Saturday, November 10, 2007

Dear Anonymous...

To be honest, I was kind of waiting to get slammed for the post entitled 'Open Letter To Turks Dealing With Foreigners'. I’m surprised it took anyone this long to get their undies in a bundle over it, actually. This morning, I received a lengthy comment from Anonymous, who was obviously very upset about the post. Since Anonymous took the time to read and respond to me, I’ll give him or her the same courtesy.

According to Anonymous, it’s only Westerners who hate Turks, not the whole world. Okay, point taken. Perhaps I overgeneralized. But I’ll invite Anonymous to read the OP more carefully, in which I say that prior to coming to Turkey (from the West, I might add), I’d never met anyone who even had an opinion on Turks or Turkey, or had even thought about them very much. It’s true, I promise. I also would like to remind Anonymous that the entire West is not made up of a single group of people who all think and do the same things.

As for camels in Istanbul, fair enough. I’ve never seen one here either. The only camels I’ve ever seen in Turkey were on Camel Beach near Bodrum, and they were there for the benefit of tourists. Lucky thing, there not being camels here, as I find camels one of Nature’s more unpleasant beasts. I also don’t think camel racing is a big sport here, so probably there aren’t very many people in Istanbul inseminating camels for this (or any other) purpose. In fact, the reference to inseminating racing camels was a literary device we call ‘exaggeration’ or ‘overstatement,’ sometimes used for comic effect. If the humor was lost on our friend Anonymous, I do apologize. Might I suggest replacing the reference to camels with 'changing the bags in biohazardous waste containers,' as this is another group of people who's hands I don't want in my baby's mouth.

As for Anonymous' other comments, which he or she gave in list form, I would like to treat them one by one:

1- Don`t call them names like barbarians, mongols, smelly muslims etc...
I agree-- these are awful names to call someone. Interestingly, the only people I've heard refer to Turks as 'barbarians' are Turks, either repeating what they believe Westerners think of them, or proudly, when they talk about winning some war or other. By 'mongols,' I'm not sure if you mean 'Mongolians' or 'people with Down's Syndrome (in Turkish, for my other readers, 'mongol' means 'retard'),' but one is inaccurate and the other is just mean. As for 'smelly Muslims,' I'd say, because of all the abdest and general obsession with cleanliness, Muslims are, by and large, among the least smelly people on Earth.
2- Don`t treat them like terrorists in airports just because they hold a Turkish passport.
I can't agree with you more here. This sucks beyond belief, and does a disservice to everyone involved. My husband had a terrible time getting a visa because of this prejudice. I was once questioned by the border police in Portland Airport about my involvement in the HSBC bombings because I'd arrived from Turkey a few weeks after. My poor little son is looking at a lifetime of bigotry due to being half Turkish, though you can bet we'll use his American passport when travelling. Lucky for him. But really, this treatment in airports is a matter of policy dreamed up by the idiots in authority, and is not the opinion held by every Westerner.
3-Don`t ask them silly questions like "how many wives do you have?" "have you killed anyone before?" "how come you don`t wear fez?"
The only people I've seen wearing the fez are ice cream sellers. I'm starting to wonder, dear Anonymous, where you live and how you've come to be surrounded by such ignorant Westerners.
4-We know that the western world has always been angelic elves to the others but forget how perfect you are at least for a little while and don`t accuse Turkish individuals of various "genocides" such as "armenian genocide" "assyrian genocide" "greek genocide" "anzac genocide" "british genocide" "polar bear genocide" "x genocide" "y genocide" etc.
What on did the Turks do to the Assyrians? I'll have to look into that one. I've never heard Turks accused of 'Greek genocide' or 'ANZAC genocide'-- I was always under the impression those were mutual slaughters carried out in a time of war. The Armenian issue is a big can of worms that I've been avoiding in this blog. Suffice it to say here that I think the Turks' all-out denial of The Armenian Thing That Never Happened is rather foolish. By pretending it never happened, they've lost the ability to participate sensibly in the international historical debate around these events. Today's Turks aren't exactly responsible for what happened to the Armenians, as it happened before Turkey was even a Republic, and, as I understand it, the wholesale slaughter was mostly done by Kurdish mercenaries as they forcibly marched the Armenians to Syria (though I happily admit my source on this is Louis de Bernieres' Birds Without Wings, a work of fiction). I quite understand that this is a sensitive issue, and I quite agree that Turkey is unfairly portrayed in the international media. But, like I said, as long as Turkey continues to take the position that it never happened, they will never have a chance to have their voice properly heard or taken seriously.
5-Don`t hang signs on your bars clubs etc. saying "no dogs and Turks allowed"
6- Don`t shout out "I would be a Paki rather than a Turk" in soccer games.

7- Don`t insult them just because they are not descended from the "superior" christian white race.
8- Don`t make fun of them just because they are poorer than you.
Again, I have to wonder where you live? Perhaps you should consider moving, as the people around you seem to be the worst kinds of bigots. I myself never really even heard the word 'Paki' until I came to Turkey and met a lot of British expats. For a long time, I wasn't even sure what 'Paki' meant, and I thought it had something to do with elephants.
9- Don`t generalize stuff if you come up with a Turk that has smt disturbing to you. there are some 300 millions of them and not all are the same.
Thank God for that! I don't know what I'd do if all 300 million Turks were trying to touch my baby.

You're preaching to the choir, Anonymous. I think we can apply this last comment to both of us, though if you'd read the OP and my other posts more carefully, you might understand that this is where I'm already coming from. It sounds like we're both expats living abroad, and when a few people do or say hurtful things to us, it's easy develop an 'Us and Them' mentality, and assume it's the entire race who's bigoted, ignorant, and against us, which of course is never the case.

I won't take back anything I've said (except perhaps the camel thing), and I won't always deal with comments this extensively in the blog. But in this case, Anonymous took a lot of time to respond to me, and, given some of the things he or she appears to be facing in his or her host country, I think this person has some legitimate beefs.


R said...

The Assyrians were an ancient Christian minority living principally in southeastern Turkey and who were also subject to deportation and extermination during WW1. There remains a small number in and around Mardin.

Stranger said...

Thanks for the link, R. I really was going to read about it, but the little one hasn't given me much of a chance.

I was confused, actually, and not sure if the poster was being sarcastic (he or she also mentioned a polar bear genocide), as I was thinking of the ancient Assyrians. But just now when I read the Wikipedia article, I put it together that the Assyrians and the Süryani are the same people...

Gilbert said...

As an expat Brit living just outside Istanbul, perhaps I can shed a little light on the 'I'd rather be a Paki than a Turk' comment. This comes from a shameful event that happened in 1998 or 99. Leeds United football team had come to Istanbul to play Galatasaray in a match for some European football championship or other (I'm not a football fan for reasons that will become clear). The Leeds fans had arrived a day or two before the match itself and got themselves well inebriated at the bars in the Taksim/ Beyoglu region of the city. A riot ensued in the course of which a Turkish fan was stabbed to death. Many fans were kept under police custody and sent home the next day issuing claims of police brutality. On their return to the UK they whipped a storm of protest against the Turks. Crowds gathered chanting the slogan in question to the tune of 'She'll be coming round the mountain'. Turks living in the UK, my wife included, had to keep a low profile. If I remember correctly the match was played without a crowd present.

Stranger said...

I remember hearing about that incident a lot when I first came here in 2001. Wasn't there a related incident of a British fan (I don't know if he was Leeds) also being stabbed in Taksim Square either the year before or the year after? I seem to remember a tale of drunkenness and a British guy who wiped his bottom with a Turkish flag, and he got killed.

When I first came here, most foreigners were still careful to stay home on games between Turkey and Britian-- it just didn't do to have a foreign face no matter what the outcome of the match was. There's still some self-congratulations in the media for any matches between Leeds and Turkish teams where no one gets killed...