Showing posts with label Turkey. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Turkey. Show all posts

Friday, June 10, 2016

How Minority came To Dominate Anatolia

The source here is not known to me, but this article link is a fascinating read, and includes the following:
In a "cultural process known as elite dominance, a minority imposes its culture on the majority. The Turkification of Asia Minor is evident in the fact that genetically, the majority of today's Turks are most closely related to Greeks and Armenians rather than Central Asian Turkic peoples, like the Uzbeks and Kazakhs."

Monday, January 5, 2015

Winter Sleep: 2014 Turkish Film Now in US Theaters

An interesting Turkish film shot in Cappadocia, Winter Sleep, is now showing in New York City. Hope to see it as it was nominated for many awards.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Antique Earthen Vases At ABC

These clay vessels for oil and wine and food are what Greeks called κιουπια and what museums call Grecian urns.
Clay pots were all over the Mediterranean, but ABC Carpet and Home, New York's fabulous interiors mecca, is selling these whitewashed pots as "Antique Turkish Pithoi." The white sign, which greets visitors at the entry to the Union Square store --  pictured at right -- reads: "Turkey circa 1900. Handmade, sun-bleached earthenware, historically used to store water, wine, olive oil, butter (!) and all types of grains. The various sizes and styles reflect the culture, craftsmanship and local soil from its region of origin. One-of-a-kind and exclusively at ABC. Recycled. Indigenous. Handmade. $95-$1595."
My question for buyers: who sold these, what is the actual geographic origin, and who should be profiting? I'm off duty, so more to come.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Don't Want To Live Like A Refugee

This rather lush Greek book promotion says we are all refugees and author Dimitris Karavasilis asks, what if the our children don't have any memories of Asia Minor? What if they don't feel it in their soul? An obvious fear, since many of those children read English and the stories are in Greek.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

The Power of Pontian Dance

You don't need to speak any Greek to be engaged for at least the first 15 minutes of this video that shows the power of dance! It's undenyable.
It's interesting to see how in step the dancers are doing the "Σέρρα" dance, bonding with small movements. See how holding hands supports body movement, even in old age!
Pontos, on the Black Sea in Northern Turkey, was unique. The people were Greek, but had their own dialect, music and dress, all with a certain Turkish influence. As the Ottomans battled ethnic minorities in the 1910s and 1920s, the Pontians became refugees, and were sent mostly to Northern Greece -- much like the Greeks in Asia Minor and other parts of what is now Turkey.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Update For Travelers To Turkey

This morning, President Barack Obama spoke from the G20 summit about the reasons the U.S. might take military action in Syria, which shares a border with Turkey. At noon, the U.S. Department of State sent this email to people who have traveled or will travel to Turkey:
President Barack Obama
Credit: http://www.vmps.us/

"The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens traveling to or living in Turkey that the U.S. Consulate General in Adana has been authorized to draw down its non-emergency staff and family members because of threats against U.S. government facilities and personnel.  The Department of State recommends that U.S. citizens defer non-essential travel to southeastern Turkey. On September 6, the Department of State permitted the drawdown of U.S. government non-emergency personnel and family members from the U.S. Consulate General in Adana, Turkey.  U.S. citizens seeking to depart Turkey are responsible for making their own travel arrangements. There are no plans for charter flights or other U.S. government-sponsored evacuations. U.S. citizens traveling to or residing in Turkey should be alert to the potential for violence.  We strongly urge U.S. citizens to avoid demonstrations and large gatherings.  Even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and escalate into violence.  There have been no direct attacks on U.S. citizens."

Friday, August 2, 2013

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.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Beach and Sushi

Long Beach, NY -- A very sweet busboy just brought me a rose for Mother's Day at the lovely Allegria Hotel on the ocean. Roses at church today were reserved for mothers.
There is a fierce wind whipping the sand and saltwater, but I am watching from the confines of a glassed-in, oceanside restaurant and enjoying sushi and Sauvignon Blanc.
My companion is a book about Turkish harem women who extol a woman's only role: being mother, being like a beautiful flower and being a wife -- be it number-one wife or sharing a husband as number four. Fascinatingly blunt, and written c1900.  Happy Mother's Day!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

In a Smyrna Mood


My mood is a little somber after seeing the documentary "Smyrna, Destruction of a Cosmopolitan City."
Accomplished filmmaker-director Maria Iliou tells the story of how the cosmopolitan Asia Minor city of Smyrna, now called Izmir, was destroyed by fire as the Allies watched from their ships. Many Smyrniots were murdered and more became refugees. Lost was a place where Greek Christians and Muslim Turks, Armenians, Europeans and Jews Lived together. The Turks blame the Greek Army for the fatal fires that destroyed Smyrna.
Greeks refer to the burning of Smyrna as "The Catastrophe." It was the final end to any hope that the Greeks could maintain any territory or livelihood in Turkey.
The film made excellent use of rare documentary footage. Author Giles Milton was among the narrators. He wrote "Paradise Lost, Smyrna 1922: The Destruction of an Christian City in the Islamic World." His book provides witness testimony that Turkish soldiers and irregulars poured kerosene in the Christian quarters of the city before the fire. The New York Times review of "Smyrna, Destruction of a Cosmopolitan City," was on the fence about the film, saying it relied too heavily on Milton.
Also among the narrators in the film: a Turkish anthropologist who describes a firsthand account of how the Greek army burned the nearby Turkish village of Manisa, just before Smyrna burned. War is ugly. But the victors write the script: Manisa is now marketed through teas and a sweet and spicy paste thought to have health benefits. (see above)
Iliou used a piano-infused soundtrack for the film. But typically Smyrnaika and rebetika music is full of powerful words -- listen to singer Sophia Bilides about loss of homeland, about love and the randomness of fate. In particular, this fun Rebetika song about Little Dimitra, at minute 42, in a Library of Congress concert video, offers these lyrics: "Little Dimitra, go out and eat fish, drink retsina, have a night of high spirits and good health, break things with your hips."
Don't mind if I do!


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.

Weekend Reading: Burning Trees in Athens, Bombing in Ankara

Some weekend reading about Turkey, Greece and Cyprus, but don't expect good cheer:

This news is deeply disturbing: the Economist reports of multiple attacks on old Christian women in Istanbul in recent weeks. The first reader comment on the Economist piece? A diatribe denying genocide. Relatives of one 85-year-old Armenian murder victim said that the lines of a crucifix had been knifed onto her unclothed body. All of the incidents occurred in Istanbul's Samatya neighborhood, home to 8,000 Armenians and the Armenian Patriarchate. Istanbul's governor insisted in a Tweet that one particular incident was motivated by theft, not hate, which is a prevailing view according to this Catholic News report.  I wrote about Istanbul cemetery vandalism in 2009.

Two weeks ago, a young New York mother and aspiring photographer disappeared in Istanbul while on a solo trip, and it doesn't sound like she met with a good end. She found cheap accommodations on AirBnB.com and the New York Post reported Friday that Istanbul police are detaining a man she agreed to meet on a bridge.

Here is Daily Telegraph coverage of Friday's deadly bombing at the U.S. embassy in Ankara, Turkey.

Over in Greece, poor people desperate for heat are cutting down trees for firewood, and apparently even chopped one tied to Plato. The Atlantic wrote Thursday that the pollution one sees hovering over Athens, "is the smog of austerity. Greece is literally breathing in the fumes of its recession." Make that depression.

Cyprus needs a bailout, in case you have crisis fatigue and ignore financial news. Even if Russians who like to bank in Cyprus chip in some cash, European authorities must step in, says this English-language article in Kathimerini. Complicating matters: hydrocarbons could be exploited off the southern coast, which is the Greek coast, of Cyprus. Seems the northern, Turkish side wants in, but someone forgot to toss a seismic detector into the Mediterranean Sea circa 1974. Until now, valuable discoveries were more along the lines of the icon of Christ that Boy George handed over to Cypriot authorities.

Finally, check out my friend Jim Montalbano's movie review blog. "Once Upon A Time in Anatolia," a  Turkish fictional drama about -- what else? -- death, is one of his favorite films of 2012. The official trailer is here. Looks pretty dark. I watched "The Lark Farm" last weekend - a dramatization of 1915 atrocities in Turkey focused on a wealthy Armenian family that protected poor neighbors. All were sent into a starvation exile and most died. Watch it for actress Arsinee Khanjian's natural looks and to contemplate what would have happened if her daughter had run off with the handsome Turkish soldier - and what happened to those women who pursued such survival tactics. Film available on Netflix.

Just rented Madagascar, whose animated critters promise to lighten things up.

An Armenian Homecoming

A group of Armenian Americans, many of whom lost relatives in the genocide of 1915, traveled to Turkey in 2012, and the Armenian church in America produced this video. The fact that this travel was possible speaks to the possibility that it is safe for Christians and Jews to travel throughout Turkey.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Balakian Book: Baking Choereg & Fate

In a nod to Armenian Christmas on Sunday, the fates left on my office desk today a book apparently delivered in August - !!! - that was lost in the bowels of our mail room.
It was Peter Balakian's historical memoir that I ordered long ago: "Black Dog of Fate." It starts with a timely description of making a bread called "choereg."
I am amazed that my mom, when I said the word choereg, which I don't recognize and can't quite pronounce, conjured up some Greek: "Of course. Tsourek-i. Our recipe for holiday sweet bread."
Balakian writes of spending an afternoon with his Armenian grandmother, who was born near Turkey but lived in New Jersey. They prepared bread, which helped her tell deeply buried, moving stories:
"To make choereg, we mixed milk and melted butter into a ceramic bowl. I poured [yeast] into a glass measuring cup and watched it fizz. Eggs, sugar, salt, rising agent, and my grandmother poured in the mahleb."
Mahleb, or mahlepi, is a spice that looks like a small nut, but is the essence of a cherry pit, his grandmother explained. Then she quoted the Song of Solomon on spices and praised the merits of memorizing the Bible and prose.
"She sifted flour and we mixed it all with a large wooden spoon until it was dough. Then she scooped the dough out and put it on the flour-glazed bread board. We squeezed and pressed it with our hands. I liked how the wet dough stuck between my fingers. I liked how she took it to another bowl and turned it all over its oiled surface, then covered the bowl with a towel and put it in the unlit oven. It was warm there and free from drafts, and when we opened the oven two hours later, the dough was an airy saffron-colored mound. I loved punching the dough down so that it's porous insides collapsed. We pulled it into pieces and made ropes, braids, and rings."
You can see ours, a vasilopita, but always with mahlepi and sesame.
Perhaps it was again fate, but tonight I also received the latest Columbia Journalism Review offering this feature: "Where Truth Is a Hard Cell: Although Seen as Modern & West Leaning, Turkey leads the World in Jailing Journalists," by Stephen Franklin, a former Chicago Tribune Middle East correspondent.
"The most dangerous problem is self censorship," according to one veteran Turkish editor who's quoted. "You don't even ask questions. And that kills journalism."
A recipe for disaster, not bread, in that case.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Must Reads: Middle East Minority Perspectives

Some important international headlines to ponder, glued as we've been to East Coast hurricane news and U.S. presidential campaign coverage:

The largest Christian denomination in the Middle East, the Coptic Orthodox in Egypt, named a new leader this weekend, the BBC reports. The photos are inspiring, with an explanation of how the choice among the top-three candidates was left "in the hands of God."

From the New Yorker: An absolutely gripping tale about a U.S. Iraq war veteran who, tormented by a battle where Americans killed civilians including three members of an Armenian Christian family, sought out his victims' relatives now living in California. In a story highlighed by NPR and Charlie Rose, read how Dexter Filkins' interviews at a Baghdad hospital and subsequent stories facilitated forgiveness from the sins of war. Journalism at its best.

Then, a BBC essay on Izmir, the West Coast city once called Smyrna. It is among the Turkish locales flooded with Syrian refugees. This piece addresses what we have been asked to forget: Turkey still is "scarred by wanton killing and destruction in World War I." Fergan Keane writes,
"Gone are the streets in which the voices of Greeks, Turks, Armenians, Levantines and Jews mingled ... prayed and made music and told stories in the narrow lanes of the bazaar and by the glittering water of the Aegean."
That brings us to New York Times review last week of wildly popular Turkish movie, "Conquest 1453," dramatizing the Ottoman capture of Constantinople, now Istanbul. Fascination with the era has launched TV shows and other projects. The author juxtaposes opinion:
  • Says Melis Behlil, a film studies professor at Kadir Has University: “The Ottoman revival is good for the national ego" ... but films like "Conquest 1453 are engaging in cultural revisionism and glorifying the past without looking at history in a critical way."
  • Says Burak Temir, a German-Turkish actor who learned to sword fight and use a bow and arrow for an Ottoman-era show: “It makes me proud to be Turkish.”
Turkey is diligently working to establish its political dominance as Egypt, Iraq and Syria struggle. Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan just met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, underscoring tensions as Turkey pushes 2023 membership in the European Union, reports Der Speigel, the German newspaper. The Israeli newspaper Haaretz emphasizes his plans to visit the Gaza strip.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Turkish Boat Sinks: 30 Refugee Kids Drown

On their way from near Izmir, Turkey, apparently headed to the Greek isle of Samos by night, 61 migrants with mostly Syrian, Iraqi and Palestinian passports drowned Thursday, according to an NBC story.
Half were children. The Turkish crew survived and was arrested.
Greece has complained for years that it cannot control its porous, coastal borders and that it is being used as a gateway to Europe. Greece also receives EU aide for illegal migrants.
The Onassis Foundation in New York hosted an amazing installation several years ago on this theme. The artist created whitewashed boats, shaped like giant pods containing beans, and suspended them over flowing water in the noisy Onassis atrium.
The New Yorkers pushed and drank and left. Do they remember?
The latest drownings are deja vu: see the book described in my post below on the David Kherdian family story, circa 1920.And of course, there is our family story, among countless others.
No transit, no safety, no identity, and no protector in authority. Is migrant and refugee desperation and suffering a fact of life in the world?

Saturday, August 18, 2012

We Are So Fortunate

The curls and somber face on a used book have transported me each night in a rather delirious week ... with only a little bread and water, feeling ill .... over mountains, through villages, past gendarmes ... on a horse-drawn wagon full of refugees. It was 1915. This biography has gripped me because the narrator, Veron, not only looks like my grandmother and was the age of my grandmother in 1915, but lived near my grandmother in Turkey. She tells a story my grandmother never wrote down, but could have, about the refugees' escape and the futility of hate. And what motivates hate and war: money and power.
Seared in the mind of a child and written for posterity by her son, Veron speaks simply without judgement and tells of violence, starvation, lies, death and, miraculously, hope and love.
Each day we breathe, we must remember our unlikely fortune. Each of us is a survivor with a purpose.
Read "The Road Home," by David Kherdian. A Newberry Honor Book. 1979, Greenwillow Books, New York.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Turkey's Deep State

The March 12 New Yorker magazine is getting some buzz for a piece on Turkey's secular "deep state" that author Dexter Filkin calls...
"a presumed clandestine network of military officers and their civilian allies who, for decades, suppressed and sometimes murdered dissidents, Communists, reporters, Islamists, Christian missionaries, and members of minority groups—anyone thought to pose a threat to the secular order, established in 1923 by Mustafa Kemal, or Atatürk. Friends and colleagues say Erdoğan worried that the deep state would never allow him to govern. But, to the surprise of many, he has pulled Turkey closer to the West, opening up the economy and becoming a crucial go-between for the West with Palestine, Iran, and Syria," says Filkins in this week's edition, the one with Mitt Romney in a car on the cover.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Turkey: Genocide Was In Algeria

French lawmakers have drafted a law that would make it illegal to deny that it was genocide when Armenians were killed by Ottoman Turks in 1915.

Turkey cut diplomatic ties with France, Turks are protesting and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan responded with, "Approximately 15% of the population of Algeria have been subjected to a massacre by the French starting in 1945. This is genocide." Erdogan called the bill "politics based on racism, discrimination and xenophobia," according to the two-paragraph story in the Chicago Tribune.

Well, Merry Christmas. All I know is that racism, discrimination and xenophobia brought way too many of our forebears to America.

The BBC states that Ankara says close to 300,000 Armenians died in 1915-1916, while Armenians put the number at up to 1.5 million. The New York Times' reporter in Istanbul writes, "Turkey acknowledges atrocities without any specific death toll, but says that they did not constitute systematic genocide."

The Times piece notes that Orhan Pamuk, the Nobel-winning fiction author from Turkey, recently was fined about $3,700, for telling a Swiss newspaper that "we have killed 30,000 Kurds and 1 million Armenians."

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Turkey Ferry Hijacker Killed

The Kurdish hijacker who held more than 20 Turkish people hostage on a popular ferry route was killed Saturday by government commandos who posed as civilians and snuck onto the boat.
I took a similar ferry route just a few weeks ago. Scary on several counts. And very James Bond.
The story of the Kurd hijacker in Turkey on Huffington Post: