Archive for November, 2003

İstanbul, Geçmiş Olsun

I lived in Turkey between 1993 and 1994, and spent a lot of time in İstanbul, a city that literally unites Europe and Asia. The Turkish people I met there were good and kind, helping me when I couldn’t speak their language, and not laughing too visibly when I tried to. And now terrorists are attacking it – because it’s a nation where 90%+ of the population are muslim, but the laws are secular; because it’s a country which looks both East and West, even though the European Union continually deny it entry. I feel so sad for the people there – for my friends Melih and Minna, Yeşim and Huseyin, Asiye and İpek.

The only trouble I encountered because of my ethnicity (I was going to say religion, but I don’t have one) was in ’93 when I was walking in the old part of the City, furtively taking pictures of a demonstration in support of Bosnians who were being massacred by the Bosnian Serbs. A veiled woman saw me and spat at me; I asked her why. She told me that Turkey had exposed itself to much danger and wrecked its economy by supporting the allies in pushing Iraq out of Kuwait, and now the West was sitting on its hands while muslims were being slaughtered in the heart of Europe. People who know me will tell you that I’m not known for being at a loss for words, but as she handed me a napkin to wipe the spit off my coat, there was nothing I could say. She was right.

The title of this post means “may it soon pass” or “may you recover soon” in Turkish, and I mean it for the Turkish people and the city of İstanbul that Yeşim describes so beautifully.