During celebrations many people wave about the colors red, green, and yellow. They have a beautiful hue when the flags wave about and, not coincidentally, these are also the colors of the Kurdistan flag so many Kurds hoist their flags during the parades. In many parts of Turkey this practice can be extremely polarizing. The tenuous relationship between the Turkish government and the Kurdish people has the bloodstains of terrorism and military intervention drowning the diplomacy that is barely treading water.Read More
News has reached American soil, but many details are still unclear here in the city about a car bomb in Istanbul that has killed 11 so far and injured 36. An English language Turkish source has this to say about today's terrorist attack. This is the 3rd attack in Istanbul this year. The first coming on January 12th in the historic Sultanahmet district, killing 10--all German and Peruvian tourists. The next on March 19th, killied 3 Israelis and 1 Iranian on Istiklal, the main shopping street. Not to mention, attempted attacks on police stations in poorer suburbs of the city that sporadically occur. In Ankara, the capital, there have been almost 60 killed this year. And, in the southeast there have been countless attacks, shootings and bombings between the military and Kurdish rebel groups.
Generally attacks have come from two groups this year, Daesh (ISIS or ISIL) and Kurdish Separatist groups (mainly, PKK or TAK). Both groups have had a particular M.O., at least in their Western Turkish attacks. Daesh has targeted civilians and popular tourist destinations, while the PKK and TAK attacks have mostly targeted police and military positions.
Today, a remotely detonated car bomb was triggered, seemingly to take out a police bus passing at that moment--where 7 seven officers have died as of publication. 4 civilian casualties and countless injuries blur the intentions of this attack, which took place on the outskirts of the old city and mere blocks from one the city's largest and oldest universities, which so happened to have final exams starting today on the 2nd day of Ramadan.
Thankfully all my friends and family are safe and our lives continue to be as unaffected as they can given these almost desensitizing attacks. But, not everyone else is so lucky has been. The past few months have been relatively quiet compared to the end of 2015 and start of 2016. Let's hope it stays that way.
Sorry if you think writing about a current events situation two weeks after the fact is too much of a delay, but I was on vacation (thanks, Mom!) and am now just getting back into my daily routine. With that said, I've had some interesting days here in Turkey. With one sticking out as one of the strangest that I've had in Istanbul so far. A nationwide blackout occurred on March 31st from 10 am - 4 pm. And by nationwide I mean pretty much every major city lost power. If you were lucky enough to work in a larger facility your day continued as usual (I wasn't). Otherwise, the country and especially Istanbul was chaotic. Many businesses lack a backup generator which halted production and caused up to millions of dollars in losses according to some estimates. Some people were also stuck in elevators for hours. Outside, the city dealt with its own issues as stop lights and subway lines went out of service for as much as five hours. And in a city spilling over capacity at about 20 million people traffic is already an issue on a normal day. Without work to do and nowhere to go the conspiracy theories began to fly. A conclusive reason has yet to be discovered but there have been numerous ideas ranging from the realistic to the absurd and some preliminary investigations leaking details of a cause, but nothing concrete as of yet. I'll give you a brief overview of the most prominent conjectures and let you make your own decision.
Cyber Attack - The most conspiracy theoryish idea, so of course a lot of people believe it. The idea is that Iran somehow took out Turkey's electrical grid. I have no idea whether this is even possible but one of the reasons I've heard as to why people think it was an attack from Iran, besides geopolitical reasons, is because the city of Van had no outages and they receive their electricity from Iran. Besides the fact that this detail would make this the most conspicuous covert operation I've ever heard of; it defies simple logic. Of course Van would go unaffected if it's not on the national power grid, but I digress.
Employee Error - Probably the easiest to swallow (and most likely) for most people. Someone in Ankara probably fell asleep at the wheel, so to speak, or plugged the wrong what's-it into the incorrect thingy and the next thing you know an entire nation is contemplating the End of Days.
Mismanagement - Another idea partially attributed by the Minister of Energy, Taner Yildiz. A single company, TEİAŞ, is responsible for almost all electrical production and distribution in Turkey. Yildiz blamed people for being careless and taking risks without his knowledge. This is an incredibly vague description. The company's head, Kemal Yildir, took responsibility and resigned saying it was a technical issue and he should've been ahead of it.
Technical Issues - Yildiz also said that simultaneous work at two different plants on the same grid caused a surge which resulted in the events of the 31st. He stated it was an operational fault and not a supply one, however. The stability of the system and its ability to bounce back after a possible future similar event was supported by Yildiz. Even though TEİAŞ was unable to restore power for almost six hours just a week ago. I'm not an electrical engineer, but appears that Yildiz is doing some political posturing instead of giving an objective assessment on the status of the grid.
Potential for Nuclear Energy - The other talked about theory I've heard from a lot of locals is that this is a power move being structured by the government to garner support for nuclear reactors. Just days ago, banners went up all around the capital of Ankara advertising the building of nuclear facilities. A lot people view the power outage as a crafty maneuver to sway those who fear environmental repercussions from nuclear energy to look past their hesitancies because of the fear of instability and perhaps their biggest fear, the loss of revenue.
On a more serious note, the largest courthouse in Europe, located in Istanbul, less than a mile from my home encountered a hostage situation simultaneously to the blackout. Two gunmen who claimed to be affiliated with the DHKP-C, a banned Marxist political group that is considered a Terrorist organization by Turkey, the EU, and the US, took the prosecutor of the police officer who shot Berkin Elvan hostage with demands of: a public confession from the officer who fired on Elvan, the public naming of four other officers who were allegedly involved, and the gunmen wanting to ensure their own safe exit. After almost a full day of negotiations shots were fired from inside the office. The two gunmen were killed and the prosecutor was shot and died from his injuries at the hospital.
The whole situation, while being sad, raised a more puzzling question. How were these men able to bring guns into such a heavily fortified building? There's the chance that with the blackouts and general chaos of the day the men were able to circumvent security, but this has pushed others to speculate the two events are connected. I'm not going to make that assumption, personally, because I have no way to verify it, but I can say it was one of the crazier days I've experienced in Turkey.
Welcome! Thanks for reading, it's been a long time coming but I've finally found time to get this little blog off the ground. Even if that means just writing an introductory post. Anyways, as some of you know I moved to Istanbul, Turkey in the beginning of June and plan on staying for the foreseeable future. I'm writing this because it's cathartic in a way, but also to fill my time (especially now that the rainy season is starting) and to inform those back home who are interested in what I'm up to or curious about Turkey as a place a little insight into what's going on over here.
Most stuff in the news in the US, , when not being largely ignored, revolves around the tragic and controversial happenings like: the Soma disaster, Gezi Park protests, twitter ban, government corruption, etc. While I don't want to pretend like these issues don't exist it's unfair to think about these situations as the only things happening. There is the bad, but there is so much more in this unique place.
It's Kurban Bayram (Feast of the Sacrifice) so I have some lamb that I need to watch get got and then devour. So, as I try to make this blog not just a preachy message about understanding a foreign culture I'll answer some questions that I get frequently asked. Before I left and even now I constantly hear, "why Turkey? Why would you ever want to leave the US? Is it safe?". I feel that I could go on for awhile about any of those, the short answers being: why not, see the world, and yes. Instead of expanding on those right now though I'll just leave this video below to show people what I see living here.