As we are riding to Ankara and the drive is several hours, I thought it a good time to talk about the political or social climate currently inTurkey. Many of my friends expressed concern about my coming to Turkey given the large protests and unrest in Istanbul three months ago and the current saber rattling going on between Syria and the rest of the world – most notably the U.S. And since I’m thinking some of you might have seen the U.S State Department’s warning to non-essential personnel and tourists traveling in Turkey that came out yesterday, figured this would be a good time to address some of those concerns.
First, the warning from the State Department is for an area of Turkey that we will not be visiting. It is, as you may have guessed, for an area around the Syrian border. Think of it this way, it would be like a warning for NYC and you live in Wyoming. You would be concerned for friends and family in the affected area and for the potential trauma to your national psyche, but you wouldn’t freak out in Worland, WY.
Regarding the large protests in Taksim Square in Istanbul a couple of months ago…we in the US support our right to protest and that is a right Turks also enjoy. Yet, overreactions, some with tragic results, do occur regardless of geographic locale. Any tourist with an ounce of common sense steers clear of even ‘peaceful’ demonstrations and any gatherings of large groups simply because of the potential for unpredictable group mentality/activity.
Last night there was a VERY large police presence in Taksim Square and when we asked about it, learned that there have been some growing protests in Ankara (to where we’re driving right now) by Middle Eastern Technical University students. There is concern of more protests in support of those students occurring in other cities. In the case of Istanbul, that would naturally occur in Taksim Square. The power of social media!
What are the students protesting? The local government decided to cut a road through campus – a project that involved cutting down a lot of trees. And they decided to remove the trees while the students were away for the summer. The university is just starting its new semester and students are returning to campus to find the trees gone. They are angry that this perceived power play had taken place in their absence. (In my opinion, the protests are symbolic of deeper concerns.)
So, yes, you might hear on the news or online about “growing protests or unrest” in Turkey and when you do remember that it is a large country and innocuous events can be spun into great headlines in the current climate of ‘terro-journalism.’
Also, I (and probably Eve, Leroy, Mary and Elaine as well) am registered with the US Consulate/Embassy so they know we’re traveling here and I am on the State Department’s email list for any updates or warnings regarding Turkey.
We have our eyes open, our brains switched on and have had/will continue to have an awesome trip! Later today look for my post about today’s fun – lets see if I can make an almost all day bus ride remotely interesting…