Plateau in front of the Istanbul municipality hall could be mistaken for a pop art exhibition: plastic models of people, in a glass box, positioned as performing their ablution and getting ready to join the fight against the coup attempt of July 15, 2016. The municipality building was one of the hot spots of the night of July 15. To commemorate the fight that night, the models of bearded men were put there. It is not unusual to see real people praying by the models.
These days, there is another struggle across the models, as a group of vegans stays in tents and protests for the rights of the horses at the so called, Princes’ Islands.
Horse carriages have lately become a hot topic in Istanbul. In the Princes’ Islands, the islands of Istanbul in the Marmara Sea, motor vehicles are not allowed, and the public transportation is provided by the horse carriages. Back in the day, when the islands were only visited by people who owned houses there and only few tourists, horses used to make only a small number of tours a day. It was a jolly ride, and carriage owners were still earning for their living.
Over the years, the islands started becoming busier. During bayram days, ferries are transporting from the mainland for free, so local tourists flood the streets of the islands. On regular days, mainly Middle Eastern tourists fill the streets, usually not eager to walk, so they like traveling in horse carriages. Long lines to hop on the carriages have become a regular scene. Long lines and thousands of tourists means higher earnings for the carriage owners. Long hours and exhausting tours for the horses pulling the carriages on the steep hills of the islands have usually not been taken into account.
Horses tumbling down and breathing their last breaths, while still being harnessed to the carriage has also turned into an everyday scene. Weak, limping horses trying to pull crowded families up the hills, often looks like a horror scene from a dystopian movie. Animal rights activists have been trying to reach out to the islands and protest the situation. However, horse carriage owners have proven to be a strong mob. Even people who are only trying to take a video of the state of the horses are usually being attacked.
The latest disaster was the glanders disease spreading among the horses. There is no recovery from glanders for horses. 81 horses on the islands that had the disease were killed. The governorate of Istanbul banned horses to be harnessed in the carriages for 3 months, only to be able to make the necessary health checks. The carriage owners were mad at the decision, as this job is their only income. In order to radicalize their anger, the owners released the horses from the stables. Starving animals were digging through garbage looking for food.
I asked the mayor of Istanbul Ekrem İmamoğlu, how he plans to resolve the problem. He said that the residents of the islands want to keep carriages in a symbolic number of 35. However, he added that he is even against this symbolic number, and is for abolishing the horse carriages for good. Instead of the carriages, İmamoğlu suggested to introduce electric vehicles, and add more bicycle lanes. He added that the city is working on the matter.
Until electric vehicles reach the islands, it seems horses of Istanbul will be trying to feed themselves out of the garbage, trying to survive the city’s windy winter.
Nobody in their right mind can think that being an opposition party in an autocratic environment is easy. However, one cannot learn how to swim without jumping in the water. Ali Babacan's party DEVA seems to be enjoying the dry land, not taking any risks, at a time when citizens are expecting brave and wise leadership.
At a time when Turkey, just like the rest of the world, is under grave threat from a new, unknown virus, and the state has to indirectly admit that it could soon be unable to pay for the basic needs, it is becoming obvious how costly President Erdoğan's populist megalomania projects are.
The health minister announcing the new numbers every night is creating an illusion of transparency. However, Turkish people are mostly being left in the dark. Little is being shared about the scope of the spread. Meanwhile it seems that President Erdoğan and his son-in-law and the Minister of the Economy see the coronavirus as an opportunity.
Turks on both the left and right of the spectrum have been united by conspiracy theories about the novel coronavirus, COVID-19. After the virus appeared, discourse about the U.S. trying to prevent the development of mighty China spread all over social media. Nationalist, leftist figures writing and speaking about the virus preferred to accuse the West when it came to the outbreak.
It is a fact that the ruling government has an obsession about Taksim square. The square is not only closed to women rallies, but pretty much any rally and gathering. There are though exceptions. One exception had been a group of Syrians celebrating new years with Free Syrian Army flags.
The refugees are not being told the truth by the authorities, Turkish public is not being told the truth either. Everybody is being kept in darkness that leads the way to more resentment and hatred.
Football in Turkey, as in many European countries, is structured around masculinity. Game days are the days when men can act like savages, insult men and women freely, and attack anyone they like — and they don’t face any consequences.
Turkey is still divided by the Gezi protests. Some see the protests as a struggle for freedom that had never happened before in Turkey and remember it with pride, while others detest the memory of the protests. For Erdoğan’s 50 percent, when the state tells you not to do something, you ought not to do it.
In a meeting between Mr Erdoğan and his party’s MPs, some MPs voiced their concerns about Turkish soap operas that they found to be not suitable for Turkish values and culture. According to the reports, Mr. Erdoğan agreed with the MPs and told them he was disturbed as well. When the President voices a concern about a matter, a new decree or law usually follows.
The chaos that occurred after the June 2015 election worked for Erdoğan, but his approval ratings tend to fall when terror attacks or wars halt and people start worrying about the economy. According to Metropoll, the last time Erdoğan’s approval rating was higher than 50 percent was 2018; the economy seems to be taking its toll on Erdoğan.
Up until now, the local businessmen used to support AKP without reservation, and it used to be a win-win situation for both parties. However, this cooperation seems to be fading. When Suriçi Group Platform hosts CHP chair Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, it is a significant development for Turkish politics.
There is the talk of early elections, both on the street and in back rooms. There is an expectation that some change will occur. The Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) has a more critical part to play in Turkish politics. However, it seems that it won’t be easy for the HDP to keep their traditional voter base satisfied while becoming a more relevant actor in the upcoming political period.
While many of the pro-government figures in Turkey were preaching about what sort of a villain Soleimani was, the Turkish secular left was busy describing him as the “Che Guevara of the Middle East.” Though it depends on how one perceives Che Guevara, the comparison was supposed to be a compliment to Soleimani’s legacy.
Totalitarian systems usually come up with their own ideal man. Tayyip Erdoğan believes the future of his Turkey lies in İmam Hatip school education. He believes the only way to create his “ideal man” is to educate young Turkish people in line with the strict religious education of the imam hatip schools. As Erdoğan became stronger, so did the imam hatip schools.
President Erdoğan’s military advisor and the founder of the armed group SADAT, recently suggested that Islamic unity will be possible when Mahdi comes. Erdoğan’s military advisor announcing his mission to prepare for Mahdi’s arrival is definitely not a good sign for Turkey’s near future.
Led by Erdoğan, the AKP has been reshaping the secular life of Turks for the last 17 years, bit by bit. The latest in the line of religiously-inspired incidents happened in Adana, a southern Turkish city with a unique character whose people are proud of their city, their type of kabab and their Adana ways.
Last Sunday, women gathered in one of the Istanbul’s busy centers, Kadıköy. Their aim was to protest violence against women and the inaction of the state. However, as usual in recent years in Turkey, the police jumped in and dispersed the crowd, detaining some of the women protesters.
Turkey is now being ruled by an exceptional version of a presidential system. Everything is ultimately decided by the President, with ministries and the legislative branch having a marginal influence. But he also wants citizens to be able to reach the Palace directly. And CIMER is the answer!
Imamoğlu ran his election campaign not on a narrative of fighting, but a narrative of peace. He promised to be inclusive, and he was careful not to target Erdoğan in his speeches. He aimed to grab AKP votes by not targeting Erdoğan. However, now it seems that he is shifting gears.
Gas prices have doubled overnight in Iran. Since Nov. 15, street protests and riots have been spreading. The protests started peacefully, but turned violent fairly quickly. The security forces were relentless: they had no intention of tolerating this public objection to the price increase.
One of the heaviest financial crises in Turkey’s history was in 2001. It first became public symbolically when a salesman threw a cash till at then-Prime Minister Bülent Ecevit. The man threw the giant cash box in front of the cameras as Ecevit was walking into his office. As the till hit the floor and shattered into pieces, the salesman yelled, “We are struggling!” The incident symbolically marked the beginning of the end of the Ecevit era.
The Sevres Syndrome has been a factor that impedes rationality for many Turkish citizens trying to make some sense of global dynamics. In recent years, Turkish-American relations have deteriorated at an unprecedented rate. For many Turks, this was simply another example of hatred against the Turks, this time coming from across the ocean. However, even in the more rational circles in Turkey, it is almost impossible to hear critical analysis concerning Turkey’s responsibility in the failing relationship.
After the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, Turks established the Turkish Republic. However, even the issue of what to celebrate proves that Turks have a long road ahead before they feel like a truly united nation that shares similar ideals and prospects for future.
According to Turkish civil law, the party who has the economic advantage in the marriage is to pay for children’s expenses and some expenses of the former spouse. In most cases the economic advantage is with the men, since on the one hand many men do not want their wives to work during the marriage and also social inequalities cause men to be the breadwinners of the families, not the women.