23rd of November, 1926
Global News Service
It’s a cold morning here as I sip my Turkish coffee outside a small smoked-filled cafe near the Grand Bazaar. It’s been just three years since Ataturk and his military allies overthrew the old Ottoman Empire and created this nation by granting independence to an Empire they could no longer hold together at any cost. Despite that fact, it feel likes any other times I’ve been here over the decades: an odd culture neither Muslim (which officially it no longer is) nor Christian (which it definitely isn’t). And all of the old tension between the Turkish citizens, be they towards Greeks, Armenians, or Jews still exist.
My Editor at GNS was interested in my take on the changes in Turkey a few years after the end of the Ottoman Empire. I think he’s going to be disappointed as I’m not seeing it. As T.S. Eliot said in Murder in The Cathedral, ‘We have suffered various oppression, But mostly we are left to our own devices, And we are content if we are left alone.’
The politics might be different but life for almost all who live here hasn’t really changed that much in many generations such as Ismet, the owner of this cafe, who I chatted with in Arabic even though officially that language had been replaced by Turkish. He has run this establishment for forty years now and his great-great-grandfather bought it from the previous owner close to one hundred and twenty years ago. For his perspective, nothing had changed — the bribes were still expected, the police were all surly and prone to violence, and the military still ran everything. And don’t get him started about how bad the post was!
The Grand Bazaar is even more impervious to change — within its walls, the goods, the traders, and even the patterns of commerce most likely even haven’t significantly changed in many centuries. Spices and rugs and jewellery and coffee beans and books, sacred and profane, even been traded there for that long and still are. Fortunately the trade in slaves is ceased though the trade in weaponry still persists.
Newspapers abound — all with their political bent and most along ethnic lines as well — the Greeks have their Apoyevmatini and the Armeniums and Jews have ones as well. The number of Turkish ones is amazing. Reading the Greek and Turkish ones is alarming as the rift between those two groups is very much headed towards something quite unpleasant!
So dear readers, I’m left with the feeling that, for better and worse, nothing has really changed in what is now Turkey beyond the changing of borders. And those borders are potentially pregnant with the probability of trouble.