Tuesday, 24 January 2017
On returning from Istanbul
(Theresa May is my problem of course, but she's doing far more than I ever could to ensure her place as a footnote in history and I'm inclined to leave her to it. As long as I'm an active trade unionist, member of an opposition party, registered voter and occasional blogger then I'm confident the old "hoisting and petard" maxim will come into play.)
As a human being of the white, male, European, housed and well fed kind I am personally well protected against the sort of nonsense deluded, quasi-religious, narcissistic demagogues spout and the harm they can do.
Not immune, but well protected.
Erdogan though. Because I have friendships, attachments and obligations in Istanbul he gets to me more than the others.
Returning this afternoon two things from my latest visit stay with me.
First, I learnt, with sadness, that late last year formal prayers were said in Aya Sophia for the first time since 1935.
Before you shout and scream at me, some context.
Built as a Christian site of worship, this astounding building later served as a mosque.
(Those sixteen words sum up several centuries of wars, empires and carryings on which could, and do, fill several libraries across the globe btw.)
In 1935, the building was nationalised and became a museum and if you will, a temple to the secular nature of the Turkish state. And a very fine museum it is too. The Viking graffitti is great.
However, last year "in retaliation", for Pope Francis' acknowledgment of the Armenian Massacre, Muslim prayers were said there for the first time in seventy years.
Yup, that's right. Prayers, as retaliation. Not good.
To be honest, the cat didn't seem bothered but....
The second thing was conversation with liberal, educated, secular friends who are looking for ways out.
People with good jobs, incomes and lives rooted in Istanbul who had never imagined they would leave.
One of them said to me "People in Istanbul are scared to have sex".
(Turkey is one of the few countries in the world where homosexuality has never been proscribed by law btw, and the person who said this is married with a baby. This is not a "gay" thing.)
All of which of course distresses but definitely does not deter me.
If I can help, with the aforementioned protections, (and a British passport) to look after, if not the whole of Constantinople, then at least my friend's guest house for the duration of the present troubles, then I shall.
It's lovely. Please come too. It really is safe. For us.