Where the Hell am I now?
It’s Tuesday yes? – had to check – losing track of time means I’m doing this right 🙂
So far today has been constructive – found an amazing little cafe in Thamel – The Cafe With No Name – that is tucked away in a tiny alley and has an chill sidestreet vibe. At the moment I’m listening to some tortured Nick Cave and sipping a hot lemon and honey in a dark and moody corner tapping away on this drivel, enjoying the fastest damn free wifi in Kathmandu (2.5MB/s at least).
This place is cosy and quiet and being the only one here makes it the perfect place to hide from the humans milling around outside.
More importantly its a not-for-profit place and the proceeds go to “Our Sansars”street children projects here in Nepal – I would urge you to follow the link and have a quiet read about the work that they do.
Shall I continue on with the Istanbul narrative? I probs should finish that off then I can get stuck into writing something positive about this beautiful city Kathmandu.
Being in the right place at the wrong time with my camera is something I’m highly skilled at so its not surprising that snapping pictures of soldiers, checkpoints or riot police arresting people would eventually get me into trouble.
Just a little trouble, not a lot. Barely worth mentioning really but hey, I love a good story.
Not being able to write or post about the Saturday Mothers while I was in Turkey was annoying – mainly because it outraged me and thought that shedding some light on it might help in some small way…it’s hard to voice dissent in Turkey and you have to be careful because of the stranglehold that President Erdogan has on this beautiful country; where the Internet is heavily censored and the Police don’t fuck around.
Back home it’s different. We are relatively free by comparison. Sitting at back watching TV, we sometimes see the terrible protests and the violence that erupts in these sh*thole far away places filled with obvious terrorists or worse, Muslims. They had it coming right?
(If you said ‘yes’, please leave now)
What else can they do when their voices are ignored and they are completely disempowered?
Protests. Civil Disobedience.
Standing up and yes getting angry, but constructively miffed; not in a car-burny way.
I’ve seen a little of this up close lately and mmm it’s rather tasty .
Timisoara, Cluj and Bucharest with the Disapora protests were just wonderful, and seeing a large section of the nation rise up against their government peacefully, passionately and violence free (mostly – calm down Bucharest! ) was stirring.
I was amazed to see the level of co-operation between Police and Protesters so was happy to march along in an almost family atmosphere while the people had their say against the corruption inherent in their Political system.
This is how it should be!
How many Police can you see? Not many eh? Tens of thousands of protesters here in Cluj alone marching though the city streets.
This was mirrored all over Romania (mostly)
I’ve recently experienced something new while in Istanbul with the Saturday Mothers protests though.
**AFP Photo/Ozan Kose)
OK so you didn’t read it.
Fine. Make me type.
It’s a peaceful protest of about 30 or so family members of people that have been ‘disappeared’ imprisoned or killed) by the Turkish government since the 80’s.
It’s goal is to draw attention to the situation and try to enact meaningful change in Turkey.
Naturally it’s been banned by the government.
On August 25th, 2018, Turkish authorities announced that the governorship has banned the gathering. Following the announcement, in their 700th peaceful protest, Saturday Mothers were faced with police violence (read tear gas, riot squad, water canons, massive Police presence) and several of the participants were arrested.
Every Saturday since, it goes something like this in one of the major tourist areas in Istanbul where potentially 1 to 3 million people transit through each day:
1) Police barricade and block each and every small sidestreet entry to Istiklal street and post armed plain clothes Police to stop people and vehicles entering.
2) White Police ‘Arrest’ buses turn up and sit idling in these sidestreets, along with busloads of Armored Riot and Uniformed Police officers.
3) Outside the Embassies on Istiklal Street, Massive armored water canon trucks are deployed, sometimes more that 10 or so along the length of the streets.
4) Hundreds of plain clothes armed Police roam Istiklal street in pairs (weapon in small black pack over their shoulder but easily identified as they all have a cell phone in one hand and a two way radio in the other)
5) Then this usually happens… (on a quiet day)
OK so a lot is going on in this seemingly straightforward video: a skirmish line of plain clothes Police follows the small group of protesters as they walk along a public street, mixed in are the government media who are focused on the Protesters and ignore the actions of the Police. The armed Riot squad move in once the arrests begin (arrested merely for being there I might add), with the orange tear gas guns and black paintball guns with solid rubber bullets.
When a bystander says something she is assaulted by the Riot Squad officer until he realises he is being filmed by a hundred tourists (it is right next to Galata Tower, a major tourist attraction)
Excessive and unwarranted behaviour on civilians by a government out of control.
Hopefully this might provide insight about the reality on the ground as opposed to the reality put forward by the Turkish media (the media, I might add, that happily shared cigarettes with the Police and joked around but never once turned their cameras back to show the arrest buses, water canon trucks, tactical tanks and the ranks of armored and armed Riot Police shadowing the 25 or so protesters – and actually turned them off when the arrests began)
This video brought me to the notice of a plain clothes police officer, and these photos got me detained for a short time and questioned by the same sharp eyed Officer (although I was quite sneaky about the video, it was this overtly taken blurry photo of the hundred Riot Police lurking around the corner – out of sight of the cameras- that got me picked up)
It wasn’t a big deal: just a tap on the shoulder, he rattled on angrily in Turkish, I smiled and answered in the broadest Australian accent I could, and then made a big show of deleting all the video and photos from my iPhone. He grabbed my arm and marched me over to his Sgt (I’m assuming), rattled on in some more angry Turkish to his Boss who glared at me til I apologetically flapped my Australian driver licence in his face (no way I was showing him my Passport in case he grabbed it) and gabbled on like the dumb Aussie Tourist that I am.
It must have worked or he had bigger fish to fry so after he checked me out, I just told him I was leaving and then walked away while he and his underling were gabbing (with each step waiting for that firm hand on my shoulder but luckily it never came)
**Mental note : when trying to be inconspicuous, don’t wear a bright orange backpack.
A few weekends before the protest had been made illegal, and the Police sealed off Istiklal Street then blasted the crowds (tourist included) with truck mounted water canon and then lobbed tear gas grenades into the crowd of people – not a lot of fun.
ANYWAY …I’m not going to start on the politics but to call the Turkish authorities “heavy handed” would be a gross understatement in my opinion.
Is this life now?
The Turkish people that I’ve come to know just have to accept this and try to get on with their lives and that’s just not right in a modern country in the 21st century.
How long before this is the Australian way of life as well?
What can we do when governments fail us?
I have absolutely no idea now.
Shine a light on things that dont seem right is a good way to start.
Say something. Do something.
Facebook activism is one thing but maybe it’s time to mobilise.
Get out in the streets and make yourself heard, peacefully but forcefully. Rattle some cages.
What else can we do other than riot and not be satisfied with the bullshit that the worlds governments force down our throats?
Any wonder bloody Revolution is looking good these days when nothing else works and our voices are ignored.
Romania had the right idea, maybe its time for change of strategy.
(man this Nepal Ice Red beer is strong!!!! I may have just ranted a little…)