Showing posts with label Galata. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Galata. Show all posts

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Protests, Liquor Ban Grip Turkey

The Hürriyet.com front page on 6/1/2013
What started as quiet protests near Istanbul's Taksim Square against construction on park land has erupted into anti-government protests across Turkey.

A Hurriyet.com slide show shows dire scenes. More than 900 arrested, many hospitalized. Some park scenes made things look like a college sit in got out of hand. Translate Hurriyet captions, and it is not clear things are abating, even after "pepper spray, rubber bullets and water cannons ... hundreds of wounded were admitted to hospital." Yet, after more than 900 arrests, the headline at Hürriyet.com, a big Turkish daily, says the Taksim-Galata neighborhood is "Clean." A sarcastic reference to water cannons? To politics? Or is that "Clear"? Turkish is very difficult to auto-translate online.

But it's not hard to translate the first photo in a featured slide show (see Hurriyet screen shot above.) Not swarms of protesters, nor police, but a photo of the U.S. White House! Does this suggest the U.S. is involved in a Turkish Summer, a la the Arab Spring? One thing is clear in this WSJ photo (slide 10): protesters are young men and women, and the latter are not wearing headscarves.


Coverage: New York TimesReuters CBS


The U.S. White House National Security Council released a statement saying peaceful public demonstrations are part of democratic expression and public authorities should act in a responsible and restrained manner, according this Hurriyet newspaper article. Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said today that security forces' use of pepper spray was a "mistake." Smart phone photos uploaded to Twitter may be the best weapon against brute force. 

According to this Wall Street Journal report, protests were triggered by

"a campaign to protect Gezi Park at Taksim Square, a small and rare patch of green space in central Istanbul which the government wants to raze to build a multipurpose building modeled after a historic Ottoman barracks. An administrative court on Friday ruled to halt construction at the park, providing a brief, if temporary, win for the protesters. ...The public outcry follows a series of events that have fed antigovernment sentiment among many Turks, particularly in large cities. Recent episodes include street-fighting between unions and police on May Day, a restriction on alcohol sales that secularist Turks say is social engineering, Ankara's increasingly aggressive stance on the Syria conflict and urban planning in Istanbul such as a new airport and a new bridge over the Bosphorus that environmentalist say will uproot thousands of trees."
According to the Journal, this was the response:
"Don't compete with us.... If you gather 200,000 people, I can gather a million.... This event has been escalated beyond the park and become ideological," Mr. Erdogan said.
Turkish-restaurant friend in New York recently told me he expected Turks to revolt against rising religious conservativism, and I thought he was exaggerating. Then Erdoğan met with President Barack Obama in Washington. I realized things were bad yesterday after I saw a Twitter image of a photographer injured in the Istanbul mayhem. 

Protests come just a week after the Turkish government banned alcohol sales from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. (Islam discourages drinking, and the Erdoğan government is viewed as conservative.) The prime minister told The Economist that people should drink at home, not walk around inebriated. You can't argue with that, but The Economist illustration says it best. When does a society need a man in uniform to keep drinkers off the street?

Today's Istanbul meyhanes are wonderful appetizer-restaurants that serve alcohol. Just like a Greek taverna or mezedopoleía.The beautifully illustrated Turkish video here says in every era, people find ways around periodic bans on alcohol and tobacco. Unless people can stay out drinking water, or booze they've already purchased, the carpets may roll up early this summer.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

NY Woman Murdered In Istanbul

The body of 33-year-old New Yorker Sarai Sierra was found near popular tourist haunts in Istanbul, Turkey Saturday.
Reports indicate her body was dumped near the last place she visited, the Galata Bridge, in the neighborhood called Sarayburnu, or Seraglio Point. This area juts out into the Bosphorus and is downhill from  the highway and train tracks that circle Sultanahmet. It's a short distance to Topkapi, Hagia Sofia church-mosque-museum and the Blue Mosque.
Nearby are many small wooden hotels and youth hostels. A tram or a walk across the Galata Bridge connects Sultanahmet with the Beyoglu/Pera/Galata side of the water. The quays on either side are dotted with small restaurants, where you eat fish under canopies as ferries and ships glide past.

A TV report on
Sarai Sierra
CBS news says here those initially "detained were at the scene when the body was found, with Sierra's driver's license, near the Four Seasons Hotel."
The London's Daily Mail quotes Sierra's husband speculating that maybe she got into trouble photographing graffiti. CBS quickly concluded the murder won't disrupt tourist travel to Istanbul. Conveniently, who was paying attention to international news on a Saturday afternoon?
But it is clear that the ramifications of the case were important to Turkish police, who questioned so many -- including two women. Also, a volunteer Turkish organization for missing persons got involved.

UPDATE 2/7: Sarai Sierra's body was turned over, curiously, to an Armenian Church in Beyoglu and her coffin carried through narrow walkways before the return to the U.S. on a free Turkish Airlines flight. Related stories here and here. There is much detail that U.S. media omitted in the English-language Turkish daily Today's Zaman, which writes that police denied the following rumors:
"Pointing to the shadier backstreets of Beyoğlu where Sierra stayed and the side trips she made to Amsterdam and Munich, suspicions that Sierra was a CIA operative, drug trafficker, and so on, have circulated in Turkish media."
Istanbul is a mesmerizing mix of headscarves, mosque calls to prayer, blue sea, ancient Greek sites and an overwhelmingly male sales force at the cash register. A larger issue here is how men view women in a Turkish cultural context. Do Turkish girls and women get encouragement and access to equal education and treatment as boys and men?  Important and shocking observations on that from the New York Times here.
A woman alone in Istanbul remains a curiosity, but it's not uncommon. I've traveled alone in Istanbul. Proprietors were very curious and friendly. Deeper into Turkey, a woman has little clout without a male companion, not to mention a translator.
On one trip, wandering out of Istanbul's Grand Bazaar at the close of business, a young man purchased a  piece of curious-looking melon for me when I asked what it was. He asked about my life, wouldn't take money for the fruit, and moved on. Another man, a jeweler, walked me to my hotel and we chatted in the lobby over tea about the economy and his life; he lived with with his mother.
After days of travel, it seemed the men were unrelenting in hitting on foreign women. One night in Sultanahmet, a guy on the street -- it is always presumed they are hawking a restaurant, hotel, carpets, ceramic trinkets  -- called out to me as I walked toward him: "Are you French, British, American?" With half a block before I got to him, I crossed in the middle of the street to the other side.
"I'm sorry," he finally called out.
I never looked back, and took the tram home, in the dark, to an apartment-hotel with no front desk. Within four blocks, Turkish police armed with machine guns manned a post; transvestite prostitutes hovered in dark corners.
Sarai Sierra, a young mother and aspiring photographer, wasn't so lucky.