Thursday, June 27, 2013

Holding My Breath

Since the protests started, every day is like holding my breath. Go to work, go home, go to the market, kiss the boy, take a small breath and hold it. A little bit I feel like if I start breathing, something is going to kick off again.

There are people who want to talk about it and people who won't talk about it and people who are sick to death of talking about. I'm in the first group. I won't shut up about it. All I do is read about it and worry about it and get mad about it and get sad about it and get excited about it, around and around and it just doesn't seem like there's anything else going on.

Of course there's other stuff going on. There must be, because I keep trying to do other stuff.

I heard it's basically just a food product.
I've been reading everything I can about Turkey, about AKP, about teargas, about anything in the world that could explain this to me. Before this, I used to shut off after a couple of paragraphs of political analysis, but not anymore. I used to forget a lot of what I read, but not anymore. All the names and numbers and statistics are staying there. And I'm reading it in Turkish and English, just to make sure no one has left anything out, or that I don't get misinformed on accident. My Turkish reading sucks, but the last few weeks have improved it somewhat. I have this feeling like if I can find out everything, I might be able to figure out what's going to happen next. Or maybe even what the endgame is.

When you're a kid and someone does something bad to you, someone bigger or stronger or with more power, there's almost always someone in authority who might be able to get them to stop it. It's a naive way of thinking, but I still have that same frustration that makes me want to punch the wall till my knuckles bleed, bite my tongue hard, scream and flail and hit someone in the chest till they listen. At first, especially when the media coverage was weak, it seemed like people were thinking, "If only we can get the world to see what's happening here, someone will help us and make them stop." Quite how they would make them stop, I don't know. It's not like anyone was hoping the Americans would come in and save us. It was more that for years, the government has been successfully bullshitting the foreign press. Finally the world could see their true colors, what a bunch of insane, fundamentalist, authority-drunk dickheads they are. How, over the course of a few years, they have managed to turn a perfectly good country into quagmire that looks like it's on its way to becoming another Middle Eastern religion-bound shithole.

So now the world knows. And also the world cares. The world is doing stuff to try to stand up for Turkey--
the EU, Amnesty International, other people everywhere-- and our good leaders don't give a shit because they're too busy fapping each other's insanity while sending their money to Switzerland and thinking about blowjobs from the forty virgins they think await them in heaven.

As it turns out, there isn't a lot the world can do. The people in authority here are just splitting everyone's lip with a swift backhand and threatening worse if you tell anyone. And there's no one to tell to make them stop. Turkey, it would seem, is on its own.

So they just keep going. There's no point in getting upset about the lies anymore, because even with clear proof they just keep lying. Reality is just a little pocket you have to construct around yourself and curl up into to get through the day.

Because that's the other thing, being scared. They have so many threats how they're coming to get you.
They're going to use the Internet and hunt you down and and every person who ever said a word against His Majesty of the Quaking Thin Skin. My school, or rather the family that owns it, comes up all the time in Tayyip's speeches, with references to foreign conspiracies, university organizers. Foreigners that get deported just for marching. A journalist who got beaten and they kicked her in the gut so hard they ruptured her bladder and left her pissing herself in a cell for a day or two before deporting her.

So you just decide how scared you're going to be, how much of what they say you think is bluster and how much is true and how much is delusional fantasy even though if it's true, there won't be a damn thing you can do about it when you're choking on bits of your teeth. Or out of a job. Or sent home and they won't let you take your citizen kid with you.

People I know have taken on varying degrees of fear. I try to say fuck that shit but I've had some sleepless nights for sure, imagining the banging on my door to start any second. If I hide under the covers and don't answer it, will they just go away? The fact that we might have bedbugs isn't helping with the under-the covers thing.

On the other hand, a bit of fear that comes to nothing isn't so bad. The other night waiting for the bus, two riot police buses passed us on their way towards Sarıyer. The night before, at the forum in Yeniköy (the forums are nightly meetings in parks around the city to keep the gatherings small enough and quiet enough that the police don't attack them, where they light candles for the people who have died and talk about what's going on and what to do next and instead of clapping, they wave both hands in sign language applause), a muhtar leading a band of fanatics armed with knives and sticks had attacked the protestors, calling them enemies of the faith. I felt the fear when I saw the buses, and then I realized I was thinking, "Wait for it," because after the fear there's a rush of endorphins that feels really fucking good. So that's another thing I've learned.

There was a context to the Yeniköy thing, by the way, which I read in Turkish so a thousand pardons if I got it wrong. Apparently they want to build a mosque where the park is, to replace a mosque that was knocked down in the 50s when they widened the road. The forum discussion became a bit of a local dispute about the mosque. Not that it makes the armed fanatics acceptable, and because gangs of armed AKP youth had gone out to attack protestors following Tayyip's staged screed in Kazlıçeşme, it seemed this shit was spreading everywhere and the Turkish Revolutionary guard was starting to form, even in Yeniköy.

I don't know where the riot police buses ended up. I didn't hear anything about that. But I was on my guard even as I was buying peaches and cherries from a guy selling fruit at midnight because one reason Istanbul is super cool is that there are guys selling fruit at midnight. Good fruit, too. Not scary midnight fruit.

He's doing it for God.
Conspiracy theories abound in this part of the world. It's gotten harder and harder to blow them off over the years. Lately I imagine that to people at home, I sound like someone I once would have laughed off as a nutjob. But one thing that has become evident to me as I watch this unfold, as the Fearful Leaders lie and lie, as the police keep hurting people for no reason, police that were amassing a week before any of this started, as it becomes apparent there's pretty much nothing anyone can do to make it stop, is that certain of the conspiracies were maybe real. That all of this started getting put into place a long time ago. That certain entities probably really were working slowly to infiltrate every level of government and bureaucracy, down to that guy who stamps stuff at the post office. People have been saying this for a long time. Some people laughed it off and some didn't.

Eventually you just laughed it off like an inevitable fear, like how the sun could explode into a red giant at any moment or you could get hit by a bus. It's perhaps less catastrophic than the sun exploding and less personal than getting hit by a bus, but it's still a bit of both.
June 25, 2013

Last night, there was a big demonstration in Taksim because the cop who shot and killed Ethem Sarısülük in
the head with a real bullet has been let off on his own recognizance, pending a trial that is sure to be a farce because even if he is punished, these young cops aren't the ones to hold the blame. Not all of it.

The cops didn't attack anyone last night and the demonstration stayed peaceful.

Still, I'm holding my breath because if I breathe, if I don't follow the minutiae of what's going on, the next thing might happen and it might be way worse.


so-very-scared said...

it has been a joy reading your blog for the last 3 months since i first discovered it. You give me hope that one day there can be a brotherhood/sisterhood of humanity regardless of nationalities, maybe not in the too distant future; and that people from different countries can really understand and empathize with each other...these last posts especially give me courage to be more vocal about whats happening in my country even when i am so scared...i am conflicted about if i should beg you never to leave us or beg you to leave and save yourself

Claudia Turgut said...

Hi Stranger - my daughter lives in Yeniköy so was giving me a blow-by-blow of what was going on there and it sounded scary. But the good news is that all of a sudden, the mosque is off!! On with the rolls of ready-made grass and it's over!! Whaddya make of that?
Great post - I am in the first group too ...

Stranger said...

Hey, Claudia, thanks!

What a surprise about the mosque. And good news! I have no idea what to make of that :)

I'm just glad it was an isolated (ish) incident there. When something like that happens, you're never quite sure if it's going to become a thing.