Tag Archives: Politics

Anit Kabir: The Mausoleum of Ataturk


Anit Kabir

When reviewing the alphabet in my Kindergarten phonics lesson last year, I once had a student volunteer the word ‘God’ as we attempted to brainstorm words that started with ‘g’. I was shocked that this English word was familiar to 5-year-old Turkish students. So, I asked my students to define it. One of my favorite students-charming, precocious and wickedly smart-blasted his arm into the air. I could not resist. I had to call on him. His definition?! ‘Ataturk’.

While this may offend or surprise some, it stuck with me. To this 5-year old, Ataturk was the most important person, figure and symbol he has ever encountered. As the founder of the modern Turkish state, his vision transformed the people, the land and the nation of Turkey. He introduced reforms that promoted the arts and education. He empowered women as equals in society and gave them the right to vote. He oversaw the introduction of the Latin alphabet and established the modern Turkish language. There are very few other examples in history, where one man’s vision and actions shaped an entire nation (or to my 5-year old student…his world)

walkway to Anit Kabir

Located on a hill overlooking the city of Ankara, this impressive monument celebrates the life, accomplishments and vision of Ataturk. Admittedly, I am a fan of monuments and museums, especially those that are particularly nostalgic and ambitious in their efforts to establish the legacy of whatever they attempt to memorialize. I was not disappointed.

Anit Kabir presents Ataturk’s vision and fight for a modern Turkish state. At the entrance, three men and three women stand equally to greet visitors. Intellectuals , democratic ideals and youth are presented as the face and future of the nation. This monument houses the body of Ataturk, but also the vision. It serves as  a regular meeting place to celebrate the country’s progress and potential. It features stone from every corner of the country and showcases the sculpture and design of Turkish artists. Read the rest of this entry

Ankara: First Impressions

ankaraphoto credit

We went to Ankara for the weekend to see family and explore the city. Located in the middle of Turkey, Ankara is the geographical and political heart of the country. It is also the second largest city in Turkey. This astounds me considering it was a small village just 100 years ago. When Turkey was founded in the 1920s, Ankara was established as the political capital of the country. However, it is somewhat cursed by history. The country developed in the 50s, 60s and 70s…a very unkind period of time in the history of architecture. As a result, large cement blocks line the tree-covered European boulevards.

Istanbullians joke the best view of Ankara can be found on the train ride home, a rather pretentious opinion that admittedly was difficult to shake off. Ankara lacks the culture, history and Bosphorus view that makes Istanbul so enchanting. It is more conservative and in many ways does not feel as modern, dynamic and culturally rich as other capital cities. However, it has traces of a strong vision for the modern Turkish state and its capital city. There is an efficient metro system. There are parks and trees everywhere you look. The streets are clean. People are friendly. There are wonderful museums (The Museum of Anatolian Civilizations and Ataturk’s Mausoleum). Embassies have a prominent role in the city’s design and functionality. The president’s residence sits atop a hill overlooking the city. The parliament building stretches across a city block in the heart of the city.


Photo Credit: Turkish Daily News

Coming from the states, I know what a divisive and overly politicized issue, abortion can become.  Until recently, I was impressed by the lack of politics that surrounded abortion in Turkey. All of this has changed in the past week. Abortion (and the nation’s over reliance on c-sections) has become Prime Minister Erdogan’s recent target. Obviously this comes as no surprise. He is a social conservative who loves to assert his power and opinions in the public and private sphere. His power is virtually unchecked and the AKP party can pass almost any piece of legislation they desire.  Calling abortion ‘murder’, Erdogan wants to severely limit women’s access to abortion. In his current proposal, he attempts to ban abortion after 4 weeks, and implement a series of restrictions on doctors that perform the procedure.

Turkey prides itself on being a secular state. How can the government implement a law justified by religious beliefs? Erdogan celebrates the false claim that Turkey strives to be a democracy. No country can claim to embrace democratic ideals, while also limiting the freedom of its citizens. Nor can a democracy thrive with the oppression of 50 percent of the population. A woman’s body should not be controlled or regulated by anyone, especially the government. Any attempt to do so is oppression.  It is not easy for any woman, couple or family to choose to have an abortion. It is a decision that nobody wants to make, but a  freedom that men and women must value and protect. How can we penalize women for unwanted pregnancy in a country that lacks sex education programs in their schools? How can we penalize women who are taught to be fearful of using the birth control pill, and are encouraged to rely on their partner for ‘withdrawal’? Also, what expertise does the government have to control and regulate medical procedures?

The medical community has spoken. In a report presented by the Turkish Society of Obstetrics and Gynaecology to the Parliament’s Constitutional Reconciliation Commission,  the following was written: fertility health and access to an abortion must be guaranteed to ensure the health and vitality of the country. The report also emphasized that the mortality rate of mothers where abortion is illegal is high.  The right to an abortion does not necessarily prevent abortions, it limits access to safe abortions. We must reevaluate the underlying issues that cause a woman to seek an abortion, before we can even consider limiting this procedure.

Hundreds of people attended the protest today in Kadikoy. I hope their voices are heard.

“My Body, My Decision”: The Abortion Debate in Turkey


For anyone who lives, works or loves Istanbul, please watch this movie! Ekumenopolis explores the development of Istanbul, as it attempts to distinguish itself as a ‘global city’. It asserts that Istanbul has become a “city without limits” and outlines how the application of neoliberal development policies have been  incredibly misguided and destructive.  The documentary enlists passionate and insightful urban planners, UN officials, social workers and scholars to  explain the current economic boom in Istanbul, and the sad realities that accompany it: the dislocation of communities, a greater divide between the rich and the poor, a lack of environment preservation, the depletion of natural resources, a dependence on automobiles, a lack of investment in public transportation, the separation of housing from jobs and so much more.

 It challenges the rhetoric we hear in support of building the third bridge, and notes that instead of easing congestion, it will result in more development, more roads and more cars. It challenges political forces that interfere with the development  of the city, and ignore the long-term development plan that already exists. It highlights the condition of migrants forced to leave their villages and move to Istanbul in search of jobs, and shows how this new economy,  and the “urban renewal projects” that accompany it have had a devastating impact on the poor. It shares how housing initiatives and the infamous profit-driven TOKI have failed to serve the people who need housing the most.

 As Istanbul’s population continues to grow, and more cars fill the roads, there is no plan to stop the growing inequities and environmental destruction. Istanbul is predicted to take over an entire region, without careful planning or preservation. Whether your issue is development,  income inequality, migrant workers, environmental destruction, public housing-watch this movie, and share it with your friends.

Watch the trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XEzqu_z9fRo

Read more here: http://affr.nl/festival_2011/ekafmenopolis_openingfilm_affr.html

Watch some of the film here:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GYSLIsMhAvM&feature=related

The movie is currently playing at Cine Majestic in Beyoglu (with English subtitles). Find more information here: http://www.cinemajestic.com/

Ekümanopolis: A Must-See Documentary about the Politics of Development in Istanbul