Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Banging Pans, Flashing Lights, Honking Horns

There is plenty in the news about the protests in Taksim Square (Istanbul) as well as "solidarity" protests in over 70 cities across Turkey, Izmir included. A quick internet search will yield ample photos of tear gas, riot police, barricades, burning cars, the Prime Minister speaking, etc. My students have been eager to talk about the reasons for the protests, what they hope the protests will accomplish, and their fears/concerns.

I think by reading many of our news sources you will get the general sense of what is occurring over here so I won't bore you with the details. What I can do is give you a first-hand account of what I've seen or been told in Izmir.

The changes that I've seen are:
-The park along the seaside in Alsancak (downtown Izmir) filled with tents, banners, people playing guitars and singing, make-shift food tables with people lined up to share meals, campers sweeping the mats in front of their tents and several vendors making the most of the proximity to new customers.
-Grafitti on many buildings and public areas, broken street signs, lamp posts, upended chairs and tables.
-Additional gendarme (police) on the bike path and patrolling the road to work. (I'f they've been there before, I'd never noticed.)
-Broken glass, broken signs, snapped off lamp posts and trees.
-Random traffic jams caused by impromptu protest marches chocking out the drivers and closing the roads.
- The consistent 9:00 p.m. banging on pots and pans, honking of horns, and flicking the house lights on and off.

The things I've been told:
- The protests are not really about taking down trees for a mall, but are really for myriad political reasons..there is a long list of grievances that you can find on the internet.
- Some female students are afraid for their future. They don't want to lose their freedoms. They don't want to cover. They want to be free to drink alcohol.
- Many people are worried about the future and stability for their families. They find it difficult to make plans.
- Several  are worried about the world perceptions of Turkey. They know it takes years to build a reputation and only a short time to destroy.
- Some people are afraid of the police. Where they used to see the police as someone who could help if they had a problem, they now are afraid and turn the other way if they see police.
- They believe that some of the tear gas contained a diluted amount of "agent orange."
- People feel nervous, tense, and stressed out. They wonder what will happen.

However, as I go about my normal day, it's easy to forget there are protests. I can hear music from a wedding echoing from the nearby hills.  A stop by my favorite organic market yielded fresh veggies and "just baked country bread." Dinner needs to be cooked. Bills need to be paid. Problems need to be solved. Beer and wine needs to be sipped with friends while overlooking the sunset on Izmir Bay. In other words, if it weren't for the 9:00 pm cacophony of pots of and pans, the English Facebook posts from Turkish friends, or the concerned updates from my American friends, life is going on as usual.

1 comment:

  1. So glad to know you are safe! You are in my prayers!