The Mosque, the Church and the Nationalist Underbelly of Turkish Islamism

 Dear brother, please take this advice with the good nature in which it is intended...

No, no… I’ll start again.

Dear brother, please be aware of my best intentions before reading this...

Okay, now what? Actually, scratch that – the first one was a better opening line…

God, I don’t know where to start. I’m writing an e-mail to the computer teacher at our school, Furkan hoca, after he invited me on facebook to attend a prayer session organised outside the Hağia Sofya by Saadet Party's civil wing - Anadolu Gençlik ('Anatolian Youth' - an inexpliquably old and beardy bunch). The worshippers were praying not out of flamboyant zevk-i Allah, but as a protest to draw attention to their demand that Hağia Sofia re-open as a mosque. Something it has officially not been since a law inacted in 1934, during the one-part period.

I used to be in support of it becoming a mosque again. My reasoning was somewhere along the line of columnist Mustafa Akyol's, when he said "The museumization of places of worship used to happen in communist dictatorships such as the Soviet Union. Turkey should not follow that bad example — at least anymore." Underlining this view was a kind of phobia to anything done under the one-party period, with little public consultation, and of course, my own pseudo-Islamist nostalgia for the Ottoman Empire. However, upon re-examining my position by reflecting upon the very Islamic law I thought was in need of resurrecting (albeit with a revamp) and basic courtesy (i.e. not taking other people's stuff), I realised I had fallen prey to that classic Muslim tendency to white-wash the questionables of a much-glorified past.

Although it was not for these reasons Atatürk shut down the place, I can seperate the matter from the circumstances that led to it. Call it karma, or illahi adalet, I have decided it was not absolutely neccessary for Muslims to take it in the first place. 

The reason I started writing this e-mail, and putting way too much thought into it, is not only because of the mosque (church/museum/whatever). It is just one of many things I want Furkan to be aware of. We have already bumped heads over my school's political party of choice: Saadet, or Felicity Party, a party that, whilst claiming to act in the name of all Muslims, only seems to alienate the non-Turkish ones. I think this is because party because of the ferocity of Turkish nationalism as enshrined in education and law, but that the movement has couted this whilst claiming universal Muslim love.

Kemalism for Muslims

It took me a long time to find the Islamists. I had put up with alot of alienating rhetoric whilst working in state schools, studying in Ankaran universities and sitting in bars in Turkey’s pretentious, West-coast towns. For this reason, I romanticised those bearded boogie-men – always absent from view but the subject of constant debate and insults by people I’d otherwise assume to be level-headed well-to-do liberals. I thought of the Turkish Islamist as the universalist hippie anti-dote to all their idolotrous flag-waving nonsense.

Now after two years working in a Saadet-party school, not only am I disappointed by certain attitudes amongst the group, but, I see that many of these attitudes are the very bones of contention I had with the Kemalists.

To an extent, the community lives in self-imposed exile like a Muslim diaspora, censoring their own vocabulary, attitudes and beliefs with via conspiracy-obsessed news sources and a whole host of other devices lest they become ‘like the rest of the country.’

Saadet’s sympathisers imitate the civilising mission of the early regime by re-formulating how they eat (right hand please – and don’t drop the bread!) speak and a whole host of other things. But no-where is the similarity with their supposed foe so stalk as in the passion of their complains about even slightly alternative depictions of their golden age  – the Ottoman Empire.

Every nation needs its myth apparently, but no country has quite the pathological grip on its myths as Turkey. For example, the moment it was announced there would be a film depicting the rape and pillage of Istanbul by the otherwise all-round nice-guy Mehmet II, the movie poster proudly displayed on the wall of our staff room. Not one day after the film's first showing, I found the poster ripped to shreds in the staff room bin. Mehmet hadn’t been revered enough apparently, and staff poured in to complain about the lack of his sacred depiction all day. Not many complained about the dipiction of the Byzantine’s as war-mongerers though, I noted.

It was the reaction of a… Kemalist. I was reminded of a documentary in 2009 called Mustafa, a biographical documentary which engaged the topic of the dictator's (who died of cirrhosis) alcohol problems, the director was sent to court and fined. The prosecution tore the film apart for evidence of aposty and even lodged that Atatürk’s hands were not depicted as elegantly as they should have been. One Kemalist friend cursed me for having the DVD, complaining about his poor portrayal to which I replied, "well, you're a trained nurse, what else can cause cirrhosis?" She pouted silently, as I made a speedy exit.

The National View

But I digress. My main contention with the group lies not so much in its attitude however, as the amount of national ideology put into its brand of political Islam. I put it to Furkan that even the name of the group’s ideology – “The National View”, reveals that the group's limitations have been defined by nationalism, something anathemical to mainstream Islam – but I was quickly corrected: “Ah, don’t tell anyone this, but 'National' actually refers to the Nation of Prophet Ibrahim.

I should have known. In Turkey, political associations based on religion, or non-Turkish nationalities, are banned. Thus, Kurdish political parties like the currently un-banned Peace and Democracy Party, have had a whole alphabet soup of names based on open political principles barely concealing the fact they only canvas votes in Kurdish areas and maintain ties with the PKK.

Furkan went on to define who was included in the real nation with pitch-perfect rhetoric skill:

“What do we mean when we say Nation? We mean, the Turks. We mean the Iranians. We mean our brothers and sisters in Palestine. We mean brother Liam in England. We mean Mr. Salih over there. Of course there are people who think in an exclusivist way - nationalist, communists, Kemalists and the rest – even in our own ranks those kind of folk exist. But it should not be like that. Who are we? We are the Ummah”

Right on. But how does the Nation united by faith rather than birthright, act on these beliefs? Well, the answer seems to be by indulging in Turkish nationalism, just with the religious bits that the Kemalist movement left out.

One sign of this, is the drive to have the Hağia Sofia reverted into a mosque.

Being Mehmet II is Nine-Tenths of the Law

The Hağia Sofia is probably Turkey’s most famous landmark. Having served as a cathedral and the seat of the Orthodox Patriarch of Constantinople for 916 years, it was converted into a mosque by Mehmet the Conquorer after an awesome battle, depicted in this year's Turkish blockbuster Fetih 1453.

Although they may differ in accuracy and attention to detail in their accounts, it is clear from eye-witness reports that the sack of Constantinople was a depressing three-day binge of destruction, rape and looting. In medieval terms, that's what you get for putting up a defence and it should not be seen as unusually brutal. Mehmet had the city in mind for his new seat of government even before the battle, sending a vanguard to protect the nice parts, including the church and its environs (but not those inside, who were divided up into either slaves – or various parts of themselves on the floor).

Mehmet allowed the Greek Patriarch to remain head of his flock in a city whose successful rejuvination could only be guarenteed by an influx of former Byzantine civil servants and tradesmen. This marvellously universalist policy undoubtedly gleans over the fact that while Constantinople burned, the Hağia Sofia was converted into a mosque as part of the booty of war.

According to Furkan, this is inaccurate. The mosque was paid for in financial terms, although he has not looked at the sources. But this is irrelevant. There is an excuse for everything in Turkish historiography and Mehmet II is no exception.

According to Furkan, the same rules do not apply because the Prophet Muhammed is reported to have stated that “Constantinople shall be opened, and praised is the army and its leader who shall open it". Thus, due to the prophet's seal of approval, every detail of the attack was sacred. This explains why Mehmet is given the term “Hazreti,” – an Islamic term of respect normally strictly reserved for prophets and saints. Mehmet was the fulfillment of a prophecy mentioned from the lips of the RasoolAllah himself, and that is the end of the debate.

Carnival Islam and the Ataturkification of Mehmet II

It is not a bizarre coincidence that at midnight on the 31st December, every year without fail, my school-chum James would follow the new year countdown by singing "Happy Birthday to me!". In the same vain, neither is it by chance that Youth Day coincides with Atatürk Remembrance Day, or that Children's Day occurs in line with National Independence Day. The tactic of "while I've got you all together, let’s take the chance to remind you this useful information" means that in Turkey, every celebration becomes as excuse for the pomp and ceremony of a national anthem, a flag-waving competition and the chance for a 6-year-old to read a poem about Atatürk.

The posters advertising Saadet's Carnival Islamic festival
high-light the Hağia Sofia as a focal point
The coersion does not just occur at state level. As an impressionable young’un in Izmir, I was duped by friends into attending a concert by one of Turkey's biggest stars Sertap Erener on the anniversary of Atatürk's death, assuming the mourning was restricted to a curricular activity. Not long had the singer finished an unusually morouse set, when I found myself in the midst of ten thousand people waving their flags and clapping without pause for two hours, whilst the big screen displayed Atatürk's speeches against the whisful sounds of Izmir's sypthany orchestra. A bleary-eyed woman handed me a flag with a look of disappointment being the only one sitting down throughout proceedings. In her eyes I was probably either a heretic or handicapped, but pity seemed appropriate for both possiblities. It was at that moment, in the ultimate alienation of the crowd, did I realise the full power of spectacle.

The spectacle provides no prosylatising function. The best research on this I have seen, has been conducted by Christopher Houston, who points out that elites are the consumers of their own performances – after all, who else would attend them? They consolidate the support of the faithful in “braying one-upmanship” against the foe.

In response to this cradle-to-grave series of state spectacles, Islamists, who would have scorned statues and images in earlier times, have copied another characteristic of Kemalist Turkey and created “Carnival Islam,” almost validating that camp's right to set the agenda not simply in ideological terms but also, asthetics.

On 26th May, Anadolu Gençlik organised a “Conquest and (coincidentally) Youth Day” celebration to mark the anniversary of the battle for İstanbul. On top of waving flags and the national anthem, the event was marked by young men dragging a model galleon around the stadium in remembrance of the unique battle tactic embarqued by Mehmet II to by-pass Byzantine sea defences.

Carnival Islam is not so much anti-nationalist as new nationalist, or neo-Ottoman to use the fashionable term. It incorporates elements that the ideological republic in constituting itself once exclused.

Probably the best arguments that Turkish Islamism has fallen prey to taking the form of its opposition comes from Kurdish Muslims. They have been encouraged to bracket their ethnic identity with an Islamist one, leading to accusations of a new assimilation – in the name of Islam – mirroring the Turkish nationalist one.

An interesting example of this, occured at an Islamic event organised in Diyarbakır to honour the Kurds’ most famous son, Selahaddin Eyyubi, (Saladin) defender of the Holy Land. The event was to mark 900 years passing since the crusaders were thrown out of Jerusalem.  References to Saladin’s ethnic origin were deemed too contentious to be stated openly and often references to ethnicity were rebuked even when unnamed. However, in the eyes of Govenor of Diyarbakır, it was appropriate to introduce the symposium as a celebration of a “Great Turkish Warrior”.

Some Things Will Never Change

I have decided not to finish the e-mail to Furkan. Instead, I have settled for using this very blog as an outlet for my frustrations. Furkan already knows that I am not automatically on-side with the party by virtue of being Muslim anyway, as it is not the only time we have bumped heads on an issue. And it won’t be the last.

I have been invited to the movement’s next calander date – an action meeting entitled "We Want Pink Buses". This is the party's new campaign to ensure that alongside Istanbul's regular otobus service, runs a fleet of "Pink Buses" exclusively for the use of women ("what next" the missus implored, "pink cities?")

I chose to make dialogue with Furkan above all the other teachers as he is a good listener, and has a patient, thoughtful manner – in many ways he is what I look up to as the ideal Muslim gent. Far from the stereotypical stone-faced image of an Islamist, he is always smily. In fact, the only time his smile turns up-side-down is when his determination to do good is undermined. I love to watch his face at the lunch table when I pour glasses of water for the other teachers, as he quickly realises he forgot to get in there first.

Furkan is, to me, the embodiment of the Qur'anic command to “vie with one another in good Works”. Similarly, Furkan knows his stuff when it comes to the deen. If I can get some of my concerns across to Furkan, then it means either me or Turkey’s Islamist movement are not so far-gone that there cannot be any common ground. It’s a vain hope.

Like a flower in need of direct sunlight to grow, I can’t help feeling that Furkan – and many others sympathetic to the Saadet Party movement – have had their growth as Muslims stunted under the all-encompassing shadow of the “National View”, the ideology of the Islamist party and its founder Dr. Necmettin Erbakan (The “Leader of the Islamic World”, according to a poster outside Saadet’s headquarters in Cevizlibağ). I have to tread carefully with this view out of respect, We are ‘all brothers and sisters’, yadda-yadda, but on many occassions I feel that nothing but lip-service to a cosmopolitan Andalusian Islam that no longer has the conditions needed to exist…


Ten Things You Didn't (Care To) Know About Mut

Mut is in Mersin Province, which is not the same as "beach Mersin".
Since graduating from university, my entire working life has been spent in Turkey so I'm not sure about business practises elsewhere, but within a week of announcing my resignation with my useless, tight-fisted teaching-placement agency, I have been banished to the village of Mut (pop. 2000 [inc. goats]) to act out my contractually obliged summer camp work.

The missus is not happy. And why should she be? Our work agency told us we would be working in Mersin - that sunny, sea-side town where the scorching sky sizzles as it hits the Mediterranean sea. But as soon as we left the airport in Adana and boarded a coach destined to Mut ("that must be a suburb of Mersin" I dimly supposed) it turned out all was not as it seemed. Our local contact told us on the phone we would be there in about 4-5 hours, going north into the mountains. I called the company to tell them they could have at least warned us but got a typically infuriated reaction from the company's money man Sedat Bey. "What do you want me to do?" he cried, "You are still in the province of Mersin! Why are you making problems?". 

Sedat is like a crude caricature of a language-school owner in Turkey. He is around 40 years old, unmarried, rotund and spectacled. And of course, speaks no English. Seeing him, along with any of these shady figures, reminds me of what Chris Tucker said in Rush Hour 2: "Whenever there's a crime, there's always a rich White man waitin' for his cut". Just the next day after this fiasco, I was, not just for the third month in a row without payment for my extra hours, but not paid on time by a day. No biggie, the missus called the office in Istanbul at 1pm. The transcript went something like this:
(Above) Evliya Celebi was the last tourist
to come to Mut, circa 1680.

Missus: When is our payment coming?
Company: The schools have not made the payment to us yet, as soon as we get the money we forward it on to you
Missus: (bluffing) But I spoke to the school, they have made the payment
Company: NOT to foreign teachers they haven't!
Missus: That's not what they said
Comapany: Look, I am busy (bluffing) I will call you later - okay?! (hangs up)

Then, at 2pm I called back.

Disgruntled worker: Hey, when is our payment coming?
Company: We sent it to both of you.
Disgruntled worker: Oh really? When?
Company: An hour ago!

So that's how to get paid on time. As for the extra hours, they are coming when we complete this camp in eight day's time. So if we do the time, we get to come back to Istanbul and the collect the ransom, I mean, payment, and all get on with our lives. 

In the meantime we are just going to have to make the most of it, something the missus finds very Ned Flandersesque about me, but which I have to do because the last foreign teacher they had here was fired for drinking during class and I think the town drove him to it. Here are ten reasons why...

Ten things you didn't (care to) know about Mut:

10) Leaving Mut is officially one of the "most beautiful" drives in Turkey. In September 2011, the road connecting Mut with neighbouring coastal town Silifke, was named by Hürriyet Newspaper as the road with the 9th most beautiful view in Turkey, passing the latter town's late Roman castle, Alahan Monastery and rapid Göksu River which cuts through the valleys in a series of small water falls and rapids.

9) The town is famous for apricots. No matter how small and unknown an Anatolian town is to outsiders, it is required by Turkish law to delude itself into being known for something. Mut is no exception. It is famous for apricots. Apricots are quite nice.

8) The town is "famous" for its Gas Station, everything in it. The quickest way to get in and out of the town is via Atatürk Bulvarı. This will take you passed the "famous" ice cream shop, the "famous tantuni restaurant", the "famous" ceramic pots, and yes, the Shell Gas Station, which according to our contact at the school is, "very famous in Mut".

7) It has a Castle. Castles are cool. This one overlooks the entire valley from elevated slope above the bus station. It is also has some very interesting ancient Greek ruins, which are always staggering to see so far from Greece but just remind you how recent all this silly boxed-in nation-state business really is. Oh, but you can't go in to the castle because they are using it to store chairs.

6) Nice waterfall abounds. To find out more about the Yerköprü Şelalesi, the local council website has a documentary which runs infinite clips. Here is the waterfall at every angle you could ever imagine. 

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5) Two really old Sycamores. There is a nice shaded area with a cafe under two really old sycamore trees at the name-sake "Çınar Altı" park. You might think I'm being intentionally silly putting this in the Top Ten, but considering in 2010 Mut recorded the highest temperature in Turkey that year (46.7C!), this dusty grove is the difference between life and death for many a street animal.

That's a big flag, isn't it?
4) The Second Biggest Flag in Turkey. Layed out on a hill for all the town to see, in a big mosaic of painted stones is the biggest flag in Turkey, after the entrance to the Bosphorus at Çanakkale (Galipolli).

3) Lâl Mosque. The mosque is so old the architect is unknown, but it was renovated by a local govenor about three hundred years ago. Thus it is in need of a bit of a spring clean. It is pretty dusty, so wudu is recommended before and after prayer here. The surrounding area has some interesting old food stores from back in the day.

2) Evliya Çelebi passed here. Snipets and quotes from this 17th century travel writer's seminal collection of observations, or Seyahatnâme, have been used to make much later European travellers look like real boffins, although no-one has ever bothered to translate the whole thing. Evliya was known to have prayed in the mosque, having followed the coast all the way down from Istanbul on his way to Aleppo, Nablus, Medina and Mecca. He noted that the road (fleeing) away from Mut was one of the 9th most beautiful in the Ottoman Empire, and one of the most strangely exhilarating of his life.

1) Classic Cars. If you are interested in old Turkish cars, look no further. I have seen some of the beauties that manifested themselves when Turkey found itself briefly under international sanctions in the early 1980s. There are plenty of sturdy Şahins, some examples of Turkey's original home-brew, the Devrim and according to one mechanic I spoke to, at least one functioning Anadolu. Incredible given that these things are chewed up by cows for the most part - the base material of the car shell is hay.


The Abortion Law is a Smokescreen with Real Consequences

Emre Kızılkaya is a journalist for Turkey's leading Hürriyet newspaper with whom I have deep respect and increasing sympathy for.

To read his blog, the Istanbulian, is to read a genuine Turkish liberal (yes, they exist) struggling to be critical of conservatism without jumping on the Kemalist "told-you-so" band-wagon. Undoubtedly Kızılkaya is a sympathiser of some of the late dictator's reforms, as evident in his article on the Hağia Sofya prayer session, but his criticism doesn't have quite the same ring as the blind anti-Islamism of commentators such as Yılmaz Özdil. His writing is genuinely effective.

This is in no small part thanks to the fact the writer can separate between matters of Islam, democracy, conservatism and Islamism with the accuracy of a scholar. For example, whilst others laughed at the Muslim anti-Capitalists in Taksim Square this May Day as a bunch of crude hypocritical head-scarfed students wanting to have their cake and eat it, Kızılkaya saw it as a wonderful example of Turkey's vastly maturing "hybrid democracy," where not all the faithful are determined to make a "second Iran". As for last week's barbershop talking point - Prime Minister Erdoğan replying to an Arab tourist's "Assalamualaykum" with a bizarre "I love you", Kızılkaya happily accepted the view that it is indeed a Muslim's human right to be responded to "in a better form, or similarly" (Bukhari 4.543).

The subject which Kızılkaya is well equiped to inform me on, and is proving to be a turning point in my passive sympathy for the AK Party, is the worryingly out-of-the-blue discourse he points out the party began last week on the legitimacy of abortion. Erdoğan stated his position as a "Prime Minister who is against abortion." He was followed by Turkey’s Minister of Health, who said that the state will take care of babies born because of incidents of rape. And if that hadn't put the message across, the Directorate of the Ministry of Religious Affairs, (a ministry I sincerely wish to see an end to anyway owing to the ridiculously ideological sermons they force me to listen to every Friday at mosque) came out and announced abortion as "Harram". I am one of those Muslims who can find a Qur'anic basis to refute that, but what do I know.


Erdoğan's comments on the subject came out of nowhere, although I am sure they must coincide with some other head-line grabbing piece of news. Perhaps, as the satirical comic Uykusuz ingeniously pointed out below, it has created a convenient distraction from the news (now denied by the Pentagon) that the Uludere bombing last month where scores of Kurdish villagers in the south-east were killed, was the result of false intelligence from US drones. For the sceptical, this would seem to be the case, as a direct link was made between the incident and the matter of abortion when the Prime Minister stated “Every abortion is like an Uludere.” 
"Abortion is Murder!... Every abortion is like the Uludere attack!... Meaning Uludere was murder... So, wait, who was the murderer? Anyone who asks who gave the order for Uludere is a necrophile... but then, I asked so... Anyway, I'm not one of those...  Forget it, hey, Uludere was an accident... So we shall give compensation for every abortion, yes! ... Apologies for all abortions! ... Wait a sec, we can't apologise for Uludere so... I've got it! In order not to apologise for Uludere, abortion will be made illegal!" 
Not long ago I was privileged to be able to attend a short seminar on feminism performed before a room full of Saadet Party religio-nationalists. It was obvious from the unanimity of the blank-faced responses that whilst none considered that the feminist movement had done any note, all responded vocally to the question that abortion was a woman's right alone. It will be interesting to see if this is still the case after the party whip, in the form of newspaper Milli Gazete, today showed its colours with the headline "The Right to Life is Sacred", with colourful boxes quoting men in beards talking about how zina was a terrible crime.

On the other side of the fence, my facebook headline page is filling to the brim with cartoons, links and videos, like that of annoying American comedian George Carlin (translated into Turkish) ripping into conservatives. I should note that the criticism is coming from both religious and none-religious Turks, although I'm sure the headscarved ones will take the blame for this. 

Credible Dangers to Women

It is not just a case of ethics, this country is not equipped to deal with unexpected children, and women's groups are right in one more than one way when they stated this week that they “[the government] would also notice that at least five women are killed every day and take preventive measures." Alot of those murders are the result of the kind of shameful accusations an unmarried, pregnant woman in Turkey would face.

In my short life, I can name at least four devout, Muslim women I have met who have had abortions. In all cases this was due to the consequences for the family and their reaction. If more Muslim communities could accept fate, and the reality of sin, abortions would have been prevented more than any law could provide for already, and many children would have been raised with the family love that Muslims are far from lacking in. 

Turkish women's groups are thus not just speaking as women when they warn that the measures proposed by the government will increase "primitive methods". The reality of the shame of zina, means that for most women who become pregnant, whether by rape or a crime of passion, primitive methods will be a risk they have no option but to take.


SirenFest 2012: Reggae Weekend on the Beach

This week Facebook's superhuman advertising spy network tipped me off about the Sirenfest Reggae Music Festival on a beach no more than two hours from central Istanbul.

The festival had apparently met some success a number of years ago but, as the ranks of Istanbul's reggae scene have swollen, another one was deemed to be in order and it was a fantastic day out with sun, sea, sand and good vibrations.
Sıska have been consistently tight both times I've seen them

Kilyos is a small coastal town in the Sarıyer district of Istanbul that overlooks the Black Sea as it becomes the Bosphorus straight. It's a beautiful setting and the route alone, by minibus over the green hills surrounding Istanbul's rural north, was spectacular. A day ticket cost 30 TL and we were all given wristbands to allow access in and out. There were many familiar faces from the Wailers concert and Nayah bar, along with not-so-familiar bunches of friendly out-going Erasmus sorts, but none the less the atmosphere was perfect owing to the setting, the chilled-out afternoon DJ sets, and the trials of a journey not everyone would be prepared to make.

The whole festival area, taking a comfortable chunk of Baykuş Beach, consisted of a large terrace with tables and chairs, with a view overlooking the stage and a small area to pitch tents. After a sorting out a place to stay we hobbled back down to see the live performances, that had already hit the stage by 10pm. 

I had the great pleasure to meet Orçun Sünear from Istanbul's premiere reggae band Sattas, while milling around the bar area. A very humble and relaxed figure, he was genuinely pleased to meet everyone who stopped for a chat. 

As one attendee told me, "this wouldn't be a reggae festival without Sattas" - and truly, despite the high calibre performs of the other groups, the star quality is definitely reserved for Sattas. In fact, I would go one further and say there would probably not even be a note-worthy reggae scene in Istanbul without the hard work that they have put in to promoting the music, including in the form of documentary coming out soon: Regici: Bir Müzik Belgesel (Ragga Man: A Music Documentary). Sattas, though phenomenal, were not the only band of note and I'm happy to say that, Sıska, who I have seen perform pitch-perfect renditions of songs like Night Nurse at the Nayah bar, were really on form. The set was incredibly tight and their own material stood out. I'm not always appreciative of brass, but Sıska's bassist/second-front-man/trumpeteer whose name I simply must find, blew me away. I can't find any online links to their stuff but I'm on the look-out. Haberiniz olsun. I can't wait until next year.