To deny freedom of information, freedom of access to information, and freedom of dissemination of information is a denial of human needs within the current era. To harm another human being for asking for basic human rights and freedoms is inhumane.
It was in my girlhood that wanderlust seeded itself—I was intent on traveling the world and taking in whatever my eyes and my heart could see. It did not help matters that my father was a hippie who’d stomped his feet all over the U.S. and later drove my family all over the same country in a little Ford Escort hatchback to see what there was to see. His sister’s travels abroad, too, did not quell my desire to seek out the world beyond “home”—postcards arrived from all over the place: Budapest, Paris, Beijing, and so many other cities and nooks that I’ve forgotten all their names.
While I shared a fascination with living in Paris, I wanted more than anything to visit Turkey. Upon announcing this, I was met with a single utterance: Oh, no. No, you don’t want to go to a place like Turkey.
In the twenty or so years since that conversation with my aunt, I’ve traveled all over the place and eventually found my way to disappointment in Paris, a love affair in London, a tuk-tuk ride with Death in Guatemala, and found a million friendships with people who let me into their homes and whom I let into my home. One such friend was a Turkish girl studying in the U.S. who’s now grown into a woman with a PhD in London.
Today, this Turkish friend of mine sits in her London flat watching what’s unfolding in her homeland and I sit in my flat in the States watching the same unfoldings and wonder with sadness what’s to happen in the near future. Turkey is the country that spurred my interest in travel—if for no other reason than what seemed to me at the time its peculiar name. Turkey’s politics moved me to follow the trial of Orhan Pamuk and later read his books. Turkey brought my friend and I together over tea at a cafe where she taught me the basics of Turkish grammar and language.
The images of the bloodied protests in Turkey are disheartening. What started as a protest against the uprooting of trees in a park for essentially “paving paradise” has evolved into a violent clash of ideals: a government that has moved to gradually restrict the personal freedoms of the individual versus a population striving for not only individual freedoms, but also public freedoms and a place in the “free” modern world.
That Turkey’s politics and cultural norms have clashed with those of the greater world is no secret—only the unread are blind to Turkey’s limitations on freedom of the individual, both past and present. One cannot declare the differences weird or strange—every culture has its own life to live, if you will. Still, this latest eruption, marks a further encroachment on the freedoms of the Turkish people.
Frankly, sitting here in the States, I can only watch from an outsider’s perspective. I am a member of the press in a country with the freedom to say what I wish without fear of government retaliation. I have access to multiple channels of news and media online and in print from across the globe and I do not have to worry (relatively speaking) that my government will suddenly decide to blackout local media or internet access. I do not have to worry that what I say, write, express, and so forth will be censored in my own country. My present understanding of the situation in Turkey means that I cannot say the same for them.
I believe in personal freedoms while acknowledging that not every culture feels the same. However, we live in an era wherein information and access to information are essential. To deny freedom of information, freedom of access to information, and freedom of dissemination of information is a denial of human needs within the current era. To harm another human being for asking for basic human rights and freedoms is inhumane.
So I sit here, flicking through the latest news on the situation in Turkey and I think of the conversations my friend and I last had. The conversation that have continued over the internet, over Facebook and email or Twitter. The lives that have grown around us since we first met: two young women seeking to consume the world with our eyes and our hearts and our hands.
Our friendship and my affection for Turkey remain—perhaps because we are just good friends, but perhaps also because we’ve had the freedom to maintain it.
For more information, please check out the blogs below—they are straight out of Istanbul and can provide more information from the inside.
Let me tell you a story.
I was never the girl that boys wrote love songs for
never the girl that had the world yoyoed around her fingers,
never the girl that spent midnights on the beach
with red plastic cups in her hands
I was the girl that spent recess on the swings,
my palms stretched around chains that locked me to the earth
and swung me to the stars
I was the girl that hid behind four corners of a novel
because words have always been more patience than people
I was the girl that held the superpower of invisibility
behind the cloak of indifference
On my yearbook, they would write:
“You rock, don’t ever change.”
But how do you listen when you stare at your reflection in mirrors
and only see a paper crane falling apart at the seams?
I told myself what no one else would tell me,
“Your body is made of ivory bridges
beneath the pavement of skin,
You are the causeway to every destination
where you go and what you do is entirely up to you.”
“If you don’t like the route you’re taking,
the car you’re driving, the world you’re in,
you can change it.
If you don’t like you,
you can change it.
You want to be a writer, so let this life be your work of art.
You are the poet and the poem, the conductor and the orchestra.
Write your life like you would read it.
Remember that every line within you can be crossed out,
every noun not needed, every adjective all wrong.
Throw yourself down unexpected roads,
turn right when you want to go left.
Remember that it’s okay to take more than one route,
it’s okay to be more than one genre.
You’re allowed to sit down on park benches
reading Bukowski at midnight and stand up listening to Kayne.
You’re allowed to always wear black when your favorite color is pink.
You’re allowed to be a sonnet and also a country song.”
I told the girl filled with self-hate,
“It’s okay, this is only the first draft.”