Women’s March Through My Lens

I hope you enjoy them! (Photos not processed because grad student life.)

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My Reflections on Women’s March

Before going to bed after such a wonderful and exhausting day and turning this marvelous day into memory, I decided to write a couple of words about my experience at Women’s March Los Angeles.

First, I feel so proud and honored to have walked with 750,000 women and men of all colors, races, religions and sexual orientations to defend our rights, freedom and dignity from tyrants all over the world. I will never forget this special day and the solidarity of people. Freedom to protest in Turkey is nonexistent now. But being here, chanting, jumping, dancing and walking reminded me what it meant to be truly free from a dictator that turned my country into a dystopia only in a couple of years. It also reminded me why all dictators are so afraid of the slightest sign of opposition. Because it empowers, uplifts and unites people. And when people are empowered, uplifted and united, they gain courage and change things.

Not a single day goes by without thinking of the loved ones I left behind. Instead of letting this heartbreak consume my soul, I allow my it to feed my spirit so that I can have the power to always stand up and fight back wherever I see injustice. As Martin Luther King Jr. once said, injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. There is no way I can turn a blind eye to the injustice here while knowing firsthand how it feels.

Because of this, to me, defending minorities here means defending minorities there. Demanding equality here means demanding equality there. Fighting Donald Trump here means fighting Tayyip Erdoğan there. I may have been silenced in my homeland, but I won’t be silenced here. I am fired up now, ready to go.

I didn’t even know where Gambia was until two days ago and now, I root for its people

If you have been following the news, you might have read that the Gambia has been dragged into a chaotic uncertainty in less than a week. The president/dictator Yahya Jammeh, who has been clinging to the power since 1994 after a bloodless coup, refuses to step down and allow the peaceful transition of power. He recently declared a state of emergency and extended his rule of 90 days as the last resort, yet Senegal’s army has already entered the country and at this moment marching to the capital, aiming to remove Jammeh from power. Adama Barrow, the president-elect, sought refuge in Senegal after the declaration of state of emergency and was sworn to the office at the Gambian Embassy in Senegal just yesterday.

To be frank, I did not even know where the Gambia was or who Jammeh was until two days ago but as I began to read the news, that tingling sense of relevance grew in my head: This whole incident happening in Turkey is disturbingly easy for me to imagine. A ruler who refuses to step down with the fear of prosecution, declares a state of emergency to desperately cling to the power, does not allow peaceful transition of power, is famous for putting his political opponents in jail, using political Islam and showing symptoms of delusion with claims like “God willing, I can rule for a billion more years” or “I cure AIDS with herbs and prayers” or “Who doesn’t support me is a traitor”. Well, it almost sounds like a certain individual in Turkey (I’m not the only one who noticed the resemblance, by the way. The members of “the Turkish Reddit”, Eksisozluk has been posting jokes and puns about these two since yesterday).

But STILL, why do I care so much as to dedicate a blog post for this? Because 1) I am highly familiar with the frustration, fear and hopelessness the citizens of the Gambia must be feeling now and 2) It validates my theory: Regardless of geographic, socioeconomic or political conjunctures, all dictators are eventually destined to fall – and most of the time, in a brutal fashion. Because of this, every time I explain to someone how I feel about my country’s future, I end on a hopeful note: “Well, I know it looks bad, it is bad, but it will not last forever.” I believe this hope is what we, the Turkish citizens, need at this moment – especially at this moment.

These are dark times, there’s no denying. Difficult days for my country are slowly appearing on the horizon as the Turkish Parliament is currently voting on a constitution that will dissolve the democracy in Turkey. The Turkish lira has been plummeting, unemployment has been growing, politicians and journalists have been thrown to jails without even a trial and my friends have never felt so pessimistic about their future. And I have never felt so heartbroken yet glad to be away from the land I call home at the same time. My only silver lining is that I since I left, I have felt awestruck by what an unstoppable force the progress of humanity is (even Donald Trump’s election didn’t change my thought).

Since the first humans began to record history, there has always been someone whose imagination transcended their time and someone else who would try to shut them up violently, because the status quo favored them. But ideas never fell even though the people did – they would simply continue to live on someone else’s mind until the moment comes for them to flourish and carry the humanity forward.

But I guess this is embedded in our nature. Since the beginning of our evolution, we wandered the meadows, climbed the mountains, crossed the oceans. We spread to the whole world. We explored. We invented. We created. We communicated to pass on the knowledge, moved forward. We still are. Human mind is just not meant to be oppressed or dulled. One way or another, every single person who attempts to stay in the progress’ way is destined to kneel before its power or become history.

Because of this, I believe that, now more than ever, we have to look at the fate of people like Yahya Jammeh and remind ourselves that eventually, courage will trump cowardice. Freedom will trump chains. Justice will trump revenge. Hope will trump fear. Brain will trump ignorance. People will trump tyrants.

Martin Luther King Jr. as a Universal Hero

Since today is celebrated as Martin Luther King Jr. day, I’d like to commemorate him on my blog once more. In a world where the right extremism is on the rise, threatening the peaceful coexistence of humans with different stories and identities, we need to remember, read, teach, learn and talk about his legacy and example more than ever. One can see why even by only looking at his inspiring words. If you have no idea about who he is, I advise you to get started by reading “Letter from Birmingham Jail”, an important document that carries important messages for all, where he makes a very strong case for why he chose civil disobedience to make his and his fellows’ voices heard.

My part ends here, so that Martin Luther King Jr.’s words can speak for themselves, words that are still relevant in today’s world despite being spoken decades ago, and have important teachings for us and everyone else who struggle for human rights and justice on a daily basis. Here are some of the best MLK quotes I have encountered here and there, and which, I have to admit, fill my eyes full of tears:

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

“There comes a time when silence is betrayal.”

“Let no man pull you so low as to hate him.”

“No one really knows why they are alive until they know what they’d die for.”

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

“People fail to get along because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don’t know each other; they don’t know each other because they have not communicated with each other.”

“We must live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”

“One has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.”

“The day we see the truth and cease to speak is the day we begin to die”

“Justice too long delayed is justice denied.”

“Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable… Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.”

“There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.”

May you never give up dreaming of a better world like Martin Luther King Jr!

Trying to find my way in Los Angeles, I discovered “the new me”

It was February 14th, 2014. I was in San Diego for one and a half months by then, excited to explore this new world I found myself in. I bought my Amtrak ticket, made a reservation at a hostel on Hollywood Boulevard. Hoping to spot some celebrities, I googled the celebrity hotspots. I was mesmerized by the mere idea of Hollywood.

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When the old me saw a homeless person back in 2014, she felt alarmed. When the new me saw a homeless person, holding onto a dirty blanket under the shadow of Wells Fargo’s mighty headquarters, she felt enraged and frustrated. (Downtown LA – December 18th, 2016)

Needless to say, it was a huge disappointment. Hollywood was completely empty at daytime, without a hint of glamour or fancy lifestyle – only the tourist hunting Darth Vaders, Spider Men stopping me every ten seconds. I decided to go to MacArthur Park instead, thinking how dull Los Angeles had seemed so far. So, I thought seeing a park could be refreshing and relaxing. It only doubled my disappointment in the city: people staring at me, old men with an alcohol breath, approaching me and asking for a dollar, homeless people sleeping on the benches everywhere. With the hunger hitting my stomach, I approached a taco cart of a Latina lady near the park, hungry and thirsty, and asked the lady for two tacos. Then, out of the blue, I attempted to start a conversation. “What’s your name?” I asked. Her face suddenly changed, adopted a disturbed look. Shaking her head, she handed me the tacos without a word. “How rude!” I thought, “Is this really Los Angeles, the city of fame and luxury?”

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The new me feels blessed to have encountered this hidden treasure. It wouldn’t occur to the old me to explore this street. (Downtown LA – December 18th, 2016)

Fast-forward to Christmas of 2016, there I was, in the city that had disappointed me. But something was not right. The city had changed. Wherever I looked, I saw tiny bits of a rich, lively, colorful city spread to every corner: walls full of art, streets full of hidden beauties, creativity bursting out of people’s hair, clothes, faces… On the other hand, the “other” face of Los Angeles, poverty, homelessness, inequality, became strikingly obvious.

That was the moment I realized it was not the city, but I, that changed. My whole perspective of people, city, citizenship, life has  drastically shifted in three years.

When the old me felt offended when the Latina lady refused to tell her name. When the new me thought about this, she understood that the Latina lady probably feared for her safety – a stranger trying to learn her name, with a camera, could be anyone: an undercover agent, a racist, a law enforcement officer. Maybe she didn’t speak the language! The new me also wonders if the old me had a subconscious sense of  entitlement. The old me was blind to the injustices surrounding her, deeply affecting the lives of ordinary people in subtle ways. The new me thinks she was an ignorant tourist.

The old me was pissed at publicly urinating people, because of whom 90% of public areas smelled like urine. The new me is still pissed at urinating folks, but also pissed at the local government for not building enough public restrooms.

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The old me would be blinded by the billboard. The new me is heartbroken that such a beautiful piece of art is overshadowed by some guy that can’t even hold three small statues at once. (West Hollywood – December 18th, 2016)

The old me freaked out when she got off the train at the wrong metro station and ended up in the middle of Koreatown. Never having encountered written Korean before, she thought she landed on another planet and was surrounded by alien language. The new me thinks the old me was subtly racist. She even got off at the same metro station and had no idea what was so scary about Korean. Looking at a Korean restaurant’s sign, she wondered if they served all-you-can-eat Korean barbecue.

When the old me saw Jennifer Lopez from a distance in Beverly Hills, she felt excited. She got a glimpse of a celebrity! As the new me walked around the city, she couldn’t help thinking how all those celebrities and billionaires could drive around a city full of homeless folks with a clear conscience and stacks of money in their pockets, knowing they could help but choosing, on a daily basis, not to.

The old me thought Los Angeles was Hollywood. The new me thinks the best thing about Hollywood is the sign changed to Hollyweed.

Moon & Butterfly has moved and is now The Justice Journey!

Hello everyone! After a few interesting incidents, like one of my posts going viral all around the world, I decided that I no longer wanted my blog to be only a personal space but rather a platform to share my structured opinions. So, as part of a communication class assignment, I changed my blog’s name and reorganized the whole website. This website will no longer be active and I will share my new posts on The Justice Journey. I hope you like the new format! For feedback and questions, you can use Contact on the new website.

Best,