This past Tuesday marked the 90th anniversary of the Republic of Turkey. This holiday celebrates the new era of the Turkish identity from Ottomans to Turks. The keystone of this remarkable transformation that unites Turks still today is the most famous man in Turkey, even 75 years since his death, is Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.
To address the progression as well as the evolving political identity of Turkey, one must address the Kemalism (Kemalizm, Atatürkçülük, Atatürkçü düşünce)- the founding ideology of modern-day Turkey. Also known as the Six Arrows (Altı ok), this selective composition of thought defines progressional political, social, cultural and religious reforms in which all Turkish citizens are declared equal. This was quite a liberal and controversial sentiment back in 1923, for this mantra of equality was seen as a citizen’s right without reference to religion and subsequently established a secular, national, unitary state from the Ottoman Empire (empire of Faith). Kemal’s ideology emerged from within the Turkish traditional context of Comtean scientific positivism which creates the political futures according to human –rather than divine design– so it embodies both secular and modern properties in the fulfillment of many political goals. With a main focus of individualism, freedom, equality, rationality, and accountibilty as well as putting the primary focus on both education and political structures. In the context of the post-WWI world, this brought about European modernity in an Islmaic context, which still applies today both in political make-up and geographic placement. The man responsible for linking the eastern world with the west is Turkey’s founding father and first president Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.
In regards to the national hero and icon himself, I refer you to the following article: http://www.badassoftheweek.com/ataturk.html (badass sums him up quite well)
Note: although this article is written in a comical light, it highlights the ironies behind the man as well as seemingly paradoxical values and attributes.
Istanbul, Türkiye– I anticipated the excitement, the colours, the infinite sense of intensity, passion, wonder, and romanticism. It is truly impossible to describe properly. The first few hours after my arrival were as perfect as a postcard. When I was preparing for my big move, I had expected to gradually shift from the status of foreigner/tourist to eventually being accepted and, as I familiarised myself with the city, the later privilege of being upgraded to honorary local. I am humbled to say that I skipped the tourist step and was thrown into the role I will refer to as “blending in” as a local resident.
My timing of arrival could not have been more perfect (used relatively and perhaps ironically depending whether my mother is reading). My first night moving into the district of Kadıköy, Istanbul (Asian side of the Bosphorus) was the same night the Turkish police killed another civilian. 22 year old Ahmet Atakan: killed by a canister of tear gas by the Turkish government’s right arm: Türk polis. Outrage– another civilian casualty adds fuel to their fiery cause and consequently sparked more demonstrations all over Turkey.
I am currently writing an article regarding the political situation in Turkey at current. The situation is dense and traces back to the fall of the Ottoman Empire. However, recent evolution of the new Ottomans begins in 2002 with the election of the AK Parti. The economic success of Turkey within the past decade is due to the AKP, however their manor of rule has been quite shady in terms of the people. Escalations of disagreements between the ruling party and the people of Turkey peaked in May 2013. The original cause was in Gezi Park, Taksim, Istanbul back in May (28th) in which the people voiced their opinions against the government’s decision to destroy one of the city’s last green spaces. The AKP maneuvered with confidence, but they did not expect the consequence of their action. Hard police action, the government reacted to the protestors with blunt force by gassing its own citizens. This turned the cause of the initial protest into an amplification of rage and triggered the protests to spread from Istanbul to a nationwide cause. Taksim Square, Istanbul and Ankara hoist the worst demonstrations in terms of aggression, hostility and violence, but more demonstrations are arising.
My first night in Kadıköy was also a particularly heated night in which another demonstration arose in Istanbul. Kadıköy Boğa Heykeli, a few blocks away from my new home in Caferağa Mahallesi, play host as a new venue of the Occupy Gezi Movement. As I looked out from my balcony, beyond exhausted and already feeling the inconvenience of jet lag, I first heard the chanting. This was about 21:00 local time. I had unpacked by this point, ventured through the neighbourhood, bought groceries, and cooked a housewarming meal with my Turkish roommate, Sebahat. We were eating pasta with cucumbers, tomatoes, and fresh local cheese as the protestors were gathering. A few hours had passed and we could hear faint chants in the background as we cleaned the kitchen and went our separate ways. I was still functioning on eastern standard time so 2:00 felt like 19:00 to me. The yelling had gotten more aggressive and the wind was perfumed with smoke. As I sat at my desk lethargically and dazed attempting to strain my tired eyes into reading, I began to cough and noticed an unfamiliar burning sensation in the back of my throat, my nose and eyes. Confused, I acted instinctually without hesitation and rubbed my eyes profusely as I continued to gag. Wrong. I unknowingly experienced my first encounter and lesson to tear gas. It is almost like crystalized glass in the air and leaves residue on everything, therefore the worst thing you can do is follow your instincts and rub. I learned, and the sensation has gotten to be familiar already and I know the remedies and how to prepare for gas effectively now- a great, un-glorified skill to have.
Within the day of my arrival, I had already come to the realisation of what I truly would have to look forward to this year. There would be no frou-frou tourist fluff for me. I am a visiter, I am a guest, I am an objective observer taking notes and seeing political and cultural tension internally under a microscope. I was flushed with an empowering sensation that filled my being that I can only come to label as both appreciation and sheer excitement. I knew that my time here will be unscripted, unpredictable, and raw. No media framing, I will be seeing untainted stimuli– this is real.