Friday, 24 October 2014

If these walls could talk*

Dear potential readers,

   when I was still at the university studying Journalism, I had an experience that made me challenge some of my qiute conservative beliefs. I was attending a course concerning "greek civilization and culture" and at this one specific lesson we tried to analyze the impact of the messages written on the walls on our lives and what these messages were trying to depict. I remember I raised my hand and argued about how angry I was with specific messages on the walls of our faculty, like the one which was saying "whoever wants to be a tv-star, haw to wear tin pants". I used to pass by this message every day thinking of how it infuriates me that someone made this mess on the wall, just to write something to stupid. I was shocked to realize that our professor had a completely opposite perception about it, since he believed it to be a masterpiece example of our culture. It was only then that I started thinking more politically of wall-written messages and respect the depicted reality of their. Since then I hesitate to underestimate this way of expressing and I try to analyze it every time in a deeper way than just thinking of how much dirt they cause to our cities. Soon, my eyes were opened and I realized that our cities were dirty anyway :P
    For this reason, I came up with this project of shooting us much photos I could from the messages written on the walls of Izmir, because I believe that on those walls a short history of Turkey and Izmir is written. I would even go further and say that because of Turkey being a quite conservative country, these ideas written on the walls are not really discussed in the public sphere freely and sometimes they can only exist through these walls. 
   So well, I didn't do that much, because I know that the walls can talk for themselves. I just took the camera and for two days I was just walking through the streets of Karsiyaka, Alsancak, Passaport  and Goztepe. And here is the outcome!

                                                        "Berkin Elvan is not dead"    

                                                              "Berkin lives"

 Berkin Elvan (January 5, 1999 – March 11, 2014) was a 15-year-old Turkish boy who was hit on the head by a tear-gas canister fired by a police officer in Istanbul while out to buy bread for his family during the June 2013 anti-government protests in Turkey. He died on March 11, 2014, following a 269-day coma. Lawyers representing the family said Elvan’s condition worsened over the last week of his life, with his weight dropping to 16 kg from 45 kg. Widespread demonstrations erupted following Berkin's. (source: wikipedia)                      

                                         "We were burning and You were thinking of coal"

                                                  "Long live the 1st of May" the International Labour Day                   

                                                       "the victim is the murderer"

"The killers of Soma, Capitalism,
 Freedom to the People"

Soma mining disaster: On 13 May 2014, an explosion at a coal mine in Soma, Manisa, Turkey caused an underground mine fire, which burned until 15 May. In total, 301 people were killed in what was the worst mine disaster in Turkey's history.  The fire occurred at the mine's shift change, and 787 workers were underground at the time of the explosion. Miners protested dangerous mining conditions in late 2013 and the demand by the main opposition party, the CHP, to investigate the mine's safety was rejected in the National Assembly of Turkey with votes from the ruling AKP only weeks before the disaster. 

 " Cemre, we are here now, but tomorrow?"

 " Peace is not a tree"

" This beautiful weather has destroyed me"

                                               "One thing we must do: Revolution"

                                             "The sky is ours!"

                                      "Grey wolves* will ask for the receipt from Erdogan"
                                         *Grey wolves are an extreme national party in Turkey


                                               "You know the killer of our children"

"Tayyip how many women are coming?"


"Killer Tayyip"


"Opposition in every place"

"Abortion is a right"

Emma Goldman (June 27 [O.S. June 15], 1869 – May 14, 1940) was an anarchist known for her political activism, writing, and speeches. She played a pivotal role in the development of anarchist political philosophy in North America and Europe in the first half of the 20th century. (source: Wikipedia)

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

The battles we share

Dear potential readers,

our last week in Atolye raised questions to children concerning national identities and more specifically questions about Turkish-Greek Relations. The motive for such questions was given by a panel that we attended under the name “Izmir Remembers” at French Culture Center. After the panel was over and on the way back home, children started a discussion about “how I feel or think, as a greek, about our common history”. It is this discussion and my thoughts on it that I would like to transmit and share with you through this blog of Atolye, shedding light on facts about the Izmir of 1922.
Turkish-Greek Relations had always been for me one of the most interactive topics in my life, from the time I didn’t even know what “political” meant. The most intense child memory of mine starts back in the 5th grade , when I heard my grandmother calling Turkish people barbarian, while watching the Aegean news on tv. My little self demonstrated against this static and bigoted thought of hers and responded back that “Turkish people are not barbarians, they are people like us”. This gap between me and my grandmother went on during my entire adulthood, with epic fights in front of the tv, while we were watching together soap operas, like Yabanci Damat. And this gap goes on until today under the silent acceptance that national bigotry needs a very personal and conscious internal effort to be understood historically and politically, a privilege that my grandmother would never have. It's because of her age, her education, her class, her gender, because of chances that were never given, because of her religion and also because of the heavy historical memories that she was carrying along. I used to blame her and get angry, but now I realize that I cannot ask  her anything more than just to share these heavy historical memories with me.
Furthermore, I used to be one of those kids whose actions would challenge new discussions about turkish-greek relations, because I had to find out, know and discuss about how the rest of the people feel about this topic. For this reason, at my 17th birthday, I ordered a cake with the greek and Turkish flag on it and treated my friends at school with it. That day I heard all kinds of comments about the cake, comments of bewilderment, of negativism, comments of same belief and this is how a whole dialogue had begun.
And somehow, like this, tentative, you are growing up and you are realizing through your involvement in social movements that politics has nothing to do with parties, with the Parliament or the laws, but politics is our tiny, everyday choices, even before we manage to find out what the word “choice” means. Politics is our words, our actions, our photos, our trips, our beliefs, our friends, our relations, the entire range of our choices and the way that we approach and analyze this world. And somehow, like that, even when we don’t desire it, we cannot escape from the framework of politics and our political being.
This means that when we try to review history, we owe to set aside our blinkers of the national “I never forget”(what happened) and start seeing the past from distance, through an “I never forget”, which is historical, political and nationally decentralized. We owe to use history as a tool to find the “commonplace” among peoples, a “commonplace” against nationalism, imperialism and fascism, against ethnocentrism, religious fundamentalism and war. In this way we will be able to fairly share the unreasonable of the national arrogance of the 19th century.
The 19th century is characterized by two world wars, the wars in Balkans, the Cold War and thousands of Izmir’s, which change conquerors according to the political fluctuations in the area. Our Izmir was inhabited by Greeks, Turks, Armenians, Jews and Levantines when the ideas of nationalism shed roots to every of these populations leading to the long adventure of Izmir. The adventure reached to an end when big parts of Izmir were burned down.
The adventure of Izmir offers us the foundations of multiple political analysis. A greek nationalist would made a completely different analysis from a Turkish nationalist and a greek patriot a completely different analysis from a Turkish patriot respectively. The average greek, a genuine ideological child of the ethnocentric greek education would make a completely opposite political and historical analysis from the average turkish, who is also the genuine ideological child of ethnocentric turkish education. And with an absolute certainty, none of them would have realized the historical reality of that period of time, because they have all chosen to analyze history through a spectrum which is designed in such a way, through national myths, to relieve respectively Hellenism and Turkishness from their historical accountability.
The national cohesion necessity and the “Big national Ideas” of that period resulted in the construction of “The bad turkish and the good Greeks” or the “good turkish and the bad Greeks”, because history demanded a separate state for all nations, at any cost, through the conflict between nationalisms. This is the story of how Venizelos with the support of England, France and Italy started a war by slaughtering and conquering until the River of Saggarios, where the army was weakened by the Kemalist power, which from its side slaughtered and conquered until the compulsory escape of the Christian populations in Izmir.
The purpose of this article though is not to restore an objective truth about what happened in Izmir in 1919-1922, because objectivity is itself relevant to the beliefs and the identities of the narrator. The only thing I can offer is a subjective reality according to my beliefs and identities which offers another view of history and sheds light to small events that contradict the dominant national narratives of both sides. Unfortunately, my experience and knowledge is limited to my national limits, since I haven’t lived in turkey, I don’t speak the language and I cannot study or come in touch with any other alternative narrations from the turkish side. I would really like to come in touch with the narration of the other side, one day.
What history left behind, is something that Greeks don't want to remember and Turkish conservatives will possibly never even try to unravel; it is the fact that historical facts are not linear or monotonous. Greek nationalism, which was what brought the war in Turkey in the first place, in order to uphold the Greek population in Izmir and the coasts of Minor Asia, left the very same Greeks on their own fate during the days of the destruction of Izmir. Only very few allied ships were sent to carry the Greeks of Izmir to Greece, as the prime minister of Greece, Dimitris Gounaris, denied to provide help to the refugees - “So that the country won't suffer from a demographic problem”.
            Even after 1922 and the mandatory population exchanges, the refugees' fate remained far from promising. The local Greeks treated refugees with great distrust, while calling them “Turkish-born”. They also called their women “pastrikes”, which in Greek means “clean”, yet at the time was also used to mean “prostitutes”. The former merchants of Izmir were brought to a place that didn't have the resources or the possibilities to provide them not even the basic goods.
What's more, the nationalistic ideology was not followed by all the Greeks. The partisan lefts in Greece, the ideological child of mother Russia, chose to support the kemalist nationalism, reinforcing the kemalist forces of the area. Russia preferred to have in its territory the allied turkish force, rather than the western English and French imperialistic force. Thus, the Greek left partisans supported the “anti-imperialistic” kemalist nationalism, as the communist Russia enforced.
Therefore, ourselves, the heirs of this insanity, cannot vindicate any of the two sides. Because nationalism won't ever represent our political identity, neither Turkish nationalism, nor the Greek one. Their fate is to conflict with each other, until either one will fall.
If you ask me what I believe and feel about the relations between Greeks and Turks, I will ask you, “Which Greeks and which Turks?”. For the Turks and Greeks nationalists, the future is definitely full of wars and modern destructions like the one happened in Izmir. For those Greeks and Turks, however, whose existence and political identity is defined by the disestablishment of nationalism and the dominant national narratives; those who believe that nation is nothing but an exploitable construction by those who have the power; among those Turks and Greeks, a shared future exists. Which is a shared battle against nationalism, fascism, sexism, class inequalities, homophobia and authoritarian regimes.