Turkey: Hints at Today

“Today, the Turks have their own political meltemi. Do they follow the wisdom of their father, Ataturk, and maintain a secular government, or do they follow the fundamentalist Islamics calling for a religious-based political and social structure? I wondered if given Turkey’s present political conundrum the amazing underground cities of Cappadocia might have another use for those hunted and persecuted as in the distant past?”

blog 76-Turkey tourist economy

Shops catering to tourists along the coast.

blog 76-classic gulet

The traditional gulets are now used for tourists from day trips to cruises lasting a couple of weeks.

 “Along the coast, so dependent on a tourist economy for their well-being, there was a growling antagonism, but never in strident voices. This was not cultural. Turks have never been afraid to express their opinions loudly and clearly. As I conversed with a few young men, from whom I had bought some tapestries, I sensed a mist of fear couched in their political complaints. They looked over their shoulders in case someone was listening and they spoke quietly.”

blog 75-Istanbul bazaar

Bazaar in Istanbul.

“But I cannot leave Turkey without remembrances of Istanbul. Like Cairo, Hong Kong, and New York, for me Istanbul was an exuberant, bewitching city that captivated all my senses. The spice market, the bazaar, the calls to prayer, the light on the Blue Mosque, the exquisite tiles in the Rüstem Pasha Mosque with their light-emitting blues and reds of tulips, trees, buds, and leaves, curves and swirls and vines dancing through patterns in dizzying profusion, captured my eyes in a whirlwind meditation. This is how I remember Istanbul.” [Excerpts from Voice of a Voyage]

One cannot fully address Turkey’s current situation without including the Kurdish issue, but the background for that is—like so much else I discuss—steeped in the broken promises, artificial borders, and other mistakes of colonialism as it stumbled from occupation to economic control. Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, appears to want to move Turkey away from its secular roots established by Ataturk, the father of modern Turkey. Erdogan’s anti-Kurd stance clouds the fight against ISIS. As well, he is making several attempts to consolidate and enlarge upon his power and to silence opposition—classic autocratic “strong-man” tactics. The Turkish citizens and voters, like their U.S. counterparts, need to beware of their fear of the Other to not lead them away from truth, compassion, justice, and a democratic society, which they had fought so hard for.

blog 76-young weavers and dha

Two young weavers practice their English with me while I practice my Turkish.

Turkey has so much to offer: the sea; beautiful and majestic landscapes; the cuisine; the ancient, historic  ruins; the exquisite crafts; and, of course, the people. I hope the secular policies of the father of modern Turkey, Ataturk, prevail. And that they learn to embrace diversity, as the rest of us must also do.

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