Our journalist/scholar family friend in Istanbul writes about the upheaval in her country. Please see:
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We know Nice.
My wife was recalling how she and our daughter Corinna walked that promenade years ago.
We always talk with awe about France.
Our friend Sam who lives in the Alps says the nihilists hate it because it is beautiful.
We also know Istanbul.
We went there in the lush fall of 2012.
There were rumblings, omens, but also waves of beauty and history and comfort.
We walked the hills, took trolleys along the Bosporus, visited mosques, drank coffee.
One day we took a ferry to the Princes islands, a leisurely hour north of the city.
The main island, Büyükada, was like one of those vanishing bucolic American islands. We bought baked potatoes for takeaway and strolled the streets.
On the ride back we passed Yassiada, a smaller, more rugged island.
“That’s where they kept political prisoners,” a chatty man told us.
We looked it up. A former prime minister, Adnan Menderes, was held on Yassiada before being executed at a more distant island on Sept. 17, 1961.
That is apparently the most recent political execution, as Turkey sought its place, straddling Europe and Asia.
We visited Asia – Uskadar, with markets and cafes and an admirable book store.
We consider Turkey one of the best vacations we have ever taken -- the farms and villas and rolling countryside near Izmir and Ephesus.
The other night we watched glimpses of the troubles -- bridges and hills and buildings that looked familiar, but this was no travelogue, not with crowds in the streets, soldiers in the streets, rumors and bullets flying.
Will there be new executions in the wake of the attempted coup?
Could we once again take that modern T1 tram line from Kabataş to Bağcılar, gliding through neighborhoods, chatting as we did with a nice Jordanian couple?
More important, for the people who live there, can that great city endure, with one foot in each world?
We sit home and grieve for the great places.
Welcome to World Cup 2022, the most absurd thing that the routinely absurd world of sports has ever produced.
Those extreme descriptions were what virtually the entire world, save for those who had walked off with bags of cash from Qatar, called the awarding of soccer’s greatest event to the incredibly tiny, incredibly wealthy country back in 2010.
Twelve years ago, many were convinced this event couldn’t possibly happen: staging the world’s biggest sporting event in a country the size of Connecticut, one with zero soccer culture and even less soccer infrastructure? The tournament couldn’t possibly take place in 120-degree heat, and FIFA, the governing body of soccer, most certainly wouldn’t upend football leagues around the world to change the traditional summer schedule, could it?
And, for God’s sake, what about the beer?
Those were just the logistical concerns. The moral concerns are far more distressing. FIFA, so busy paying lip service to equality, couldn’t possibly expect the world to embrace a country where you could go to prison for being gay, where women’s rights are severely curtailed and female victims of sexual assault could go to prison, charged with engaging in extramarital sex. And all those questions came before the global realization that the World Cup was being built on the backs of migrant labor: modern-day slaves held in Qatar with virtually no rights, low wages and no ability to leave. Migrants make up 90% of Qatar’s stated population of 3 million. The country’s native-born equal about 300,000, or roughly the size of Anaheim.
---Ann Killion, columnist for The San Francisco Chronicle.