Showing posts with label murder. Show all posts
Showing posts with label murder. Show all posts

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.