Monthly Archives: October 2011

The Cat Park

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There is a park less than 15 minutes from our apartment that we have affectionately named the ‘Cat Park’. This park is technically in Nisantasi, and is often overlooked in contrast to Macka Park, which is a much larger park directly below it. However, we love this park. Not only is there a fountain, trees and two cafes, there are also numerous cats.

As many of you know, I love cats. Most Turks do not feel this way. Like many Middle Eastern countries, the majority of cats and dogs in Istanbul do not lead comfortable spoiled lives. They live on the streets, they dig (and sleep) in garbage and scrounge for food. However, this particular park can be considered cat paradise for Istanbul cats. They roam free in a beautiful park. Local residents bring them food (everything from milk to meat to bread), and have even built special homes for them.  And the cats themselves? They are friendly and affectionate. You cannot sit down in this park without being surrounded by 4-5 cats. They purr, they play and they crawl into your lap. We come to this park at least once a week simply to pay a visit to our feline friends…

 

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Turkish Independence Day

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Today is Turkish Independence Day (29 Ekim Cumhuriyet Bayramı). While the land of Turkey is rich in history and tradition, the modern Turkish republic is very young. Modern Turkey was founded on October 29th, 1923. Today marks the nation’s 88th birthday.

 In honor of this holiday, large and small Turkish flags hang from the windows of most apartment and office buildings. Most schools open their doors for special celebrations (my school had a special assembly yesterday). Normally, this is a lively celebration that can be observed throughout the country. However, due to the recent earthquake, the marches, firework shows and other city-sponsored events have been cancelled to allow the country to mourn the loss of life in the Van region, following the earthquake. The bliss and excitement that usually accompanies this holiday has been replaced by a silent melancholy throughout Istanbul.

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A March to Protest Recent Kurdish Attacks

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While the news of the Van earthquake quickly swallowed up reports about the most recent violence along the border of Southeastern Turkey, it must also be followed and understood as the whole world watches the rescue and recovery efforts in Van. Just days before the earthquake in Southeastern Turkey, Kurdish militants attacked and killed  Turkish soldiers along the Southeastern border with Iraq. In response, the Turkish military retaliated and entered Northern Iraq. 

On October 19th, a PKK-initiated attack resulted in the deaths of 24 Turkish soldiers, stationed at various border posts in Southeast Turkey. This attack occurred one day after a roadside bomb led to the deaths of  five policemen and three civilians, including a 2-year-old girl in the Bitlis province.

Following this attack, 10,000 Turkish soldiers were sent to Southeastern Turkey, and across the border to Iraq. This military offensive resulted in the deaths of 49 Kurdish soldiers on the Turkish side of the border.

This is one of the deadliest attacks on Turkish security forces since the conflict began in the 1980s. This conflict has resulted in the deaths of 40,000 people since 1984. Tension is high, and the entire nation is waiting to see what the next move of the Turkish military will be.

 We were walking back to our apartment on Sunday afternoon, and stumbled upon a march against the violence of the Kurdish militants. The chants could be heard blocks away. The main road was blocked. Over 50 police officers lined the street. Shopkeepers closed their stores, and numerous people came to observe. I captured some of the march, and wanted to share it with everyone…

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A Letter from Internations

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Internations is a fabulous international organization that brings together globally minded expats and Turkish citizens to network and socialize at monthly events throughout the city.

In response to the recent earthquake, the following message was sent to members of the Istanbul chapter. It contains information about how to support aid and relief efforts. For those of you that are closely following from afar, it provides insight to the domestic aid and support that was quickly arranges, and also provides a website where you can safely donate money to relief efforts [http://www.globalgiving.org/projects/turkey-earthquake-relief-and-recovery-fund/]. For those of you in the country, it provides useful information about how to support the aid efforts in your local community.

Subject: Tragic Earthquake in Turkey

Dear Members of the Istanbul Community,

We are shocked about the tragic earthquake that struck eastern Turkey near the city of Van yesterday with a destructive magnitude of 7.2. Extensive areas sustained heavy damage to their structures, and as many as 1,000 people are feared dead.

We would like to send our sincere and heartfelt condolences to the people in and around Van,
our thoughts and prayers are with them and with all of you whose families and friends suffer from it.

Aid centers are established at various locations in Istanbul to collect supplies to be sent to the area. Kadıköy and Şişli municipality buildings as well as Optimum Shopping Mall in the Anatolian side of Istanbul are among these centers. 

If you would like to help the earthquake victims and donate money, blankets, clothes, food or blood please find information below which has been kindly accumulated by our members Vildan Yahni, Figen Bico and Sevtap Kaya. Thank you very much for providing this information:

If you would like to make personal donations,  such as warm clothing, blankets, socks, shoes, boots, etc…and/or food like pre-cooked canned goods.

You can send these goods

1) via the Municipality of Şişli (Tel: 212 288 75 76) – a truck will be departing at 6:00pm tonight to deliver these goods.

2)via the Municipality of Sariyer (Tel: 212 271 1011-12)

3) Also, you can send your care packages via the following courier companies for free, however please call first to check if your nearest branch is accepting free packages:

MNG Kargo
Yurtiçi Kargo
PTT
Aras Kargo

You can also donate funds to the Van earthquake victims in writing “Van” to 2868 with your cell phone. 5 TL will be donated to the Red Cross Turkey (Kızılay) (www.kizilay.org.tr)

You can also send a message to AKUT at 2930 – the terms are the same – 5 TL for each message sent.(www.akut.org.tr)

Money can also be donated via this site:
Global Giving – Turkey Earthquake Relief Fund

You can donate blood today at all three campuses of Bilgi University.

Please follow the discussions in our Istanbul Forum where updates will be added.

Sincerely yours,

Gundula and Metin
InterNations Istanbul Ambassadors

Information about Van

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While the pictures and images of the earthquake replay over and over again, information about the province of Van is lacking in some mainstream news reports.  The news refers to the area hit as Van. Van is both the name of a large city, as well as the informal county. In Turkey there are over 70 counties or regions that are named after the largest city in the region. The city of Ercis, a small city near Van and a part of the Van region experienced more damage than the city of Van itself. The region of Van is a beautiful and historical area in the southeast region of modern Turkey. It rests along the eastern shore of Lake Van, and is surrounded by large mountains. The ruins of several different civillizations can be found in the area. The land of Van once rested at the heart of the Urartian Kingdom and the Kingdom of Armenia.

Van is referred to as “The Pearl of the East” because of the natural beauty that surrounds the city . There is an old Armenian proverb that states “Van in this world, paradise in the next.”  The city historically had a large Armenian population. While the Armenian community was tragically wiped out, Armenian churches and schools remain within the old city.

Van is located in a county with a Kurdish majority, a notable factor in understanding the population and politics of the area. It is a conservative region of the country.  In this part of Turkey, families are traditional, and more women are bound to the domestic sphere. Unfortunately, in the context of the earthquake, this means that more women than men were inside their homes when the earthquake hit. Thus, more women and children appear to be among those injured and killed in the collapsed apartment buildings. While so much is unknown, it is certainly an issue that has caught my attention in the first wave of news coverage and photographs. It was striking to me to see how few women are on the streets or involved in the recovery efforts, in comparison to the large number of men that can be observed. As of today, Turkish news outlets report that 459 people have been killed, while hundreds of people remain unaccounted for. Electricity has been cut because of the threat of fire. The lack of strict building codes, and the poor quality of building material seems to be an underlying cause of the high death toll. So far, 2,262 buildings have collapsed (including a university dorm), and recovery teams are still attempting to search the rubble for survivors.

The Earthquake in Southeast Turkey

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On Sunday afternoon, a devastating 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck eastern Turkey. This earthquake resulted in many injuries and deaths. While the loss of life is still unknown, some are estimating the death toll to be around 1000. News outlets report that families are still struggling to find their family members. As you walk through the streets of Van, you can hear the screams of people stuck in the rubble of collapsed apartment buildings. Neighbors and other community volunteers dug through the rubble with their own bare hands. The evening temperature sank below zero degrees, and many survivors were forced to sleep on the streets as they await the support of public and private aid agencies. The roads were severely damaged, making it difficult for the much-needed manpower and supplies to arrive in this dire time of need.

My heart goes out to everyone effected by this tragedy. I am wishing for the best as the people of Van, and the surrounding area attempt to find their loved ones and recover from yesterday’s horrible earthquake.