Flowers, tear gas and public toilets: more thoughts on Gezi

Monday, July 8

Tonight I was working at my office in the Urban Bar in Galatasaray, next to the umumi tuvaletler, or public toilets, located on a little side-street next to Galatasaray high school. I've been going there (the bar, that is) for almost twenty years, and ever since the legendary Kaktüs became Lonely Planetified a couple of years ago, the Urban ("Oor-bahn") has been my main place in the neighborhood, mainly for old time's sake. The clock on the wall even bears my last name.

Anyway, at a little after seven pm I heard two loud bangs and then about a half-dozen people ran down the street in front of the bar. It was happening again: gas in the city in this summer of anger.

It turned out that the much-heralded re-opening of Gezi Park that took place today didn't last for long. The Taksim Solidarity Platform had announced that they would exercise, in the park, their right to protest peacefully at 7 pm tonight. The response? Police-sponsored mayhem, again. All of the pretty flowers that city officials had boasted of planting in the park since it was cleared of protesters in mid-June made little difference. People still want the right to demonstrate without getting attacked.  

Chillin' in the B-lands/Fatih Kerimi

Thursday, July 4

A month or so ago when I was in Istanbul I visited Kubbealti, king of the photocopy men, and bought the original Arabic-script version of Fatih Kerimi’s travelogue Istanbul Mektupları, first published in Orenburg, Russia, in 1913. The book details Kerimi’s four-month trip to Istanbul in 1912-1913, during which time he met up with his friend Yusuf Akçura, who was working as the Istanbul correspondent for Kerimi’s Vakit newspaper back in Russia.

Over the course of this visit, Kerimi meets up with Akçura, Halide Edip, Ahmet Mithat and other Ottoman luminaries of Unionist-era Istanbul. It's a fascinating, beautiful book and a great travelogue.  
Fatih Kerimi in late imperial times