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The Way Is The Goal

Tag: politics

Istanbul rocks peace

The three of us sit at the front of a small fishing boat, peddling our feet in the water. The captain guides our boat to the fish, over the Marmara Sea with our backs to the Topkapi Palace, the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sofia.

The captain’s son is telling me how grateful he is, how privileged he feels to be able to enjoy Istanbul from a boat. “Millions live here but who is actually able to enjoy Istanbul like this?”, he reflects.

His dad bought the boat just five years ago, after his retirement. Quite a character he is: a funny, open, intelligent man full with humor. As we are unable to catch the big fish we want, he jokes to me not to tell anyone, especially not in the Netherlands. ‘Just tell them that we caught many big fish!’

How amazing to be part of this crew! Just days after returning from traveling from the South of Turkey with my partner, and having been with my new Istanbul host for just some hours, he receives the invitation to go fishing the next day. We get up at eight and an hour later we have our breakfast on the boat in a small Istanbul harbour.

While some of the other fishermen join us I am drinking my tea. They are joking. I am being introduced as the Dutch friend of the son’s friend and they ask me if I can swim and if they also know how to fish in Holland.

A little while later we leave the harbour to a spot a mile away from the coast, where there are more boats and fishermen. We take out the gear and merely 20 minutes later we already caught 40 fish to be used to catch bigger ones closer to the coast.

But the big ones don’t bite and since ‘we need something for lunch’ we return to the first spot to catch more of the smaller ones. We catch at least a hundred more, they are being cleaned o the boat with the water from the sea, and we feed the intestines to the seagulls. Yet an hour later we enjoy our wonderful lunch at the harbour with laughs and stories we share. What a wonderful experience!

And as we were seated with the three of us at the front of the boat I remembered what Vero and I told a man who gave us a lift in the south of Turkey, who asked us if we would need some money: ‘We are happy with what we have and need little to be happy…’

I also come to realise yet again how most Turkish people live their lives. How aware some are with what they have and at the same time how to be thankful for it, how to share this with others who don’t have it, how to share happiness and how not to preserve special things for oneself but to realise in fact that sharing makes everyone better. Win-win at its best.

This principle of sharing, how to be thankfull and to be aware of me being priviliged in terms of the opportunities that I have had, are among the most important things that I learned in Turkey.

While the Istanbul heat was ever-present last weekend, I spend three days in a forest, enjoying the fresh shades of the trees and a refreshing breeze. But I was not alone! The forest turned into a small town of fifty thousand, all there to enjoy the fifth edition of BarisaRock (Rocking for Peace) festival – with free entry and normal prices for drinks and food a unique festival for Europe.

There was a special atmosphere at the festival. Not only could you see most people walking around with smiles on their faces all the time and partying until early morning. But chances were high that you encountered some form of protest for even cheaper beer, the right ‘to get drunk’, free toilets or even against techno-music at the festival.

Barisarock is organised by volunteers and has a budget of only 5000 euro. The idea is that enjoying music should be possible without sponsors and commercial interests. It is therefore not just a festival for music but also a political act: it started as a free alternative against the commercial Rock’n Coke Festival a weekend later with an entry-fee of seventy euro and high prices for food and drinks.

Another great thing of Barisarock is the free space available to anyone willing to perform or organise. Apart from funny protests there were serious debates and different types of gatherings at the festival, as well as exhibitions, forest-games and theatre all day long.

For me it was a revelation to experience such an event. I was one of the only foreigners present, and it was great to be part of such a huge Turkish musical gathering.

Also, I was quite amazed to see that people are still able to organise these free events. Festivals have since long been killed by commercial interests, but these people have been able to pull it off: three days of festival with free entry, free camping, normal food-prices and no sponsors or any other commercial activity allowed.

WordPress Blocked in Turkey

Periods come and periods go. It is the life-cycle of our planet and its nature, which we are part off. It is so obvious and forms such a big part of our lives that especially men tend to neglect and forget. But it is here and it affects us all in the end. So it affected me, or shall I rather say my computer?

Over 3 years it served as a ‘true’ companion, a friend and a budy. Always there when I needed it and always helping me to experiment, whether it was for the purpose of writing, hacking, traveling, photography or keeping iın touch wıth friends and family, it served its purpose very well.
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What keeps me busy

Istanbul, Sunday morning. Church bells wake me up. A familiar sound as I grew up in a large town with well over twenty churches. But hold on, aren’t we in a moslim country?

Istanbul is pretty much well-known for its diversity; it always has. It is a very cosmopolitan city with people from all different identities from all over the world, while at the same time there are currently still over thirty different original ethnicities within Turkey.

Still, politicians in this country see it as their life-goal to make everyone believe there is just one Turkish identity. Nationalism is an important asset of power and to challenge this is still uncommon. You are free to believe in whatever religion but you must not emphasize other parts of your identity, such as speaking in another language than Turkish (Kurdish for example).

In this sense Turkey is not very far from other countries that have led a top-down approach of enforcing one national identity, in particular France. Over the course of more than two hundred years France has almost successfully gotten rid of many different identities and traditions that find their roots in the many French regions.

And for me personally this is a sensitive issue. One of the main reasons why I originally left the Netherlands was the rise of nationalism and subsequently the growing disrespect for people that are considered to be different. I felt very powerless against this stream. It left me frustrated. Among other elements it was this feeling of frustration that made me leave 3,5 years ago.

But thankfully there are still people who challenge this ideology of one national identity. Also in Turkey. People that challenge this idea keep on emphasizing what Turkey still is between the lines; that the country is actually made up of more than thirty different etnicities.

And they emphasise that all people should have the right to express themselves in their own chosen way  such as language, clothes, sexuality, religion, dance, food or any other cultural-political element, as long as they permit others to do the same.

For the past two weeks I worked as a photographer and followed a political candidate for the upcoming parliamentary elections (22nd of July  2007) who is of this line. The candidate supports the idea that there is not one Turkish identity but many. He even turned this into his main issue. He is therefore also supported by different Armenian communities and many other minority communities in Istanbul.

These weeks have been quite fulfilling as such. Not only have I learned how political campaigns work in this country – also have I learned more about photo-journalism.

And wow, that can be quite a tough job, as you have to be on the spot and focused most of the time however boring it sometimes can be (even more since you don’t understand what they are talking about). All in all, these past weeks have revealed to me a new or rather different scope of politics, campaigning and photography.

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