I’ve been putting off this post for months. I get asked about it all the time. “What’s the political situation in Turkey?” “It is safe there?”
Since I’ve been in Turkey for nearly one semester the answers to these questions have already changed considerably. Before I continue, the most important thing to remember in this situation is that although Turkey considers itself a modern democracy, there is no freedom of speech. This is essentially the root of all issues in my opinion, though it is far from the only problem. Here’s what I’m talking about: http://time.com/4132235/tayyip-erdogan-turkey-gollum-lord-of-the-rings/
This is why political discussions are often whispered but also often yelled.
In November, Turkey held elections. Preceding the voting many Turks told me, in a solemn tone, to “stay inside” and “avoid crowds” during that time. I am not used to expectations of violence. Unfortunately these expectations were met with tragic fruition. The tragedy in Ankara shook the young generation to the core. How does a generation respond to the murder of their friends and peers whose only request was peace? What kind of precedent does that set for the future of a nation right before “free elections”?
To say I don’t trust the media here is an understatement. There is such a drastic difference between what is heard on the street/ known in the majority of the society and what is printed that I am discouraged to even read the news.
The results of the elections were both shocking and personally disappointing to me. We can already see the repercussions here. Media raids (http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-34656901), curfews in the East (http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2015/09/turkey-checkpoint-bombing-unleashes-deadly-raids-pkk-150913133326760.html), mysterious deaths (http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/nov/29/thousands-gather-to-mourn-kurdish-lawyer-gunned-down-in-turkey) etc. All this is not to convince you that Turkey is extremely dangerous or dysfunctional nor that the Turkish people are taking this without opposition.
In sum, I cannot accurately describe the complex system of the government or the realities of the political situation but I can stress that there are changes happening here that are probably not for the best. I do recommend travel to Turkey but I would urge a certain level of awareness. (I am currently somewhat avoiding metro stations because I’m a little paranoid after the little explosion yesterday *http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2015/12/deadly-explosion-hits-istanbul-metro-station-151201155138885.html *.)
I decided to make this post because I went to Ankara this weekend for a Model UN conference. (Ankara is the capital of Turkey. Yes I know we all thought it was Istanbul.) I do not suggest travel to Ankara. Ankara is conclusively my least favorite part of Turkey so far. I called it the Sacramento of Turkey.
Yogurt Update: I now apparently like lumpy yogurt. Time changes all.
Someday I’ll make a post about Turkish culture and the people of Turkey but it is entirely too daunting to consider at the moment.
Someday someone will believe me when I tell them I am not Turkish. Someday.
No I did not eat turkey in Turkey for Thanksgiving. I was on a bus trying to forget what stuffing is.