11/06/2013

Istanbul, as a Helpless Onlooker

My optimism tends to fluctuate from time to time. Within the space of a day however, it has hit rock bottom. I'm sure this will only be a temporary phase. Ah, there it is again - I'm not sure how long temporary is though. Perhaps I'm confusing optimism with patience. I suppose as a teacher, that's what I'm paid to do.

Let's say it was optimism though, when I text my girlfriend from work to say 'We've seen a lot worse than this, inshallah'. I felt like I was indirectly plagarising Benjamin from animal farm, saying,  'Donkeys live a long time. None of you has ever seen a dead donkey', but I was sure she hadn't read the book, so I sent the message with only minor pangs of guilt for Orwell. 

Of course I'd heard a few lawyers were arrested. Okay, but when haven't a few lawyers been arrested in Turkey. What I wasn't prepared for was the sight of the video below, taken from Milliyet newspaper, whose head office is just across the road from the court house, which is just across the road from our school.


(above) "There is no justice hear" "We are not resisting, why are you doing this?" two lawyers cry, being taken away.

I sat envigilating the students' last exams of year, in an utterly awkward calm as sirens went off outside, uninterrupted for over an hour. The only part of the courthouse - the largest in Europe - that was visible to us, were the giant letters arranged on the roof spelling out "Palace of Justice", their metallic shininess only increasing the irony of their meaning. 

The teacher next to me as I watched the video was devastated. "Are you going there?" I asked, knowingly pointing to Taksim, where the situation had been escalating since 7 in the morning. "I have to, she announced - they have to know that people will not support them". The wide-eyed rush of the prospect of mayhem is entirely vacant from those going back to Taksim now. The news today felt like a summons to conscription for millions. If the government's objective was to bring an end to this demonstration, then it has thus utterly failed. 

I walked out of my work to Çağalayan metrobus station, opposite the doors of the lawcourts were two City Council buses had been commandeered to take away 50 lawyers. Above the bus signs another ironic euphemism: "Görevde" - "Called to duty".

As the bus travelled along a stretch of bridge connecting the Mecidiyeköy side with the Golden Horne - a stretch of road from where one can see the Galata tower, the Aya Sofya, and the most beautiful part of the city gently fold into the calm waters of the Bosphorus, a black smoke was visable above Taksim. No-one even looked in that direction. Everyone was nattering on about clothes, their friends at work and all the hum-drum of life. Before the smoke went out of range, I taped the young guy next to me: "Look". "Is that right above Taksim?" he asked, almost breathless. I confirmed it. "And look at us", he confessed, astounded, "It's as though we're in another world". "I always thought the Republic was going pot" he explained, after I confessed that it had become impossible for me to defend the government. "But the economy was going well, I thought, so you know - it wasn't so bad".

We've seen worse, though, I thought. Surely we've seen worse.




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