21 October, 2007

A Not So Lazy Sunday

Twelve Turkish soldiers were killed in a PKK ambush early Sunday. My apartment is just off Cumhurriyet Caddesi, a major street leading to Taksim Square, the location of most protests and demonstrations. I spent most of today at home working and throughout the afternoon small groups of demonstrators passed bearing Turkish flags of all sizes, chanting and waving a hand signal for wolf that looks conspicuously like the gesture waved at many a heavy metal concert. Most of them were heading in the direction of Taksim, but every now and then we'd hear them coming and stick our heads out the window to watch them march by the opening of our street. The larger groups were usually followed by one or two police minivans, inching lazily along, lights flashing, and inaudible commands sounding from their loudspeakers.

On the news early this evening we watched footage of crowds gathering in Taksim and marching down Istiklal Caddesi. There were images of women weeping, young men tussling with police trying to hold them back, and jailed-PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan being burned in effigy. Eventually this evening the demonstrators headed home and we watched one final group, this time larger and better organized, surge up the road clapping and chanting accompanied by a chorus of car horns. The horns have continued, rising and falling throughout the evening.

In addition to this, yesterday the vote was held to approve changes to the constitution, including election of the president by the public versus by parliament. The referendum passed by a majority. Coverage of the vote, as important as it is, was rivaled by the furor over the killing of the soldiers. There have been constant news flashes, reports from the soldiers hometowns showing mothers and fathers collapsing in grief, and a great deal of footage of Turkish military maneuvers near the border. It's almost midnight and no decision about crossing into Iraq has been announced. We'll see what tomorrow brings.

Salaam. Iyi geceler. (Good night)

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