10 October, 2007

Bayram and Turkey in the News

It's been a week of anticipation in Turkey, not all of it good.

Şeker Bayrami, translated as the sweet festival, is scheduled for Friday and will mark the ended of the holy month of Ramadan. There are plenty of people not fasting, but everybody fasted for Kadir Gecesi, or The Night of Power, earlier this week. That day commemorates the initial Quranic revelation to Muhammad. I was in training at the language school I'll be working for and the trainer was fasting for the first time and we weren't quite sure she'd make it. As far as we know, she did. I shared iftar, literally break fast, with my roommates at the apartment. One of them has gone home to the Black Sea coast for the holiday weekend. A lot of people will be in-transit over the next few days, heading home to visit their families, with bus lines and airlines sold out. I've heard a few complaints that because Bayram falls on Friday the holiday is much shorter than last year's.

Every night the major stations broadcast special programing as sunset and iftar approaches, on boats, at mosques, usually surrounded by crowds of worshipers waiting to share one of the communal iftars held throughout the city. The programs usually include music and lovely Quranic recitations before everyone digs in and the lights adorning the minarets are switched on.

Unfortunately, the week hasn't been all about gearing up for Bayram. The two major news stories here have been the deaths of 15 Turkish soldiers in attacks by the militants factions of the PKK (Kurdish Worker Party) and the possible passage by the US House of Representatives foreign affairs committee of a non-binding resolution calling the deportations and of countless Armenians (600,000 to 1.5 million), in what was then the Ottoman Empire in the years prior to World War I, a genocide.

Bush&Co have put on a show against the resolution, calling for US House to stay out of it and allow the Turkish and Armenian governments to sort this out themselves. The topic is extremely taboo here. Novelist Elif Şafak was charged under the infamous article 301 of the Turkish penal code ("insulting Turkishness") simply for having a character in a novel call the murders a genocide.

The deaths of the 15 soldiers have helped renew the call by some for military action across the Iraqi border into Iraqi Kurdistan, where the PKK militants are said to be taking refuge. As I've mentioned in the past, people here don't want a war, but they are angry at what they feel is the unfair treatment of Turkey by the U.S. government, who seems to have put the issue of foreign fighters in Kurdistan on the back burner during most of the Iraq war. As one Turkish friend pointed out to me, "So, the US can take care of their problems, but we can't take care of ours?"

The renewed call for military action into Iraq and the dispute over the resolution seem to be a bad combination for the US government. There are rumors that Incirlik airbase near Adana, which is of major importance for supplying US forces in Iraq, would be closed to the US.

In response to the killings this week, Turkey has begun bombing suspected PKK positions. And tonight there was word of a grenade attack on a police vehicle in Diyarbakir that killed a child. Not such a sweet holiday season after all.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

If people really listened to religion, they wouldn't be killing at all.

It's sad actually...