The Smiths are one of the few CDs that we have in Turkey so it becomes one of our rituals to play their greatest hits on our travels, with the boys attempting to understand Morrissey’s complex lyrics. So their song Ask has especially apt lyrics towards the end that fit well with recent events.
Unless you have been living under a rock there was a certain major even that took place and almost scuppered our chances of making it here this year. Plenty has been written about it, and for a while at least it was all over the European newspapers. There is still at least one story per day in a non Turkish newspaper or on European TV news, but here in Turkey it remains a major story dominating the papers and television.
When we arrived in Adana and Mersin there was no real sign of anything being any different. Except perhaps for the number and size of flags flying. Mersin has always been pretty big on flag flying anyway but outside Bayrams they’re not often on buildings. They are now.
Since the event there have been a number of rallies. They’re designed for people, supposedly from all political parties, to come together for democracy. This culminated last week in the ‘unity rally’, which dominated all the TV channels, even the sports ones by interrupting coverage of the Olympic games. The big rally was in Istanbul and relayed to all the various towns and cities, including Mersin. We only learned about it because we past them setting up on Sunday morning as we went to church.
The bombs, it would seem did bring people together. Well, that is if you were invited. HDP (the Kurdish party) most certainly were not. Also, people who were invited but did not wish to attend have become persona no grata too.
The thing is, life appears to go on as normal, and nothing appears to have changed here, at least not visibly unless you are unfortunate enough to have worked for a certain institution that has been forcibly closed. The reality is that things have changed dramatically for many. Yet there aren’t clear, visible signs of it here. Cue the Ankara trip.
I have friends in Ankara who were at home while it was all kicking off. Some closer to the action than others. So while some just heard the jets flying overhead, at least one of my friends (who had only come over on their annual trip from Jakarta) were at home in Cankaya hearing the bombing. If you don’t know Ankara, and you certainly won’t know where they live in relation to the parliament, then to give some context their home is literally less than five minute’s drive from Parliament. Add to that the fact that parliament is the bottom of a big hill, with their home about 3/4 of the way up, then it’s a perfect amphitheatre to amplify the sound. Not great. What a time to pick to come, but then who knew this was all going to happen?
Ankara is certainly no Aleppo, not even close. But unless you go to certain places you wouldn’t even know a bomb had been dropped, let alone several. It wasn’t till I demanded we go to Ankamall to buy the kids some new clothes that we saw the first scarred building. The emniyet mudurlugu (or police headquarters) is a place I am very familiar with. Every year I used to have to make several trips to renew my ikamet (residence and work permit). It is right next to Ankamall. It has two buildings. One was very clearly a shell now, a high rise with almost no widows left and below it, where a concrete public security entrance was, now a collapsed mess of concrete and steel. The building now draped in two enormous flags and people walking by getting on with their daily lives. I didn’t stop for pictures, I didn’t want to be a gawker.
Next day M wanted to go to his old place of work to see the damage for himself–Parliament. It was an almost comical exchange with a policeman where he explained who he was and that he wanted to show the kids the bombed areas. We were allowed in. Quite a few stares, not many kids roam the floors of the parliament building, if any. What they saw made them finally understand why dad had been glued to the news endlessly and it was all about the ‘darbe’.
This is just a few of the photos we took. The damage is in quite a contained area. It felt rather odd to take photos of this. The ornate doors to the debating chamber were damaged and had to be replaced with ugly cheap laminate. The grand front entrance doors and one side of the hall way were badly damaged too. Outside one of the glass boxes, where the ceremonial police guard in red uniforms, were cracked but the policemen still stood there.
There is now only one vehicle entrance open on the Dikmen Caddesi side, all the others are blocked off. The gardens on the street to the front of the building now have their paths cordoned off so the public can not get closer to parliament than the pavement of the street. The water cannon were also more evident than in the past on the roundabout outside. There are also bomb damaged trees on the Dikmen Caddesi side.
Weirdly at the back of the building it looks like they are clearing away bomb damage. But actually those buildings are the old MPs’ offices, long since vacated after a new building was finished last year. They want to demolish them but it turn out they are listed, so can’t. The interior of those offices are dark and gloomy, with very little natural light getting in. They are also a celebration (poorly) of brutalism concrete architecture. Had a bomb targeted those it would have meant they could demolish them.
Everywhere else is still pretty calm and serene. We went for a drink in the parliamentary gardens after getting kicked out of the AKP weekly meeting of the parliamentary party. Apparently they didn’t mind the kids being there, it was M and I they asked to leave. M took them back to hear the Prime Minister speak. Oh he was dull, a delivery style straight out of the 1950s, though not too shouty. His eminence still favours the shouty delivery, but just the very dull PM today.
On our way out we saw a room with with HDP flags, they were getting ready for their weekly parliamentary party meeting. Selehattin Demirtas, their leader had not arrived. I wanted to wait and try to meet him. From what I have read he is a great guy with a real understanding on democracy, who attracted many non Kurds to vote for him and finally get past the baraj to gain seats in Parliament. We waited a bit, but M wanted to get on and I had a friend to visit.
It was a sobering visit to Ankara this time. The bombs have created a sort of warped unity, or have they. I know many who have decided this event is the one to push them to leave. Not from panic but from a vision of the future that starts with: first they came for…..
Whether the ending is as they predict remains to be seen.
As for Morrissey, it’s a definitely a shame that it’s not love but it’s the bomb, the bomb, the bomb…………