A Not So Turkish Life

Sit at the table with me.

From as soon as we can hear we learn that as humans we should listen to logic, derived through science and understanding as percieved by reason. We’re taught to compile this logic into formulaic pieces we can then use to personalise our puzzles in line with the code of society defined from birth. It’s a stretch then for anyone surely to believe in One Benevolent God. It’s a stretch to believe in revelations through prophets and miracles and predefined plans. It’s a stretch because there must be a logical reason why it couldn’t have been, or rather why it could have been otherwise.

The story of Prophet Mohammed transending through the heavens to stand before God to recieve guidance to lead us to Him, returning to Him for a second time to ask for leniency in the number of prayers obligatory to us, being granted compassion and understanding for mans’ ability to balance the obligations of faith and this life and giving reassurace that even the merest gestures from man will be recognised and reaped ten times over, this story, of a man being led on a winged mule by an angel with a mans name to a holy city for another religion to choose from bowls of milk, wine or water to fulfil a prophecy which would redefine mans relationship with faith and religion and God, this story of no logic to my culture and certainly not my nurture, this lesson in humility and trust and the true nature of faith cut through where Google couldn’t penetrate. La-ilaha-illallah.

Most of us spend our lives fighting against natures, feeding our tragectory with the paths defined to us from nurture as defined by the society we live in. Which means that the society we live in matters. The common thread of logic stemming from nurture matters. The culture defining these matters. Which is why, though there are a million and one reasons I shouldn’t pass comment on the protests this past week it’s important to you two that I do because Turkey is your country, my darlings and the lessons you’ll learn, the friends you will make, the reason you will turn into logic will be framed largely and greatly by this country you’ll call yours. Yesterday, weary from reading article upon article about what’s going on, separating the balance from the bias inamongst secular and religious, balancing views of friends from all arenas and periods of my life here all the while yearning for my democratic homeland for you, I was heavy at heart as I sat down to watch Shrek with you, M. Imagine my surprise then to hear the words that spoke most out in reason: “Ogres are like onions; they have layers!” Turkey then is like an ogre too. A great big hungry freedom-deprived ogre who needs fueling to continue its’ journey. This protest, the genuine protest that isn’t about trees but is there rooted, looks like the outer skin being peeled from the onion. And that is a very good thing.

A few years ago living alone in Istanbul I’d spend hours sitting in a favoured terrace cafe overlooking Galatasaray Lissesi. As the hours ticked and the pages turned, the streets below would ebb and flow with a steady stream of nonedescript people. Regular people. Turkish people and tourist people. People like me, and like you, and like them and not us, people ad a handful of dogs. Sitting in my window seat I’d stare down into the thrust of the crowd, dirft lazily over their heads to the flag blowing on the school roof of stars and a moon and over still to the lap of the sea where from that angle the Bosphorus only ever looked soothing and calm. You see, one of the reasons of the sanctuary of that seat (wonderful red wine aside) was its’ perimeter outside the chaos allowing me to forget how the buses and tramways were full of harrassment, many of those people were filled with suspicion and the police were to be treated with caution. It was from this window one evening I watched in horror as a man was beaten to the ground with police truncheons, then left wounded visibly on the ground when they realised they’d “got” the wrong person. It was from this window that I witnessed many demonstrations broken up by riot-geared police when all the demonstrators were doing were talking with signs. It was in this window friends and I comisserated after yet another Labour Day “intervention” by the government, and and it was in a similar window in a different neighbourhood that I decompressed after police raided my flat one early morning, illegally searching our rooms (2 single western women), taking their time as they ransacked underwear drawers and held both our passports out of reach. Some onions would have come in rather handy back then.

From that beautiful cafe spot I have seen protestors move in their hundreds, and many a time have been swept up in their crowd as Istiklal moved with them. I couldn’t though tell you what any of those protests was in aid of. This week is different.

Your people are protesting for the end to much of what is hiding the Turkish of your nation, and everything you Republic was said to stand for but

It’s not a protest about being sons and daughters of Ataturk.

It’s not a protest about being secular elite.

It isn’t about kissing on the street.

It isn’t about the alcohol restriction.

It isn’t about headscarves.

It isn’t about free choice for our bodies.

It isn’t about education or the rise of the urban concrete jungle.

It’s not about media censorship or the stifling of free speech.

It’s not about the power of social media nor what anyone has the right to control.

It isn’t about police brutality having taken over from military rule.

It isn’t about politicians pitting us against them for end game

And it isn’t about a leader who’s too big for his boots.

It’s about all of this, and so much more.

But mostly it’s about collective recollection that you, the people, are what makes the state

And it’s a reminder, as your President rightly said, that democracy does not end at the polls.

Were you old enough to sit round the table and ask us, we’d tell you there are two sides to every argument always, and in this one there are many many more than just two BUT we would stress one point: no matter what the anarchists show, this isn’t about THEM versus US. We would tell you that these protestors do not represent you, Turks, all..not even the 50%..but to be counting their numbers is missing the point: that they don’t necessarily represent you or me doesn’t make it any less of importance. We’d remind you again this is not about WE versus YOU.

In Gezi Park tonight, the Night of Ascension, gentle people practise yoga on the grass, children fall asleep under the rustle of those trees, music and poetry and laugher and debate mingle seamlessly, peacefully with spoken words of the Qu’ran as people of all ages, of many demographics, of multiple belief sit and share on an evening of hope, for mankind, for democracy and your history.

If Prophet Mohammed had journeyed to heaven tonight, our media riddled brains would automatically call the video a fake. We’d say the tweets that he sent with the revelations of prayer were pre-scheduled to fall on this date. We’d blast the photos of the angels gate as being photoshopped and would guess foursquare check-in had malfunctioned (again).

Yes, it’s hard to believe in just one God and faith and it’s hard too to hold onto reason, but it’s easier than you think to put all that aside and give our trust back into mankind and peace. There is logic in reason confirming belief.

I hope that wherever you are when you read this, you are free to be çapullers too.

20130606-153028.jpg “O you who have believed, be persistently standing firm in justice, witnesses for Allah , even if it be against yourselves or parents and relatives. Whether one is rich or poor, Allah is more worthy of both. So follow not [personal] inclination, lest you not be just. And if you distort [your testimony] or refuse [to give it], then indeed Allah is ever, with what you do, Acquainted.” Qur’an 4:135

For your reference, these articles present a fair balance of opinions :

CLAIRE BERLINSKI: Erdoğan Over the Edge

An American in Istanbul: Making Sense of the Protests in Turkey

And for the protest in images see Tumblr

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This entry was published on 06/06/2013 at 12:44. It’s filed under Externalise, From Me to You, Life and Faith and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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