Monday, May 07, 2007

Turkey fieldwork notes: May Day protest

Kurdistan/Turkey fieldwork notes extracts

Having been to the May Day protest in Antep/Gaziantep, at 1pm on the 1st of May 2007, I noted that I had,
just been watching the ridiculous European CNN 'news' coverage of the British terrorism trial.

Never leaving her melodramatic, shocked and appalled of New Tunbridge Wells voice, the presenter went on and on about how British police had hours and hours of video evidence of the (now convicted) suspects spending time together, but didn't do anything about it, but they weren't doing anything incriminating on the video they had. They tried to make our police sound complacent or incompetent because they didn't imprison people without evidence simply because the police had videoed them in the first place! By that reckoning half the country would be imprisoned, interned.
At 11.30pm, I considered that:
I didn't mind losing yesterday; I worked through Sunday night knowing I'd arrive too late to do anything much. Today, however, was supposed to be a working day.

I left the hotel to the sound of protests; not surprising at the moment. I overheard two old men drinking tea on the veranda of a cafe: 'Bu ses nerede?' 'Caddelerde.' 'Where is this noise?' 'In the streets.' I went in the streets and found the noise; I followed the processions to the rally.

These groups were predominantly male, but there were quite a lot of women there and I didn't see there or, more generally and more representatively, in the city, districts or villages I went through on the bus later, the publicly male or, if female, veiled, Orthodox community that others have talked of.

I mean, there may have been a few more women wearing (colourful) headscarves, partiularly the elderly and I may be less sensitive to it because I've seen quite a lot of old women in Greece and Cyprus dressed in black and wearing headscarves in mourning, but not that many.

If the people who've dismissed my life in cosmopolitan, Westernised Istanbul were correct, I should be more sensitive; I live in a neighbourhood known for its transvestites, next to ones known for their poor, their drug addicts and their criminals [though I'm not sure how over-played these stereotypes are and gentrification is pushing all of the socially excluded people who do live in the increasingly desirable areas out of them]. (Certainly, none of the transvestites has found a way to work a headscarf with their short skirt.)

The complexity of Turkish society and unrest was made clear again. I smiled but didn't think anything of it when I saw a kid in an 'anarchy' hoodie, but then I saw banners at the rally noting it was the 1st of May. I'd forgotten that today was May Day. My second-favourite banner read, 'ekmek, iş yoksa, barış da yok', 'if there isn't bread or work, there isn't peace either'. My favourite took off 'ne mutlu...', 'how happy...' and proclaimed instead, 'ne mutlu...', 'how happy...'.

It was strange; I've been at bigger, more heavily-guarded protests before, but this was the first time I felt too uncomfortable to take a photograph of one of the ever-present armoured personnel carriers (APCs). (Still, I got one or two rushed ones a little later.)

After the protest, I went to see about hiring a car; a cup of tea and a poor conversation later (my Turkish is still poor and the man insisted on speaking in German, to help me, despite my Turkish being better - or less poor - than my German now. I tried to get a bus to one of my sites. Arriving at the bus station, one member of staff said it was impossible then offered to take me privately, but another said it was possible and he would take me on his bus. (They were both going to Birecik.) When I got on the bus, I realised that the first person was the driver and the second the fare collector [I later learned, father and son]. A little way along the fare collector got off. Further along, a few primary school teachers got on and he [the driver] asked if anyone knew any foreign languages; they didn't but they knew someone who did, who worked at Zeugma and confirmed that you could only go as part of a tour. [I later found out that 'özel araç' meant 'private transport', not 'private tour'; I got a taxi.]....

I can't believe the American news, giving Bush ten minutes and the Democrats just a couple. Whe they have a Republican speaker, they only stop [pleasuring them] to pay them a compliment, or to ask them a leading question if they're running dry. Oh how I miss Channel 4 News, Radio 4's Today programme and BBC2's Newsnight.

I think I'm going to try once more to put my fieldwork notes extracts up (roughly) on time, backfilling older, as-yet unposted entries on arbitrarily-chosen dates betwee the last one and the current run; most of the ones in-between are pretty insignificant, only going up for completeness.

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