Who is Kenan Behzat Sharpe?
Kenan Behzat Sharpe is an Istanbul-based journalist and academic. He completed his PhD in Literature at the University of California, Santa Cruz in 2019. He is a co-founder of Blind Field: A Journal of Critical Inquiry and an assistant editor at Commune Magazine. He has written about art, culture, and politics in Turkey, Greece, and beyond for Al-Monitor, Jacobin, and Verso. His academic publications center on the relationship between left-wing social movements, youth countercultures, and the arts. He is currently completing his first book manuscript, Rockers and Radicals in Anatolia: Turkish Psychedelic Rock and the World 1960s, which explores the music and political context of Tülay German, Cem Karaca, Moğollar, Selda Bağcan, Erkin Koray, and other Anadolu Rock figures.
Though the topic of Turkish avant-garde composer living in New York may seem obscure, a documentary recently awarded at Antalya Film Festival, powerfully explores themes of love, politics, friendship, and immigration.
If you have watched Turkish TV anytime within the past two months, you have definitely seen ads for the series Kırmızı Oda. The series focuses on a therapist and her patients. Since the pandemic began, levels of anxiety and depression are steadily increasing in Turkey. At a time like this, it is admirable to want to show the public that therapy is always a possibility.
Rap has become a lucrative business in Turkey. Over the past five years, the genre has gone from one subculture among many to an essential part of the mainstream music industry.
When you look at the history of Greece and Turkey in the 20th century, what you find is this shared history of war, dictatorship, and repression. While politicians and civil society leaders focus on friendship or diplomacy, it is the artists who have most successfully given us a vision of what something more like solidarity would look like.
At a time when the dark clouds of economic recession lurk on the horizon, signs of catastrophic climate change appear from the sandstorms of Ankara to the wild fires of California, and the pandemic continues to ravage the world, it makes sense that viewers are captivated by imagining what it would be like to escape to a different reality to undo present mistakes.
Turkish Interior Ministry’s decision to ban both live and recorded music after midnight has led to much head-scratching. Some wonder whether the government is under the mistaken impression that COVID-19 spreads through sound decibels.
One good way to gauge how the feminist movement has transformed commonsense perceptions of gender in Turkey is to look at the entertainment industry. Recent statements by Turkish celebrities show an increasing willingness to speak out on issues long raised by feminist activists.
These days, whoever I speak to has been watching MasterChef Turkey. At a time when COVID-19 is raging in the streets and the price of basic foodstuffs continues to surge, the cooking reality show provides a much-needed distraction.
The massive outpouring of support for U.S. Vice Presidential candidate Kamala Harris by American celebrities brings to mind the difficult position of Turkish artists who dare wade into politics. One cannot forget the harsh reaction from the ruling AKP to Turkish celebrities who expressed support to Istanbul Mayor İmamoğlu last year.
Amid rising homophobia and social inequality in Turkey, the latest film from director Ümit Ünal is a timely reflection on how love unites people and society rips them apart.
Zoomers in Turkey do not listen to a single genre of music. Indeed, the divisions between rap fans and rock fans, for example, may not be as stark as it was in the early 2000s, but there are K-pop aficionados, metal heads, devotees of trap, followers of arabesk rap, and other subcultures.
You can gauge one’s awareness of the pandemic by how they wear their mask. There are those who wrap their masks around arms or wrists. They avoid seeming completely oblivious to the global pandemic while also maximizing their intake of the Aegean coast’s fabled freshness, corona and all.
On July 21, Turkey was shook by the brutal murder of 27-year-old university student Pınar Gültekin by a man named Cemal Metin Avcı. many of Turkey’s influential cultural figures, from musicians to models, weighed in on Gültekin’s murder and the larger epidemic of femicides.
Earlier this week, writer Adalet Ağaoğlu died at the age of 91. Ağaoğlu’s generation grew up in a different set of “narrow times” than we live in today. Yet her work remains powerful in showing what does remain the same, particularly the political obsession with a single “great man” to rule the nation.
Earlier this week, the Turkish management of the clothing chain LC Waikiki banned LGBTQI+ symbols on their products and displays—or even anything that might be confused as an LGBTQI+ symbol. LC Waikiki’s memo comes as hate speech against LGBTQI+ people surges across Turkey. As LGBTQI+ issues grow more visible, the reaction is ever more vehement.
If anything, perhaps this continual updating of folk music in Turkey does prove its timelessness. This does not mean that these songs are without history, but that however much the world changes, we will always have need for songs that express the meaning of love, infatuation, mortality, and loneliness in the simplest terms possible.
Given the LGBTI+ community’s history of seeking spaces of freedom amidst the ever-tightening grip of individual and organized hate, this year’s Pride Istanbul theme is “Where am I?” The online talks, workshops, and discussions center on issues like migration, isolation, and safety.
Just because 'Naked' moves beyond certain stereotypes does not necessarily make it “Turkey’s boldest woman’s story”. If including nudity or sex scenes was a barometer of political progressiveness, then the Turkish porno craze of the 1970s or the dirty programs watched through satellite TV in the 1990s would be perfect models of feminism.
After months of staying at home and practicing distancing, it is inevitable that people will occasionally swing too far in the other direction—once given the opportunity. This is a wider social problem, one which no amount of “pandemic-shaming” (polarized along political lines like most things in Turkey nowadays) is going to solve.
Though some of the correspondences are superficial, the coincidence of the protests in the U.S. erupting just as people here are commemorating Gezi has lead to some soul searching about the similarities and differences in state violence and racism in both countries.
In Turkey today, 2.7 million people use online dating apps like Tinder, OKcupid, and Bumble. Both of the promises and the pitfalls of online dating have become more extreme as the coronavirus affects how people approach physical and emotional intimacy. A number of recent documentaries shed light on people’s experiences searching for sex, love, and/or entertainment on these platforms.
It’s a spring day in Athens. Over 120 Greek musicians and performers gather on the steps of the southern slope of the Acropolis to sing in Turkish. They gathered to express their solidarity with the Turkish protest band Grup Yorum.
Music festivals are among the many things that COVID-19 has taken away from us. There is simply no way to cram into a sweaty mass of dancing people and preserve one’s social distance. Yet event organizers are trying their best to find creative ways to keep the festival spirit alive.
Nilipek is an Istanbul-based singer and songwriter whose latest album Mektuplar (Letters) perfectly captures the emotional atmosphere of the quarantine days. Trapped between four walls, one is left alone with one’s own thoughts and memories.
The teen drama Aşk 101 (Love 101), Netflix’s latest Turkish-language offering, is full of clichés but is not without a certain charm. Yet the intense controversy that preceded the show’s release on April 24 had little to do with the story.
One positive outcome, if we can call it that, of the pandemic is that many of us have begun learning new skills. Bread has become the classic example. Yet certain habits are more difficult to satisfy at home. For many friends I know, drinking rakı at a meyhane is one of those experiences that they have missed the most.
At a time when many of us turn to fictional narratives to make sense of the mess that is our world, the detective show Alef and the podcast series Karanlık Bölge (The Dark Zone) provide just what the doctor ordered.
“Desperate times call for desperate measures.” Recognizing that artists would also be hit hard financially by the coronavirus, countries like Germany and the UK have created emergency funds for creative workers. In Turkey, securing support for creative workers such as musicians has been an uphill battle.
The Turkish government has encouraged citizens to avoid going outside, even asking them to declare their own state of emergency. Yet many do not have this luxury. A number of recent mini-series and documentaries released online paint a picture of everyday life in the parts of Istanbul where necessity continues to drive people—especially young people—onto the streets.
Music writer Barış Akpolat spent “200 Hours with Ezhel” conducting interviews that shed light on Ezhel’s musical journey from street concerts in Ankara to sold-out stadiums, from a jail cell in Istanbul to the New York Times list of the most important emerging artists in Europe. Akpolat’s book also provides insight into Ezhel’s political beliefs.
Turkey’s usually thriving artistic and cultural scene has been brought down to a whisper amid coronavirus outbreak. For those with the luxury or necessity of self-quarantine, artists and event organizers are trying their best to bring the arts directly into people’s homes. Or more accurately, to their computer screens.
A deadly virus has struck Istanbul. Panicked people flood the streets hoping to snatch up whatever necessities they can find. They attack each other while lining up for bottles of drinking water. Now that The Protector’s third season carries undeniable resonances with the most hot-button issue of the day, contagious viruses, it seems the most we can expect from the show is this kind of accidental relevance.
Since 2015, young, female musicians who upload covers or DIY music videos on YouTube have spearheaded a new strand of Turkish pop. Amongst them is the rising star Ekin Beril who released a debut LP last week.
With such names as ELZ AND THE CULT, She Past Away and Brek, Turkey's darkwave scene is thriving. In a predominantly conservative country, the scene offers spaces of hope.
Turkey's rising rap star Murda shows that the local scene is growing. And with it comes the North American blend of rap, pop and mawkish R&B.
Can Evrenol’s latest film, Girl With No Mouth (Peri: Ağzı Olmayan Kız), cements the director’s place as one of the leading figures of genre film in Turkey. While Turkish independent cinema is experiencing something of a renaissance, the material conditions for making and selling quality films are increasingly difficult.
Despite efforts to silence him, Demirtaş has remained an active figure in Turkey’s political scene, and now its literary scene. In late 2019, Demirtaş released Leylan, his third book written from his prison cell. Amid all denunciations and counter-denunciations, the literary significance of the work itself gets lost. Its voice and structure demonstrate newfound confidence.
For the past five or six years, venues owned or run by holding companies, corporations, and other massive commercial interests are increasingly the only places where music fans can see their favorite bands. One might say music fans are damned with them and damned without them.
2019 was a good year for Turkish music and 2020 is looking even better. A number of Turkish indie bands are releasing uncompromising music that has gained them an ever-growing following across the world. While the Turkish psych trend is in full swing, other bands are building a global fan-base without having to play up their Turkishness.
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Duvar English’s editor-in-chief Cansu Çamlıbel and pollster Can Selçuki discuss whether the recent crackdown on the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) portends a possible closure case against the party. They attempt to analyze who in the Turkish political landscape would benefit from antagonizing Kurdish voters; President Erdoğan or his alliance partner Mr. Bahçeli or both?
Politics
Turkey's Presidential Symphony Orchestra will thrive thanks to the completion of its long-awaited music hall, Conductor Cemi'i Can Deliorman said. Having been in the works for 25 years, the music hall's large auditorium can seat more than two thousand viewers.
A committee of main opposition CHP politicians said that the construction of a visitors' center on southeast Turkey's iconic Mount Nemrut was a betrayal to nature. The CHP committee noted that the site was pending assignment as a UNESCO geopark and that the construction was putting it in jeopardy.
The NATO has criticized a possible test by Turkey of its Russian-made S-400 missile launcher and stepped up calls on Ankara to opt for a different defense system. “Any test of the S-400 air defense system by Turkey, if confirmed, would be regrettable. It is important Turkey continues to work with other allies to find alternative solutions," it said in a statement.
CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu and Istanbul Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu sent congratulatory messages to HDP co-chairs Mithat Sancar and Pervin Buldan on the party's eighth foundation anniversary. "I underline once again that we will never give up on building peace and fraternity," İmamoğlu said.
Five health workers have died of COVID-19 in just one day, the Turkish Medical Association (TTB) said on Oct. 18, as it criticized the government for not being able to manage the pandemic properly. The names of the health workers were revealed as Dr. Salih Kanlı, Dr. Turan Yıldırım, Ferhat Gencer, Harun Dönmez and Yasemin Çolak. The number of health workers who died of COVID-19 in the past eight days rose to 13.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas has cancelled his planned visit to Turkey after Ankara said it was restarting operations of a survey ship that it withdrew last month. Maas said that Ankara's renewed push "severely damaged" the atmosphere of trust and said that Turkey can't have any interest in the long-term continuation of the conflicts that it's involved in.
Denizli Governor Ali Fuat Atik has prompted fury for ordering a restaurant to be closed because a waiter working there didn't recognize him. Following criticism on social media, Atik apologized, saying that he was saddened by his approach to the man. Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu also commented on the incident, saying that he found it appropriate for the governor to apologize.
Some 2,500 academics worldwide, including famed international scholars Judith Butler, Noam Chomsky, Silvia Federici, Etienne Balibar and Enzo Traverso, have signed a petition for Turkey to release Cihan Erdal, a PhD candidate and researcher at Carleton University in Canada and an LGBT activist, who was detained in Istanbul on Sept. 25.
A show owner in Denizli has told the governor of the province that he wants to die because of the worsening economy when asked why he was not wearing a mask. "I've had enough. I want to die. Look at the economy. I gained 15 liras on Tuesday and 100 liras on Wednesday. What use does it have even if that 100 liras is all profit?" the shop owner said.
In the government's latest attempt to criminalize the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), summary of proceedings have been prepared against 18 of its deputies, bringing charges against them for attending demonstrations and for making statements including the word "Kurdistan."
Osman Kavala remains behind bars as one of Turkey's most high-profile political prisoners, while President Erdoğan appointed the prosecutor who prepared Kavala's indictment to the post of Deputy Justice Minister. The appointment came within seven days of the indictment's preparation, and removed the prior appointee by presidential decree.
Hale Gönültaş reports: Turkey's financial crimes unit has determined that Afghan criminals engaged in drug smuggling and in the funding of terror operations are exploiting Afghan refugees in Turkey via bank transfers. As migrants are unable to transport large sums of money and often cannot open bank accounts in Turkey, they rely on moneychangers who transfer cash for a fee, and this is usually the only option.
A missile was fired into the sky on Oct. 16 on Turkey's Black Sea coast where the military was expected to test its Russian-made S-400 defense systems, according to local video obtained by Reuters. "If confirmed, we would condemn in the strongest terms the S-400 test missile launch as incompatible with Turkey’s responsibilities as a NATO  Ally and strategic partner of the United States," State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said.
Health Ministry failed to deliver an Oct. 15 data release that was designed to offset the repercussions of the revelation that Ankara's official COVID-19 numbers had been excluding asymptomatic patients. The ministry said that Fahrettin Koca's promise to release all data starting on Oct. 15 had been "misunderstood," and that they would only share certain numbers with the WHO.
Former President Abdullah Gül said that he was "appalled" by the attacks on Turkey's Constitutional Court, the most recent of which accused a member of threatening a military coup. The coup debate closely followed discussions on overhauling the Constitutional Court, which many members of the governing bloc in Ankara voiced support for.
Alterations on Istanbul's iconic Hagia Sophia reportedly violated guidelines mandated under the site's "UNESCO World Heritage" status. Converted within two weeks of the legal ruling that allowed Muslim worship, the ancient structure's mosaics were unlawfully covered up, and any work on it was deemed practically impossible, architectural publication Mimarlık Magazine reported.
Economy
President Erdoğan on Oct. 17 announced the discovery of an additional 85 billion cubic meters of natural gas in the Black Sea, following a similar find in August. As a result of testing, analysis and detailed engineering work, another 85 billion cubic meters were added to the reserves we had discovered. The total amount of natural gas reserves in the TUNA-1 well of the Sakarya Gas Field reached 405 billion cubic meters," Erdoğan said.
Turkish exporters are struggling with shrinking markets as Morocco appears to have joined the countries that are effectively boycotting all products made in Turkey. Sources from the Moroccan Ministry of Trade indicate that measures have been put in place to prevent unfair competition from Turkish textile producers who are dominating the local market.
Data from the Turkish Statistical Institute (TÜİK) revealed a dip in real estate sales vis-a-vis last year in September, dropping by 6.9 percent for some 136,744 residences sold. Meanwhile, the total volume of sales between January and September was larger than the number in 2019.
Urban Beat
Kurdish artist Zehra Doğan's work that she created during her two prison sentences between 2016 and 2019 are on display in Turkey for the first time. The artist was jailed on terrorism charges and gained international fame after finishing her second sentence and holding a show at London's Tate Modern.
CHP deputy Mustafa Adıgüzel has found a lost letter penned by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, Turkey's founding father, to a U.S. child called Curtis La France. "My advice to the intelligent and hardworking children of the U.S. is to not perceive everything they hear about Turks as true and attach importance to basing their opinions on scientific and sound examinations. I wish you success and happiness," Atatürk said in the letter.
The 39th Istanbul Film Festival will offer viewings both online and in-person, the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (IKSV) noted. While tickets will become available on Oct. 2, showings will start a week later and last for 10 days.