Sunday June 16, Istanbul

June 16, 2013

Where to start…

 

I guess where I left off…

 

I was sitting at the lavazza cafe when I wrote the last installment. Hunger brought me out on the street, back up to Istiklal from the Galata tower. On the way, I see the dervishes museum. I look. Ceremony of whirling dervishes at 5 PM. OK. It’s a date.

 

It is not as quiet as it was a couple of hours earlier. There is a steady flow of humanity heading towards Taksim Square. My personal agenda at this point was simply to find actual food… As I approach the Galatasaray high school, a policeman stands forbiddingly in the middle of the road. I sniff the air. Gas. OK, things have started… I watch for a little bit. This looks like a gathering point for police.

 

I track my steps back up a little bit, right by the Turkcell store, is a ledge on which to sit. I sit there for a good 40 minutes. Usually I see mostly men sitting out like this but I need a break. My presence I notice, incites other women to sit next to me. We are all just watching, absorbing. There is an endless stream of people mostly heading towards Taksim. Contrary to the first days, people are better equipped: Masks, scarves, googles, spray bottles with white liquid to counteract the gas. The mood is quite good. Not as festive as I’ve seen it, but there is a staunch determination in the faces that pass by.

 

Suddenly voices rise, I know that sound by now. The roar of the crowds resounding against the Istiklal buildings, amplified into something that cannot leave anyone indifferent. This usually means police action is taking place. Chanting starts… Then the boos and thenit’s time to run. From my vintage point, slightly uphill, the mass of bodies move, wave like in a rush towards us with a hush of feet, clothing, voices and bodies in movement. But they stop. And reclaim the territory just abandoned. I am noticing that now, people have signals to indicate “run away” or “stop running” or come back. The the mass of people is acting as one.

 

I decide to head back towards the Tunel. I get to the Simit house, decide to get tea and a sandwich. I barely put my food on a table when the chanting hits our ears, they are close and by the tone of it, the police is close behind…

 

As they run by, the restaurant’s employees, rush to close the windows, some tourists are scared, some run in, some run out. I get my camera. Within minutes the ominous Kuvvett truck appear on the horizon. Riot police follows. I watch the cannon on top of the truck, making sure it is not aimed towards this shop. I heard of police attacking people in a hotel yesterday… I film.

 

"water" cannon

“water” cannon

 

riot police ready to pounce

riot police ready to pounce

 

the protesters on the other side

the protesters on the other side

 

the leader of the squad

the leader of the squad

 

photographer in street gear

photographer in street gear

 

 

 

 

How strange. Surreal. Like a movie unfolding in front of me… the police, fires tear gas bombs “in” the crowd ahead. Then it’s the water cannon. Water very obviously twinned with an orange agent… While this takes place, photographers alongside the police take leisurely images of the action. One man across is on his balcony, not wearing any shirt, watching this as if it was some inocuous street festival… Across from the police the protesters who had retreated, now taunt them… more gas, more “water”

 

Then coming from a side street, we hear tear gas being shot. A white wall of tear gas rises. We cover our faces…

 

After a while, the police moved the trucks and started to shoot down the street that leads to Galata Tower.

 

protesters near the dervish museum

protesters near the dervish museum

 

more protesters

more protesters

 

Finally they go away. I head out. On the way to Galata, everyone looks war worn. Sweaty, with safety hats and gas masks… My whole goal still being the dervishes at five, which is fast approaching… I get near the gate, a group of tourists are talking to the attendant. The head up stream following directions from the attendant. I decide to follow them. We arrive at the back gate of the museum. I have no idea what is being said but I follow inside.

 

Trees, grass, old buildings… peace… we follow our guide inside the museum… air conditioning… There is an assortment of tourists. They all seem so “soft” to me. Wide eyed. I’m not sure what is going to take place. I sit. Sigh. Wait.

 

A woman is trying to take a picture and looks supremely annoyed when another woman stands up in her frame… how western… I close my eyes. Cough. The gas.

 

The man next to me asks : “ are you OK?” I look up:

 

“Yes, thank you.”

 

“Were you in the gas?”

 

“Yes, I was.”

 

“Where are they now?”

 

I told him about what just took place up the street. I actually have no idea as to the extent of this guerilla. Could be all over. Could be only around here… We chat a bit. He is a musician also. On a spiritual journey.

 

They announce that the ceremony will take place. I shell out 40 liras, and head upstairs.  I am hoping that energy put into this sort of thing would be better than fighting and maybe… it can help alleviate things…  on some level

 

dervishes

dervishes

The music starts. The dervishes walk in. within a short moment I am under the spell. The flashes, clicks and blips and zaps of cameras is incessant. I don’t want to film or shoot. Seems rude. I took 2 pictures. Just to have them.

more

more

 

It is very beautiful. Otherworldly. I am shaken by the way their hands go from their shoulders, down in front of their chests, skin against the white of the robes, in a most graceful arc.. then rise, one hand opened to God, the other as if slightly grasping a ribbon of air, a flow, a current. The sound of the feet, the robes… I lifted somehow.

 

At the end I regretfully opened my eyes… time to go.

 

Outside, we hear the chanting. People don’t know what to do. I want to head out. As always, on the move. I spot the musicians heading towards the back gate, I follow them.

following the musicians

following the musicians

 

a few steps from the dervish museum war is waged

a few steps from the dervish museum war is waged

My new friend and his companions follow. We head on the street… next right… It looks like a battle just took place. People all eyes reddened, some with the telltale white residue from the spray against the gas.

tired

tired

 

Some sit on the sidewalk, exhausted. I take the way around the Tunel, People are now destroying things in order to get some sort of material for either barricading or for throwing. I keep going. Get to Istiklal. Yes, people are walking with brinks, metal pieces, plywood… heading towards Taksim.

 

carrying material

carrying material

 

 

I’m almost at the Chill Out… Suddenly the flow reverses, they run, this time it’s more like a stampede. I slide into the side street… go down… around… up to the Chill Out…. Blam! Massive gas. I manage to slide inside the hotel. Suddenly my eyes burn like hell. I close them. A girl comes to me and sprays my eyes. I stay there for a while. There are no familiar faces but one guy. I ask him if he knows anything… I learn that Erdogan is at this very moment giving a speech somewhere in Istanbul.

 

Blam! Blam! Blam! Blam! …

More gas. The view outside turns into a white wall of gas. Gas! Gas! People run upstairs…

 

The same scenario happens a few minutes later. Except that this time, dozens of policemen rush by the hotel. Hopefully they don’t come in… They don’t.

 

I wait a while longer… it’s calm. I head for the flat. Goggles and scarf… At the bottom of the streets, Protesters are waiting, one says something and motions a bit brusquely towards me. I stop…

 

“Are you OK?”

 

“Yes. Yes. Thank you.”

 

“You’re welcome.”

 

I stop at the vegetable store, get bread, butter, fruits and cheese. I pay.

 

“Teşekkur ederim… Iyi günler” (thank you, have a nice day) He got my joke and smiled. Yes, have a nice day…

 

Down the street there is the Sunday market. My face burns. But I really am OK. My mind is so full.

 

I walk up the stairs, my roommates are watching the internet live broadcast… it is Erdogan… Then it is different hot spots across Turkey.

 

At 9 o’clock, the pots and pans start…

as the pots and pans resonnate

as the pots and pans resonate

 

All over the streets of Istanbul, the Turks are protesting. Protesting this violence. This gratuitous abuse of power over citizens. The Turks are fighting for their rights. And I cannot be indifferent.

 

Thunder in the distance. Now the skies open up. Heavy rain. Cool air comes in through my window. It feels like a cleansing this rain. Come, come down. Come down hard. Wash all this poison, gas, pepper. Wash it off the roofs, the walls. Wash it off the upturned faces of the Turkish people fighting for democracy.

 

 

 

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