My Quiet Mother’s Day

When the longing is real, my mother always tells me: “Look at us! The daughter I could not send to the market, fearing something bad will happen, is now on the other side of the world. The daughter I half-heartedly sent to school, fearing other kids might push or bully her (I was a very tiny child) now lives all by herself, with no relative nearby to look after her. How come?”

“Moooooom I have friends here you know, I am not alone or anything. And my fists are pretty strong.”

“I knooow, I know. You are a badass.”

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“Mom look, I am the girl in Titanic!”

Most of my friends are with their families, or at least with their mothers now, but I am not. Most of my mother’s friends are with their children now, having fancy dinners or enjoying the sunny Sunday, but she is not. When I boarded my plane, my mother and I both knew moments of melancholy like this would be unavoidable. But we both agreed to bear these emotions, because I knew all those opportunities were awaiting me in a land far, far away. And she knew it would be cruel to deprive me of a better shot at life. Maybe we cannot celebrate Mother’s Day with a fancy bottle of wine at a fancy restaurant, but we celebrate it with the sacrifices we made for one another, hopes and dreams we have for one another.

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She should have been a supermodel.

At times like this, I have the not-so-rare opportunity to reflect on my relationship with her and how much we mean to each other. Our relationship is not a typical, and certainly not an easy one (not to mention the fact that we are both Geminis). There were times where I had to be the mother and her the child that needed guidance and reassurance. And there were times I cruelly blamed her for things she had no control over and maybe even made her feel guilty and insufficient – only because I did not know who else to blame. Although these memories feel like a burden from time to time, admitting these raw emotions and primitive acts against the person who is the most dear to me helps me find the power to self-criticize when my gut frantically warns me about my mistakes.

I think this is not one-sided. Admitting my mistakes and pushing her to do the same helped us develop our relationship beyond one of a mother and her child. We, in some sense, grew up and matured together like siblings. We both learned very recently that letting go of someone dear is the ultimate display of love, despite the urging desire to be selfish. I think we are far from done though – we are still growing up, learning from and consolidating each other when we need guidance the most. And I am grateful for having such a great companion by my side, either physically or mentally, in this life-long journey.

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Mom: *Looks the other way* “I don’t know whose child this weirdo is. No, definitely not mine. Seeing her for the first time in my life.”
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The Day I Witnessed War

Image Source: Pinterest

That beautiful afternoon, everyone was having a wonderful time. As I looked around the room, I saw only happy faces, smiling, eating snacks, chatting, flirting… I could also see the Sun outside the window right across the room, slowly descending to the horizon between the other long buildings. I wondered what floor I was on: maybe 20, 25? It must be quite high, the sunset looked magnificent.

Then came that odd, deafening, whistle-like sound… I scoped the room to see who felt the need to whistle that loud – did not want to miss the joke. But no one was laughing. In fact, everyone was looking around to locate the source of the sound, just like me. The next thing we heard was a crumbling, loud explosion and an unnatural, blinding brightness that surrounded the building next to ours. I was stunned at the view as someone yelled “DOWN! IT’S A MISSILE!” Out of shock, my glass slipped through my hands. I was desperately looking for a cover – a couch, a table, anything. I hid behind a couch next to a group of friends, who seemed to lose their logic: “They already hit the building next to us, they won’t hit us.” “How about going to the basement?” “We’d definitely die there, it’s good we are on this high – we actually can survive if the building collapses.” Meanwhile, I was crying, thinking of my mom and how I did not respond to the last message she had sent. Then, something hit the building.

Continue reading The Day I Witnessed War

As a Turkish Citizen, I Have No Sympathy for the Turkish Protesters in the Netherlands

Important: This blog has been moved to a new website, The Justice Journey. Please visit the new address to access the most recent content.

Yazının Türkçesini burada okuyabilirsiniz.

These two weeks have been a bumpy ride, to say the least, for the Turkish government in terms of foreign policy. First, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan attacked Germany, calling them Nazis, and now he did the same for the Netherlands following the cancellation of the Foreign Minister’s plane’s landing permit and the deportation of the Minister of Family to Germany. (Yes, we have a ministry that regulates family life)

Normally, I try to conduct more in-depth analysis but this time, my emotions are taking over my logic The problem is, my friends, the Turkish government now claims that Europe has turned into a tyranny, infused in authoritarianism, for doing what it already does to its own citizens on a daily basis. This disgusting hypocrisy made my sympathy completely diminish for Dutch-Turks, who gathered around the Turkish Embassy in Rotterdam and protested the Dutch government’s decision and then were attacked and dispersed by the Dutch police and water cannons.

I am truly sorry, but I have a hard time keeping the moral high ground here. I will not defend the Dutch government’s actions, but it is impossible from my moral standpoint to regard the protesters as anything other than hypocrites. Here is why:

  • Any kind of sympathy for the Turkish government is sympathy for their methods of crushing opposition and jailing politicians, journalists, academics, intellectuals by labeling them “terrorists”.
  • Even if you have no sympathy for the Turkish government but solely defend the ministers’ freedom of speech, you have to understand that they will not only simply exercise their free speech rights. They are campaigning for a referendum that proposes amendments in the constitution, which will give the Turkish president unlimited powers such as dismantling the parliament any time he wants, unlimited executive order authority and the power to appoint judges to or remove them from the Supreme Court. Furthermore, their campaign rhetoric is based on targeting the “No” voters, academics and intellectuals, accusing them of treason to the country and supporting terrorism. Because of this, every time they open their mouths, they jeopardize the safety of my friends and family.
  • The protesters in Rotterdam are dual citizens, who will most probably vote “Yes” in the referendum, validating the unlimited power granted to the president and legitimizing future oppression on Erdoğan’s dissidents. While these people enjoy their most basic rights, high-quality education and welfare systems in countries like Germany, the Netherlands and other Northern European countries, they relentlessly support a tyranny that strips the very same rights and opportunities off the Turkish citizens.
  • It is only funny to hear that most of these people do not want to return and live in Turkey, although they praise the leadership of Erdoğan and power of Turkey on every single occasion and platform. Well, if they like Turkey this much, then what stops these people from coming back?
  • While these protesters praise Erdoğan for cracking down on “traitors” “inner enemies” and “terrorists”, why are they so pissed, yelling about democracy values, when the Dutch government treats them the same way?

All political games and democracy values aside, as someone who has suffered at the hands of the Turkish government, I have no sympathy for their supporters who for the first time taste their own medicine and experience what it feels like to be oppressed just for having a stance on a cause that matters to them. Although this does not justify the Dutch police’s actions, I still have a glimpse of hope that maybe, maybe, this experience will be eye-opening for them, now that they have a first-hand experience with everything we have been already going through since the last decade.

What do you think about this ongoing diplomatic crisis? Can you sympathize for the protesters, unlike me? You can share your opinion in the comments.

Featured image credit: Carlos Latuff

Update (March 13, 2017): I understand the criticism directed to this post that there is a very diverse Turkish community in the Netherlands, which is true and should never be forgotten. Being Turkish/Dutch or Turkish/German or Turkish/X does not equate to being an Erdoğan supporter and this kind of a reductive narrative only empowers the dangerous rhetoric of ultra-nationalists like Geert Wilders. The sole focus of this post, however, is the Euro-Turkish citizens who support and protest in the name of Erdoğan. So, I had to limit my scope and could not mention the rest of the Turkish community. But I welcome the chance to share your experiences and opinions here on my blog. Please do not hesitate to share your opinion or criticism in the comments or by using Contact, so that I can respond to them here or correct myself if I made any errors.

The Price of Freedom

Freedom always has a price.

Marjane Satrapi ends Persepolis 2 with these words. She turns around, looks at her grandmother for one last time before boarding her plane to Europe. At that moment, she says “This was the last time I saw my grandmother. She died six months later.”, adding “Freedom always has a price.”

Continue reading The Price of Freedom

Politics at UCSB Part 2: The Insider Guide to the College Republicans

I have been looking forward to writing this post since I left the Republican meeting last week. It was extremely uncomfortable that before the meeting, I felt the need to take “Black Lives Matter” and “Justice” pins off my backpack. Yet, it was still illuminating to just sit there and listen to a completely different world view, while recording everything I heard. I admit, it made me feel like a double-agent – the good kind, of course.

So, here is some insider info from possibly the most sloppy double-agent you will ever meet: Continue reading Politics at UCSB Part 2: The Insider Guide to the College Republicans

Politics at UCSB Part 1: the Donkey vs. the Elephant

In the last two weeks, I conducted a small and totally non-scientific experiment on what Campus Democrats and Republicans have to offer to the students to save you the effort in case you feel like you are missing out by not attending the other party’s meeting. I am trying to be as impartial as I can be in this post to depict a legitimate picture of the college Republicans and how the two clubs give subtle messages to newcomers in various ways. Maybe because it was a new experience for me, but the content of the Republican meeting specifically deserves an analysis of its own, which I will also write this week. Trust me, you don’t want to miss it (in other words, you might want to follow my blog via e-mail!) because I heard some crazy stuff. For example, here is a teaser: Someone proposed to infiltrate the Black Student Union meeting to promote the White Supremacist speaker event, cause a scene and play the victim. Continue reading Politics at UCSB Part 1: the Donkey vs. the Elephant

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.