In May, a ship full of civilians — but not full of humanitarian aid — sailed from Turkey to join the Free Gaza flotilla. Having warned the Mavi Marmara that it would not be allowed to breach the blockade, Israeli commandos raided the ship. In the clash, nine Turks were killed. I’ve lived in Istanbul for five years and I’ve spoken to hundreds of Turks about these events. A Turkish documentary filmmaker and I have filmed some of these conversations. Something will immediately strike the viewer: the Turkish people have no idea what happened. This is because the most basic facts about and surrounding these events have not been reported in Turkey.
Continue reading Istanbul Dispatch: Press Freedom Alla Turca
World Affairs Journal
As the First General Law of Travel tells us, every nation is its stereotype. Americans are indeed fat and overbearing, Mexicans lazy and pilfering, Germans disciplined and perverted. The Turks, as everyone knows, are insane and deceitful. I say this affectionately. I live in Turkey. On good days, I love Turkey. But I have long since learned that its people are apt to go berserk on you for no reason whatsoever, and you just can’t trust a word they say. As one Turkish friend put it (a man who has spent many years in America, and thus grasps the depth of the cultural chasm), “It’s not that they’re bad. They don’t even know they’re lying.”
Continue reading Smile and Smile: Turkey’s Feel-Good Foreign Policy
May 2, 2010
Recently, a Turkish museum’s staff discovered that a large number of famous Ottoman-era drawings from their collection were forgeries, the originals probably stolen years ago. Claire Berlinski finds that the theft of valuable artworks across the world is more common than many think.
During a recent inventory of Turkey’s State Painting and Sculpture Museum in Ankara, museum personnel noticed that some of the frames looked wrong. On further inspection, they discovered to their horror that a significant number of the collection’s famous drawings by the late-Ottoman era landscape artist Hoca Ali Rza, as well as numerous other important works, were forgeries. Not only that, they were photocopies – forgeries so crude that in principle, a child should have seen the difference.
Continue reading An Artful Robbery
January 17, 2010
ISTANBUL Shafts of misty light pierce the steam of the Ca?alo?lu hamam in Istanbul’s Eminönü district, once the heart of walled Constantinople and the seat of the Ottoman Sultanate. Built by Sultan Mahmud I in 1741 to provide revenue for the Haghia Sophia mosque, its marble rooms are opulent, timeless pleasure-domes of fountains and gilded columns. In the women’s section, a pleasant gabble of feminine voices mingles with the sound of sluicing water; the bathers gossip languidly, gently washing one another’s hair. Nothing could be more authentically Turkish than this.
Continue reading The Age of Steam
Turkey poses particular problems for the foreigner attempting to make sense of it. Istanbul, especially, appears to be quite Western, and in many ways it is. This seduces the observer into thinking it is more intelligible than it is. It is easy to believe that you know what’s going on and who stands where on the political compass. Quite often, you’re wrong.
Continue reading Turkish Delight: A Sour Delicacy
The Turkish metropolis is one of the world’s safest big cities—but burglaries are booming. Why?
I walk alone through almost every neighborhood of Istanbul, often at night. This is a megacity of at least 12 million people, many of whom are poor and three-quarters of whom are under 35. Income distribution is gravely unequal. I am nonetheless less afraid—much less afraid—that I will be a victim of violent crime here than I am when I walk through London, Paris, or any big American city.
Continue reading Istanbul’s Crime Conundrum
The Sunday Times, February, 2006
by Maurice Chittenden
White Teeth was a whitewash, says Muslim who inspired prizewinning novel’s central character
WHITE TEETH, the novel that made Britain feel good about the state of its race relations, has been accused of whitewashing the truth by the real-life model for one of its characters.
Ziad Haider Rahman, the inspiration for Magid, one of the twin Muslim brothers at the centre of the novel, said Zadie Smith’s book, which was adapted for a television series, was divorced from reality.
Continue reading Zadie didn’t tell the real race story
Azure, March 2005
Rammstein — a made-up word meaning, more or less, “ramming stone” — is a popular German band. (1) Very popular. Rammstein released its first album, Herzeleid (“Heartache”), in 1995. Within days, it topped the German Media Control Charts. It stayed in the number one position for five weeks, then remained in the top ten for two years, an unrivaled achievement in Germany’s notoriously fickle pop music market.
Continue reading Rammstein’s Rage
The New York Times, January 2005
DURING THE GERMAN band Rammstein’s 1998 American debut tour, the lead singer, Till Lindemann, whipped out a monstrous black appliance in his performance of “Bück Dich” (“Bend Over”) and employed it to simulate sex with his keyboardist, who lay on the floor with a mask on his face, a chain around his neck and a gag in his mouth. When they tried this in Worcester, Mass., the two men spent the night in jail on obscenity charges.
This is nothing compared with the uproar they have caused in Germany, where people actually understand their lyrics.
Continue reading Das Jackboot: German Heavy Metal Conquers Europe
Published in Travellers’ Tales, Provence, and Travellers’ Tales, a Woman’s Europe
WE WAKE EACH day to the sound of a different hippie instrument. Day one was a Tibetan Bell; on day two, Instructor Roger plays the piccolo; today, a man we call Guido because of his oiled hair and handsome gold neckchains walks around strumming a guitar. My brother emerges furrily from another corner of the biodynamic farm, teeth unbrushed, ready to hike to the field for our yoga matinal.
Continue reading Naturally Baked