so so.” and then “As you know we are not doing well.” follows.  I am not sure if this kind of collective suffering is a good thing or bad thing… Though I am sure on the spiritual path, it does mean something. I feel this ME mess is just too much of a burden in the life span of an ordinary human being.

 

 Why do I continue to write this blog? I try to remind myself of the young Yugoslavian boy who practiced tennis in their  basement  during the Yugoslavian war and became a top tennis player 20 years after the war.

 

Fear and meaninglessness

Fear and dogs reign in the streets of Istanbul nowadays. Streets are abandoned, so are restaurants, shopping malls, public transportation vehicles, especially metros… Every stop we pass in the metro,  my speech bubble  is  like “I am still alive; 3 more stops. I am still alive; 2 more stops.” Every step I make outside my home is filled with fear; this is the definition of terror. Rendezvous are being cancelled one after another. Things you hold dear to your heart lose their meaning and value. Or you have to struggle so much that they do not lose their value and meaning.

Why do I continue to write this blog? Isn’t it embarrassing to post an article about what to see in the city in the midst of this chaos? Everyone of us asks similar questions and is concerned about physical safety and the future.  I would have afforded to indulge myself in depression if I were younger, but this time  I try to keep on blogging because I need something to hold on and uplift myself  from the dark void I feel I am trapped in. I feel we owe this to each other. We need support, love, and inspiring moments more than ever while moving onto another phase. This, too, shall pass; nothing will remain as it is for  long. I try to remind myself of the young Yugoslavian boy who practiced tennis in their  basement  during  the Yugoslavian war and became a top tennis player 20 years after the war.

 

Terror and Travelling?

Why do I continue to write this blog if I will not be able to do walks in my home city out of fear or if I will not be able to find customers as Turkey’s tourism is on the decline? “Support Brussels and Keep on Travelling!” Great idea! I fell in love  with  Brussels’ art-nouveau and silent acts of courtesy when I visited Belgium a few years ago. Remember the Bali attack of 2002? It took almost a decade for people to put Bali back to their holiday destination list. When I visited Bali in 2012, the island was still trying to recover from the economic aftermath of the attack. You could  immediately  fall in love with the Balinese smile, believe me!  Economically fragile countries that depend on tourism feel it most when people take terror-hit holiday  destinations out of the travelling routes. The worst thing is  when people move out of low or high risk destinations, more radical dynamics take hold, which is, I believe, worse than the economic blow. So I desperately want to say “Support Istanbul and Keep on Travelling”…

 

 While this change is taking place, I feel we need to keep our integrity and be attentive and meticulous while  we  are reconstructing new alignments, redefining concepts, redrawing boundaries, making allies or enemies and restructuring institutions that are no longer serving us. 

 

What’s wrong with the world?

Some say the world as we know of  is falling apart only to beget a brave new  one. A wishful thinking right from the heart. Our lives are more connected than ever and no territorial boundaries or sanctions could ever blur this connectedness. I used to think that my life here is changing drastically at an enormous rate because I live right on the edge of the Middle Eastern territory,  but at the same time I know deep down that life on Earth is changing everywhere else, too – be it  on a massive scale or  on an insignificant one.  While this change is taking place, I feel we need to keep our integrity and be attentive and meticulous while we are reconstructing new alignments, redefining concepts, redrawing boundaries, making allies or enemies and restructuring institutions that are no longer serving us. 

Being besieged by  religious indoctrination of death cults, vanity of nationalism, games  of belligerent nations and corporate greed is a sheer waste of time and mental pollution in a world, where there are a zillion things I want to experience, read, see, watch or listen to before I die.  In all my humility, I believe we are just one of the species on this planet and more and more I cherish the Grand Retreat proposal– leaving half of the Earth to other species as a natural reserve- by the biologist E.O. Wilson. 

 

 brusselsattack

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Bosphorus on the day of the attacks. Sometimes it is such a beautiful day that you dismiss the idea that someone could blow up people  for his/her convictions. On such beautiful mornings I hope  I wouldn’t die that day.

 

 


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Tags:  Bali attack blasts Bosphorus Brussel attack essay Fazıl Say Gezi protests Grand Retreat Iraq Istanbul attack Mesopotamia Middle East music video Paris attack photo essays politics suicide attacks terror Yemen attacks Yugoslavian war




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