This photo above was taken in Tophane, a district known for urban art, cafés, and at least one high end souq that I’m aware of. What the picture doesn’t show, is that about 5 min from now, I’m sitting around the corner drinking a coffee listening to sporadic streams of ambulances squeal down the main street in front of the Nusretiye Mosque. I’ve been revising research that I’d been working on which involved mapping political parties in Turkey and a number of other variables affecting them. I had been writing a political comparative on Laicism, a specific church-state relationship found in both France and Turkey. Despite analyzing the shift and type of influence key respective actors have had on the actual separation of church and state in these contexts, the Friday the 15th coup unhinged more than my hypothesis. It reignited fears of brutal military reign. Since then these fears have been manipulated to further insulate the-also extremely brutal- corrupt in power. The situation has been likened to the Reichstag fire and other circumstances which allowed the hyper consolidation of government authority: “The blaze in the German parliament building in 1933 was portrayed by the Nazis as a Communist plot against the government, and they used it to justify curtailing civil liberties, consolidating Adolf Hitler’s grip on Germany.” (Reuters)
I left Atatürk airport via the above ground metro probably 15 minutes before the army made its move below to occupy it. It took the news about another 20 minutes to arrive to where I was staying in Sultanahmet. In hindsight, my unfortunate timing (or impeccable depending on how you look at it) made my aims all the more pressing. I came back for two reasons:
(1) I wanted to physically check up on everyone and see how they were doing in the wake of 6 months of increased bombing. if anything, the coincidence that I arrived at the same time as the events of Friday the 15th heightened my desire to touch base with everyone. There are some things you just can’t do over a phone call or chat.
(2) I wanted to finish my research on site before presenting it. Originally the conference was to be located here but was relocated due to safety concerns. The concern was for the safety of the Turkish political scientists as well as the target a large international conference would pose. As individual the threat was less and I felt if I could be there, then I should.
Iconically, Turkey is this:
In the news, it is represented as this:
But to me, it has always been this:
Above, it a small bar called El Salvador two short-cuts over from where I used to live. I had a drink here on my last night before leaving the country. Around it, the street splits into two alleys and continues down a steep San Francisco like hill. The fact that I was intimidated to leave my apartment when I first moved to Istanbul makes me laugh. In actuality, its one of the friendliest districts in the city and it still feels like home to go back.
If you look again at the first photo, it’s not entirely clear whether the lock that hold the doors closed was placed there before or after it was tagged. You also get the impression that the artist couldn’t care less whether they were barred from entering or not at the time they spray painted it. It was painted with an idealism that I’m afraid has vanished from the nation.