A Quiet Scream

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View from Pierre Loti, on top of Haliç

A big city has a lot of problems. Traffic, waste, crowd, living expenses, unplanned urbanization, slums, air pollution… you name it.

A big city like Istanbul has a lot of emotional baggage on top of these problems. It struggles to preserve its soul while gentrification, corruption, rant, severe change in demographics take place and it puts up with many mistakes of many nations that have left a scar on its skin.

What made me think about the baggage was a trip to Eyup, Ayazma, Fener and Balat neighborhoods. The section that was at the outskirts of old Istanbul, even outside of the city walls in Byzantine era, right along the Golden Horn. The area was booming with Greek Orthodox, Armenians, Jews, and Muslims once upon a time.

When Fatih conquered Istanbul, according to our guide, his idea was not to make Istanbul only capital of Islam faith but the whole world. Minorities was a part of his plan of repopulating the city and making it grander than ever. So Constantinople boomed and became the largest city of Europe.

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That was then… 5oo years ago. Now, it is a different history. While you see a heavy hand of Muslims around the same area, the traces of minorities are seen but not them. The churches look lonely. The fading bright colors of houses are now just a distant reminder of how cheerful they were once. The gentrification, or what the government calls City Transformation efforts is driving the old habitants away because they can not afford to live there after this so called transformation. This alone deserves another post (or several!) of its own.

Jews are struggling to keep the synagogue open. You can see what it was once with the big buildings of minority schools. However, Fener Patriarch is having hard time to fill up the schools with students. They are either closed or operating well under their capacity due to a drastic decrease in population. Armenians struggle and fear in a society which continuously battles them in history.

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There is so much to write. This is just a small portion of minority-related issues that Turkey has. Assassinations, wrong policies, provocations, international treaties. This topic carries a lot of emotions that blur the objectivity for everyone most of the time. Among all the reasons, driving a wedge between people has played the big role in bringing us to where we are today. Do we really have to choose black or white all the time? We have moments in our history that should have made us look at ourselves harder.

That is what I thought as I walked all day, through the streets of a part of Istanbul that was unknown to me, and listened to the guide.

Yes, I took a guided tour in the city I was born, raised and lived. Sometimes, we are that foreign to our own.

Note: If you want to read a bit more, here is the links I read while writing this. There is a lot to read once Googled.

If you want to see more pictures, you can visit my Istanbul board on Pinterest or Flickr account.

http://www.pinterest.com/ilkemcaliley/istanbul/

https://www.flickr.com/photos/59232471@N06/

http://www.minorityrights.org/4387/turkey/turkey-overview.html

http://www.todayszaman.com/national_minorities-new-turkey-discourse-continuation-of-sept-6-7-incidents_357982.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Istanbul_pogrom

 

 

 

7 Comments:

  1. by Turkey's For Life
    11:08 am
    Jan 24, 2015

    Not sure what to say in this comment, really, Ilke. Istanbul is such a special city to the whole world and it does feel like the soul is being ripped out of it. We try to visit once a year at least and each time we go, there’s something we see that makes us ‘silent scream.’ Love the title of this post, by the way. Not sure we’ll go to Taksim Square next time we’re there because that just made me want to cry. There are no doubt lots of cities all over the world that can plead similar cases – but we all feel what’s close to us, and that’s Istanbul.
    Julia x

  2. by Ilke
    11:19 am
    Jan 24, 2015

    Hi Julia, yes I am sure there is a piece of every historic city that had the fortune of having a lot of different groups experiencing the same. Wish we could stop some things but it is hard to win against time and change.

  3. by Mary
    1:30 pm
    Jan 24, 2015

    I took a guided tour through Fener and the closed Greek churches with the wonderful mosaics, and felt much the same as you did. There is a historical undercurrent in these neighborhoods that should be celebrated, rather than abandoned. I was yelled at by a resident for taking photographs! Wish that people could acknowledge and cherish their minorities – that said, America has much the same problem. Thanks for your thoughtful post.

  4. by Ilke
    11:57 pm
    Jan 24, 2015

    I am sorry you got yelled at. I was given “the looks” a couple of times but somehow I managed to ignore them, probably because nobody verbalized it. I guess this is a problem of anywhere of mixed cultures. Despite the problems, would not have it any other way though.

  5. by irene
    9:44 pm
    Jan 27, 2015

    This was a great post…about Istanbul. I’ve never been in that area, but your pics are amazing. Love the historical atmosphere there….something new for me to explore when I’m there. Thanks again for sharing your photos…it makes me feel like I’m there…your composition of the whole outlook is quite artistically snapped with your camera.

  6. by Ilke
    10:03 pm
    Jan 27, 2015

    Thank you very much for your nice words Irene.

  7. by Joy @MyTravelingJoys
    7:32 am
    Mar 4, 2015

    Merhaba Ilke! I can only imagine how your visit was for you especially since you are Turkish. It’s sad to see all the changes happening in historic neighborhoods like this as well as all over the country. I’m afraid there’s not much we can do, but I do appreciate your photos.

    And yes, gentrification does happen everywhere. Here in Warsaw, I see the few remaining original buildings from preWWII being remodeled and basically destroying the historical beauty of them. There are several buildings left, but I fear they will only disappear over time as well as the city modernizes. The Poles seem to want to forget that part of their history.

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