Istanbul: Of new friends and felines

It’s bit shallow – but the guy was only here for a week. Anyway, it’s nice to read something positive about Turkey for a change. This was published in the NZ Herald travel section (I’ve abridged it a little). Surprisingly, the guy didn’t see any Arab tourists!

DSCF1962Michael Lamb makes friends with hospitable locals and countless cats while exploring Istanbul’s deep, rich history.

It’s after midnight and we’re wandering the tangled lanes, heading back to our hotel.

We’d had dinner at 360 Istanbul, a rooftop restaurant up near Taksim Square, which, as the name suggests, offers spectacular sunset views of this amazing city. Dinner rapidly turned into a social affair, joining tables of boisterous travellers to drink and talk global politics.

Then we came across a cool hole-in-the-wall cafe/bar and stopped in for a nightcap. They’d closed the cash register for the night so offered us a round of beers — for free. More travellers stopped, more beers were offered and another session of discussing the wonders of Istanbul and the state of the planet unfolded.

And so typical of a night out in Istanbul, where you make friends faster and easier than any other city I’ve been to in the world; where the desire to interact with visitors is genuine and limitless.

If the hospitality isn’t enough, then there are the cats. The movie Kedi, a meditation on the wondrous lives of the cats of Istanbul, is one of the sleeper hits of 2017, having gained traction on the festival circuit last year. Shot on a low budget, it’s already taken more than US$4 million and counting.

Some people say the cats are merely a cute distraction from the deep truths of Istanbul and wider Turkey. This is a city that’s taken its fair share of hits in the new era of extremist terrorism. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s determination to stamp out activism and political opposition is casting a dark shadow across the Turkish soul. People talk about it, but quite rightly it makes them unhappy and uncomfortable [On this last point, it depends who you talk with, in fact].

As tourists here for just seven days, we decide to stick to our tourist knitting. And in that game, Istanbul rolls out the red Turkish carpet every time — though everywhere you go it’s noticeable the numbers are down. The city is on the hot destination lists but the reality is, mainstream tourists are spooked and staying away.

On the ground, this fear factor feels ridiculous: in a city of 15 million people (officially, the locals reckon it’s more like 20 million) your odds of running into trouble are, I’d wager, microscopic.

We tour the famous and fabulous Grand Bazaar, the Spice Bazaar. The other tourists we encounter are an unexpected mix: a lot of Russians, Chinese and Eastern Europeans.

We hit the tourist-book standards like the vast Blue Mosque, the Galata Tower and the Istanbul Modern Art Museum. We gape at the magnificence of the soaring Hagia Sophia cathedral and the subterranean Basilica Cistern, a beautifully ornate underground water reservoir. Both the Hagia Sophia and the Cistern were built by Emperor Justinian I in the 6th century. Justinian and his wife, Theodora, are the coolest couple you could hope to find and their legacies are worth a trip to Istanbul alone.

A week in Istanbul is a mere heartbeat in the long, timeless story of this city, a place with such a deep, rich history. You could spend aeons here and still find something new. And while tourism fatigue is hitting places like Barcelona and Paris, in Istanbul you can guarantee you’ll be welcomed with open arms. So there’s never been a better time to go — especially if you’re a cat person.

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So who invaded Cyprus first?

It’s not the main topic of the news item, but it does make an interesting point about Turkey’s “invasion” of Cyprus back in 1974 . . .

Spooky pics of abandoned Cyprus airport frozen in time

nicosiaTHIS once bustling transport hub was suddenly abandoned 40 years ago, leaving jet planes and empty terminals as eerie signs of the past.

THIS airport was once a bustling, state-of-the-art transport hub on a popular holiday island. 

But for more than 40 years, time has stood still at Nicosia International Airport on Cyprus, which is now an eerie scene of decaying check-in desks and terminal equipment, and stripped-back jets stuck on the abandoned tarmac.

The airport became deserted after 1974, when it became a flashpoint for civil conflict on the Mediterranean island.

Cyprus had seen years of tensions between the Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots after it became independent from Britain.

In 1974, Greek nationalists overthrew the elected president of Cyprus and in the days that followed, Nicosia airport was briefly used to bring in troops from Greece.

The airport was also a scene of chaos during that time, as holiday-makers and other foreigners sought to flee the conflict.

Within days of the coup d’etat, Turkey invaded Cyprus, and the airport was severely damaged in a bombing campaign.

nicosia jetA demilitarised zone was created and Nicosia airport wound up right in the middle of it, which led to it being suddenly abandoned. The last commercial flight departed Nicosia in 1977.

After Nicosia airport was abandoned, authorities opened a new international airport at Larnaca, which is the island’s main airport that most Australians now fly into or pass through.

But intrepid travellers who venture to neglected Nicosia airport can see how its has become frozen in time, with derelict rows of seats in the terminals, stained carpets on now-empty corridors, and decrepit jet planes stuck where they last came to rest all those years ago.

Source

And another related snippet from the BBC . . .

Varosha – The abandoned tourist resort

famagustabeach

Famagusta before the Greek military coup – and subsequent Turkish invasion

Miles of sand where it’s just you and nature. Dozens of grand hotels where you’ll have the pick of the rooms.

Just remember to pack your bolt cutters to make a hole in the fence – and watch out for the army patrols with orders to shoot on sight. 

Before the division of Cyprus in 1974, Varosha – a resort in Famagusta – was booming. The rich and famous were drawn by some of the best beaches on the island. Richard Burton and Brigitte Bardot all dropped by – the Argo Hotel on JFK Avenue was said to be Elizabeth Taylor’s favourite.

But 40 years ago, after years of inter-ethnic violence culminating in a coup inspired by Greece’s ruling military junta, Turkey invaded Cyprus and occupied the northern third of the island.

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Incidentally, before taking matters into their owns hands, the government of Turkey had asked the UK government, as guarantors of Cyprus’s independence, to intervene  – which they declined to do.

South America’s ‘Made in the USA’ Growing Crisis–How Brazil, Argentina, and Venezuela Are Destabilized

“Destroy the currency is always at the forefront of USA imperialist strategy to drive out populist, democratic governments and re-install pro-Business, pro-US investor governments.”

Well, we know that, of course – but this is a very good detailed analysis of what those b*****ds are doing to the world! And that’s a better use of the word “populist” – which is getting sadly devalued these days by being applied to leaders like the Big DT.

Jack Rasmus

Emerging market economies are heading for an economic implosion. From South America to South Asia conditions are deteriorating rapidly and heading for an even more severe economic crisis in which many are already mired. At the head of this list is Brazil and Argentina. Others increasingly fragile, however, include Turkey, Indonesia, Malaysia, and even India, which has covered up its weak economic condition, and massive non-performing bank loan problem, by manipulating its GDP to falsely exaggerate its growth rate.

Business pundits, and even some commentators on the ‘left’, argue that emerging market economies, of which all the above are key members, now account for more than half of the world’s GDP. This suggests their vulnerability to US and G7 economies is less than it has been in the past. The so-called advanced economies–i.e. the USA, Japan, Canada, UK, France, Germany, Italy (the ‘G7–are increasingly irrelevant. But global GDP numbers are…

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3.6 million Syrian refugees have now fled to Turkey

20 percent of Syrian refugees live in Istanbul

Do the maths: 20% means 720,000 men women and children – More than the population of Seattle, WA, and slightly fewer than Charlotte, NC, the 17th and 18th largest cities in the United States! And you guys are still bombing them!

The Turkish province accommodating the highest number of Syrian refugees in the country is Istanbul with 20 percent, according to media monitoring company Ajans Press.

samserif_ak_final3

Istanbul’s “Little Syria”. “Şam” is “Damascus” in Turkish.

In figures that are based on data from the Interior Ministry’s Immigration Office, as well as media reports, as of June some 3.6 million Syrian refugees are hosted in Turkey.

Istanbul accommodates the highest number, followed by the southeastern province of Şanlıurfa and the southern province of Hatay.

Other provinces hosting a high number of Syrian refugees are the western provinces of Bursa and İzmir, the southeastern provinces of Gaziantep and Kilis, the Central Anatolian province of Konya, and the southern provinces of Adana and Mersin. The number of Syrians exceeds 100,000 in all of these provinces.

The registered number of Turks in Kilis, on the Turkey-Syria border north of Aleppo, stood at 136,319 as of last year, while the province hosts a total of 131,109 Syrian refugees. The demographic shift has sometimes led to confrontations between Turks and Syrians in the province.

276,158 Syrian babies born in last six years

The media monitoring company’s report also included the number of Syrian babies born in Turkey over the last six years, calculating it as reaching 276,158 based on figures from media outlets.

It also found that the issue of Syrian refugees was one of the most-discussed issues in Turkish media reports over the last six years.

The number of refugees has been on rise in Turkey since the outbreak of the Syrian civil war in 2011. The Syrian refugee population was 2.8 million in 2016 and 3.4 million in 2017.

Of the 3.6 million Syrian refugees, some 1.9 million are males and 1.7 million are females.

Source: Hürriyet Daily News

 

Turkey completes 475-mile /764-km security wall on Syria border

Why?
Because they’ve already got 3.6 million refugees, and wealthy Western countries, who cause most of the trouble in the Middle East, offer no more than platitudes and token assistance.
And because the West has been constantly harping on about Turkey’s “porous” border.
How much did it cost? Who knows. A hell of a lot, I’m sure.
Where did the money come from? Ask yourself!

Border wall____________________________

Turkey has completed the construction of a 475-mile (764-kilometre) concrete wall along its border with Syria, according to a Turkish official on Saturday.
TOKI, the state backed housing developer, built 350 miles of the wall, while the governorates of the border provinces built 125 miles, the official told Anadolu Agency on condition of anonymity.
Ankara had launched the construction project in 2015 to build an 513 mile-long wall on the Syrian border, as part of Turkey’s measures to increase border security and combat smuggling and illegal border crossings.
Turkey shares a 566 mile border with Syria, which has been embroiled in a civil war since 2011.
The wall was sealed along Turkey’s border provinces of Sanliurfa, Gaziantep, Kilis, Hatay, Mardin and Sirnak.

The Wall
The border wall project incorporates physical, electronic and advanced technology layers.
The physical layer includes modular concrete walls, patrol routes, manned and unmanned towers and passenger tracks.
Modular walls are being erected along the Turkish-Syrian borderline with seven-ton mobile blocks, two meters wide and three meters high. The blocks have also been topped with a one-meter-high razor wire.
An electronic layer consists of close-up surveillance systems, thermal cameras, land surveillance radar, remote-controlled weapons systems, command-and-control centers, line-length imaging systems and seismic and acoustic sensors.
The advanced technology layer of the project includes wide area surveillance, laser destructive fibre-optic detection, surveillance radar for drone detection, jammers and sensor-triggered short distance lighting systems.

Source: Middle East Monitor

Turkish diaspora see Erdoğan as ‘healer’ of frustrations

Extracts from an interview with Professor Ayhan Kaya

From the start I have challenged the rise of “civilizational” discourse, which originates from the “clash of civilizations” paradigm introduced by Samuel Huntington, based on the idea that Muslims and Christians cannot live together simply because they are from two different civilizations. Civilization cannot simply be reduced to religions, it is much more of a material process related to urbanization, industrialization, etc.

1*0Fe6fTDdKidxPXKCNrljtgLook at what happened in Palestine. Israel killed more than 60 Palestinians and this shows there is no global justice. One of the reasons why there is more radicalization among Muslim-origin youths towards Islamism is the belief that there is no global justice.

Right-wing populist parties are instrumentalizing the fear of refugees and fear of Islam for their own use. In our interviews in six countries with supporters of right-wing populist parties, we saw that they are not actually too hostile to refugees. Rather, they are hostile to settled migrants.

In our research in different European countries we saw what Erdoğan signifies for many members of the Turkish-origin public. He is seen as the person who can heal the sources of their problems. What many see in the image of Erdoğan is a strong personality who can challenge European leaders.

We don’t really see much radicalization among Turkish-origin youths in terms of jihadism. We see that more among members of the North African diaspora. I think one of the reasons for this is the Ottoman past. The Ottomans were never colonized, which gives them a difference in terms of their identification compared to North Africans. 

The misperception about Islamophobes in Europe is contributing to the rise of anti-Westernism among Turkish politicians, some of whom have started to suggest there is a “war between the crescent and the cross.” This is completely wrong; the war is between the rich and the poor, the center and the periphery.

Read the whole article

19 May: Beginning of Turkey’s War of National Liberation

19 May: Youth and Sports Day to Commemorate Atatürk

May 19, 1919 marks the beginning of the Turkish War of National Liberation, a turning point in Turkey’s history. On this day, a young Ottoman general, Mustafa Kemal, arrived in Samsun. The man, who would later be known to the world as Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, stepped ashore on this small Black Sea Coast town to embark on a journey that would ultimately create the Republic of Turkey and a new nation state.

19-mayis-genclik-spor-bayramiThe Ottoman Empire at the time had been carved up as a result of its ill-fated decision to join World War I on the side of the Germans. The defeated Ottoman government signed the Mondros agreement with the Allied forces, securing its own existence, while relinquishing almost all of its territories, except for a small Anatolian heartland, to Britain, Italy, France and Greece. The Mondros agreement, designed to decimate the Ottoman nation, was being implemented step by step with the final insult to the Ottomans coming with the invasion of Izmir and violent advance into Anatolia by the Greek army. Civilian resistance began building up against the occupation, but without a sense of direction or coordination.

Mustafa Kemal, whose public and military standing was solidified as the military commander who won the Ottoman victory in Gallipoli, was assigned the post of Inspector General of the Ottoman Armies to Anatolia. He immediately left Istanbul aboard an old steamer, arriving in Samsun on May 19, 1919. Mustafa Kemal dispatched his first report to the Ottoman Sultan on May 22, underlining that Turks would not accept foreign subjugation and longed for national sovereignty. This signaled the beginning of the national liberation struggle. Realizing that Samsun, already under British occupation and surrounded by Greek irregular forces, was no longer safe, Mustafa Kemal moved his staff to Havza, about 85 km inland, on May 25.

In Havza, Ataturk’s historic mission unfolded. He dispatched telegrams to local resistance organizations all over Anatolia to organize mass demonstrations protesting the occupation and to inform the public about the gravity of the situation. Demonstrations followed across the country. Several leading Ottoman army generals and their troops joined Mustafa Kemal and signed the Declaration of Amasya on June 22, 1919, declaring that the unity of the country and the liberty of the people were in danger, that the Istanbul government was inept to save the nation and that “the liberty of the nation was to be saved by the nation’s own perseverance and will.” This declaration included the first signs of Ataturk’s vision of national sovereignty and democratic rule for the Turkish people.

Mustafa Kemal took the leadership in convening two national congresses with representatives from all over the Empire in Erzurum and Sivas, followed by the forming of a national parliament in Ankara on April 23, 1920. He was elected as Commander in Chief and organized the remaining Ottoman forces, as well as irregular forces under the Ankara government’s central command, creating a new army that eventually defeated the occupying forces.

The Turkish War of Liberation lasted four years and culminated in the international recognition of Turkey’s borders through the treaty of Lausanne on July 24, 1923 and the founding of the Republic of Turkey on October 29, 1923. Ataturk later declared May 19 as a national holiday dedicated to Turkish youth and sports. The holiday continues to be celebrated today in Turkey as Ataturk Remembrance, Youth and Sports Day.

Source: Turkish Coalition of America