Posts Tagged ‘Istanbul’

What in the world is going on in Turkey?

June 24, 2013

Turkey demosFour weeks ago a small group of environmentally-minded Turks staged a demonstration, or an occupation, of tiny Gezi park in Istanbul, where the government had stated its intent to build a replica of an Ottoman-era barracks to house a shopping mall.

The government responded by attacking the protesters violently with water cannon and tear gas. The disproportionate attack on the peaceful protesters crystallized widespread hostility to the government of Prime Minister Recip Tayyip Erdoğan (pronounced ER-duh-wan). The protests grew and spread all over Turkey, and everywhere the protesters were met by violent police action. So far five have died, and the protests have died down.

Erdoğan blames the trouble on outsiders, including CNN and the “interest lobby,” and has called out his supporters into massive counter demonstrations.

Erdoğan was first elected to head the government in 2002, with 34% of the vote. He was reelected in 2007 with 46%, and again in 2011 with just under 50% of the votes cast. He is a practicing Muslim—rare for a Turkish leader—and has steadily moved to make Turkish society more congenial to pious Muslims. He wants to amend the Constitution to allow women to wear headscarves in public buildings (now forbidden), and has had laws passed that allow early religious instruction in elementary school, limit the sale of alcohol, and has proposed bans on abortion and even on kissing in public.

Some fear Erdoğan’s goal is to introduce Sharia law, a la Iran or Saudi Arabia, while others (including The Economist) call him a “moderate Islamist” and believe his intent is simply to (more…)

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Good out of tragedy? Turkey and Israel after the earthquake

October 25, 2011

“Earthquake diplomacy” is a term coined after two huge earthquakes struck first Turkey, then Greece in 1999. Putting aside years of mutual distrust, the Greek government immediately offered aid to Turkey when a magnitude 7.4 earthquake struck the major Turkish city of Izmit, with severe damage as far as Istanbul. Two weeks later a 5.9 earthquake struck in Athens, and the Turks quickly reciprocated. Ordinary Turks and Greeks rushed to donate blood and money to their stricken neighbors. Official relations between the two countries warmed considerably.

Now earthquake diplomacy may heal relations between former allies Turkey and Israel, seriously breached this May when Israeli forces attacked a Turkish ship attempting to run an Israeli blockade of Gaza, killing nine Turks in a botched attempt to take over the ship.

When a 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck eastern Turkey last week, killing hundreds and destroying thousands of homes, Israeli President Peres was the first to offer aid to his counterpart, Turkish President Gul. (more…)

If you’ve got to lose something, lose it in Turkey, not in Silicon Valley

May 15, 2010

I’ve written here about how I recently left a wallet with all my credit cards and $300 in cash in an Istanbul Starbucks, and how the finder tracked me down and returned it intact. I had a similar experience in Turkey several years before. Good thing I didn’t do that in Silicon Valley, where Apple engineer Gray Powell left a priceless prototype of Apple’s next edition of the iPhone in a Redwood City bar. Brian Hogan, a 21-year-old college student, found the phone and shopped it around, finally selling it to technology blog Gizmodo for $5,000.


Hogan’s roommate, Katherine Martinson, said she and other friends tried to talk Hogan out of selling the phone, arguing it would ruin the career of the Apple engineer who lost it. Hogan responded,


“Sucks for him. He lost his phone. Shouldn’t have lost his phone.”


He sure shouldn’t have lost it where Brian Hogan could find it, steal it, and sell it. He should have lost it in Istanbul where it would have been quickly returned to him.

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Are Turks more honest than most? My Turkish friends modestly say no; I say yes.

April 22, 2010

If you lost a wallet with credit cards, a driver’s license, and $300, what would your chances be of getting it back? Depends on where you lost it, right? It would be interesting to know the chances by location—are Minnesotan more honest than New Yorkers? Or are Germans more honest than Italians? We don’t know.

But one thing I do know: if you’re going to lose your wallet, do it in Turkey.

Last month in an Istanbul Starbucks I reached for my wallet and it wasn’t there. I had just ridden in a packed tram, and I figured that I had lost it or had my pocket picked in the tram. Several hours later—11 pm, when I was in bed—I was awakened by a call from Enver Beyazyuz, a businessman who frequents that Starbucks. He had found my wallet on the men’s room floor, turned it over to the store manager, then had second thoughts: he wasn’t certain the manager, busy as he was, would make every effort to find the wallet’s owner. So he went back to Starbucks, asked to see the wallet again, found a business card of the hotel, and tracked me down. (more…)