I woke up with a message from Istanbul: “Mai! We are having a Turkish Spring!”
Bosphorus Bridge was captured with thousands of protesters flowing across the bridge that links Asia and Europe. My friend is probably among those people who are angrily demanding that Prime Minister Erdogan respect the will of his people instead of silencing dissidents, Islamizing Ataturk’s legacy, and blaming social media as the “the worst menace to society.”
With a population almost 100% Muslim, for me, strangely, Turkey has never felt like an Islamic country. Probably because the bedrock of this nation is firmly Greek and Roman, and because Istanbul used to be the pride of western civilization. Today the country is a meeting point of two powerful flows between East and West, presenting to the world a wonderful concert conducted by the elements of two most terrific symphonies: Asian and European cultures. The Bosphorus Bridge, glamorously lit up with colorful lights every night, connects the two continents and stands as a symbol for that reality.
Of course, living up to expectations is not always easy. A perfect balance is not always the case, especially when contrasts, sometimes radical contrasts, seem to be the very points that make Turkey attractive. For my friend, she is acting to gain back that balance. The protests at the moment are about that momentum as well, balancing ideologies, adding on, taking off, gaining and losing here and there to keep that balance of contrasts to the point that it does not topple the whole system, but rebalances it safely and interestingly enough to sustain itself and continue to attract people.
I dug up a picture of the Bosphorus Bridge in its peaceful times, sending a message to my friend with a quote from none other than Napoleon himself, who put his Parisian pride in the back room and declared to everyone: “if the world was a country, Istanbul would be its capital.”