Unfortunately every city, with no exceptions, is subject to random acts of violence, and as charmed as I am by Istanbul, I don’t want to gloss over some of the realities it faces as a city consisting of billions of people of various nationalities, religions, and cultures, as well as the few just-plain-crazies. I’m not sure what, if anything, has been broadcast in the U.S. about these events, but they are news here, of course. I am fortunate not to have been personally involved, but they are part of my experience while I’ve been here, so I feel they are important to share.
Last Sunday a suicide bomber blew himself up in Taksim Square, a very heavily-trafficked square in Beyoglu at the opposite end of the always-packed Istiklal Caddesi (Istiklal Street), about a 25-minute walk from my residency and exactly where thousands of very nice people live and work. Fortunately, from what I know, there were no other deaths, but 32 people were hurt, including 15 police and 17 civilians.
And a few weeks ago people at a gallery opening in the Tophane area of the city were physically attacked, and the gallery windows broken, by a mob. Fortunately no one was seriously hurt, but it certainly shook up the art world here. I’ve heard conflicting accounts about the motivation and people involved–whether it was anti-gentrification towards the new galleries that have sprung up in this largely traditional, family-oriented area; whether it was more religiously-motivated against people drinking in the street; whether it was locals from the neighborhood reacting to other insensitivities on the galleries’ parts; or whether it was a statement from people from an even more conservative area of the city; or, or, or…
I don’t report these events to worry anyone, and certainly not to show Istanbul in a bad light. Despite these events, I do feel fairly safe in Istanbul (actually more so than I expected, I have to admit) although I know that I am also leaving soon. I take the normal precautions (not walking alone late at night, keeping my brass knuckles handy, taking my pistol off of “safety”) that I do in every city, but nothing extra.
So, that’s just a minute to think about some of the bad things that happen everywhere, unfortunately. My next post will be back to the fun and photos, and I even more strongly encourage everyone to visit Istanbul! Hopefully through mutual respect, understanding and empathy these types of things can be prevented, here and elsewhere.