India Sweet India

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve returned from the Himalayas but I still have not had the chance to write about it. It was an exhilarating experience and as soon as I got back I’ve become very busy.

This time around my trip felt even better than the last time. During my previous trip I was trying to recover from an illness. However this time I was already feeling well when I got there and every moment left me feel like I was in heaven. Literally!

What made it special is not only the amazing view but the vibrations.

The vibrations were so strong and pleasant that every moment was serene and filled with joy and inner peace.

Looking back, every moment of my trip was so delightful that just thinking about it gives me joy. This time I flew to Dubai, then to Delhi from Delhi to Amritsar and from Amritsar we drove up to Dharamsala with other yogis who joined from America.

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As soon as I landed in Delhi, joy took me over. They had lost my luggage which I suspected that they would when they could not give me my boarding passes for the continuation of the trip in Istanbul.

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Anyway, I was too delighted to make a fuss over it and like a true yogini should, I was able to detach from the situation or let it upset me in anyway.

As I arrived to Amritsar, I enjoyed the five hour drive to Dharamsala immensely.

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The pleasure derived mostly from being there in the company of other yogis.

Towards the evening we arrived to Grace Heritage Hotel in Dharamsala.  The calm state of the Himalayas combined with the refine decoration of the Hotel has a soothing effect.

I was very delighted to see Yogiji Uncle. When I told him that the airline has lost my suitcase, he immediately gave me a nice shawl to keep warm and some beautiful Indian outfits.

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The next day I went shopping for some more items that I may need and the problem was completely fixed as though I never lost the suitcase.

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In my lost suitcase there were presents and Tulip Pulps which I had brought from Turkey, for the Dharamsala Ashram so the whole time I was hoping that they would keep. Oddly I had placed an icepack with the Tulip Pulps when I was leaving Istanbul. I don’t know if that helped but they were fine when they arrived.

So surrendering when there is a troublesome situation, the way a yogini should, did make the problem go away.

In general this trip felt much stronger in effect, compared to my previous recent trip to India. That time I was barely recovering from sickness and the healing effects were amazing. This time, I was already fine when I arrived so I could feel the depth being bestowed upon me.

One of the main goals of my spiritual journey is heightened awareness. It happened so spontaneously this time that it was almost surprising to discover the change.

My awareness level and sensitivity towards various vibrations have increased just like that. Along with it worry has disappeared and inner peace has arrived on a whole new level. Feeling very calm on the inside is very pleasant. A spiritual journey involves a lot of introspection and facing oneself before one can clear out the chakras. This time it was less difficult more joyful.

Hiking in the Himalayas, meditating, listening to music, having good food, many many chais, wonderful company, waking up to an amazing view….I just kept absorbing all the wonderful vibrations while greatly appreciating every moment.

After 14 days in the ashram, I went to Heritage Grace Hotel again to spend my last day and night there before leaving the Himalayas. It was yet again such a delight to be there.

I Phone Indıa 260On Sunday morning I left the Hotel at 6 in the morning as a car took me to Amritsar. When I arrived there I visited the Golden Temple before I took my flight.

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Although it was beautiful, it was so hot that I literally felt that I was melting away in the heat. It was around 10:30 in the morning yet already very hot. I was chatting with my friends via my whatsapp group and one of them placed a photo of a nice cappuccino. Oh how much I missed a good cup of cappuccino. I told him that as soon as I arrived in Istanbul, I would enjoy one. A short while later I left the temple and went towards the place where I would meet the driver and right next to it was a coffee shop with great air condition and strong cappuccinos. So I did not have to wait for Istanbul, my small yet pure desire was fulfilled immediately.

It is when we are deeply connected that anything that crosses our heart manifests in front of us effortlessly. I had missed that privilege over the past few years. The realization that it is back along with my awareness levels being heightened is very pleasing.

After having my coffee I went to the airport and took my flight to Delhi. It was incredibly hot, 43 degrees hot to be precise. I was back to melting in my dress. The driver whom I knew from my last trip and had arranged ahead of time came to pick me up at the airport and took me to Nirmal Dham which is not only a Sahaja Yoga Center close to the Delhi Airport but also where my Guru Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi had been buried to rest in peace.

As I was visiting her tomb, I realized that I got to visit Her on Mother’s Day. I had not planned for it on purpose; it just turned out to be so. After paying my respects, I had yet another amazing meditation. Vibrations were so strong that I could hardly bring myself to break away and leave.

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I did leave eventually and through a lot of traffic, the Driver took me to Yogiji Uncle’s wife, Deepa Auntie’s house. I was so happy to see her again. After nice dinner and a delightful chat I collapsed into sleep as I had had only a few hours of sleep for the past two days.  At three in the morning I got up and left for the airport.

My flight back to Istanbul was direct so it was rather swift. When I arrived home I felt the strength of the accumulated vibrations with me.

Since it has been a few weeks now, I found myself diving back into my life and taking a sudden step back. One of the main occasions that take place after strong spiritual experiences is; things getting exposed around me or an increased ability to see things which I could not before.

So soon upon arrival, I found myself getting lost in mediocre ways of the world, trying to fit in with people that I have very little in common with.  Then I questioned why I would even find myself in that situation. I realized that there is something convenient about the mediocre ways of life.

It allows one to kill time in the most inefficient way. This at the same time is very suitable when one does not have any hobbies and a lot of free time or a very ordinary life revolving around daily family worries. In both situations it is harmless fun. However in my case I find that it keeps me from doing things that I used to do to fill my free time. I used to write more and read more. Now I find myself getting lost in meaningless, yet fun chats for hours and hours.

After each trip that I have taken so far for spiritual purposes some major or small changes in my life have taken place. I recall one year after I had first become a Sahaja Yogini in 1999,  the person that I had known until then to be my best friend with whom we grew up together turned out not to be a true friend and I took it a bit hard at the time. I removed her from my life which was a wise decision. However yoginis forgive, so decades later I forgave her. I find myself in a similar situation one more time, this time I cannot say that I am taking it hard.

It is more like a good reminder to stop wasting my time with meaningless chats. The spirit gets exhausted during these so called meaningless chats, thus to maintain the pureness of the spirit, using free time; for good walks with the dogs or art projects, reading, writing, listening to music, meditating, working out, anyone of the things that I already do are better for my spirit.

I can still enjoy deep spiritual or intellectual chats with those who enjoy them as much as I do and those are the people with whom I have more in common thus fitting in does not become an issue.

So a little time spent in heaven, a whole lot more awareness, a little bit of change in the smaller choices of life, a lot of inner peace and joy, feeling calmer and worry free, having a small desire and seeing it be fulfilled right away are the results of my latest trip to India, Sweet India!

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Sweetness Brings the Taste

As I was watching TV, I came across the semi final and final episodes of a cooking competition named “The Taste”. It was very engaging so I found myself watching it with great enjoyment. Anthony Bourdain, Nigella Lawson, Ludo Lefebvre and Marcus Samuelsson are the judges and at the sPepiname time the mentors of their teams.

In the semi final episode, three members of Ludo Lefebvre’s team were competing under his guidance and one from Anthony Bourdain’s team.

The four contestants all seemed interesting although as a viewer Lee Knoeppel from Anthony’s team and Marina Chung from Ludo’s team appeared to be perceived as very promising by the judges in general. However the semi-final was not judged by them but by Chef Jacques Pepin.  A 79 year old French Chef who has not only great recognition but more importantly, immense experience.

He tasted all 4 dishes and picked one to be the best, another one to be the second best, and one to be the worst, who was eliminated.

The one he chose as the best was Marina Chung’s dish and the second best was Lee Knoeppel’s dish, the third contestant who made it to the finals was Louise Leonard.

During the final competition Chef Pepin was mentoring all three, in other words he was mentoring two of the contestants whose food he had picked out to be the best and second best during the semi finals and Louise.

Lee and Marina were very proud that a worldly recognized important chef such as Jacques Pepin had chosen their food in the semi finals.

So during the finals he was browsing around giving suggestions to all of them. Marina simply opposed by saying “No, that is not how I do it”.

Lee was putting some of the dishes onto the small spoons for the judges and Chef Jacques Pepin suggested that it was too early, 18 minutes before their time was up, he simply said “that’s how it’s gotta be”.

Chef Pepin said “It will get cold.”

Lee said “If I heat it, it will dry, there is no other way.”

Yes, the 28 year old contestant was telling the 79 year old, famous Chef that there is no other way.

The Chef gave it another try and suggested he keeps it low heat in the oven. Lee could not be convinced. He knew better than Chef Pepin.

It was very interesting to observe both Lee and Marina disregarding suggestions of one of the best Chef’s in the world when they were so proud, for their food to be acknowledged by the very same man, “One of the best chefs in the world!” as they called him.

So while being judged by him they recognized what a valuable professional he is, but when he was mentoring them, they completely disregarded his input. In a way they felt they knew better than the experienced Chef.

Louise however was the humble one. He suggested that she cuts of the white part of the bread she made and leave the crust only, which she immediately did. Then her meat sauce broke and while she was desperate to save it, Chef Pepin helped her out and provided a quick solution. He made her use the juice of the meat from the oven with a little bit of her broken sauce, saying “You need so little for the tiny spoons that this will do.”

She did as he suggested.

Chef Pepin said, “She is more receptive” nothing more.

When it came to the finals, the judges tasted all three contestants’ dishes, without knowing who cooked what of course.

It was very interesting to observe their discussions. Lee’s dish where Chef Pepin had suggested to be kept warm, could not be identified by any of the judges. They liked the taste but could not tell what it was exactly. Had he listened to Chef Pepin and kept it warm they could have maybe.

Louise’s crunchy bread got immediate positive attention. All in all the judges said that all three are of similar high level, none jump out so it will be a difficult to tell who the winner will be.

After they all turned in their points, Lee ended up being the third and Marina the second, whereas Louise, the least expected contestant won the competition.

The reason I felt compelled to write about this was because it was such a good example of how the ego can destroy someone and how humility can push someone forward.

In a situation where three cooks of very similar level were competing at the finals, the difference was in the very small details. Chef Pepin offered the same help to each and every one of them, and the one who heard him won with a very slight difference. That difference came from being wise enough to listen to the input of an experienced person.

The modern world makes us believe that aggression, competitive behavior; generally speaking an ego oriented style is what brings success. Although it might create the image of success, this competition was a perfect example to the contrary. Throughout the two final episodes that I watched, Louise was not depicted as a big deal by any of the commenters while the other two finalists were considered very promising on account of their food but also that is how they carried themselves.

Nigella Lawson had one remark that caught my attention. She said “Louise always smiles no matter what and I can taste that smile in her food.”

So when they chose the winner without knowing whose dish it was, the winner turned out to be the one contestant whose food was filled with love and who was humble and wise enough to respect an experienced Chef to get the little bit of difference that made her win.

I thought that was inspiring, as it proves that when everyone is at the same level, the ones that stand out are not the ones who have confidence deriving from their ego but the one who is humble enough to pass beyond their ego.

In essence, a pumped ego is not a prerequisite for success and sweetness in not necessarily an obstacle!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Are they Terrorists or Activists?

The terrorist attack on Charlie Hebdo and his coworkers which lead to their death is very tragic. Cartoonists were killed over their jokes.  The radical Islamist’s non-tolerant behavior against freedom of speech appears to have shocked the world.

I am surprised that they are shocked, given that the magazine has been receiving threats for years.

What I find hard to understand is why they did not have better security when they were so obviously and openly threatened.

Of course the issue is way beyond a threat on freedom of speech, like any terrorist attack, this one also is a big threat to the security of the public of France. Now, the world seems to be on alert against terrorism. Unless the world unites against it, terrorism it will always exist.

Paris has been the safe harbor of the PKK, which is a Kurdish armed terrorist organization that attacks mainly Turkey. Although they are on the terrorist list of the UN, USA and EU their headquarters in Paris are no secret.

Three months ago, the PKK burned down a supermarket in İzmir while people were shopping inside. I recall chatting with a French friend who did not think that it was such a terrible thing, after all Kurds had a good cause, in his mind. The fact that they were aiming to kill ordinary citizens who were merely going about their daily routine of grocery shopping did not seem to shake him.

I ended the conversation saying, “If the same happened in Paris or London I doubt that you would be so easygoing about it.”

Three months later the same thing did in fact happen in Paris, terrorists held up a supermarket, some died during the incident. He sees this as a tragedy and I completely agree.

My point is that terrorism is bad in any form mainly because they are a threat to innocent ordinary citizens, regardless of what they believe in. Some soldiers of the Turkish army who were cornered, attacked and killed by the PKK while off duty, unarmed and merely grocery shopping with their wives, turned out to be of Kurdish origin. The same way a policeman killed by the Islamıc terrorists in Paris was in fact a Muslim.

These past 2 days, bomb attacks were stopped around various malls in Istanbul and two PKK militants were caught. This is during the peace process.

The world uniting against terrorism is a good idea, but this unity should be against all armed terrorist, since they are all a threat to innocent lives. Once nations start harboring some terrorist because their cause does not seem so bad, in other words their gun’s are not turned towards the citizens of the harboring country, there is no way of stopping it.

Unity means, legal states looking out for each other on this matter by standing against illegal organizations as a front. If that truly happened, I doubt that these organizations could keep their strengths for too long. After all an attack with sticks and stoned would not be too scary, and whether they are Islamist terrorist or ethnical terrorists, their access to guns and ammunition comes from some legal state, somewhere in the world.

Should the modern world truly unite against them, they would have very limited strength to operate.

Another measure that needs to be taken to solve this problem of Radical Islamist terrorists is to go into the root of the problem. The Muslim world needs to own up to this problem and save the youth from falling into ideas that motivate them to fight under the illusion of Jihad. ISIS is attacking Muslims more than Non-Muslims simply because that is what the main population consists of where they are stationed. Boko Haram is enslaving and raping Muslim girls who are just children. So although to the western mind this may appear to be a threat for Non-Muslims only that is not the case.

These Radicals are a threat to anyone peaceful and normal, thus they need to be dealt with as the world’s problem. Yet the main responsibility falls onto the shoulders of Muslim countries. We always hear the following quote “Islam is a peaceful religion” saying it is not enough, establishing peace is what needs to be done.

I was pleasantly surprised to hear discussions in this regard on Turkish TV. It was refreshing to hear Muslim clerics say more that “This is not true Islam” but owning up to the problem and looking for solutions against these radical moves.

Of course if extremist in Europe act out on the existing Xenophobia, using the tragedy as an excuse it will corner the Muslim world into a defensive speech.

So the true solution for this issue is, for regular Muslims and Westerners to team up against this problem. Of course a very delicate balance needs to be maintained for it to work.

If Europeans keep making statements that include all Muslims into the same circles with these radicals, the peaceful ones will end up retrieving themselves from the situation.

The same way if the peaceful Muslims do not own up to the situation and simply blame it on Xenophobia, they will rightfully have to endure more xenophobia. After all if these guys do not represent your religion, “where are you to represent it? Make a stand so that we finally see these peaceful Muslims in action” would be a fair response.

In summary the more civilized members of the world whether Muslim or Non-Muslim have to team up and work against these medieval savages. However such a partnership would also fail when terrorist such as the PKK are guarded, simply because their guns do not turn towards citizens of France. The way to a more peaceful world, where one is not threatened to be killed while grocery shopping, lies in taking a stand against all armed terrorism.

All of those groups have good reasons if you ask them.  It does not change the fact that they are killing ordinary innocent people, which is precisely what makes them terrorist.  Considering those who do not kill your own citizens “activists” is something that any country can do, but that is how these organizations manage to exist and keep attacking. Thus the world needs to take stand against all of them.

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Tranquility, Easy to Reach

It’s raining outside, the sound of the water beating against the pavement is very calming. I have finally had a good night of sleep last night, after a few days of little sleep.

A project that I had been working on for a few months now has kept me very busy lately that I did not have the time to update my blog. It involved a lot of reading on subjects that I like so I cannot complain.

Still when I finished, I found myself feeling happy to be free to read more things unrelated to the topic of my project. Days like today, when I wake up rested after a tired period, I feel blank. It is a pleasant feeling. After having to be focused on something for days, once it is finished my brain seems to relax and by going blank breaking me away from my regular life.

It is a good state to meditate.

I have been a Sahaja Yogini since 1998 yet sometimes, I still find my friends asking me if I continue my yoga practice. I’ve been practicing since college and it has become a life style for me since then. I used give free of charge, Sahaja Yoga classes in college. Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi, who is the founder of Sahaja Yoga, always explained that sharing love should not be charged for and established the whole organization as a non-profit entity.

Yoga means “Union” It is a way to unite with the whole, call it Divine, call it Universe…depending on one’s spiritual beliefs the terminology might change but through Yoga we connect. The western world seems to have a misconception of the word Yoga assuming that it is about body postures. This is mainly because the west was introduced to the idea of Yoga mainly through practices such as Hatha Yoga, which involve a lot of body postures.

It matched the western culture’s idea of achievement, because when you evolve your physical abilities everyone can see it. So you have proof that you are better at it and can even secretly compete with others should you wish to do so. Whereas spiritual evolvement should make one stop competing with others.

Training the body to bend a certain way also helps one be thoughtless, as one is very much focused on the position, so like some other sports, this type of posture involving yoga relaxes one.

Then again, there is so much more to uniting that seems to be missed in these modern, posture involving westernized yoga classes. The silence of meditation pulls us back into the reality. Especially, if we have lives with a fast pace, to elongate the moment in between two thoughts and go thoughtless might not seem easy at first, but there is a tremendous calming effect once achieved that state.

That blank state breaks us away from all the things that seem to matter and lets us feel the pure joy of THE MOMENT. Although it may differ from culture to culture our conditionings, make us want to mold into a certain form that we feel is acceptable and desirable. Then there are material things that we believe help us have the right look for how we want to be perceived.

Not that I see anything wrong with material achievements, my concern is more on the price that sometimes comes with it. By material, I do not necessarily mean a car or a house but even a position among society.

I feel that as long as we feel free spiritually, it is OK to chase after our dreams of achievement.  How we know whether we are free or not is simple. If we are able to feel inner joy, we are good.

However if the price comes at becoming a sort of dry person, with the inability to enjoy the simple things, there is a problem!

The ideal state should be to make it, (whatever it is we desire to make) while maintaining the ability to feel inner bliss.

One of the keys to that is getting over our conditionings. The ability to have a flexible perception on how things ought to be opens a whole new door.  Still there is more to it than the fact that it makes one, a solution finder in situations where people in the box cannot step out.

The best part is that the invisible strains created by our surroundings cannot capture us. In other words, it becomes hard to make us feel bad about who we are, according to the measurements of society.  Those silent moments where we unite with the whole on a spiritual level, helps us see everything from a different angle when it comes to the encounters with the rest on a mental level.

The clouds of thoughts and shapes disappear, leaving us with pure joy, the way it is with children. Children have the ability to tremendously enjoy playing with something as simple as a gift’s wrap, not even the gift itself. Since no one entered this world as an adult, we were all like that and the ability is actually still there.

Although it may sound, like a far away state to be in, when I try to describe it through words, it is like a type of food that one has never tasted, and understands the actual taste of it, better than any of my explanations once they have a bite of it.

Lately a girlfriend at my gym, catches me after a swim and asks me help her meditate. I love that it happens so spontaneously and it has been while since I’ve given yoga classes.  We sit next to the whirlpool where it is usually quiet and go thoughtless, while the kundalini clears out the catches on our chakras, we just enjoy the moment. Those moments of silence are not only rejuvenating but while we enjoy the moment, our world gets re-aligned.

After twenty minutes, she tells me how relaxed and good she feels. Whatever was pulling her down disappears. Of course the actual experience beats, me telling about it. What is happening is that when we are in balance, our surroundings also fall into the right balance. It is not only our perception that gets fresh eyes but also the detachment from whatever it is that is on our mind, takes away its hold on our state of mind.

The alignment that takes place during our silent moments makes things suddenly start working. Those silent moments might seem inactive but it is our connection with the whole, it is the yoga state. In other words our power to create change is not limited to our physical action.

So we do not have to choose between a joyful state and worldly achievements, they are certainly not mutually exclusive but set-backs which are a natural part of working towards a goal, will bother us less when we have the inner joy on our side.

I should probably give a little more information on the type of yoga that I practice for those readers who might desire to achieve the above explained state.

Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi

Sahaja Yoga

Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi started Sahaja Yoga in 1970 by awakening the kundalini of masses.  In the presence of an awakened kundalini, another one can be awakened, should one desire. This realization helps us re-connect with the whole, in a spontaneous way. Sahaja Yoga means “Spontaneous Union”.

The Kundalini resides in the sacrum area of our body, and it is a female energy that we are all born with. Once our conditionings start as we grow up, she assumes a dormant position, thus upon her re-awakening we become able to have the state of joy that we had in our childhood. As the kundalini rises, she works through our chakras, and unblocks them. This spontaneous clear out, has a transforming effect on our whole being. Of the seven chakras (energy centers) each has a negative and positive quality. So if the chakra is clear the positive quality comes out and if it is blocked the negative quality manifests.

I will not go through all of them but as an example, when our center heart is blocked we might feel uneasy and restless for some moments. Some people resort to alcohol or other substances to subdue that state when it happens. Air is the element of this chakra and proper breathing while meditating is a way to clear it out instantly. Once the chakra is cleared, calmness and peace replaces the previous state of anxiety.

This “clear out” is possible during meditation, so other than the inner bliss, there is a practical side to it that helps us evolve while enjoying.

If I caused you to be curious about Sahaja Yoga, you can simply go to any one of the centers that might be in your area, free of charge, as sharing love should not cost money.

Enjoy the bliss 🙂

http://www.sahajayoga.org/worldwidecontacts/default.asp

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But We Had More Memories to Make…

Sudden death is hard to cope with, for the ones left behind. I suppose it is good for the one who leaves this earth. Going without suffering much, is ideal. I lost my father last week and it hurts immensely. We have not had the best relation, yet oddly I would always worry about this day. I guess deep down I had hopes to work things out among us, although I was not willing to do much about it. The reason that I could not bring myself to resolve things was mostly because it hurt me too much.

Then a few months ago something changed. I found myself enjoying our little chats, even calling him. I guess I should find solace that I had forgiven him before he passed, yet the pain keeps taking me over. Most of my memories with him go way back to my childhood. I was finally ready to make new memories, but he is gone now.

I find myself trying to justify the pain I feel or the fact that I loved him. I find myself telling people that I am making snow days when I am actually grieving and cannot get myself to do much. I tried to go swimming a few days ago because it usually makes me feel better.  As I was in the water I found myself reminiscing that he was the one who taught me how to swim when I was only two years old. I swim a few days a week and this thought never occurred to me. Since he passed memories seem to flow.

He did not like me to swim in wavy sea waters, but one day when I was around eleven years old, I almost got drowned. The current had pulled me in and I was out of sight. He was a great swimmer, so he jumped into the water with his clothes on, to get me out. He could not find me because the waves and current kept me in. As a large wave kind of spat me out, I found myself on the shore. He was furious that I went into the water when the waves were man high and he had told me not to, but that day he explained to me theoretically how to swim in such waters, just in case it happened again, to ensure that I could survive.

 

“Never go against the waves, rise with them, fold with them and you will be able to go forward. Obey nature and the sea will give you way.”  were his words.

He liked nature, discussions on history and theology and so do I.

He was good looking, charming, humble, and very polite; yet spoke his mind openly without sugar coating what he has to say, while managing not to offend anybody. I never heard him yell at anyone.

As a little girl I thought that he was my ally. I knew he would buy me the facial paint set that mom refused to buy (knowing that I would make a mess), which he did. Mom was the disciplinary, he was the fun daddy. If I really misbehaved, he would just say,

 

“I will tell your mom.”

 

I would object saying “No come on, you cannot do that!” In my mind we had a code of honor, we were good friends.

He had taught me how to play poker when I was six or seven. I have no idea how to play now, I completely forgot, but at the time he let me win each and every time. Of course as a little girl, I was so sure that I was beating him and that I was a terrific card player.

One day as we were walking down the street, he told me that I could go to him whenever I had a problem, no matter what my problem was. I was probably seven years old and had just started school when this conversation occurred.

I said “OK” after a small moment of silence, I asked

 

“Daddy what’s a problem?”

He laughed and told me that as I grew up, I may come across situations when I do not know what to do and that I would never need to hide them from him. I should just go to him and he would help me.

As a child I desired to have a problem to share with him, it seemed like a privileged situation, where I would be sharing a secret with him.

Sadly later in life, he was the last person that I ever felt that I could go to when I encountered a troubled situation. However, recently I had realized that whenever we spoke, his calm voice was calming me too.

When I received the call last week that informed me that he had passed in the morning I found myself bursting into tears hysterically. I did not know what to do with myself, nor called anyone. My mother has a way of feeling me; she popped by unannounced and found me in tears. She tried to ease my pain. It has only been a week, so the sudden crying crises kick in at the least expected moments, but I know that time is the only thing that can help relieve the pain. I have to wait it out.

Meanwhile I have puppies who naturally have no idea of what goes on in my life, who cry when hungry, distract me by being naughty and kiss me relentlessly which in fact helps. My grown doggies make me go out and walk in the freezing weather because they need to relieve themselves, which is good because not much else could get me out the door for a leisurely walk these days. Since they enjoy the snow, they take their time too. They must feel my sorrow as they do not much leave my side, especially Shylo. He is always right by my side these days. Work continues as usual. Actually I had to attend work matters the day I got the news, as the next day. It made me wonder how people manage to grieve by putting things on hold. Silence seemed more painful the first two days. I know time will help me, ease my sorrows.

In movies death always causes people to see things with a new perspective. I realized that it is true. Putting things off when there are emotions involved is really not a good idea. We really do not know what’s next. So I find myself more expressive of my affection, even towards those who might not so much suspect it….

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The Nouveau Riche

I was chatting with my father the other day and somehow the subject went to my great-great-great grandfather from his side. About 150-200years ago he was a scholar and a large property owner. This was a period before modern Turkey was formed. Aside from managing his vast properties, he was a perfume maker. Mastering a job of skill was common in Ottoman tradition. Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent for example was a great conquer but also a jewelry maker. My ancestors from the father’s side were into pleasant scents. My great-great-great grandfather had built a splendid Hamam for personal use. It was destroyed in time, but when he had built it, it was famous for its superbness. This also explains my passion for perfumes, scented creams, and spa days. It runs in the family for over 5 generations, if not more.  

After the conversation was over I realized something about my family. Both from the Mother and the Father’s side they have been around long before the formation of modernTurkey. This gives me information about the era that cannot be learned from books.

The common conception is that with the formation of the Turkish Republic, women have been liberated. It is true that Atatürk changed the law, so that women could vote decades before French or Italian women. Then again life for women during the Ottoman era was never the way it has been in other Muslim countries.

My Mother’s grand mother for example was the daughter of another vast property owner. Her husband was very well educated, yet not as wealthy as herself. Education seemed more important as her family was already very well off and culture was very much valued within the family. She was a well read, elegant lady surrounded by servants, but also very sporty. She could ride her horse as well as most men, if not better. In the early nineteen hundreds, one day her husband went hunting with his crew and they got snowed in, in the mountains. The crew came back without her husband. They told her that the blizzard was too severe; they could not possibly reach the area where he was lost.

Her response was simple;

I am not leaving my husband to die in the blizzard!

She hopped on a horse, went into the blizzard, climbed the supposed impossible to reach area, found her husband in an unconscious state. She got him on her horse all by herself and brought him back to safety. She had saved his life while risking her own without hesitation and none of the men in the crew had her courage. Years later, she divorced the same husband because she did not want to be with him anymore. Not only was she strong but very independent too.

One of her daughters, who would be my Mother’s aunt became one of the first female bank directors, when Atatürk was putting Turkey through a series of revolutions.  As a bank director, there were male employees reporting to her. Considering the mother that had brought her up this was not a problem. In this period there were not many female managers, in the world yet. The men in my mother’s side of the family have been respecting women as their equal for more than 150 years, which is as far as it came up in family stories. Then there are things that one does not learn from stories but they simply run in the family. The importance of proper language skills is one of them. My Grand Parents from both sides have passed away, but my Mother’s uncle is still alive.  When he speaks, his Turkish is so refine, yet his abilities of precise expression are so naturally advanced that it almost sounds like poetry. He is equally fluent in German as he studied Economics in Germany. This was a period long before the gastarbeiter era, but a time when Turks and Germans still had an ongoing alliance left from Ottoman relations. Anyhow I was educated in the US and upon my return, I was using some English words while speaking Turkish. I recall precisely how my mother warned me that this was an ignorant person’s trait.

“An educated person should be able to express themselves very well in their native language and then they can also be very fluent in multiple more languages. “were her words. Needless to say that it did not take me too long to clear up my Turkish, to the extend that I’ve become a published writer in my native tongue.

Getting back to the subject of women’s liberation along with the formation of the republic; there are so many stories in my own family that the idea that women were completely disrespected during the Ottoman era and then suddenly completely liberated with the formation of modern Turkey is absurd. Atatürk has saved the nation by showing great leadership when the Empire was falling apart. He did put the nation through a series of revolutions, which were necessary to create a better life for the public in general. He was a great leader.

Lately however some blame him for anything that may have gone wrong, while others blame every thing that went wrong on his ‘absence’. The truth of the matter is that the nation went through many changes and some important bricks that create the foundation of any society were neglected.

How did that happen?

The Nouveau Riche

Naturally every revolution creates its own power figures. As the country was re-built after the war, new opportunities were formed. Those who were close to the new government became very rich, in maybe a decade of time. Some of these families are still very wealthy. As Modern Turkey is not even a hundred years old, the grandfathers of these people who did not come from a fortunate upbringing but seized the opportunities presented to them, go mostly two generations back. The Grandfathers who made the money, passed away within the last decade. Some of them never lost their country side accent. Their stories have given hope to the rest of the society.

Servants or small time merchants that made it to be the tycoons of the country!

The fact that they did not belong to a certain high class, could not stop them from achieving success. It all sounds promising, only the ways to all those riches were not all that innocent. Turkey had gone through a period were foreign goods were banned and a few families had monopolized the market. The close relations to the government had helped them all the way. The law was as good as, at their disposal. This happened after Atatürk had already passed away. The shift of money to a different class has somehow affected the rest of the culture as well. Nowadays it is almost impossible to come across anyone well off, whose ancestors were not peasants. Many who like to consider themselves as members of a certain elite, link their own past to the days that the republic was formed and almost denounce the periods prior to that.

I often hear words such as “The Ottomans were ignorant!”

My natural response is, “Who do you think the Ottomans are?”  They are our past. It took me a while to figure out the depth of the ongoing polarization in the nation. Lately it is almost like some Turks accept the Ottomans as their past and have a disliking against Atatürk and others dislike the Ottoman periods and accept the history of Modern Turkey as their past.

I must explain for my readers who are not familiar with Turkish history that the above expressed distinction is absolute nonsense and is not based on historical facts but more about a desire to be related to a certain period in the past more than another period.

Otherwise by historical means of definition, the Ottoman Empire was formed and lead by Turks, and when it fell apart after WWI, a tough war had to be fought to fend off foreign invasion, after which Modern Turkey was formed, with the leadership of Atatürk.

Atatürk Next to a Young Teacher

Anyhow the nouveau riche, have strictly identified themselves with the modern values of the new formed republic such as secularism. Their two generations old, vast amounts of money,  along with lack of class has made vulgarity more acceptable among the new elite. In the more traditional Turkish higher class upbringing, flashing off material possessions is considered distasteful. Treating the less fortunate with nothing but kindness is one of the unspoken obligations of members of a class that is accustomed to be served for many generations, thus the nouveau riche wannabeswho are clueless of such details, make a point of being harsh with the waiter that attends their table. The wannabes are those who look up to the wealthy as role models and imitate their lack of manner, by doubling or tripling it. The unfortunate result is banal behavior to have some sort of acceptance within the culture.

Ironically within the last decade a new group of “nouveau riche” is being formed. The mildly Islamist party has been running the country for a decade and those who are close to them have become richer.  Now the two generation old rich families, who did not care to do anything for the country for decades, look down on the newly rich ones, and blame them for destroying the country. Fifteen years ago some of these key families had a lot of influence over many important areas such as the media, the military, even the changes in law.

Now they almost claim guardianship over Atatürk’s legacy of secularism, but what most fail to see is that Atatürk tried to plant the seeds of turning Turkey into a “People’s State”.

Many followers conveniently, missed that point as it would interfere with their “Monopolize the Market” agenda. Three decades ago the importation of many items were banned, punished by jail time and the whole nation could only buy products produced by certain family businesses that turned into empires in a short period of time.

Another point that was missed was guarding cultural values. Naturally the Nouveau Riche, some of which controlled the media, was not bothered by the erosion of the language. Their own parents did not speak “High Turkish” either, so why should it be important to create role models, who would ensure that such values would not be lost to new generations?

Demure is one of the important signs of the traditional Turkish elite class. Sadly it has become rare to come across and is certainly not imitated by the new generations.

The mildly Islamist newly rich families are under the illusion that before Atatürk everyone was extremely religious. My Mother’s father was an atheist. He may have lived his adult life during the modern Turkey era, but previous generations of his family were not very religious either. I keep referring back to my own family because these days, each end of the polarized nation seems to have a different idea on how things used to be.

The fact of the matter is that a certain class was modern also during Ottoman times. Atatürk made an effort to extend that modernity to the rest of nation, while making revolutions that would help the commoners receive better education and have better rights through the democratic voting system. After he passed away, those who claim to share his views have not done much to ensure that the country would become a functioning  people’s state. As explained above everyone seemed busy, while a few families were monopolizing the market. After decades of negligence and looking down on country men by the rulers, the mildly Islamist party appeared to show more concern about the public’s basic needs. In return the people have embraced them.

Some complain that the culture is being eroded due to the shift of power, but the culture had been eroding long before that and the previous nouveau riche have not set the best example.  They are vulgar and distasteful, so are the new ones. The only upside for the people is that the new power figures feel more obliged to embrace the people, which is ironically more in the steps of Atatürk’s legacy……..go figure!

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The Art of Communication

Puppies Responding to Words with Kisses

These days I have something special yet temporary in my life. Since I know that it cannot last forever, I try to savior every moment. My doggie had given birth and now the puppies are about two months old. They are such a delight to be around, it is heavenly. I wish they could always remain so cute. Every moment I spend with them they bedazzle me with a different move. A few days ago I noticed that they were responding to the sound of food dropping into their bowl. As soon as they hear it they come running inside from the garden. All of them hop with a sense of urgency, it is cute.When  I am not around to pay attention, I do not like to let them stay outdoors. So when I have to leave the house, to get them to come inside I would pour some food in the bowl and they would all run in. Today they were full and the weather was too nice, so three of them did not come to the sound. I started talking loudly in the high pitch voice that I only talk to them saying “Baby, baby, baby my sweet baby” then I heard them hopping in rush, to come kiss me.

 Of course my heart melted right then and there!

I was so touched that they were showing the same kind of enthusiasm to the idea of coming in to kiss me that they normally show towards food. In a puppy’s life, food is basically all they care for, as they mainly eat, play and sleep. Not that grown doggies are much different but at least they understand when I say “NO” whereas the puppies seem under the impression that “NOOO!” means “Go right ahead!”

Anyhow to make a long story short, their presence and every behavior makes me very happy. I am used to getting covered in tiny little muddy paw prints all over me, as they like to climb onto me, the way they climb onto each other. When I squat, they kiss me, bite me, and pull my hair, all with tremendous enthusiasm.

I go through my days with major contrast in the way I look, as I like chic attires, which is normal but becoming so muddy everyday is new to me. When I come back to my life with fine clothes, business meetings and a polished look, I find myself eager to go back to my muddy little rascals.

Treating Art as a Simple Form of Currency

A short while ago I attended to an art event. This was neither the first nor the last art event that I would visit, but there was something significant about it that made me think of the experience later on. I was invited to a private lounge within the venue and the bank that owns the launch hired an art expert to walk us through the galleries.

I went to college inSan Francisco, so I imagined this occasion would be something like in mySan Franciscodays. People of the Bay Area are very open minded and seeing a new dimension of anything and looking for depth is verySan Francisco. The Hippie move started in Haight Ashbury (San Francisco) toured the world, ended in Berkeley (Bay Area). Therefore gatherings of all sorts were always interesting in this town.

Anyhow, my experience at this occasion was nothing like that; in fact I was surprised with the banking lady who approached me at the VIP launch. She told me that art is a good investment.

Ok it is!

But the way she built up to this sentence made me feel like, in her mind that’s all it is.

I kindly said “Is that so?”

She kept telling me the profits some people made.

As she was going on, I had a flash back vision in my mind the way it happens in movies.

A few years ago at the same event I fell in love with a painting. It was a couple kissing. Nothing original about it, but I could hardly break away from it. My mother bought it and that weekend on the Sunday art section of most papers’, it was featured as one of the most outstanding items. I had no idea when I fell in love with it, but mom was not the least bit surprised. I was drawn to it as it had moved me, simple as that!

For me, in spite of the regularity of it’s theme that was no ordinary kiss!

I had kissed that way, felt that way…it had spoken to my heart

Of course I did not tell this story to the banking lady.

She would probably look at me and think that I am a romantic fool, which I certainly am!

 I just sat there as she went on.

When the tour started, the expert’s lack of passion made me feel a little disappointed but I did not want to disrespect her, by simply walking away.

Then I heard someone whispering in my ear “Have you had enough? Shall I save you?” A friend of mine who owns a gallery was exhibiting at this event, and the person whispering in my air with the most amused facial expression was her father.

I said, “Yes please” 

There I had my excuse to walk away.

Later, my friend introduced me to the artist who was displaying his work through her gallery. The poor man shook my hand and told her, “Yes I noticed her. She actually looked at my paintings.”

So were others just chatting away without bothering to see what’s on display?

No Need for Words When the Heart Speaks

Then a few days later, when I was in my muddy paw print look, walking with my dogs who cannot stop hugging me, right after they jump in mud, the owner of a fish restaurant by the Boshphorus that I walk pass everyday approached me. He asked me if I could maybe help them move their dog Tommy, to the terrace. Tommy is literally bigger than me. He is only seven months old and when he is tied outside he likes to hug Delilah and me as well. (more paw prints) I love the little giant. His owner must have seen us interact. The Chef came as well and they started telling me how Tommy does not want to climb stairs and because of his strength, he cannot be pulled up or anything, he needs to be convinced.

It is not very common in my culture for men, to ask a small framed woman to help with a giant of a dog, so I was pleasantly surprised.

It got me thinking later, why would they think that Tommy would obey me, as opposed to them? Then I realized that they see me communicate with my doggies all the time.

Yes! I talk to my doggies with full sentences and I know they understand me very well. They may not be able to talk back with words but they sure express themselves. The trick is that I talk through my heart and doggies acknowledge that immediately.

It also made me realize that sometimes I am better at understanding what a dog says without words than what a person says with words. So the contrast is not only in my clothes but my worlds.

Why do people have to complicate everything?

The banking lady was standing in a venue surrounded by items created by other human beings who try to express themselves in other ways than saying things directly; possibly more bold, more striking ways, yet all she could focus on was that someone, not even herself, someone could make money off this.

The inability to enjoy beauty for what it is must be some kind of curse.

What I love most about all forms of art, is that very communication aspect that connects us all. A song can make millions of people tap into the same emotion. The one who composed it, not only connected millions under the same feeling, but also let’s them express their feelings through his/hers musical ability. Those who are better at putting their emotions into their work and letting it speak to others are considered better artists, because more are drawn to their work.

A lot of things are much simpler than they seem. People sometimes build a clutter that acts as a barrier of joy. Going through motions for the sake of appearances is one of the sneakiest bliss stealers but people do it all the time.

Whether it is time with puppies, an art event, a concert or a good dinner, we all try to relax and enjoy in our spare time, that only happens when we simplify it and appreciate the actual thing instead of getting lost in the sideshow, such as who we see there, who gets to see us, what is profitable…..

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Could a Religion be About Terrorism?

It has been a decade since the 9/11 attacks. The world was shocked to see how vulnerable America was against such a horrible strike. At first, the enemy was the terrorist organization Al Qaeda headed by Osama Bin Laden. In time the enemy became Islam. It was interesting to see the change in perception.

In 2003 Al Qaeda bombed the HSBC headquarters, the British Embassy and some Jewish Temples inIstanbul. In spite of the strategic places where the bombs were placed, the people who died were mostly Turks, Jewish and Muslim. Bin Laden had no problem attacking a Muslim nation and he was not yet perceived as the symbol of Islam by Christian countries.

How that happened often puzzles me, although I recall reading articles on the subject in the late nineties, long before 9/11 had occurred. Political forecasts at the time were suggesting that the threat of communism is going to be replaced by the threat of Islam. Frankly, it seemed a bit far off at the time. I had grown up in a secular Muslim country. The pieces I read were suggesting that the American public needs an enemy and with the cold war ending, communism could no longer be considered much of a threat, so it was going to be Islam.

Time proved the argument to be true. Fifteen years later we see an American public, with the idea that Islam means terror.

Could that really be the case? Could a religion that has the second largest following in the world be about terrorism?

“Come on who is going to believe that?” is what crossed one’s mind back in 1997.

Hollywood movies from the cold war era always picture the Russian as the bad guys and movies dated after 2001 always portray the Muslim, mostly Arabs as the bad guys.

How is this relevant?

It is no secret that the majority of the public is very much influenced by such movies. Not only in America but in most countries the general public does not have in depth information on history, or cultures of different nations.

The fact that Al Qaeda placed bombs in Istanbul makes them the enemy to Muslims as well. Yet the perception was never so, it was more like Osama calls for Jihad, he does it in the name of Islam so all Muslims shall be in agreement with him.

Really?

The world of Islam may not at all be in agreement with Al Qaeda but there is another point that seems to be missed, which often puzzles me. Millions of Muslims had died in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Palestine.

 How is that they do not matter?

What kind of mindset justifies attacks when they come from one side and condemns them when from a different side?

This draws my attention back to the Hollywood movies. They create a myth that is fun to buy into. In most of these movies,  American values are highlighted in every possible way, where people matter! America is mostly featured as the invincible police of the world, the country that ends disputes and makes things right. The truth however turned out to be a little different. When Housni Mubarek, tried to hold on to his dictatorship, before it was known to the world that the people of Egypt were ready to die, before backing down, President Obama made a statement saying ” Our priority in the region is stability, over democracy.”

The rest of the world interpreted this as “We get on with this dictator, he listens to us, tough luck that the people are not fond of him.”

After a courageous fight of the people, everyone decided to support the public as opposed to the dictator.

How is this relevant?

Well, all these movies make it look like American soldiers are in the Middle-East or Afghanistan, trying to establish democracy for the people. Those who fight back are never perceived as people who defend their country, but surely terrorists.

Arabs live in caves, in most of these movies. I’m sure the writers of those movie scripts have no idea that the Algebra class that they possibly struggled with is named after the Arabian chemist Al-Gebir. 

Yes! It is the Arabs who advanced the world in something that is needed in many fields from Aerospace to computing.

The word Checkmate comes from the Arabic Shah-Mat. French borrowed their word from Arabic shah mat “the king is dead”. The Arabic phrase is made up of shah “king”, a word borrowed from Persian (as in the Shah of Iran) plus mat “died” from Mata “to die”.

The oldest known Chess books or parts thereof are in Arabic, written about 850 AD.

Yes! Arabs were writing books on chess, long before the western world ever heard of the game.

Aristotle’s teachings were first written in Arabic and later translated into Greek from the Arabic, scriptures. Guess why? Because the Eastern world had the appreciation to write his work before the rest could recognize his importance.

Ibn Sīnā, or Avicenna as he is better known, was an outstanding Persian scientist around the beginning of the 11th century; he was the true successor to Aristotle. His writings on medicine and drugs, which were particularly authoritative and remained so until the Renaissance, did much to bring the works of Aristotle back to Europe, where they were translated into Latin from Arabic.” (http://www.britannica.com/facts/5/498724/Avicenna-as-discussed-in-biology)

Ibn Sina recognized and made Aristotle known to the East in 11th century, the Renaissance happened between the 14th and 17th century.

It took the European three to five hundred years to acknowledge their own philosopher and for that they needed the Arabic scripts.

Ibn Sina also wrote medical textbooks in Arabic, which doctors like Maimonides used all over the Abbasid Empire and (once they had been translated into Latin) all over Europe too all through the Middle Ages. Ibn Sina may have been the first person to realize that you could catch diseases like measles or smallpox or tuberculosis from other people.

I could go on with many more examples, but the point that I’ve been trying to establish is that Arabian or Persian scientist and philosophers have advanced the world in vital areas such as medicine, science, philosophy and much more. Portraying them as tribal people living in caves is simply absurd and shows ignorance of the portrayer. I do not mean to blame the world’s chaos on a bunch of movies but no one can deny their influence. The entertainment industry has no obligation to enlighten people. Then again all that misleading might have caused people to have a false sense of security while trapped in those buildings during 9/11 and kept them from trying to find a way out when they had the chance.

Al-Qaida’s attack on innocent civilians has been condemned by the world, but as mentioned earlier in the article they had attacked Istanbul as well, and killed Muslims. Terrorism is a terrible thing to suffer from but the assumption that anyone who follows the same faith or speaks the same language with the attacker is also a potential terrorist is just absurd.

Considering all the help of advanced technology in this time and age one would hope that members of different civilizations would understand each other, as opposed to clashing with one another. When a movie like the Avatar comes out, suddenly everyone loves and understands each other and nature…..One can only hope that that is the direction mankind will eventually be headed towards…..we are meant to complete each other not omit…..

Follow me on Twitter@banugokyar

Sources:

http://www.hks.harvard.edu/fs/pnorris/Acrobat/stm103%20articles/Fox_Clash_Ext_Conflict.pdf

http://www.websters-online-dictionary.org/definitions/Algebra

http://www.alphadictionary.com/goodword/word/checkmate

http://www.silk-road.com/newsletter/volumeonenumberone/origin.html

http://www.historyforkids.org/learn/islam/science/ibnsina.htm

http://www.britannica.com/facts/5/498724/Avicenna-as-discussed-in-biology

http://www.nature.com/nrm/journal/v2/n6/box/nrm0601_475a_BX2.html

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Why was the UN Staff Killed In Afghanistan?

New York Times has reported that Friday radical Islamists killed Christians in Afghanistan. “Stirred up by three angry mullahs who urged them to avenge the burning of a Koran at a Florida church, thousands of protesters on Friday overran the compound of the United Nations in this northern Afghan city, killing at least 12 people, Afghan and United Nations officials said. “

It is terrible, and there is no excuse for their actions. They may be offended but killing innocent people over it, is just terribly cruel.

According to the Reuters report the rage and violence, has continued the next day.

”In the violence they also broke windows and burned chairs at the Zarghona High School for girls. The Taliban opposed girls’ education, and Kandahar was their spiritual heartland.

“I took part in the demonstration to curse the foreigners, but I had no weapon,” shopkeeper Rahim Mohammad said.

“But I don’t feel sorry for U.N. workers killed, our people are slaughtered by foreigners everyday.”

More volatile protests are possible across deeply religious Afghanistan, where anti-Western sentiment has been fueled for years by civilian casualties, and the Taliban.” (Reuters)

The Taliban did not even own up to the killings and claimed that these were Muslim reactions. Over-reactions would have been a more suitable word.

Looking into Afghan history would be needed to understand this hatred towards foreigners. The word Afghan was initially used to address the Peshtun (Patan) tribal people who lived in the valley. The Peshtuns in the mountains were addressed by their tribes name and used to move around in the area which is now the Afghanistan Pakistan border. Historically this society was formed of many clans and tribes that were tied through kinship, language and tradition. There was no national identity that united them.

However Sir Olaf Caroe who was a Major within the British Colony between 1946-47 had tracked Peshtun’s roots back to 550 BC. In 331 BC Alexander the Great had won a victory over the Persian Emporium. After that he travelled all the way to, what is today Afghanistan. Some Patan tribes like the idea that their forefathers were members of Alexander’s Macedonian army, which remained on this land.

The first Afghan dynasty was formed in 1747 by Ahmet Han from the Sadozai Klan. He was appointed to be the Afghan Han by the rest of the tribal leaders. The Dynasty did not last for too long and had been defeated by the Singhs at the time. However their reign did not last too long either. After the Singh war, the first British-Afghan war occured between 1838-1842. During this period the country was ruled by the Dost Muhammad Klan. Their good relations with the Russian caused a second British-Afghan war to break out, between 1878-1881. At the end of this war, both Russia and Britain recognized Afghanistan to be impartial, and the region was considered a buffer zone.

Mahmut Tarzi was the grand son of Payende Han, who was part of the dynasty. He lived in Damascus, which was Turkish territory at the time. He had this great desire, to create a unifying Afghan National identity, as he had been influenced by the “Young Turks” of the time, who were making reforms, which was later to be known as the foundation of modern Turkey.

Emir Habibullah, the leader of Afghanistan at the time, had invited Mahmut Tarzi to return to his home land in 1903. Having observed Turkish reforms, Tarzi was filled with enthusiasm to bring change to Afghanistan. He started publishing a newspaper with modern ideas called Serac Ül Ahbar in 1911. When Emir Habibullah was assassinated in 1919, his son Amanullah Han took his place. Amanullah was married to Tarzi’s daughter Sureyya. He appointed, Tarzi as the minister of foreign affairs. Tarzi had spent a long time on Turkish territory, thereby spoke multiple foreign languages. He visited the US, Russia and places in Europe. What used to be the collaboration of tribes was now a modern country. Afghanistan was part of the international political scene. In 1921 the British signed an agreement, recognizing Afghanistan’s independence in foreign affairs.

Atatürk, Queen Sureyya

Queen Sureyya, looked very modern and Afghanistan was following the Turkish example on modernization. Everything seemed fine, but the Queen’s modern outlook did disturb some circles. Eventually, Amanullah Han was overthrown and Bacik Saka took his place. He did not last long either, as the Peshtun people refused a Tajik leader. Nadir Shah from Amanullah’s family took the throne next, but was assassinated in 1933. His son Zahir Shah took his place and kept leadership until 1973, which was when his cousin Davud overthrew him.

Emir Amanullah Queen Sureyya of Afghanistan

So from 1903 to 1973 for about seventy years, despite some set backs the country was going forward, becoming a nation, as opposed to a community of united Klans. Although Amanullah, lost his throne over it, reforms were still happening and by 1960 the country seemed rather modern.

Davud lost his leadership to the communists in 1978. Soviet interference caused liberal intellectuals to flee. In 1992 Necibullah’s leadership was also overthrown, which caused the socialist intellectual’s to flee, as well.

 

Afghanistan in the 60

A region with not many intellectuals to lead has fallen into the hands of Taliban. Since 1838 the British and Russian have had interference in the region, later on the US joined as well. The hatred towards foreigners must be, based on the fact that for the last three centuries, foreigners had come to Afghanistan only for war. None of this justifies the hateful acts. This is a mere attempt, to understand the rage these people have towards life and why they cannot form a normal social environment, as opposed to the current situation where medieval rules are applied. They are not only cruel to foreigners, but also very cruel towards themselves. Life for women has become unbearable since 1996. It is so bad that they, burn themselves, to death. Maybe not as severe but men are also oppressed. The burning of the Koran must have seemed like a justifiable reason, for acting out the built in rage, from being constantly subjugated.

Looking at the photos from the 1960’s, it’s hard to imagine how Afghanistan became the way it is today.

Afghanistan in the 60

Clearly, with no intellectuals left around to help mold the ideas of a nation, while leading it, a country encounters great set backs. Combining this with constant foreign intervention, seems to push the nation back into medieval times. Most cruel leaders, use foreign intrusion as an excuse, to tighten the grip on their own people. It’s easier to have tyranny over less educated, therefore less civilized societies, as it keeps them from getting organized and demanding better conditions.

 “In the violence they also broke windows and burned chairs at the Zarghona High School for girls. The Taliban opposed girls’ education, and Kandahar was their spiritual heartland.”

The Taliban did not own up to the killings of the UN staff, but during the chaos, when everyone was focused on the killings, the girls’ school got destroyed as well, and that is how they tighten the grip just a little more…..

Follow me on twitter@Banugokyar

Sources:

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/02/world/asia/02afghanistan.html?src=me&ref=world

http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/04/03/us-afghanistan-violence-kabul-idUSTRE7310FK20110403?pageNumber=3

National Geographic Turkey, 2001 December, Ahmet Han

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Was Looting Symbols of Deities Such a Good Idea?

Mexico is suffering from the looting of their historical artifacts.  According to the BBC report the spectacular headdress of Mexico’s last Aztec ruler, Moctezuma showcased at Mexico’s National Museum of Anthropology is a replica.

                                                                                                                                                               *The original lies thousands of kilometers away in a collection at Vienna’s Ethnology Museum. Mexico has long wanted to see the original returned

It is a shame that the natives do not get to see or showcase artifacts of their own land. Looting of artifacts has been on going for a long time. Especially before and after the world wars, a lot of artifacts have been taken from their original locations.

**A magnificent 3500 years old Hittite Sphinx had been unearthed around 1906 in Turkey. It was considered one of the greatest discoveries. The Sphinx had been taken to Berlin to be restored, not to be kept, only to be restored, yet had never been returned and was still in the Pergamon Museum until recently. Turkey’s minister for culture Ertugrul Gunay had to give an ultimatum that German archeologists will not be allowed to continue, digging in Turkey, if they do not return the Sphinx.

It worked. Germany decided to return the master piece to Turkey.  One could argue that these items are universal treasures and it should not matter where they are displayed, as long as future generations get to see them, but it is hard to know who would be a better guard.

***Forty giant statues, were taken from a temple in the ancient settlement of Tell Halaf in what is now northern Syria, by German adventurer and diplomat Baron Max von Oppenheim, and caused a sensation when they came to Europe. Baron exposed them to a private museum in Berlin between 1930 and November 1943 when an allied bombing destroyed the place. The fire roasted artifacts of basalt, and water used to douse the flames caused the material to splinter into a thousand pieces.

They have recently been reassembled, after nine years of reassembling effort of 25 000 pieces. That was probably the most rewarding puzzle to be completed. The Pergamon Museum in Berlin presented the restored objects.

The point is that if they had remained in Syria, they would have been safe during World War II which is when they were destroyed.

Artifacts looted during that period are still being discovered, some of which are being returned to their rightful owners. ****According to the New York Times article, 370-year-old painting that belonged to a Jewish art dealer who fled the Netherlands around the time of the Nazi invasion in 1940 will be returned to his family by the J. Paul Getty Museum. (The Associated Press reported.)

The painting, “Landscape With Cottage and Figures,” done by Pieter Molijn around 1640, belonged to Jacques Goudstikker, a prominent dealer who died in a fall on a ship while fleeing the Nazis with his wife and son. His collection was looted, and some of the art ended up in the hands of the Nazi leader Hermann Goering, according to the Associated Press report.

In a written statement released Monday, museum officials stated: “Working in cooperation with representatives of the Goudstikker heirs, the Getty’s research revealed that the painting was in Goudstikker’s inventory at the time of the invasion in 1940, and that it was never restituted after World War II. Based on its findings, the Getty concluded that the painting should be transferred to the heirs.”

It sounds fair that the painting gets returned to the heirs of the original owner. Maybe the same principle should be applied to all looted artifacts and they should all be returned to their rightful claimers.

One of the world wonders had been removed from Turkey, Halicarnassus .The Halicarnassus Mausoleum had been shipped to England decades ago and is on display at the British Museum. Legend says that a Halicarnassus fisherman was very sad while the artifact was being uprooted from where it had been built around 350 BC, by architects Pytheos, Satyrus.  Skopas, Timotheos, Bryaris Leochares were the famous sculptors to work on the sides. It had been built by the Karian, who used to reside in the area at the time. (An ancient Western Anatolian Civilization) They worshipped the Anatolian Goddess Hecate. Ancient Egyptians  called the Karian” The bronze people who come out of the heart of the sea”. The fisherman said that the artifact will miss its home, miss the sea. They said “No worries we will paint the room that is displayed in blue.” It was blue for a while and then everyone forgot.

Looted items seem to be returned to their original spots. Who knows maybe one of these days headdress of Mexico’s last Aztec ruler, might find its way home or the Mausoleum might find its way back to Halicarnassus.

Most of the artifacts of ancient times, mean more than art, as they represent spiritual beliefs of the time. The forty giant statues, clearly did not agree with their new location, after being removed from Syria. Did bombs destroy them or did they destroy Berlin for all the cruelty happening at the time.

Who knows?

Mankind is still cruel and the hope is that one day that shall change.

The world is going through floods, wars, Tsunamis…. Would returning ancient spiritual objects home, be a symbol of the end of looting and help Aztec, Karian or other deities put the world right?

Maybe or maybe not, the point is that having looted artifacts decades ago, should not be an excuse for holding on to them.

Follow me on twitter@banugokyar

Sources:

*http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-12404699

**http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,,14875550,00.html

***http://www.gospress.com/entertainment/berlin-museum-restores-artifacts-destroyed-in-the-2nd-war.html

***http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/03/30/getty-museum-will-return-painting-looted-by-nazis/?partner=rss&emc=rss

*****http://www.kulturturizm.gov.tr/TR/belge/1-1493/bodrum—halikarnas-mausoleumu.html

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American Diplomatic Cables on EU and Turkey

The leaked American Diplomatic cables have shown us an insight on many situations. The cables on Turkish acceptance to the EU are interesting. Correspondence from Embassy Hague in 2004, show that the Dutch were strong supporters of Turkey’s acceptance to the Union.

Ambassador Sobel’s comment at the time was:

 *“The Dutch governing elite want a Yes for Turkey and they seem confident that they can bring the nation as well as the rest of the EU along.”

Clearly, aside from the Copenhagen criteria that needed to be met by Turkey, Islam in Europe was one of the topics discussed by the members.

*De Gooijer rejected prejudice against Islam as a basis for opposing Turkey, with the below words:

We must not allow ourselves to be guided by fear, for example, of Islam. Raising barriers to any particular religion does not fit in with Europe’s shared values. Our opposition should be directed not against religions but against people and groups misusing their religion to get their way by force.”

Similarly, the Vatican Embassy cables from 2004 sound supportive of Turkey’s acceptance to the EU.

**Acting Holy See Foreign Minister Parolin reaffirmed August 18 that the Holy See remained open to Turkish EU membership. If Turkey meets the EU’s Copenhagen criteria, Parolin said, the Vatican sees no obstacle to EU membership.

Charge pointed out that as an EU member, Turkey could help to ease tensions between the Western and Muslim worlds, illustrating how a secular state with a Muslim population could cooperate with countries with a Judeo-Christian heritage.

The French stand against Islam in general seemed a bit different than Vatican or Hague according to the Paris cables in 2005. Stapleton the Paris Ambassador at the time reported on unrest of lower socioeconomic minorities.

 ***The perpetrators of the urban rampaging (refs) in France are by and large of Arab-African and Black-African background. In most cases, they are also Muslims, raising the question as to what extent their religious affiliation helps explain the explosion in France’s immigrant suburbs. There is widespread agreement that unemployment and lack of education, and not religious affiliation, are the primary factors underlying the angry hopelessness of urban youth.

Clearly, Stapleton was under the impression that unrest caused by low finances were interpreted as an Islamist act by the French, only because the citizens acting against poor life conditions, happened to be Muslims. Below was a clear example of how the reaction had nothing to do with Islam, yet the French labeled these people as strictly religiously motivated by trying to resolve it through religious leaders.

 “***GOF guilty of using religion?

¶9. (SBU) Interestingly, some see the government itself as guilty to some degree of having violated the principle of secularism it holds so dear. In a meeting with the rector of the Grand Mosque of Lyon on November 15, one Muslim religious leader’s criticized the government for violating France’s strict separation of the religious and the public. The Rector, Kamel Kabtane, took to task the government’s effort to use Muslim religious figures to calm the situation in troubled neighborhoods. Kabtane said that many of his fellow-clerics were also ambivalent about the French government’s call on religious leaders to “do the work of the government and security forces.” “If farmers started protesting”, said the Rector, “the government wouldn’t call on the Archbishop to resolve the situation.” He warned against attributing a religious dimension to socio-economic problems; there was a risk it could become a self-fulfilling prophecy.”

Stapleton’s comment on the Fundamentalist Islam Problem in France was very much different than what main stream media reported at the time. He describes the underclass youth as non Islamist, even though Muslim and points out France’s racist attitude against minorities.

“***The gangs of underclass youths who are the perpetrators of the car burnings and urban violence in France are not Islamists, nor are they at all motivated by religion. It is highly misleading to characterize them — as is often done in media coverage — as “insurgent” and “Muslim” youths. The anger felt by these youths stems from how they are trapped and without a futurefacing pervasive racial prejudice, and without the skills and education needed to get-a-life of employment and conventional respect.

Whether or not Islamic organizations and fundamentalist proselytizing will make significant inroads among the inhabitants of France’s immigrant suburbs of course depends on the effectiveness of the GOF’s social programs and the willingness of French society at large to face up to its pervasive prejudices against Blacks and Arabs.”

Going through all the above mentioned documents, it seems that six to seven years ago, American diplomats’ impression, which derived from dialogues with officials of EU members, was that Turkey was going to be accepted, if they met the Copenhagen Criteria.

They also reported on racist attitude against French citizens of Arab or black descent who were generally Muslim.

This week president Sarkozy visited Turkey, and expressed his stand against Turkey’s EU membership. It was reported in the German publication DW that Cyprus is one of the main reasons of oppositions.

****“EU countries unanimously agreed in 2005 to start talks with Turkey with the goal of full membership. But out of the 35 policy chapters that EU candidates must negotiate, Ankara has opened talks on only 13 since the accession negotiations began.

Talks on 18 chapters have been frozen because of opposition from France and other members and a stalemate over the divided island of Cyprus. No significant progress has been made since last July.”

Ironically according to the Hague cables from 2004, EU partners other than UK do not really engage in Cyprus. 

“***WILD CARD CYPRUS

*¶12. (C/NF) Pollman suggested the EU might give the GoC, as an EU Member State, its due on the Cyprus trade and financial support issues while then expecting Papadopoulos to relent on Turkey. However, EU partners do not really engage on Cyprus since only the UK has any real interest in the island, she said, adding, What does Cyprus have these days, besides the Turkey card? And this means the EU has but little leverage over Cyprus; Pollman hoped that powers outside the EU will pressure Popadopolous to support Turkish accession, using whatever psychological, political, or other means that might work.”

The general impression from the cables is that Cyprus was never a priority; the more urgent areas that need change were as follows:

  • judges’ behavior,
  • concerns about torture,
  • access of Kurds to Kurdish language education,
  • free exercise of religion,
  • and the role of the military.

There has been significant change, on all of the above mentioned topics. Some of the points still need a lot of improvement and it is a work in progress.

The cables are not official statements from EU members but impressions of American Diplomats, which make them an excellent source, to get an insight on some of the unofficial, therefore unpolished views, in regards to the situation.

Given that in 2004 most EU members were leaning towards Turkey’s acceptance as a member, combined with the fact that Turkey has been working on the changes needed to join, Sarkozy or Merkel’s stand against Turkey, are possibly for other reasons than EU criteria issues.

France’s prejudiced attitude towards their Muslim citizens, portrays a completely different picture of the nation than the “Land of liberty” image that it has been benefiting from.

Turkey’s economic situation has changed a lot since 2004. It has been going forward while the rest of the EU is still going through “domino effect” financial crises.

 The uprising of China and India, the economical crises in the EU and the US, the revolutions in the Middle East, all signal tremendous change in the world, as well as shift of power.

So far, Turkey has gained more control from an economical and political point of view. Whether it will become part of the EU or gain momentum with no ties to anyone is yet to be seen.

Follow me on twitter@Banugokyar

Sources:

 *http://213.251.145.96/cable/2004/07/04THEHAGUE1919.html

 **http://213.251.145.96/cable/2004/08/04VATICAN3196.html

***http://213.251.145.96/cable/2005/11/05PARIS7835.html

**** http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,,14875593,00.html?maca=en-TWITTER-EN-2004-xml-mrss

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Analysis: The Effects of a Possible Neo-Ottoman Agenda

A recent article featured in the New York Times explains Turkish influence on Iraq.

Accordingly, Turk’s cultural influence in the region is explained to be more effective, than what was achieved through US invasion.

*“Turkey’s influence is greater in northern Iraq and broader, though not deeper, than Iran’s in the rest of the country. While the United States invaded and occupied Iraq, losing more than 4,400 troops there, Turkey now exerts what may prove a more lasting legacy — so-called soft power, the assertion of influence through culture, education and business.

While some Turkish officials recoil at the notion of neo-Ottomanism — an orientation of Turkey away from Europe and toward an empire that once included parts of three continents — the country’s process of globalization and attention to the markets of the Middle East is upsetting assumptions that only American power is decisive. Turkey has committed itself here to economic integration, seeing its future in at least an echo of its past. “

A few months ago, in another article featured by the New York Times, it was mentioned that Turks need to be kept in their lane. 

*“Turkey is seen increasingly in Washington as “running around the region doing things that are at cross-purposes to what the big powers in the region want,” said Steven A. Cook, a scholar with the Council on Foreign Relations. The question being asked, he said, is “How do we keep the Turks in their lane?”

Clearly the perception of Turkey’s effect over the region has changed within the last few months. The fact of the matter is that, a possible “Neo Ottoman” strategy seems to be taken more seriously than before. Turks had been a regional power in the area for centuries, so undermining the possibility, based on the country’s situation for the last few decades could be misleading.

 Turkish History Goes a Long Way

The first known mention of the term Turk applied to a Turkic group was in reference to the Göktürks in the sixth century. A letter by the Chinese Emperor written to a Göktürk Khan named Ishbara in 585 BC described him as “the Great Turk Khan.” The Orhun inscriptions (735 CE) use the terms Turk and Turuk. At the time they were in central Asia,

Turks have been ruling over the territory that we call Turkey now, for about a thousand years.

Following the 1071 Seljuk Turks victory over the Byzantine Empire at the Battle of Manzikert and the subsequent conquest of AnatoliaOghuz clans began settling in present-day Turkey. By 1300, Turks had reached the Aegean coastline.

The Ottoman Empire was founded about 1307 by a Turk named Osman I.

It spread from Asia Minor beginning about 1300, eventually encompassing most of the Middle East, most of North Africa, and parts of Europe, including modern Albania, Bulgaria, Greece, Hungary, Rumania and Yugoslavia. In the Middle East, the Ottomans ruled Syria, Palestine, Egypt, parts of Arabia and Iraq. The empire reached around the Black sea and into the Caucasus in Central Asia, including Armenia. The Ottoman armies reached as far as the gates of Vienna, where they were repulsed for a second time in 1683, the height of their expansion on land. The map below shows the extent of the Ottoman Empire in 1683.

 

So Turks have been ruling over the above mentioned regions for centuries. They operated as a federal Emporium, where they allowed regions to hold on to their languages, religions and cultural practices. Some Turks were moved into a newly invaded territory, to establish Turkish Authority. Former leaders of regions were respected. Sometimes they even remained as leaders but had to pay taxes to the Emporium.

During the same era, the English or French were forcing their language and traditions upon invaded regions, whereas Turks did not. This helped subcultures to live on. Even after centuries under Turkish ruling, cultures were not getting lost.

After 1683 there was a gradual decline of the Empire. They were losing territory over a period of three hundred years. Some regions got autonomy first, then independence. Other regions went into French or English ruling. The loss of territory happened in chronological order as stated below.

1798-1801 Napoleon was in Egypt and Palestine.

1829: Greece ceded autonomy

1830: Serbia ceded autonomy; Northern Algeria is taken by France.

1832: Greece becomes independent.

1862: United Romania established.

1877: Second Russo-Turkish war (1877- 1878); Romania, Serbia, Montenegro and part of Bulgaria become independent by the Treaty of San Stefano.

1881: The Ottoman Empire accepts European financial control; Tunisia is taken by the French.

1882: Egypt is occupied by Britain.

1908: Bosnia occupied by Austro-Hungary, without a fight; Bulgarian independence.
1912: Libya is annexed by Italy.

1914: The Ottoman Empire enters the World War 1 in alliance with Germany,

1915-16: Between 600,000 and perhaps 1.4 million Armenians died during deportation.
1917: Beginning of British campaigns in Iraq, Palestine and Syria. This leads to several Ottoman defeats, and the following year the loss of the Middle Eastern territories.
1919:  Greece attacks Anatolia at Smyrna, conquers part of Western Anatolia.  
1920: The Ottoman Empire is forced to sign the Treaty of Sèvres, losing all Middle Eastern territories and part of Anatolia.
1922: Turks drive the Greeks out of western Anatolia under the leadership of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk; The Ottoman Empire is abolished;

1923: Turkish Republic declared. 

1924: March 3: Caliphate abolished.

After many regions were lost and the Ottoman Empire almost completely fell apart, modern Turkey was formed in the leadership of Mustafa Kemal Pasha. He was an eminent General of the empire and as a great leader managed to get the people to fight as soldiers. Old and young people, men and women the whole nation was fiercely fighting off, foreign invasion.

Although the Ottoman Empire was giving opportunities and high ranking positions to members of different nations, the Ottoman Empire was a Turkish Empire. Therefore modern Turkey was formed by the Turks. Others were taking advantage of the weakness and fighting Turks, to break off and get their freedom.

As can be seen above many regions did break off. Others such as Egypt, Bosnia or Tunisia had been invaded by the English, Hungarian or French, by which they were forced to accept superiority of invaders’ cultures and accept their languages.

Formation of Modern Turkey

 

Turkey was formed as a Turkish state just like the Ottoman Empire, except that tolerance for different cultural values was less. The idea of being a Turk was based on a principle, similar to the principle of being an American, in today’s world.

Anyone who was a citizen of Turkey had equal rights with the rest of the nation and their ethnical background was completely irrelevant. There were no ranks among ethnical backgrounds. The Ottoman Empire had expanded over so many regions, for so many centuries that to be a Turk had not much to do with ethnicity, race or color. The whole nation had been mixed. This was partially because racism was not part of the Empire’s culture. No region’s people were too good, or too bad not to mix through marriage.

Citizens of Modern Turkey have a variety of ethnical backgrounds. The Black Sea region has many Laz, Circassian and Georgian. The Aegean Region has many Bosnian and Albanian. The Southeast has Arabs, Kurds, Assyrian, and Armenian. Uzbek or Kazakh originated Turks are also part of the nation.

Being a Turk of different origin is something very common, embedded into the culture, the way it is very natural to be an Italian American or Irish American. The ethnical origin has secondary importance, if any.

Leaders of Modern Turkey

 

Many leaders that belong to different ethnical backgrounds have been elected by the majority, as not paying attention to ethnicity has been part of the culture for centuries. Turgut Özal served as a Prime Minister, later as a President of Turkey until 1993. He is known to be of Kurdish origin, and was very much loved by the whole nation as a leader of the nation.

CHP is currently the leading opposing party. The party leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, belongs to a Kurdish ethnical background. He is the leader of a political party that is called the most elitist party of the nation.

In short, members of any subculture are not treated as a minority, for they can easily be embraced by the people and elected to run the country.

Terrorism

 

The Kurdish illegal Terrorist group PKK has been attacking Turkey for thirty years now. The PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan had been apprehended a decade ago and has been detained ever since. Terrorism has continued though.

Kurds want autonomy and they are bombing their way to freedom. The fact that PKK has been attacking city centers and thereby civilians for three decades, has not created a dislike of Kurds among the rest of the nation. The common idea among the people was that Kurds and PKK are different things, not every Kurd is a terrorist.

However during the last five years, things have changed. Kurds in general have started calling Abdullah Öcalan their leader. The fact that he has been detained for a decade, does not change the fact that, he is the leader of a terrorist organization that is acknowledged to be *illegal by the US and the EU. Bombings under his command have attacked all kinds of regions, including Istanbul and killed many innocent people.

The polarization between Turks and Kurds has been growing stronger on the Kurdish side. *Last month a Turkish singer has been shot to death, at a bar in Mersin (Turkey) by a Kurd, for not knowing Kurdish, therefore not being able to sing in Kurdish.

Lately, Kurds have been asking for Kurdish to become the official language of the whole nation. They want autonomy; at the same time they want the whole nation to acknowledge Kurdish as an official language.

It is very much disturbing for the rest of the country to accept Kurds’ desires, pushed by an act of terrorism, to be rewarded.

It is hard to imagine how this will unfold. History proves that autonomy is a pit stop before breaking away, from the nation.

Kurds want independence.

A recent article published by the Economist features the fierce attitude of Kurds in the region. According to the article:

“IT IS well known that Kurdish tribes took part in the mass slaughter by the Ottomans of around 1m Armenians in 1915. “Collaborating Kurdish clerics pledged that anyone who killed an infidel would be rewarded in heaven with 700 mansions containing 700 rooms, and that in each of these rooms there would be 700 houris to give them pleasure,” says Mala Hadi, an Islamic sheikh in Diyarbakir.

The neighbouring province of Mardin, Kurdish tribes continue to harass the handful of Christians who remain. Their main target is the Mor Gabriel Syrian Orthodox monastery. Perched on a remote hilltop, this is a 1,600-year-old monastery.”

The rest of the population was convinced that Kurds had been victimized in the region, through many stories told by them lately. I personally was sympathizing, trying to understand how oppressed they had been. It is more difficult to empathize lately as they are openly threatening to attack via PKK. They say, “Meet our demands while we have seized fire or else, PKK will go on attacking” during news channel forums.

Every American movie says “Never negotiate with a terrorist”

If Kurds get Independence through terrorism, it will probably not be a good example for the terrorist organizations of the rest of the world. *Especially at a time that EU is busy passing laws, where they can strip off citizenships of French or Italian citizens with foreign origin when they commit a crime. The law in the EU is justified due to threat of terrorism.

Kurds have announced that they want their own army, flag, parliament, official language in the South East of Turkey. As they comfortably threaten to continue terrorist attacks, should their desires not be fulfilled, the intention to reason with them becomes tricky.

It offends the rest of the nation, to imagine to be bullied into giving up territory.

Imagine Al Qaida openly asking for land and threatening to continue bombing should their desire not be fulfilled.

Kurds have been making it sound like there are only Kurds and Turks in this nation. As explained above there are so many different ethnical backgrounds, all of which have the same opportunity, to claim that one is oppressed for their ethnical background, when members of that ethnicity have in fact run the whole country, is just not right.  The rest of the nation is almost portrayed as racist, which is absurd as there is no pure race or ethnicity, the whole nation consists of mixed backgrounds.

Kurds have made it very clear what they want. They are absolutely right, wanting to hold on to their native language and traditions, but taking a road towards separation or refusing to learn Turkish seems a bit too much.

Going to the army is mandatory in Turkey, so every Turkish man has to serve. Many have died, (aprox. 40.000 troops) fighting off PKK (the illegal Kurdish terrorist organization). After so much blood has been shed to defend the country, to be bullied by the PKK, naturally offends the rest of the nation. They make it sound like the Kurdish situation is a concern of the southeast of Turkey only. However men from all over Turkey have been drafted to fight in the region for decades.

It needs a lot of diplomatic tact, to find a solution to the problem that appears to be in a dead end. A solution that makes Kurds and Turks equally comfortable has seemed impossible due to, what seems like a conflict of interest.

One cannot ask men to die in this fight and then simply hand over the territory, without offending the families of those who died defending it. On the other hand, peace needs to be brought into the territory and Kurds have demands.

It was not until I read the New York Times piece that I mentioned in the beginning of this article that a third option occurred to me.

As the article clearly states, Turks and Kurds get along  very well in Iraq. One of the most famous singers of Turkey has Kurdish origin and is very much loved in the Middle East. The “Neo-Ottoman” formation would naturally cover a much larger area than modern Turkey. This is not the era of invasion anymore, but the era of forming Unions. EU is a clear example to that.

EU’s plans over the Balkans have been clearer, through some of the information that we have been exposed to, by the leaked US Diplomatic cables.

 “Levitte noted that of the five major conditions required to transfer authority in Bosnia from the UN High Representative to an EU High Representative, four have been fulfilled, and only the question of division of state property remains. This final condition should not alone “block all progress,” especially as the current UN team in Bosnia is no longer effective. France wants to see the transfer of authority to a new EU team in November, as the rapprochement to Europe is an effective “carrot” to encourage the Bosniaks to continue progress in necessary reforms.

 MACEDONIA AND CROATIA

Levitte expressed optimism that a new Greek government would be “more solid” and allow greater flexibility for progress in the Greek-Macedonian name dispute. A/S Gordon agreed that either a more solid Conservative government or a Socialist government would be a stronger, more flexible partner in the negotiations. He expressed hope that if the international community could convince Macedonia to abandon the idea of a referendum and get Greece to abandon the necessity of changing passports, then progress could be made.”

When we check the above Historical Ottoman Map, combined with current information, it becomes clear that, as the new map of the world is being formed, every party is trying to gain strength as ever. EU wants to have power over Bosnia and ensure Greek –Macedonian power formulation.

US seems to be the only party who is still using invasion as a tool to control regions, whereas the rest is looking to include regions into the Unions, which they have power over. Nobody can deny that French and German influence over the EU is stronger than the rest of the members.

England’s long standing experience in handling situations and gaining the upper hand without getting their hands dirty, but through diplomacy is very well known. The fact that they managed to easily position themselves, as the decision maker of Julian Assange’s future, who is important to the US, is a clear example to that.

Assuming that a “Neo-Ottoman” agenda is set into motion, Turkey would be forming a Union that possibly extends from the Middle-East to the Balkans. The cultural and religious commonalities would make things easy, as can also be understood from the NYT article.

Should Turkey aim for power of such vast territory, Kurds having autonomy would be viewed, in a totally different context. It would not be about giving land, from existing territory but allowing autonomy to create harmony, while establishing leadership over a much larger region that extends over many different countries.

What is one more separate nation, if you intend to have power over all?

This of course would not be an intended oppressive power, but as the example of the EU, a regional Union based on religious and cultural similarities.

It is possible for such a Union to be formed. After all it has not even been a century since Turks lost the territory that they ruled over in the Middle-East.  Yet to lead it, positioning Turkey as an Islamist nation would be absolutely necessary. It is called mildly Islam in the West, but I am not sure that “mild” is a concept that truly exists among Islamists.

Turkey is rapidly becoming more and more conservative. Alcohol bans are being enforced with certain excuses. There are efforts to send little kids to school with headscarves which is against the current law. The police are entering public steakhouses and giving families who are having Sunday dinner a hard time, for consuming a glass of wine with dinner, in front of their kids, which could never be an issue ten years ago.

Art galleries, in downtown Istanbul have been attacked by radically religious neighbors, for serving wine during receptions. The police simply did not arrive, leaving the art crowd terrified under attack. Visitors of the gallery were hospitalized, yet nobody was charged, which could be perceived as a message to stick with the religiously accepted behavior or you are on your own.

Every news channel is featuring a guest who preaches the ways of Islam almost thrice a week. Although the system is still secular, Diyanet which is the religious ministry is getting more say on people’s lives, frowning upon the idea of celebrating New Years Eve, as it is a Christian tradition. Those who guard secularism and modernism are mostly behind bars with allegations of crimes without any proof.

*A new law just passed, ensuring that the accused can be held behind bars with no proof of guilt, for ten years. They call it holding in content while the trial is ongoing. This enables to practically put anyone away that has been accused of a crime with no evidence, for ten years. That is a long way from democracy or human rights.

EU has rejected Turkey for a long time. Eventually, Turkey has turned towards the east. A Neo-Ottoman formation that ensures Turkey to become a regional power could surely, seem  much more beneficial for the country, as opposed to being part of the EU.

Having, better human right conditions, was one of the major requirements for entering the EU. The motive, to create that environment seems to have eroded which is sad for the people.

42% of the nation had said “No” to the latest referendum, where the leading party had asked the people’s permission, for change. In other words, 42 % are keen on holding on to the western outlook of the civilization, as well as secularism.

That is a high number to completely disregard. The tactic applied in Iraq which is expressed in the above mentioned NYT article, is no different that the tactic applied within the nation.

Imposing change through, changing cultural values.

The law does not say you cannot consume alcohol, but you can be beaten up by narrow minded people while doing so and not be protected by the state, is the feeling that people have although nobody says so. Recently, a woman’s house was robbed while she was out at night, when she reported it, the police asked her, “What were you doing out so late?” People are getting used to the idea of the possibility of being neglected if attacked, while not abiding by religious rules.

What next?

Turkey will possibly never become as strict as Iran, as being the bridge between the east and the west is one of the strong suits that are needed to be accepted as a power figure by others in the region. Still, the absolute freedom of a secular state will probably not be seen anytime soon.

Kurds will possibly get the autonomy that they desire, if a “Neo-Ottoman” formation should take place. The way they play until such a date, will most likely, still have a determining effect.

Members of the illegal Kurdish terrorist organization Hizbullah (no ties with Lebanon) have suddenly been released out of jail this week, including those who were meant to be kept there for life. Now there are two illegal players, who have great influence over Kurds, PKK who is majorly playing the ethnical root solidarity card and Hizbullah which is playing the religious Islamist brotherhood among Kurds card.

Allowing the Hizbullah to get back into the game, by setting them free would be a smart way to tone down the ethnical agenda and help Unite under the religious agenda, which would not appear far from the possible plans of the rest of Turkey, (in the case of a Neo-Ottoman agenda) while still giving some freedom on national Kurdish rights.

Possible Obstacles?

There is an upcoming election in 2011. The 42% that said “No” to the referendum last year, could support the leading opposing parties CHP and MHP. Should AKP lose their sole spot after the election and end up in a possible coalition, with one of the leading opposing parties, secular values would possibly be pushed back into the culture.

Part of Turkey seems to be leaning towards the East while another part is leaning towards the West. The part that is leaning towards the west, wants to live by western values, even if Turkey does not become part of the EU. Time will show the turn out, but for now the assumed “Neo-Ottoman” agenda seems to have no apparent set backs.

It is hard to tell if Europe would have been better off, befriending the old enemy in an attempt to keep them close, or keep pushing away thereby giving an incentive to formulate other Unions, that might grow strong.

America’s policy in the region will possibly have a determining effect, on which way things will lean.

Follow me on Twitter@banugokyar

Sources:

 

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/05/world/middleeast/05turkey.html?pagewanted=1&ref=middleeast

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/09/world/middleeast/09turkey.html?_r=1

http://www.english.rfi.fr/france/20100906-france-strip-nationality-cop-killers

http://www.economist.com/node/17632939

http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/n.php?n=decade-long-arrest-limit-found-reasonable-by-none-2011-01-04

http://www.cnnturk.com/2010/turkiye/12/20/kurtce.turku.cinayeti.zanlisi.araniyor/600081.0/

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-10707935

http://cablegate.wikileaks.org/cable/2004/12/04ANKARA7211.html

http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,731590,00.html

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/us-embassy-cables-documents/120696

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/us-embassy-cables-documents/250705

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/us-embassy-cables-documents/235183

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/us-embassy-cables-documents/225319

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/us-embassy-cables-documents/219037

http://cablegate.wikileaks.org/cable/2010/01/10ANKARA87.html

 http://www.mideastweb.org/Middle-East-Encyclopedia/ottoman.htm

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Ottoman Royal Family Stories Told By Turkish Princess

Yesterday, I was watching a history show, which is one of my favorite shows. Historians gather and talk about the past. They show real documents and always have very interesting guests. It was interesting to see “Princess Hanzade Özbaş” on air. She is the great grand daughter of the latest heir to the Ottoman Empire. Her great grandfather Sultan Vahdettin had been pictured as a traitor in Turkish history books.

She explained how difficult history class had been for her as a child. Her teacher was making her, read out loudly the passage that explains what a traitor, a terrible person Sultan Vahdettin was. Of course being only a little girl, she ran out of class crying;

 “My Grandfather is not a traitor!”

It is very well acknowledged by historians now  that he was never a traitor, yet I am not sure if they changed the context of school books. Either way, it was ridiculous of her teacher, to torture a little girl like that, knowing who she is. Although she was living with her grandmother “Who in fact, is Ottoman History” little Princess Hanzade kept failing Ottoman History classes throughout high-school. She went to college abroad.

Princess Neslişah Evliyazade

It had been a littler easier for her daughter  Neslişah Evliyazade. She says, it feels interesting to realize that her grand parents lived at the Dolmabahçe palace which she only gets to visit like a regular tourist. Although, the family has no influence or title anymore, they represent Turkish royalty and set an example of the traditions of Turkish aristocracy.

Princess Neslişah explained in one interview that the importance of education preceded everything. Ladies of the royal family were very well educated; they spoke minimum three foreign languages. Sultan Vahdettin’s grand daughters supported themselves through working hard, as everything was taken away from them. Unfortunately the princes were unable to do so, as most had been educated by the military, to become great soldiers, which left them unqualified to find immediate jobs while in exile.

Princess Hanzade’s mother met her husband while she was an instructor at Princeton University in America during World War II. Her husband was teaching at Princeton just like her. He was Turkish as well, although not royal, he came from a very wealthy family.

Princess Hanzade was telling these little stories about Ottoman life that opened yet another window to the Emporium’s ways. She explained that, daughters of Sultan’s were getting married with the husbands they chose. The grooms had no choice of refusal. The marriages were taking place on paper, prior to meeting each other. Then the husband still had to go ask for the bride’s hand. At that point some brides were known to make the husband wait, for up to four hours, or rejecting him a few times, before they agreed. It is a little funny considering that they are the ones who chose the man, to make him suffer a little before taking his hand was possibly a form of flirting. The fact that the groom could not refuse seems harsh, still Ottomans were beauties, as I had explained in previous articles, the Sultans had procreated only with the most beautiful women for centuries, therefore that gene pool was filled with gorgeousness. The groom had not much to worry about her looks.

Pictures of Some of the Born Turkish Princesses:

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Once married to the daughter of a Sultan, he could not get a second wife, nor could he divorce her. However by law she could divorce him and marry someone else, should she chose to do so.

I find this interesting as the Ottoman Empire was Islamic. Yet, none of the rules of Islam were applied towards royal ladies.  

Another interesting story was about one husband who was the son of a Sadrazam, which is a title similar to being a Prime Minister. During a heated argument, things got out of control and he slapped his wife, as soon as she opened the door, guards jumped on him, to beat the hell out of him, for he could not touch “The Lady” even if she was his wife. The fact that he was the son of the highest ranking officer, after the Sultan did not help him the least bit.

Ottoman tradition and upbringing is still present in the royal family, and stories of old customs shed more light on Ottoman culture. Princess Hanzade was explaining how important modesty was, and how any other way was unacceptable for a member of the imperial family. This explains the “scandal free” life they all have leaded. Even if they were not at all strong financially, they are who they are and that cannot be taken away from them.

Scandals of European Royalty have kept the tabloids busy over the years. Yet Ottomans always kept a dignified, quiet life style. Clearly it was part of the culture, to always remain noble, including during times of lacking financial means.

Rumor has it that Sultan Vahdettin had been offered palaces to stay and a steady income by King Emanuel in Italy. He refused the courteous offer and endured poverty for he was an Islamic Leader. Accepting, hand-outs from any Non Muslim was unacceptable, living in hardship was better. Pride precedes comfort according to the Turkish culture and these are some examples to that aspect.  

*In 2001 The Habsburg family (Austrian Royalty) gathered with the Ottoman’s in a summer resort in Turkey. These families had been at war with each other for centuries, yet after they both lost their throne, the old enemy made a good friend.

I have been judged for calling members of the Ottoman family prince or princess, as they do not rule anymore. I see no harm in respecting those who are direct lineage of the majestic family. They represent glorious history.

During the History Show, Princess Hanzade demonstrated the latest “Imperial Signet” It belonged to her great grandfather Sultan Vahdettin and as he was the last Sultan, she has the last signet. It is pure gold. She also showed a royal necklace that weighed maybe a kilogram of gold. It was beautiful. The Sultan passed it on, and never considered selling these items despite, the financial hardship that he went through.

I find it hard to believe that he could be a traitor, when he valued all that he represented more than his comfort till the day he died. It is sad that books have portrayed him with no justice. Fortunately, his name has been cleared, and stories of his gracious life shall live on.

Source:

*http://webarsiv.hurriyet.com.tr/2001/08/26/20617.asp

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What Leaked About Turkey?

After reading many leaked documents through Wikileaks, I am almost surprised that there is nothing too secretive that comes across, at least so far. Still the US Embassy mini reports on Turkey and the Middle East were interesting.

 Having read most of the reports on the Middle East, I made the below assessment.

US diplomats have great doubts about Turkey’s dependability. Their views on AKP and Erdoğan have changed over time.

In a report written in 2004, the tone clearly undermines Erdoğan, his crew and their ability or knowledge about the world.

 “Erdogan’s pragmatism serves him well but he lacks vision.  He and his principal AKP advisors, as well as FonMin Gul and other ranking AKP officials, also lack analytic depth.  He relies on poor-quality intel and on media disinformation.

 With the narrow world-view and wariness that lingers from his Sunni brotherhood and lodge background, he ducks his public relations responsibilities.  He (and those around him, including FonMin Gul) indulge in pronounced pro-Sunni prejudices and in emotional reactions that prevent the development of coherent, practical domestic or foreign policies.

In the same report Davutoğlu was explained as “exceptionally dangerous.” due to his Islamist views. Six years later, in another report in 2010, the tone and view on similar issues, seems to have changed.

“The idea of Turkey using its cultural and religious links to the Middle East to the advantage of both Turkish interests and regional stability is not new with the AKP, but has been given much more priority by it, in part because of the Islamic orientation of much of the party, including leaders Erdogan, Gul, and Davutoglu.  Moreover, the AKP’s constant harping on its unique understanding of the region, and outreach to populations over the heads of conservative, pro-US governments, have led to accusations of  “neo-Ottomanism.”  Rather than deny, Davutoglu has embraced this accusation.  Himself the grandson of an Ottoman soldier who fought in Gaza, Davutoglu summed up the Davutoglu/AKP philosophy in an extraordinary speech in Sarajevo in late 2009 (REF A).  His thesis: the Balkans, Caucasus, and Middle East were all better off when under Ottoman control or influence; peace and progress prevailed.  Alas the region has been ravaged by division and war ever since.  (He was too clever to explicitly blame all that on the imperialist western powers, but came close). However, now Turkey is back, ready to lead — or even unite.  (Davutoglu: “We will re-establish this (Ottoman) Balkan”).

The US diplomats do not seem to perceive Turkey’s foreign policy as narrow-viewed or irrelevant anymore, but consider it a strategic problem with sureness that Turks will not be able to compete against other players in the region.

 The greatest potential strategic problem for the US, however, and the one that has some of the commentators howling, is the Turks neo-Ottoman posturing around the Middle East and Balkans.  This “back to the past” attitude so clear in Davutoglu’s Sarajevo speech, combined with the Turks’ tendency to execute it through alliances with more Islamic or more worrisome local actors, constantly creates new problems.  Part of this is structural.  Despite their success and relative power, the Turks really can’t compete on equal terms with either the US or regional “leaders” (EU in the Balkans, Russia in the Caucasus/Black Sea, Saudis, Egyptians and even Iranians in the ME).  With Rolls Royce ambitions but Rover resources, to cut themselves in on the action the Turks have to “cheat” by finding an underdog (this also plays to Erdogan’s own worldview), a Siladjcic, Mish’al, or Ahmadinejad, who will be happy to have the Turks take up his cause.  The Turks then attempt to ram through revisions to at least the reigning “Western” position to the favor of their guy.  “

It seems that the response that Turkey received to its applied foreign policy; has surprised US diplomats within the last six years and may continue to do so.

 The Balkans, has been an issue for the EU as well.

“Levitte noted that of the five major conditions required to transfer authority in Bosnia from the UN High Representative to an EU High Representative, four have been fulfilled, and only the question of division of state property remains. This final condition should not alone “block all progress,” especially as the current UN team in Bosnia is no longer effective. France wants to see the transfer of authority to a new EU team in November, as the rapprochement to Europe is an effective “carrot” to encourage the Bosniaks to continue progress in necessary reforms.

 MACEDONIA AND CROATIA

Levitte expressed optimism that a new Greek government would be “more solid” and allow greater flexibility for progress in the Greek-Macedonian name dispute. A/S Gordon agreed that either a more solid Conservative government or a Socialist government would be a stronger, more flexible partner in the negotiations. He expressed hope that if the international community could convince Macedonia to abandon the idea of a referendum and get Greece to abandon the necessity of changing passports, then progress could be made.”

As the new map of the world is being formed, every party is trying to gain stregth as ever. EU wants to have power over Bosnia and ensure Greek –Macedonian power formulation. Turks are being accused a of a “Neo-Ottoman” agenda, yet the rest of the map seems also to be headed in a historically familiar outlook.

Meanwhile according to the US reports, Turkish diplomats are not happy with America’s stand on Turkey’s involvement in the Balkans.

“Sinirlioglu registered the GoT’s determination to resist perceived EU efforts to exclude Turkey from the Balkans, particularly Bosnia. He identified effecting rapprochement between Bosnia and Serbia as Turkey’s immediate diplomatic goal for the region. Towards that end, Sinirlioglu said, we convinced Haris Siladjdzic, who had been in Ankara the day before, to cease references to Serbian “genocide.” The United States and Turkey have “agreed to disagree” on the Membership Action Plan (MAP) for Bosnia; nevertheless, “we value your involvement in the Balkans.”

The leaks on Iran were no surprise. At least I have not come across anything that we did not know. The only thing is that stood out, was a report that portrays Turkey, as an ally of the US who manipulates the region, according to Israel’s agenda, in spite of recent disputes.

“Sinirlioglu contended Turkey’s diplomatic efforts are beginning to pull Syria out of Iran’s orbit. He said a shared hatred for Saddam had been the original impetus for their unlikely alliance. “Now, their interests are diverging.” Once again pitching Israel-Syria proximity talks, Sinirlioglu contended Israel’s acceptance of Turkey as a mediator could break Syria free of Tehran’s influence and further isolate Iran.”

Israel and the EU strongly believe that the regime has to be changed in Iran. The weak points of the nation have clearly been highlighted to create turmoil, thus change.

“Force Regime Change: Dagan said that more should be done to foment regime change in Iran, possibly with the support of student democracy movements, and ethnic groups (e.g., Azeris, Kurds, Baluchs) opposed to the ruling regime. Dagan stressed that Iran has weak spots that can be exploited. According to his information, unemployment exceeds 30 percent nationwide, with some towns and villages experiencing 50 percent unemployment, especially among 17-30 year olds. Inflation averages more than 40 percent, and people are criticizing the government for investing in and sponsoring Hamas, saying that they government should invest in Iran itself. “The economy is hurting,” he said, “and this is provoking a real crisis among Iran’s leaders.” He added that Iran’s minorities are “raising their heads, and are tempted to resort to violence.”

The current Iranian regime is effectively a fascist state and the time has come to decide on next steps. Levitte stated that this is why Paris is advocating a meeting of the EU3 PLUS 3 on the margins of the Pittsburgh G20 meeting. The French hope to approve a two-paragraph statement laying out next steps on negotiations or sanctions. He noted that German Chancellor Angela Merkel shares the view of the French President and is willing to be firm on sanctions.

EU has Boycotted Iran after the elections. They put a lot of effort into plotting the boycott.

 “If the Iranians find out beforehand that the EU will not send Ambassador-level representation, Paucelle told poloff early July 31, then they may rescind the invitations to the August 3 event, as they did in similar circumstances prior to former President Khatami’s inauguration in 1997. “It’s hard to keep a secret when 27 nations are involved,” Paucelle noted, “but we are trying.” Only the Swedish EU Presidency will be represented by an Ambassador, Paucelle said.

“On the one hand, we want to communicate that we do not approve of this illegitimate election. On the other hand, we need to be realistic: the power is in the hands of Khameini and Ahmadinejad, including the nuclear file, and we must negotiate with those in power. .”

 While all this is happening Turkey still acts as a friend of Iran, which is confusing to the rest of the world.

“Erdogan had been asked if he views Iran as a friend. If he had said “no,” it would not have been possible to convince Tehran to cooperate on this latest proposal. Only Turkey can speak bluntly and critically to the Iranians, Davutoglu contended, but only because Ankara is showing public messages of friendship.”

Another surprising report was that Britons were teaching US diplomats how to talk to Iran.

“Iranians are obsessed with the west and this obsession at times blinds them to their interests,” he told the Americans. “The US side should be aware of the following preconceptions on the Iranian side:

– The US seeks to remove the current regime and replace it with a pro-western one.

– US policymakers spend an inordinate amount of time and energy thinking about (and plotting against) Iran. As such, Iranians assume that everything we do or say has meaning and has been carefully thought out and co-ordinated, both internally and with the UK; there are no accidents.”

The tone of this report makes the Iranian sound like paranoid, for assuming that the US seeks to remove the current regime or plots against Iran. Ironically, all the other reports show that they were “right on spot” with their assumptions.

Meanwhile the Islam Brothers of the region, have issues among themselves.

Sinirlioglu registered the GoT’s increasing dissatisfaction with PM Malaki and fear that he is tending “to get out of control.” “He is preoccupied with his political survival;” nevertheless, Sinirlioglu continued, the GoT is in frequent contact with him.He noted Saudi Arabia is also “throwing around money” among the political parties in Iraq because it is unwilling to accept the inevitability of Shia dominance there. “

Although Turkey has good relations with all neighbors, military actions taking place in the region would affect Turkey as well.

Burns acknowledged Turkey’s exposure to the economic effects of sanctions as a neighbor to Iran, but reminded Sinirlioglu Turkish interests would suffer if Israel were to act militarily to forestall Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons or if Egypt and Saudi Arabia were to seek nuclear arsenals of their own.

So in short we can say that:

  • The US treats Turkey as an ally but does not perceive the relation as very dependable.
  • The US thinks that geographically, the US Bases, on Turkish soil are essential for the positioning against Pakistan and Afghanistan.
  • US view on Turkish foreign policy’s success potential seems to have changed. Although they still do not believe, that Turks will realize the vision, now they seem to accept that there is a vision, which they did not in 2004.
  • Everyone wants a piece of the Balkans, as whoever takes control of the Balkans will have more power over the region.
  • Although Israel and Turkey’s relations are not well, some of their interest in the area might be more common than it seems, like getting Syria out of Iran’s orbit.
  • While Saudi Arabia does not get on with Iraq or Iran and most of the region does not get on very well, Turkey seems to be getting on with all except for Israel.
  • The fact that military action within the territory would not be in Turkey’s interest and Israel’s potential for such stroke is reminded to Turkish diplomats, according to reports.

Could we have made the above assessment without the leaks?

Of course we could!

I am not a big fan on conspiracies but I cannot help but question, if this is all part of a big PR campaign? No press conference would have made the world, read announcement of US strategy so carefully.

Nonetheless, it will be interesting to observe, the upcoming reactions to the leak.

Followme on Twitter@BanuGokyar 

Sources:

http://cablegate.wikileaks.org/cable/2004/12/04ANKARA7211.html

http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,731590,00.html

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/us-embassy-cables-documents/120696

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/us-embassy-cables-documents/250705

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/us-embassy-cables-documents/235183

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/nov/28/briton-us-diplomats-talk-iran

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/us-embassy-cables-documents/225319

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/us-embassy-cables-documents/219037

http://cablegate.wikileaks.org/cable/2010/01/10ANKARA87.html

 

 

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Speaking Through the Heart

It is those moments that we do not know what to do with ourselves that our doggy will simply come to our lap to make us smile. It is the unconditional love received from them that makes them our best friends. As mentioned in one of my previous articles, I have a doggy now. He chose me as opposed to me choosing him. The constant love and joy he demonstrates towards me, keeps putting smiles on my face at the least expected moments. His presence gives me peace.

He took shelter under my balcony. This is how we had met and how he had chosen me. In time he started joining me, while meditating in the garden. Now he has moved inside the house.

Oddly how his old friends do not accept him anymore. He must have softened because his former buddies seem to bully him off the streets. The other day as we were walking down the street, we were attacked by a German shepherd. I was terrified. As he is a former street dog, George has very strong survival instincts and knows when to attack and when to back down. Although he did not intend to fight back initially, my fear made him bark back. I am so very touched with his innocent protective attitude. It is the simplicity of our relation that makes it so wonderful. He can feel me; he could from the day we met. He is so sure of my love for him that he keeps jumping all over me even when I say no.

It looks like a breach of authority, but it’s not because when I can’t deal with that, he just knows not to do it. I am fascinated by his ability to read me. Of course he likes to get up and hug me when there is mud on his paws, but then again I am not really mad at him for doing so. After all he is just a doggy, how can he understand not to mess my clothes. He understands the more important things though. He knows to sit with me silently, comfort me if I am down, or jump all over the place to salute me when I wake up.

The unconditional love combined with his deep understanding of my mood, beats any form of communication.

Sometimes I wonder if it would ever be possible for humans to connect on such level.

 

Then I remember that it is. I am similarly connected with Sahaja Yogis who could be able to read me or I could read them from thousands of miles away. I guess innocence and pure love are key to this type of connection. It surely is very fulfilling on so many levels.

When we truly connect with each other from the heart, so many issues that are raised through mental forms of communication seem to dissolve. I guess the trick is to keep things simple because complicating matters makes us lose the ability to communicate through the heart only. When that happens, we might not be able to read the simplest thing about each other’s state that our dearest doggy would never miss.

I guess simplicity in any relation brings joy because when the hearts speak, the rest is allowed to be silent.

 

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Eat Pray and Love!

Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi

Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi

I’ve just come out of the movie “Eat, Pray and Love” and I loved it. It reminded me of a different phase in my life. Years ago when I was in college I lived in an Ashram in San Francisco and had visited India on a trip to gather with other Sahaja Yogis from all over the world. India sweet India, every moment of it was magical. The slow pace, the warm climate, the soothing music, the wonderful silk saris, the perfumed jasmine in my hair, it was all bliss. My meditations felt amazing I was just having such a good time. I recall falling asleep during my initial meditations. I had arrived to the east from the west and needed some adjustment time before I could empty myself to absorb all the wonderful vibrations. Falling asleep was like God’s way of knocking me out so that I could emit all the love. Shortly after I was able to absorb totally awake with full awareness.

Such bliss!

 Of course when one takes a trip for their spiritual evolution, one becomes very observant of the Divine Play that keeps pulling us into a nonsensical state. The Indian call this state of illusion “Maya” It happens all the time and we can overcome it by becoming the whiteness. It is like looking for the glasses all over the house when they are on one’s forehead. The moment one stops getting frustrated and purifies the attention, the hand goes to the forehead to notice the glasses were there all along.

I have been a yogini for many years, yet I still find myself forgetting to be whiteness to my own drama every now and then. Luckily I recall that all one needs to do is surrender. Of course that is not the easiest thing to do when attached, but when it is time to detach things have a way of parting from us spontaneously, so the best is to enjoy the state and leave the conditionings aside.

The movie reminded me of a time that I used to dedicate most of my time to my spiritual growth. I used to pray so hard to become and instrument of God. I desired to be like Shri Krishna’s flute where God almighty could flow thru me, and I could be the instrument, a channel for Divine. What a strong desire. I did not remember to pray for other things, such as success, or money at the time. As we are all part and parcel of God, becoming more like God was my way to bliss.

When I desired to become more like God what I had in mind was not power or any such thing, but the impossible to challenge endless love that only Divine possesses was my idea of being like God. Not the sticky human kind of gushy love but rock like peace giving Divine type of love. During that period of my life I remember resenting to part from my conditionings and facing myself.

Still joy was always present.

Watching the movie I felt very blessed for not being lost and having found my direction at an earlier time in my life. Although choosing this path has made me feel lost in other areas of my life from time to time. When that happens I recall that being part of the system was not my way, or the path that I had desired. There is something draining about systems that I naturally rebel against. It must be my free spirit. As a student I was praying to be channel of God, to acquire Divine like qualities. Later in life as I was working for an advertising agency having regular meetings with high ranking people of the corporate world, I recall looking at some ladies who looked terribly dissatisfied and angry with life.

This time, I was praying “Dear God please do not let me become a Bitch! I cannot become an angry miserable person, who is harsh with people.”

 

Luckily I did not become that. It was just that at the time I was worried of losing focus of what really matters. Given that I felt that I had a strong presence and was certainly not one to push over easy, I was worried of pushing back too hard when challenged and becoming like those people that I dreaded so much, the miserable, bossy ladies. This would go against everything I believed in. I had learned the ways of love.

Pitfalls happen to me too. When trying to adjust with the ideas of the rest of the world, I find myself losing joy. This does not mean that I disagree with the world. It just means that I had learned where true joy is at young age and know well enough that it resides within us.

The knowledge that is encoded deeply inside me manifests at the oddest moments and reminds me who I am and what I know, for that I feel thankful to the Divine as ever.

 www.sahajayoga.org

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Pure Desire

Pure desire is a wish that goes through our heart and is fulfilled without an attempt to realize it.

 I had desired a dog for a while. I cannot trust myself or my life style to take the responsibility of a pet. In spite of my desire, I have not made an attempt to buy or adopt one.

Recently I moved into a place with a garden. The garden is filled with trees of fruit and I have been enjoying my delightful coffee moments, sitting outdoors. One day, as I was listening to music on my I-Pod I got startled by something that moved pass by me. It was a large animal, clearly a stray dog. As a child I have been chased by stray dogs so many times that they tend to terrify me.  It passed so fast that I could not tell where it went. In time, I discovered that he lived under my balcony.

At first, he was no less afraid of me than I would be of stray dogs. He would just hide under the balcony as soon as I came out to the garden. He was so wild that he would not give me or my friends a second look. Even,  when there was food on the table, it did not interest him the least bit.

An extra ordinarily proud doggy!

One day we came across each other on the street. He seemed overjoyed to see me, wiggling his tail jumping around me trying to get my attention. I was surprised, as he had not let my friends pet him when we were in the garden.

I knew he chose me to be his friend and without giving it much thought I named him George. He felt like a George. Then I realized that I named him after a protector Saint that slayed a Dragon to save a Princess.  My every story has to have a fairy tale angle. I guess, I am a bit of a hopeless romantic.

Anyhow, George likes to join me when I take my bike out. People on the street joke about the protector that runs next to me, as I ride. He likes to salute me when I come into the alley. He charges at me, barking, running really fast wiggling his tail. The barking run towards me would have terrified me only a short while ago, whereas now it fills me with joy.  Although we have made friends, he is free. He can come and go as he pleases. The other day after saluting me on the street, he walked away with another girl and frankly I felt a bit betrayed.

Yesterday, as I was meditating on the ground he came and sat right next to me. I know that he could feel the vibrations. Still it was not until today that I became sure that I have a dog. The cloudy weather had put me in a weird mood, not sad per say but not too cheerful either. As I was sitting in the garden sipping coffee writing away, trying to get myself out of the weird state, he came out. He just sat right by me, until he cleared my mood like a best friend would do. That is the beauty of having a pet. They have a way of comforting us. Having had that moment with him, I also realized that my desire was fulfilled in an unthinkable way. I have a dog who keeps me company from time to time, yet he is not dependant on me. He is pleased when he gets food but would not die in my absence.

Divine has unthinkable ways of fulfilling our desires. I am stunned by each experience that reminds me of this.

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Agree to Disagree?

He had encouraged me to keep writing. I was surprised when he did that, as he always seemed to enjoy picking on me, so “support” was not something that I expected from him. I valued his opinion though. It was interesting with all the people around me, that he would be the one to take interest in my writing.

Was it because he was English? They value writing.

 Or was it because he was a former journalist? They enjoy reading.

I could not really tell, but I recall him asking me why he could not find my blog, on line anymore. I told him that I had not written in a while. He just said that I should keep writing, so I did.

 My blogging habit started out, as an outlet that I was using to articulate my feelings. It was an emotional period in my life and writing about my feelings somehow helped. I had been writing since I was eleven years old. Nobody would see my journals though. My mother kept pushing me, to publish my writing on line.

 One day I did.

Until then, I was not so much aware that publishing my writing meant that total strangers would get to read about my innermost thoughts. It was an interesting acknowledgement. It also made me realize that we are never alone in our state. The world is filled with people who have similar experiences. Knowing that sometimes helps cope with unwanted emotions. In the meantime, people around me kept asking why I write those articles. I kept saying, because I enjoy writing.

The other day as I was reading “The Zahir from Paulo Coelho. I found myself enjoying this book a lot.

I came across some lines where he explains that back in Brazil, even he was asked why he wants to write. His explanation, to this odd question is that his nation does not much care to read, so they do not understand why anyone would want to write. Not that I claim any resemblance with Coelho but our nation’s ways of receiving the idea of writing seems similar.

Anyway, as this emotional state that had caused me to write about my feelings, had passed. I had stopped writing, which is around the time that he told me to keep writing. As I expressed earlier he is English. This must be the explanation behind the encouragement. Since, I was not in a sentimental state of mind anymore; I started writing about all kinds of things that I found interesting.

Then one day I received an e-mail where he was telling me that I should have been a journalist. His words meant a lot to me, as he was not the kind of guy, who would say anything, to anyone, in order to get on their good side. I kept writing.

Recently I’ve started writing for a national, on line news publication.

The biggest supporter of my writing was my mother of course, but she is this amazing person who would have supported me if I decided to do the craziest thing, such as becoming part of Cirque Du Soleil. I know she would do the research or hand me the application form instead of telling me the dangers involved in this job like regular moms.

No doubt that I appreciate her fully, but I found myself appreciating his support too. Our endless disputes on world events may even have influenced my tone in writing. Although in the beginning his arrogance seemed unbearable, combined with my impulsive overreactions, we managed to “agree to disagree” on things. This went on until I discovered that he enjoyed annoying me, my passionate outbursts seemed to amuse him. Some of the questions were not his views but his way of elongating a debate. After that I started enjoying our disputes more, as I knew what to take serious and when it was just a pitfall to drive me crazy. Of course my Mediterranean short temper is still there but I know that those moments of heated arguments on world history or politics have been good for me. Surely, I had many arguments with opposing ideas even before I knew him; it’s just that nobody would make it their business to extend the discussion, simply to pick on me.

I live in a nation where there are so many diverse ideas that those who feel that they belong to a group with certain ideas can be very impatient towards members of the opposing idea and vice versa.

 Making a point without losing an audience can be tricky in this environment, yet I feel the patience is built within me. After all, even when the end result is to” agree to disagree”; valuable information is exchanged until reaching that point. Information gets across from both parties, which forces everyone to see the other one’s angle. Once the other angle is seen, it cannot be reversed and being able to do that makes everyone grow, even when they disagree.

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Could Turks lead the way to Tolerance in Europe?

 

There was a time that the European Union would remind everyone of, democracy, liberty, justice, respect of human rights and ideas as such, all of which seems to change lately. The double standard of European mind set is surfacing and becoming more obvious in today’s global environment.

A hundred years ago Europe was able to go and exploit far away lands in India or Africa, without having to worry about that population coming to their home land. It was difficult to travel for the masses, communication means were scarce, and the level of awareness of the opportunities in Europe was limited. These days with the internet, TV, movies, almost all regions of the world seem to be aware of each other. Travelling to the other end of the world is a matter of hours.

Laws in Europe are gradually changing and adapting to the new environment. These days, the French President Nicolas Sarkozy wants to strip foreign origin criminals of their citizenship. It is ironic that he would suggest so, given that he is of foreign origin himself.

 *“He is the son of a Hungarian immigrant and a French mother of Greek Jewish origin. Sarkozy’s mother is from the Mallah family, which originally came from Spain like all Jews of Salonika, northern Greece, and left with the expulsion of the Jews by King Ferdinand. They settled initially in France. About 100 years later the family immigrated to Salonika.
Sarkozy’s great grandfather, who died in 1913, was a well known jeweler in Salonika.”

He is of Greek Jewish origin from the mother’s side and Hungarian origin from the father’s side. This explains his support of the Greek while they are in economic crises. His Greek heritage explains his resentment to the idea of Turkey being part of the EU.

The idea of disowning French citizens of foreign origin when they commit a crime might seem like an easy solution but is it fair? What if every nation found a way to take away citizenship of their criminals? It is every modern society’s responsibility to deal with crime while respecting human rights of those who committed the felony.

This is one of the issues that need to be corrected by Turkey in order to become Europe appropriate.

What if Turkey went into the roots of their criminals and singled out the Kurds, Bosnian, Circassian, Armenian, Greek, Georgian and many other origins and simply took away their citizenships? The idea seems so ridiculous that I would not even humor with it. Yet France the land of liberty is seriously considering such a solution to their problem.

It is a slippery road.  Europe wants to get rid of those who do not seem to fit in. Traditionally it was possible for them to treat the people in their colonies one way and have different standards towards the people of Europe. Now that some of those people have legally become citizens of Europe, acting with double standard has become more difficult. Solutions, suggested by a leader, of the land of democracy are ironically anti-democratic. 

 What makes Europe appealing to the rest of the world?

  • Freedom
  • Respectful environment towards human rights
  • Culture
  • Economic Stability

Europe has lost a large part of its appeal in terms of economical stability, as they are suffering. Freedom and culture are still there, respectful environment towards human rights is becoming questionable. Economics can be fixed but the compromise on its core values will be an interesting evolution to observe while the history of European civilization is being re-shaped.

Peter Hitchens seems to be terribly worried of the idea of Turkey’s admittance to Europe. One of his recently written articles, end with the below quoted sentence.

**Now we may have to pay attention. Among the bayonet-like minarets and helmet-like domes of ancient Istanbul an East wind is blowing, which I think will chill us all.”

He took pictures at one very conservative Islamist neighborhood of Istanbul and used them as an argument that they reflect the ideas of a whole nation. This is like taking pictures of Orthodox Jews and claiming the whole nation is strictly Orthodox. The portrait of Turkey that he drew in this article although completely biased, very well explains the fear of Turkish presence in Europe. This dread has been ongoing throughout history, so it is nothing new. As expressed by the American journalist Timothy Sexton, in the below quote, Europe had been worried of Turks for a long time.

 

***”Much to the chagrin of the Vatican, just a few years later saw the Turks driving forcefully all the way to the Hungarian border. This threat was countered in the typical manner with which the Pope sought to defend his Church: a crusade. Like most of the others, this crusade also ended with devastating losses by the Christian armies, this time during the battle of Nicopolis in 1396. After this victory, it looked for all the world like Europe was about to find itself becoming part of the Ottoman Empire.”

The past is in the past. The truth of today’s world is that there is an Islamic population residing and holding citizenship in Europe. It cannot be reversed, unless terribly antidemocratic steps are taken. Whether Turkey becomes part of Europe or not will not change the fact that European have to learn to coexist and tolerate different cultures. As these citizens ideally, have equal rights like any other citizen of Europe oppressing them towards integration leads to antidemocratic behavior.

 

Ironically Turks come from a tradition of tolerance towards differences. Throughout most of the years of the Ottoman Empire, Christians Jews and Muslims co-existed without religious oppression. As expressed in an interview by History Expert, Aron Rodrigue at Stanford University.

****”While it certainly changed over its five-hundred-year existence, the Ottoman Empire was one of the most remarkable historical examples of coexistence among different religious and social groups.”

How is that relevant?

The world is changing and whether we like it or not the global environment is forcing societies to tolerate and coexist around differences.  The feared Turkish presence might actually help integrating the already existing Islamic presence in Europe. David Domínguez-Navarro very well explains how Jews and Christians were not only tolerated but protected and integrated into the society during Ottoman times. Turks come from a tradition of co-existing in spite of differences and therefore managed to create a comfortable environment for members of all religions.

*****”The expulsion of the Jews of Spain in 1492 and Portugal in 1497 brought to an end what had been the most economic and cultural successful Jewish community in the Western World. As a result, the largest centers of Iberian Jews found a new shelter in the Ottoman Empire where they also met other Jewish groups and minorities from Europe previously incorporated to the Ottoman territories. The relationship between the Jews and the Ottomans had a strong influence on Islam’s acceptance of the Jews as one of the “peoples of the book”.

In Muslim lands, Jews along with Christians were considered dhimmi, or “protected ones”, they were to be tolerated and had freedom to practice their religions (2). This tolerant attitude towards the Jews existed before the conquest of Constantinople in 1453 in the Muslim controlled Spain, and allowed the development of a successful Spanish Jewish community after their expulsion from Spain in 1492 when they were welcome by sultan Bayazid II to establish themselves in his domains. Throughout the sixteenth century they played a key role in the Ottoman economy and public life and enjoyed religious freedom, safety and prominence not comparable to anywhere else since the Golden Age of Spain during the Caliphate of Córdoba 

Although they maintained a social and cultural system of their own they remained an active part of Ottoman urban society, greatly involved in the daily life, they became a pivotal influential minority during this period, and contributed to the commercial, professional and financial development of the Empire.”

Aside from tolerating differences, the Ottoman system ensured all members of the Empire were involved and contributed to the development of the whole.

It is ironic that Sarkozy’s ancestors who had been expulsed by King Ferdinand were sheltered by the Turks, that he seems to oppose so strongly now. It was their tolerance that created a comfortable home for an expulsed community. 

Sarkozy’s solution of expulsion will not serve in long term and Europe will come to the point of seeking ways of integrating people of different origins. Turkish experience might come in handy since the issue of foreign origin’s presence in Europe will not go into thin air.

 

Sources:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-10820457

 http://www.ejpress.org/article/16221

 http://www.stanford.edu/group/SHR/5-1/text/rodrigue.html

 http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-1299213/Peter-Hitchens-disturbing-picture-growing-repression-heart-Eurabia.html

 http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/33307/the_ottoman_empire_and_its_effect_on.html?cat=37

 http://www.tarbutsefarad.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=3579%3Aeconomic-role-of-the-spanish-jewry-in-the-sixteenth-century-ottoman-empire&catid=1305%3Adiaspora&Itemid=101450&lang=es

 

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Turkish Royalty! Angelic little Prince and Princesses in the flesh!

 

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Each time I see a picture of members of the Turkish Royal Family, I am astonished for two reasons. The first reason is that they are incredibly attractive looking people, just the way one imagines Royalty to be in fairy tales. The second reason is that we did not used to see or hear of the descendants of the majestic family. As paintings were forbidden or frowned upon during the Ottoman times, most of us do not have so many real images of the Sultans stuck in our head. Frankly I know what the Romanov family looks like better than what many of our Sultans looked like, simply because I have seen photos of the Romanov’s. This is one of the reasons, that to see the Sultan’s great grandchildren, in the flesh amazes me, each time. However silly it might sound I must admit that their beauty makes me feel proud.

As I had expressed in one of my previous articles on Princess Roxanne Kunter, the Ottoman Sultan’s procreated only with the most stunning ladies, who were part of the Harem, which explains their beautiful looks as a family. The sultans were probably also very good looking (see picture of the little Princes, of the same lineage) and incredibly powerful men. Western movies always make the Harem look like a place of detention, where women were held against their will. I’ve often found this interpretation odd. There is an American TV show called “The Bachelor” if you have seen it, you will realize how 15 women fight over the affection of an ordinary man just because, it is a competition and they become famous. The women of the Harem were competing over the attention of a possibly very good looking man, who happened to rule over a territory that extended to three continents, Asia, Europe and Africa.  Should she bear his child, she would get a chance of being the mother of the next emperor. Now if anyone has caught an episode of the Bachelor, they will realize that women tend to be competitive around each other and controlling the man who is an object of desire for other women can be a great ego boost for ladies.  Surely I do not advocate polygamy in this age and time but the misrepresentation of ancient Harem life, in western movies has often appalled me.

Nevertheless, the reason we never used to hear of the Royal family is because 155 member of the Imperial family were expulsed in 1924. This expulsion took place along with the renouncement of the Caliph title. The definition of the word Caliph according to the dictionary would be:

ca·liph–noun

1. A spiritual leader of Islam, claiming succession from Muhammad.

2. Any of the former Muslim rulers of Baghdad (until 1258) and of the Ottoman Empire (from 1571 until 1924).

So the Ottoman family were considered successors of Muhammad thereby the leader of all the Islamic world. That is a very powerful title to be relinquished just like that. Although it might seem so now, at the time that was an essential move to establish a secular Turkish Republic. One cannot be the spiritual leader of the Islamic world and keep government issues separate from religious issues at the same time. Along with foundation of modern Turkey, Turks drifted away from Ottoman history. It took modern Turkey a long time after its formation, to become economically less dependant.

When I read quotes as the one below in the New York Times it astonishes me.

*“Turkey is seen increasingly in Washington as “running around the region doing things that are at cross-purposes to what the big powers in the region want,” said Steven A. Cook, a scholar with the Council on Foreign Relations. The question being asked, he said, is “How do we keep the Turks in their lane?”

 

Turkey’s rise as a regional power may seem sudden, but it has been evolving for years, since the end of the cold war, when the world was a simple alignment of black and white and Turkey, a Muslim democracy founded in 1923, was a junior partner in the American camp.”

 

“Cross purposes to what the big powers in the region want”, “How to keep Turks in their lane?” “Turkey’s rise as a regional power may seem sudden!”

 

Clearly those who wrote these lines have no idea about Turkish History and that it was not so long ago that Turks were not only the sole power of that region but they also ruled over the region while they were also accepted by all other nations in the area as a spiritual authority, successor of Muhammad.

So yes! Turks might be a rising power but that surely is nothing new, the leadership attribute is simply part of Turkish heritage. How to keep Turks in their lane would be something that many failed throughout history but maybe the American nation is too young to acknowledge, this. They know the modern state that has had economical weakness for decades and has been trying to unite with the E.U. for a long time.

Europe however remembers a different time. As American Journalist Timothy Sexton expresses in one of his articles Turks had been a strong power in the region for centuries.

 

**“Like most of the others, this crusade also ended with devastating losses by the Christian armies, this time during the battle of Nicopolis in 1396. After this victory, it looked for all the world like Europe was about to find itself becoming part of the Ottoman Empire.”

Americans are brilliant in observing change and keeping ahead even using it to their advantage. The world as we know it is changing and power is shifting yet again, as it has many times through out history. Turkish American relations have improved since that article was published in the New York Times and I believe the alliance will only get stronger.

Getting back to the subject of Ottoman Dynasty, after their expulsion in 1924, female members of the family were allowed to come back in 1952 and male members were allowed back in 1974. Conversely it is only lately that the Ottoman Dynasty members are becoming more known to the general public. Prince Osman Selaheddin Osmanoğlu has recently celebrated his 70. birthday. We all got to see the pictures of the youngest members of the Turkish Royal Family. The sweet little prince and princesses are amazingly attractive looking like the rest of the family. These little angel like creatures, are the living extension of our history as they are the great grand children of Fatih Sultan Süleyman who conquered Istanbul in 1453, thereby triggered the beginning of the renaissance era or Sultan Bayazid who gave refuge to the Jews who were expulsed from Spain by King Ferdinand. It gives me great pleasure to be able to hear about the current lives of members of a great part of our history. All the stories of Ottoman honor and glory that we grew up hearing about seem to be justified when we see the images of our scandal free, dignified Imperial family. Their poise screams Royalty. It’s kind of nice when we can put a face with the name, it is even better when the image matches the tales of pride.

I understand that for a long time they might have been perceived as a threat to the modern foundation. However, The Republic of Turkey is an established secular democracy now and the Royal Family represents our glorious history. We can look ahead, owning up to our established democratic system without denying our glorious past.

Follow me on Twitter@banugokyar

Sources:

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/09/world/middleeast/09turkey.html?_r=1

http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/33307/the_ottoman_empire_and_its_effect_on.html?cat=37

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How to repair a broken heart? Just forgive; the rest takes care of it self!

Lately I seem to be able to enjoy the simple things in life more than usual. At a party that I attended, I saw people that I had not seen in a few years. Everyone kept telling me how great I looked. I guess, it was my inner joy manifesting on the outside. I am much happier than I was, the last time I saw those people.  I could not understand why but who cares, who analyzes, why they feel good anyway?

Then some small events made me realize the difference between now and the last time that I saw these friends. At the time my heart was broken.

 “You can’t just walk away from me like before, you care about me now! I know this because you always take care of me.” Those were his words in one of our final arguments.

Yeah, hello! Of course I cared about him.  I was not denying it, so God knows what his problem was. A normal person would appreciate me, taking care of him and not use it against me. Then again I liked most of his abnormalities. I cannot help my strength but it does not mean I do not suffer. The fact that I was emotionally invested should not have to mean that I would let anyone mistreat me. So I did not! My free spirit rebelled against emotional blackmail. It made sense at the time. Now I realize that it is possible that he was just angry at me. Ah well, I felt, completely pushed out of balance at the time. So I ran from it all.

I had not thought of any of these past events in a while. A few years have gone by, since that conversation. Luckily one forgets such things. It was not until a few days ago that I realized that I had forgiven him. We bumped into each other on the street and as soon as I passed him by, I noticed that there were no hard feeling or any kind of resentment left.

Ok! Maybe a tiny little bit of resentment but nothing that a smile cannot fix.

Thank God for that because not forgiving would only hold me back from my spiritual evolution. Actually, now that I am sharing, I should reveal the weird details too.   I knew that I had forgiven him even before the encounter. About a week prior to the encounter I had a bad dream about him where, he had health problems. Although it was just a dream, I got worried.  I knew that I did not have to wonder for too long or call him.  As soon as I put my attention on him, I was going to see him. Oddly how the ability to see him through my attention, turned out to be, a surprisingly reliable method to meet.  A few days after the dream, I bumped into him on the street and he looked perfectly fine so I was relieved.

Some more days after this encounter while looking for a document among my messy files, I found the below article on my computer. I never posted it on my blog and completely forgot about writing it. I love writing because it is my way of dealing with things. I never was one of those people who can just whine to their girlfriends, seek everyone’s attention and support, yet I envy those people sometimes. Reading back I felt touched by the expression of my naïve state at the time. One can only express such sorrow when it is raw. Here go my feelings written at the time:

 “How to repair a broken heart?

 Is that even possible or do we to have continue life with broken parts? Is a broken heart like all other tangible things that break down?

 The time that my heart broke down into pieces was not a moment but an elongated process, over a period of time. Looking back I realize how excruciating it was. I was feeling like walls were closing in on me and everything was collapsing. The pieces that were broken gradually crushed into little dust parts. Each new heart breaking move, felt like a bulldozer was driving over the little broken pieces and crushing them into sand, until I had no heart left.

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However much it hurt, to have it completely destroyed that was a relief because by then I had become numb. I recall the first numbing strike. It hurt so bad that I could not even react or know what to feel or what to do with myself. My whole existence felt like up in the air, trying to float away from what I was facing. Worse than the pain itself, was the fact that I was not able to escape from it. I did not have to endure the person who was causing the pain but disconnecting myself from him did not take away his ability to inflict pain and that, I had to live with. Given my practical, solution creating, result oriented nature; not being able to control the situation and watch my heart crumble down was hard to accept.   In time I found myself completely numb. It did not hurt anymore.

What a relief!

So without even thinking about it, my escape had let me, to go on without my heart. It was such liberation from all the suffering that I did not even realize that it had cost me my heart. I had lost the ability to feel.  The romance department of my life has been completely shut down. Of course I still have my heart for humanity, for family, for friends, for good deeds to be done, even for complete strangers; my ability to share love is a hundred percent there.  

As far as romance is concerned, I am completely shut down.

What a pity.

I cannot feel attraction, romantic feelings or that type of affection for anyone. I had not even realized it until recently. The love that I have in other areas of my life has disguised the absence of my heart so far. I was under the illusion that all was fine, as pain had stopped. Somehow the absence caught up with me. Once I started questioning what caused the feeling of absence, it hit me.  

I had not stopped to question why I automatically turn down anyone, if I sense their interest is beyond a friendly chat.  I had always been choosy with my romantic affairs. I never was a very flirty person so I thought this was part of my chastity or usual picky attitude.

I guess resenting anyone that seems attracted to me, must mean that my lack of interest is beyond common reasons. It is only recently that realized that I have no affection or attraction for anyone because there is an empty spot where my heart used to be.

 Nothing gets activated when I meet someone. I have been going on without a heart for so long that I have a hard time relating to those who feel attraction.

The void is there but I do not have the necessary equipment to create the change that will fill the gap. One needs to have a heart for that; mine had been crushed into dust.

 So what will happen now? 

I guess I will keep enjoying reading, writing, sports, meditating, cooking, dancing……….and hope that our hearts have the ability to repair themselves magically, where the dust particulars find each other and assume form again. Until then…..what to do…..?

Yesterday when I found this article I was hesitating whether to reveal it or not. I am OK now, but I decided to share anyway.  The healing power of time is amazing. It is hard to imagine myself so weak, right now. It is also hard to envision my heart to be so closed up. I could not possibly disclose this piece, if I did not feel completely fine. Just in case anyone out there feels sorrow, do not worry!

Natural joy finds its path, back into the heart. Once you start laughing for five minutes at the most simple joke again, just like little children, you know its all good! It happens so spontaneously, that one cannot recall the pain. Had I not written down all the tenderness, I would have not recollected what it was like, to suffer so badly.  Our ability to forget past pain makes us eager to keep at things. I mentioned that I had to forgive for my spiritual evolvement… This is precisely why!  

 The trick is, to not become bitter over things. We are not alone, everyone goes through stuff! How we deal with it determines our ability to enjoy again or be stuck on once upon a time… I suggest, desiring to laugh again…it sure beats sulking!

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Delightful Moments

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The moment is all that exists. This is one of the most essential points of my Yoga practice. I have been practicing Sahaja Yoga for over a decade. Many ask me how it helps. I tell them about the love, the child like joy, the inner satisfaction, the empowered feeling that comes with practicing Sahaja Yoga. The instant that we go thoughtless, it brings us into the moment.  Many find the idea of being thoughtless difficult. I understand them. My guru Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi who is the Founder of Sahaja Yoga calls the transition “The actualization of self realization.” So it is not something to be understood through a mental process but more like a state, to be in.

 

 

Why am I talking about this?

I sometimes observe sorrow around my circles. Having this knowledge, one wants to share of course. To be Joyful is, to be in the moment. The ability to detach from whatever is clouding one’s mind and to be in the moment is a great blessing. Problems are always there. I never heard of anyone who does not have them. How to deal with them is what matters. These are some of the interesting moments that I experienced lately.  I was able to feel in the moment and detached from the rest of my life.

 

The Man with a Big heart

The other day a man was featured on the local news. They gave him an award, as he had been taking care of his disabled wife, who could not function below the waist. One of her arms would not move either.  He had been taking care of her for 16 years. She said, that he had not been impatient or harsh with her for one moment, had he been harsh she could not have endured to live.  The man’s daughter got Leukemia and he started looking after her too. He was the sole bread earner, doing all the house chores and taking care of his sick wife and daughter with love and compassion. One could feel the love he had for the family while they were interviewing him. He said, “No one would be surprised if a wife took care of her husband till death, I do not understand why people, judge me for doing house chores. I love my family.”

I felt touched by the love; he was capable of giving in the most selfless manner. Although one would think that he has a good reason to be sad, there was no sorrow in this man’s eyes, only love and compassion.

So perception changes everything. He did not believe that he had much reason to be sad. He seemed glad to be the help that he was, for his family. His selfless attitude could single handedly re-establish one’s faith in mankind.

 

The Bitter Sisters

 

I see sorrow in the eyes of some around me. It makes me want to dissolve the grief, instantly. I do not posses that kind of power. I can only try to cheer one up and maybe give them love. The strange part is that those in grief seem to have a good life. Health, nice family, financial stability, yet the pain in their eyes’ looks real. At times that the pain is disguised, it seems to manifest with bitter remarks. Actually my attempt to help them get to a joyful state brings out their desire to pull me down. They are insulted, and eager to show me what a terrible place the world is. They start the ‘ugly world’ demonstration by pointing out things in my life that I should feel bad about.

One cannot expect those who do not love themselves, to love others. An almost annoyingly bitter, personality that likes to pick on others comes out of this situation. Frankly, when up against that harassing type of behavior, I react. Then again, I realize that these sour people have to live with themselves and that must be the worst punishment. Their soreness is their warden. If only they managed to break out of that state, they would be able to enjoy the simple things in life, such as a simple good cup of coffee. Feeling love and sharing it, caring for others, enables one to be in the moment.

 

The Construction Worker and My Magical Coffee Maker

The other day as I walked away from such bitter people I came home and made myself a nice cappuccino with my espresso maker that I would like to believe has magic. (See photo) The miraculous attribute of this particular espresso maker is that, it makes me very happy, each time; I make myself some coffee with it. Would other coffee makers do the same?

No, I like this one and I am sticking with the explanation that it has some kind of magic.

It is when we stop believing in miracles and magic, that bitterness starts gradually taking us over.

So the other day, after I had some magical moments of day dreaming with my beloved cup of cappuccino, I left to go to the swimming pool. It was a bright sunny day. I was walking by the shore before arriving to the pool and suddenly rain started pouring down, like buckets of water at a time. Before I could take cover anywhere I was soaking wet. My dress was completely drenched and water was dripping down my face. Thank God, I was not wearing any make up. Some gentleman appeared out of nowhere and offered his umbrella, for me to hide under. It was too late. I was already completely wet. Standing would only make me feel cold. So I kept walking and enjoying the freedom to be messy like a child. Then I saw a construction worker lifting something heavy in that awful rain. I felt bad for him, and I kindly smiled. Of course I had forgotten what a mess; I was at the moment, totally soaked to the skin. The construction workers response was pausing for a moment and looking at my drenched outlook then he bursted out a very loud laugh at me. I must admit that I did look funny. My previously elegant cotton dress looked like a sack saturated by water.

 

Nature has a beautiful way of reminding us that we are all one.

In about fifteen minutes the rain slowed down. I went into a coffee shop and changed into a dry dress and a cardigan. What are the odds of having spare clothes with me?

I like fresh clothes after each shower so I had them with me for after sports. This is the sane explanation. The other one is that my magical coffee moment made me happy, therefore prepared for the mysterious events of the unseen future.

Yes! I know, I have access to the weather channel too. I love my fairy assessment of events, what can I say.

The Big Man

So on this rainy day I could not swim but a few days later I was swimming at my Gym’s pool which is not very big. Usually not many people swim at the same time so it does not bother anyone that it is not vast. On this particular day however a few of us were swimming at the same time. I do not clock, my laps, but like to measure the overall time I spend swimming. So I am not at all competitive about swimming or anything else really. On this day that we were all crammed in the small pool doing laps, I found myself swimming at the same pace with a very, very big man next to me. After a while I found myself secretly competing with him.  I do not know what had gotten into me, the man was almost twice my size but like a cartoon character there I was on my secret quest.

It all went well, until he noticed. I do not know how he even realized. From under his arm he gave me this amused look with a smile and took a giant leap forward, I was left behind trying to stabilize from the wave he had created, as the pool is small. Now I really felt like a cartoon character. I do no know why these last few days I am ending up almost drowning under lots of water, looking funny. The big man kept giving me amused glances. Of course I completely ignored him, for he had not only discovered my secret competition but defeated me with a single move, and a smile that mocked me. Milan Kundera calls this situation “Litost” I think, or if I slapped the guy, yet loved him it would have been “Litost”.

Of course I did not take the whole thing serious at all but the moral of this story is that I always swim with the great pleasure. The moment I found my self competing with someone, other than myself, it pulled me out of being in the moment, into the moment of ridicule.

Comparisons, rivalry are just silly things that keep us from feeling satisfied with the present moment. One can improve without trying to keep up with anyone or even realizing anyone.

Most of us have our big desires but in the meantime, everyday small things also happen. Some choose to completely disregard the small moments as the are focused on a goal or busy being concerned on what they have or do not have. Not letting those moments slip makes all the difference on the quality of life and outlines the perception of one’s life. Thus a man with many troubles can look happier than a woman who seems to have it all.

Once we know how to appreciate, Divine presents us with so many special instants. When we add those moments up, that is our life.

Follow me on Twitter@banugokyar

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Magical Kitchen

We were just a bunch of kids. That is how it all started. I remember, he came all the way to the States just to be with me. I was crazy about him. We started living together but some how it felt like playing house. It was all fun. We would walk in the snow; get really cold, come home fall asleep in each others arms, under a cozy blanket while watching a movie. The simple pleasures of life were enough. We were eating, drinking, dancing, I remember a lot of dancing, and it was so much fun.

He is the reason I learned cooking. I often wonder if that is why I enjoy cooking so much. The first time that I ever had to cook, I was nineteen years old, a freshman in college and the love of my life at the time was prone to loose weight. It felt like that I had to feed him. I had not boiled an egg, until I went off to college, so I had no idea how to go about cooking. Then again at home I was accustomed to so many dinner parties with all kinds of delicacies that it never occurred to me that cooking was a job that needed certain skills.

I recall that we were fed up with hamburgers and Pizza, we felt like having proper food, so we went to the store bought all kinds of ingredients. Our dinner was going to be stuffed peppers. This was such a common dish back home that it never occurred to us that it might be complicated to cook for someone who never boiled an egg.

Apparently American Bell peppers were quite different than Turkish peppers. I still wonder why our first attempt to cook was not with a simple pasta dish. Anyhow the meat inside the peppers dried yet the peppers did not get softer. If I wanted to cook Turkish delicacies in America I had to factor in the different reactions of the ingredients. It did not much matter, nothing much mattered, and that is the beauty of being in love. One gets to enjoy anything and everything. Even though the first “Dolma” did not turn out too good, every dish we tried after that tasted amazing, or we thought so who knows, same difference anyway.

His mother was amused with our effort to cook. She would send us recipes. I was the cook, he was my helper, not that I expected him to help but I was enjoying so much that he was drawn to the kitchen. I was laughing while he was insisting that I give him a task too, like a little boy. My ritual was to cook and dance at the same time. I still follow that ritual, it is fun what can I say.

I recall a year after we broke up the first time we saw each other he said “I am starved, for God’s sake cook something” I asked him “What happened? You were competing with me in the kitchen?” He just said that he forgot how to cook. So I walked into the kitchen, turned the music on and danced away while cooking.

 I must say, I do not think my dance moves look very cool as I am cooking, funny too probably.  It is something, I do out of joy. I know that joy, goes into my food and fills the room. It was funny, how his roommates who knew me from Istanbul had a new found respect for me, only because I was feeding them.

He said that he missed my joy a lot. I always thank God that I have joy.

To this day I feel a kind of transformation as I am cooking. In time I learned many more dishes from many cuisines. I saw the movie “Julie and Julia” recently. I was filled with joy just watching it. Soon after I found myself in the kitchen enjoying, yet again.

Cooking feels so therapeutic, that I wonder is it because my reasons to learn to cook were to feed someone I loved so deeply?

Who knows? All I know is that as soon as I am playing with the ingredients I am overjoyed. A few years back I felt deep love for someone whom I could enjoy those simple moments with. He knew many dishes yet could not peel garlic as he did not want his hands to smell garlicky. It was sweet. As we were cooking in the kitchen all else was disappearing. We would just laugh away. Of course I would have to listen to him being serious about life before we could end up enjoying the moment, and each other’s company. Life is filled with so called troubles. The kitchen however seems to be a sacred region that makes everything go away. It is those magical moments that make life beautiful.

Maybe that is why I love it so much, who knows..? All I know is that it is the simple joys in life that seem to make life so pleasurable.

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Check your own backyard!

Illegal Armenians are threatened to be shipped out of the country. Personally there have always been Armenians, Jews and Greeks in my life. That is the beauty of being from Istanbul. The city has been touched by so many diverse ancient and beautiful cultures. My High School had a strong student body of Armenian, Jewish and Greek kids. We grew up not knowing our differences. One of the best friends of my child hood is Armenian.

I did not grow up to think of her or any other of my Armenian, Jewish or Greek friends as minorities or someone who is different than me. Naturally, that has not changed and I cannot bring myself to think of Armenians as different. Our historical or cultural backgrounds might be different but one does not think of such details about their child hood friends.

Later in life I also have had Armenian maids who came from Armenia. They are the ones under threat right now. Not the ones I personally know as they are married to Turkish men, therefore legal.

* Recep Tayyip Erdogan told the BBC that of 170,000 Armenians living in Turkey “70,000 are Turkish citizens”.

“We are turning a blind eye to the remaining 100,000… Tomorrow, I may tell these 100,000 to go back to their country, if it becomes necessary.”

Thousands of Armenians, many of them women, work illegally in Turkey. Most do low-skilled jobs such as cleaning.

Still it is terribly disturbing that anyone would have an issue with a bunch of cleaning ladies who left their home, went abroad trying to make ends meet. The cruelty behind picking on them is beyond comprehension. On a political arena some big shot people agree or disagree on how to address events of the past. Why should these women have to suffer as a result of their dispute?

The similarities of the cultural behavior is what makes these maids part of the household. I have been spoiled by Armenian maids/aunties and I cannot think of them as foreigners. The ones I have known so far are women of a certain age, who have grand children, but still need to work and have come to Turkey to do house work. They are very mothering, bake nice cakes and know how you like your coffee the way a family member would. They are more involved with the house than one would expect of a maid. Their firm attitude, combined with the sweetness and the way they demonstrate ownership over simple household matters has always made me feel very close to these women. It has always felt much more personal than an employer, employee relation given that we live under the same roof.

These details might seem irrelevant but I felt the need to write about these to make a point that 100.000 immigrants is not some random number. We are talking about human beings, who have established lives in Turkey, not to mention that they touch other’s lives not as laborers but as human beings that we share moments with.

The Prime Minister of Turkey has positioned himself as a humanitarian by strongly opposing what he calls cruelty in Gazza.

Given this positioning, one can not grasp him as one, to go after a bunch of cleaning ladies to make a political point. The pen can be mightier than the sword. However Turks are not experts at using the pen as means of defense. Historical events are being evaluated by many. Turks do not come from the tradition of explaining themselves to other nations. Mainly because as an Emporium they did not really have to bother. Historically European Emporiums or Kingdom’s had many alliances mostly through marriages. The Spanish princess would grow up to be the wife of the English King; thereby the Queen of England or the Austrian Princess became the Queen of France.  Europeans are used to working out issues and explaining or justifying themselves to their neighbors. Turks however had expanded the Ottoman Empire through invasion. The attitude of resolving disputes through reasoning is just not part of the tradition. I believe that is one of the reasons Turks are not the best at expressing their side of any story. It is a state of being thorn between explaining or ignoring those accusing thereby giving them, the message that they are not being recognized as an authority on the matter. It is not only Turks that act with old habits. When accused of not acting Humane, China told the US President off, by simply saying “Check your own backyard!” (Implying the on going torture carried out by Americans at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp) After decades of poverty, the historical ruler attitude came back, just like that.

In this age presentation is everything I suppose. The British Empire used to be the Empire where the sun never sets. They ruled over so many areas that the Empire’s territory literally covered every time zone around the globe. The French had colonized many regions in Africa and the Middle East. I do not think that neither the French nor the British colonized these countries by kindly asking for permission to exploit those lands and their gold or diamond mines. One would assume that some blood was shed. Possibly entire areas of the same ethnic and national background. For some reason it is not considered genocide. Probably because their intention was not to wipe that nation or people of a certain ethnic background off the map, but while invading they killed many of the same nation.

It is difficult to find Native American’s in the States because almost the entire population was wiped off the map. Genocide or not?  Yet, I do not hear the whole world talking about this sad event, or hear about other nations having their own voting systems on the issue. Ironically Americans or French are the strongest supporters of the declaration of Armenian Genocide committed by the Turks.

This reminds me of a snap shot from the movie featuring Jesus Christ’s life story. Everyone was ready to stone Maria Magdalena until Jesus said “Those who have not sinned shall throw a stone at her.” None could go on.

**“The government of Azerbaijan claims that Armenian forces performed acts of genocide against Azerbaijani civilians on several occasions throughout the 20th century. The claims center on Azeri massacres in 1918 as well as the Nagorno-Karabakh War. Human Rights Watch described the events in the Khojaly Massacre as “the largest massacre to date in the conflict”, and 30 from 636 members of Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, recognized the “massacres perpetrated by the Armenians against the Azeri population from the beginning of the 19th Century” as genocide.[242]

Accordingly, Armenians brutally killed Azeri not way back in History but merely a century ago, yet the world does not gather to make a big issue out of it.

Those were the times. Somehow Turks killing while defending Ottoman territory as part of a war is considered an attempt to get rid of a certain nation. It was cruel. Those were times that every strong nation was cruel, as they are today. Aside from the fact that it was not only Turks who were cruel, which does not necessarily translate into genocide given that the nature of every war is cruel, at the time many Turks had been killed by Armenians. The Ottoman was loosing power; therefore territories ruled over were seeking outside support to rebel and part from the Empire. Defending land by oppressing rebellious acts was how things worked at the time. The intent was not to go after a specific nation such as Armenians but simply to defend the territory.

**“However, according to some interpretations, such as that of the Prior of the Franciscan monks living in the region of where the events happened, claims this was not an act of genocide and that it was a two sided battle: “when they advanced victoriously under the protection of the Russian Army, the same spectacle occurred as in the year of 1915, but that time it was the Turks who got it in the neck. Wherever the Armenians found a Turk he was mercilessly hacked down, wherever they saw a Turkish Mosque it was plundered and set on fire. Turkish quarters went up in smoke and flames just like the Armenian quarters. You are presently about to travel round the country and you will still be able to follow in the footsteps of war: Bayburt, Erzincan, Erzurum, and Kars. You will still see smoldering heaps of rubble; you will still smell blood and corpses, but it so happens that these were Turkish corpses.”[102]

I wonder if the Chinese reaction will in the future become another one of the many famous, wise, Chinese proverbs. “Check your own backyard!” I have a feeling that if persistently campaigned every year, all the Empires of the time can be proven guilty of genocide somewhere in the world and maybe even in more than one region, given the same logic is applied.

 Many people in XYZ part of Africa belonged to the same tribe! How many did you have to kill before you could colonize them? Ok, you’ve killed this many of the same nation so we can assume that you wanted to make sure that ethnicity went extinct through your killings! Thereby you have committed genocide.

Keep saying the same think every year at a certain date and in a few years you can declare the French, the English, the Italian, the American …..This list can go on… guilty of Genocide.

Personally I oppose all killings and hope for more peaceful times everywhere in the world. One hopes that mankind would evolve in time. The fact that many nations including the Ottomans had been cruel invaders at the time, when evaluated by today’s norms is sad enough, how will it help to carry that grudge to these times? So far the only outcome is that the poor Armenian women, who work in Turkey, feel uneasy and worried that they might be deported. Having said that despite of the historical disputes almost every news anchor has expressed their opposition to the deportation of Illegal Armenians in the country and Turkish civil organization made protests on the streets against the idea. The people of Turkey do openly support Armenian presence whether legal citizens or illegal. There is no hatred on this end. As the illegal immigrants chose Turkey as a destination to work, one assumes there is not so much hatred on that end either. Then I cannot help but wonder who does it help to stir up dispute and provoke hatred among the two nations?

 Sources:

*http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/8572934.stm

**http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genocides_in_history#Uganda

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Memory Lane

She apologizes for sleeping with him right after I broke up with him. It does not really matter anymore; it was a long time ago. Did it hurt at the time? Hell yeah, he was the love of my life, she was my good girlfriend. I recall him telling me that he did not even find her really pretty but he was trying anything and everything to get over me. Some people have odd ways of justifying their actions. Who knows, maybe he was punishing me in his own way. I did not react. I was too numb to react. Although I had left him, I also was trying to get over him. I kept far, far away from his mates who thought I was gorgeous and told me I deserved better than him, on the contrary I warned him that those were not his real friends. Not only them, but I kept away from men in general. At least I never had to have a guilty conscious. Tonight she told me that he was in love with me even when with her. He only stood with her for two weeks, as he was still in love with me. She had to endure that yet she still seems to feel guilty. All of this happened ages ago and I could not care less. Why did we have to run into each other with her after so long? Who knows? I did not even recognize her until she reminded me who she was. Now that I remember, why do I genuinely feel love for her? Who knows? We had been good friends and I do not feel like fixating on that bad memory. I have been over him for a long, long time. The fact that he did such things helped me get over him although it caused tremendous agony at the time. I was a lady as ever, never crossed any boundaries that would cause him pain. All he had to endure was my absence. Looking back I am glad for my choices of the time. I guess it was easier to move on when there was no guilty feeling. He kept trying to patch things up for many years to come. I could not anymore, he had numbed me, with all the pain he caused. He had to live with the consequences of his actions, and I lived with mine. What she did was not very nice either. Tonight she told me that we were the most wonderful couple that she had ever seen. It shook her fate in love when we broke up. Who knows, maybe at the time she hoped that he would look in her eyes the way he looked into mine. Maybe that is why I forgive her so easily. Thank God I have always been the one to receive the gaze filled with love. Many judged me for not acting out, not being vengeful at the time. It was not because I was naïve, but because I was strong. Oddly how, after this many years when I had forgotten all about these events of the past I get the confirmation, that my ways were right. Acting with love no matter how bad things get, is a better way in the long run although it might not seem so at the time.

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Natural High

 

I have often thought that substance abusers must be seekers of the truth who experiment on their quest towards the truth. They know that there is more to life, than the ‘nine to five job’ or the ‘shiny car’. Sadly, I have observed the high state induced by the use of substances, being followed by the very low state. It seems like a cycle hard to get out of, as to get out of the very low they seem to run towards the uppers. The uppers use so much of their energy that the next day, they feel terribly down again. What a vicious cycle!

Running from one extreme to the other must be terribly tiring. I have never tried drugs.

In college I recall some friends wanting to share the substance experience with me. They were so impressed by the incredible high that they wanted to share the go through.  A friend was trying to talk me into using something that would make me dance till the break of dawn. I was already dancing till the break of dawn so what was the point? It had not yet occurred to me that not everyone felt naturally so energetic and happy which was one of the reasons they indulged in things that freed them from their inhibitions.

My point in the article of course is not to brag about what a fun person I am, or that they are wrong. It is just that I know that everyone is capable of feeling the natural high, without having to endure the horrible ‘down’ syndrome the next day. As children we all had this quality. During one of my visits to India I have seen all kinds of people from all over the world dancing and enjoying with no inhibitions whatsoever. Just like children. Lawyers, Scientists, Artists, Doctors, Merchants, House wives, even Politicians would just jump out of the crowd during a recital and start dancing, making others get up and dance along. Sahaja Yogis are fun people who love dancing, music and feasts. The upside is that because it is not induced with any kind of substance there is no down state the next day. Just like when we were kids, we could have all the fun and not be tired or in a state that makes us try to escape ourselves the next day.

I have had similar experiences in Togo Africa. It is admirable what great talent Africans have for music and dance. In spite of all the poverty and diseases they are in a constant dancing, singing and enjoying mood which I have a high regard for. One lady told me that she was surprised that the Westerners were feeling sorry for them. She said that although they had not much, they knew how to enjoy life and that she felt sorry for the Westerners as they are always so worried. I must admit that Africans know how to enjoy.

It has been my observation, as well as a known fact that substances tend to create addictions that are hard to break. It is the vicious cycle of, up and down that makes it hard to get out of the habit. This is something that I can relate to as I have personally fought nicotine addiction and it was very annoying to observe myself get edgy when my body craved nicotine. One of the reasons that I was disturbed was that it did not make any sense that an outside influence would have so much say, over my mood. That was the sad truth though. A few hours without cigarettes was making me, a less sweet person.

All the joy that I mentioned above was disappearing! Can you imagine? What could possibly possess me to put myself into such a dependant state? Eventually I rebelled against that kind of seize. It was difficult in the beginning but a great relief once I cleared out.

I believe that substance abusers are seekers. I also believe that the awakening of the Kundalini is one the best experiences of the feeling ‘high’ ever possible. One feels empowered in so many ways, yet joyful, yet humbled, invincible even. More in control, yet no need to control.  It feels like one has entered the Kingdom of God. As the awakening is spontaneous the realization of all the transformation might come in the most subtle ways. I recall meditating with a friend this summer. He kind of felt something that he could not even pinpoint. Later he explained the experience beautifully. He said that soon after he left my apartment “the high kicked in”. He had lost his job, his apartment, practically everything in his life was falling apart, yet he could not stop smiling, laughing and joking. The job and the rest worked itself out in time, as it always somehow does. He felt idyllic even before it all worked out, which was a priceless ability, when nothing seemed to work.

Below you can find the link if you are curious about this wonderful state “The Awakening of the Kundalini” through Sahaja Yoga.

http://www.sahajayoga.org/experienceitnow/default.asp

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Feel Good Days Ahead…

It’s been a long time since I got a moment to sit down and write. There has been so much going on in my life that I never got the chance to just collect my thoughts.

I have been dealing with health issues since 2014 which was the first time that I was operated. In 2015, I had another operation. In 2016, I went to India to an ayurvedic facility. Although I was doing better I had never completely recovered and become an ordinary healthy person.

However last October I passed out during a charity function. It was embarrassing. The next day I went to the doctor, they checked me out and told me I was fine. It was stress etc.

erdoder

My life had become very difficult. I could not leave the house without a small bag filled with; in case of emergency medicine, a hot water bottle, extra hot water in case I collapse somewhere with no hot water, herbal tea. Sadly I would have to use most of these items as well.

This month it was discovered that my condition was not stress related but that there were physical causes. I knew that I was not stressed. I am yogini for God’s sake.

So I have been operated for the third time in 4 years, hopefully the last time. It turns out while healing after my operation in 2015 something healed wrong which was the cause of all my troubles. It has been surgically removed recently and I hope to really become a healthy person soon.

 

I already feel better but considering my previous experience, I am more cautious in saying I am fine now.

Tomorrow it will be two weeks since I have been operated.

soho missoni day

My first outing after surgery was last week and it was magical. I got to meet, Rosita, Angela and Francesco Maccaponi Missoni, three generations of the wonderful Missoni family. They are so down to earth and so welcoming that I immediately fell in love with the whole family but especially Nona Rosita. She is so delightful in her story telling of their family stories, one cannot get enough. They all are very delightful.

Missoni Family

(Francesco Maccaponi, Angela and Rosita Missoni)

There was such a familiar feeling as we were spending time with them.

clumsy

(Me being my clumsy self and Nona Rosita straigtening me telling me I am from the family so sweeet:)

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(Finally a proper pose:)

I come from a family with a textile background and grew up around Italian Brand name owners who would also be invited to our home for dinners. It turns out that Mom and Nona Rosita had friends in common.

IMG_4660

(Mom Chatting with Rosita Missoni)

So growing up, Italy and Italians have always been part of my life as Mom used to be in Italy every month and later on Italian Sahaja Yogis started visiting us on a monthly basis.

My dear friend Paolo who is like a brother to me would come over from Sardinia every month and stay with us.  He would always go to the fish Market in Beyoğlu buy lots of fish and shrimps and calamari and cook them so finely. He is also the one who taught me how to make a mean cappuccino!

The encounter with the Missoni family took me back to my childhood and also back to my early years out of college. They were good times. Lot’s of crowded family dinners, lot’s of laughs, lot’s of dancing, lot’s of travel….

(2002 Me in Italy with Sahaja Yogis)

Since my first outing after the operation was such a wonderful occasion, it almost appeared like a sign that fun and joy is ahead.

Actually, my condition had been discovered in an interesting way. At the hospital, I was visiting the doctor who had operated my in 2015 for something completely irrelevant not even as a patient. He said he did not bring his car and asked me if I could give him a ride to a boat where he was going to attend to a gourmet dinner and even asked if I would like to join him and his friends, which I kindly said no to but I gave him a ride.

On the way he asked me if am seeing anyone. I said no. He said “How is this possible ? You are so beautiful surely there must be men trying to get your attention.”

Politely I told him that I am a little choosy of course and that it is not every day that I come across someone who can interest me intellectually. Then I suddenly found myself telling him that the quality of my life sucks and that I am so dependent on a darn hot water bottle to ease my pain or to not pass out somewhere that I do not particularly feel like flirting with anyone. I had not seen him since my operation. He was not my main doctor. Immediately he told me that sometimes during healing this happens and “no it is not stress”, it is not exaggeration, it is a physical condition that can be surgically removed.

I ended up being operated by a famous Professor who is a family friend of ours and I am ever grateful for this time the whole experience was much better from the moment that I exited the operation room. I have known him forever but it never occurred to me to ask him about my condition. Acceptance is a very interesting concept. Despite of my condition’s  severity since the doctors which I had visited had told me that I am ok, I had stopped seeking for a solution and just have tried to get by as best as possible.

Interestingly how my second outing after my surgery happened to be for a small gathering with one of the most popular actors in Turkey.

mert firat day 2

His name is Mert Fırat. He is the lead in a very popular TV Series and also very popular for his plays. I had never seen him perform in anything but since he is so popular I knew of him. I don’t know what I was thinking but I seated myself right across him at the very front seat in a room of maybe 20-25 people.

As soon as he sat down he looked at the room and at me too. I recognized that familiar look when a man notices a woman. I was a little bit flattered but more than that it reminded me of my femininity which felt good. He kept asking the room “have you seen this? have you seen that?” and most of the audience had of course, they were his fans.

IMG_4722 (1)

What was I doing in the very front seat anyways? I guess it is force of habit from intimate concerts that I attend.

Along with the questions, he would stare at members of the audience awaiting responses and when the stare came towards me, I ended up coming clean and telling him that I had never seen him in my life but I know he is very popular and all my girlfriends admire him.

This is a super humble man, so it made him laugh. Listening to him talk to the audience I could see where his allure came from. He was a very calm looking person who comes across as almost egoless despite of his fame and success which makes him very charismatic. He spoke about battered women and how he supports their cause, going into the subject of Alfa and Beta males. How Beta males are being oppressed by other Alfa males.  That is my language since I live with a pack of huge dogs where the concept of Alfa Beta is part of my everyday life. Anyhow, when I left the event I felt really good. I realized that this was an Alfa male and that was part of his appeal. How is this small moment relevant to my life? The presence of an Alfa male reminded me of my femininity after a long time. It just felt good as a second outing after a long period of feeling unwell and I hope it is a sign of many more feel good days….

mert fırat day

 

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(Selfie with Francesco Maccapani Missoni)

cook book

 

(And Yes I am back to cooking again!:)

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Arabian Experience

IMG_1619.JPGIt’s been a while since I wrote a blog. Actually I have been willing to write about my Beirut Trip for a while but did not get a chance. So I shall keep the topic a bit broader in this blog. Bear with me for keeping it a little longer than usual.

2018 appears to be a very busy year for me.

I find myself working at my business, traveling, volunteering at charities and being socially active all at once. In January I went to Lebanon with an Inner Peace Group which is a kind of version of Sahaja Yoga which I have been practicing for 20 years now. So the idea of gathering with yogis mainly from France but also other parts of Europe; and trying to help little children in school feel Inner Peace was exciting.

I had not been to Arabian territory except for my trip to Dubai ages ago, so I did not know what to expect. As soon as we landed, surprisingly I felt at home. A Lebanese Yogini was kind enough to pick us up and take us to our hotel.

Until I arrived to Lebanon, it was a former French Colony under French influence in my head. I did not really associate it with us Turks. During my time spent there I realized that I had not been to very many former Ottoman territories, thus I have very little awareness of our influence.

Last summer I was in Greece but they are our neighbors so one expects similarities.

What I saw in common in both former Ottoman territories was the feeling at home due to some sort of cultural resemblance although one country is in the Middle-East the other in Europe. The common denominator is our influence I guess.

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(Sultan Abdülmecit Street in Byblos)

Another thing I saw in common is that they don’t like Turks but they like us! I know it does not make sense. The common denominator I was mentioning above is cultural traits which are hard to explain but there is an understanding of each other.

So when I was in Beirut I came across many fluent Turkish speakers who were all very, very kind to us. I mean it was, going out of your way to comfort someone type of real sweetness. But if you ask them they complain that Turks ruled over them for 450 years. (In reality it was about 300 years in the Middle-East, we were in the Balkans for around 450 years)

When the Ottoman Empire was losing strength at the turn of the 20th century, western powers allied with the Arabs and Greeks and most territories that we lost with a promise of independence.

Of course that is not what happened in any of those former territories. After 450 years under Turkish rule, the Balkans was ruled by the USSR for around 60-80 years until the Soviet Union fell apart. It was not until then that they released our former territories to be free nations. A moment of weakness.

The same way the French did not release Lebanon until World War II which when they were having a moment of weakness.

Armenia was a promise by the Russians to the Armenian while they were revolting against us in 1915. The independence of Armenia was not established until 1991.

Yes, you know the story! The Russians did not let go until the Soviet Union dissolved. A moment of weakness.

I had a chat with someone on politics and tried to explain that freedom and independence are never handed to any country by another country. You have to fight for it!

Anyhow I was sad to see posters advocating Armenian Genocide, in the streets of Lebanon while being treated so well for being a Turk at the same time. Politics versus ordinary people…

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Still the whole experience made me feel a type of association with the country that I did not feel before. It made me realize that we are culturally connected to our former territories. Even if they dislike us as former oppressors, we share a past.

It also made me recall a small chat I had with an American girl from New York at the Istanbul airport. She said that she loves to watch Turkish soap operas when she is back in New York, she never misses them.  This did not make any sense, an ordinary American would usually not be so much into our soaps it’s a different culture. Latin Americans love them because we are both emotional, deep and a tad drama queen cultures, but north Americans?!?

As these thoughts were crossing my mind I asked her “Why are you so keen on our soaps?”

She simply said “I am originally from Pristine” which is the capital of Kosovo our former territory.

It meant ‘we are of the same’, which is true.

Recently they released the birth records of our ancestors and although I always knew my Grand Mother to be Bosnian I did not know that her family was born in Sjenica Serbia. My other Grandmother is Circassian her family had moved to Ottoman from Sochi Russia. So being a Turk also means to be culturally connected to where Turks have been, which was a pleasant realization.

Anyhow going back to the subject of Beirut…

Beirut is a very beautiful city. I really fell in love with it. The people are very sweet, the food is amazing.

The Inner Peace Program was a little different than I expected.

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Sahaja Yoga was established by Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi and Her methods and instructions have always been very clear and effective.

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Somehow with Inner Peace people felt they should make adjustments which resulted in less vibration. The whole point of Sahaja Yoga meditation is to be connected through vibrations. When you take this connection out of the equation, it becomes just some movements. So my take out of the whole experience was that it was an admirable effort to reach out to the kids in schools. However, the method used made us miss the point.

Here is a clip of the event.

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I have also been volunteering for a charity called Erdoder for a while acting as a member of the board I have been working towards raising awareness etc. Erdoder’s main goal is to save premature babies.

However recently there have been child abuse cases as well female abuse cases on the rise in Turkey. So we decided to make a video clip trying to raise awareness on these issues too. A dear friend of mine happens to be one of the best advertising film makers in the country with plenty of awards and he was kind enough to offer his company’s services Pro-Bono.

So the cameraman arrived and we all said a few words which adds up to a message; asking people to pay more attention to children and call the authorities if something seems off.

The below clip arrived shortly after the day we were filmed.

My initial reaction was not to like myself in the video but I thought, “This is not a time to be vain!  Just pass it on to the group to be shared officially. The cause and the message are way more important than you!”

So I did! The other ladies also did not necessarily like the way they looked, one of them asked to be cut out of the clip. Of course that was not possible it would throw off the whole sentence plus this was not about looks. If you ask me the strength of the whole idea came from the fact that some of these ladies are used to be seen in magazines all dressed up for big events, and looking so plain and simple in solidarity of a cause shows genuine care I think.

Anyhow another surprising comment I received from these ladies was that I looked the best in the video?!?

Really?!?

That is not how I perceived myself at all. I mean Mom said “the camera loves you” but she is my mom of course she is going to like it.

Anyhow, I realized that insecurities can find us sometimes. The best attitude is not to give-in, I guess. In my case, at a moment of insecurity I chose to focus on the importance of the actual cause instead of myself and it made me feel fine…

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Pathetic Little Gossip Group

Group dynamics can be various. Recently I found myself observing a fraction, consisting of a few women within a larger group of friends. These women share a separate gossip group which is their “feel good place” apparently.

I must admit that it is possibly the saddest and most pathetic way to feel good about one-self by putting others down behind their back. At the same time it is interesting to observe the dynamic of the fraction. They share a commonality which is relaxing through spilling hate over a targeted person, who probably could not care less about what they think. It is their understanding of humor.

Feeling good while trashing someone because deep down you think they are better than you, which annoys you every which way is not only sad but it also shows lack of interesting things in your life.

Since I started observing these women just for the fun of it, I realized that another thing they had in common was not to have any hobbies. This shows their lack of interest in anything productive. They have plenty of hobby activities for their children but none for themselves. Naturally their understanding of a good conversation is talking about other people. Also they agree with each other a lot, so some sort of ‘solidarity in hatred’ towards a person whose only fault is ‘not giving a damn about them’, bonds them.

This bond shows in snarky little sarcastic remarks and laughs amongst themselves. It is really sad that they cannot see how pathetic it is to bond over trashing someone. It is the lowest form of interaction within the civil world. The higher the intellectual level is the less the people are interested in each other’s lives let alone trash anyone.

Observing all this made me also question why I keep myself within sort of a reach of these women by remaining within the same group that we share. Then I realized that they are just a fraction of a larger group and I am very fond of the rest of the people.

So about the snarky gossipers they just have nothing better to do. Despite of their family life which should be joy giving and make them less hateful towards the world and despite of whatever else they have going on in their lives they are not satisfied with their own conditions thus pick on others. They would even take it as far to ganging up on someone and bully them, if they had the power. Luckily their union derives from being uninteresting and pathetic so their ganging up, sarcastic remarks or ideas about someone becomes really irrelevant for someone who actually has a life and real friendships with like minded people as themselves; who do not trash anyone, better yet who have compassion for those with shortcomings of any form in life.

So why am I writing this piece. I am sure that there plenty of people out there who come across similar little gossip groups, who try to be little bullies. If you experience such attempts whether it is in your work place or any other environment, the best way to deal with it is to remember these are miserable people who seek comfort in trashing those who are not miserable.

So in order to deal with them you can throw them a bone every now and then. It will keep their anger heightened and their gossip group juicy for a while. It will help them feel good to trash you while amusing you to see how desperate they are to catch the bone in the air. The rest of the time you can ignore them.

Actually the wiser thing is to ignore them all the time but there is something fun about throwing that bone in the form of a few remarks and watching them catch it in the air, obsess over it, formulating angry come backs, trying to be sarcastic, possibly discussing it for hours. Like I said these people may have busy lives but apparently their lives are not interesting enough which creates the need for them to discuss you and your life. So relaxing and enjoying is the best thing you can do with bully-wannabe pathetic little gossipers.

Before you know it, you forget they exist…

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Dull People Versus Joy

Life in general has been treating me well lately. It is nice to feel this way. I had a very pleasant summer. I had never been to Greece before and I ended up having two trips to the Greek Island of Thassos which is a heavenly place with wonderful vibrations.




I went to Germany which felt really nice. I was born in Germany, so although I do not frequently visit the country when I do, I feel a hard to explain immediate connection.


Change has arrived in my life through my meditations. This is hard to explain but it almost feels like a cloud has lifted off and it all started with my first trip to India last year. Ever since, things seem to be moving along.

Meanwhile last week, I started my Sahaja Yoga Lessons as a volunteer Yoga teacher at the community center again. I had started these classes in 2013. So it has been four years. This year, a woman’s organization for battered women has reached out to me and asked if their members could join my Sahaja Yoga Classes. I was very pleased with the suggestion and we started our classes. So many Sahaja Yogis were able to join as volunteers this year that it has given me immense joy.


Today, as we had yet another wonderful class with very strong vibrations, I was thinking ‘when you stick to something it always pays off.’ I remember going to the community center sometimes for only one person. It never mattered to me. If I can put a smile on the face of one soul who seeks help it is plenty enough. However to see more people coming and vibrations becoming stronger is very satisfying and makes me happy that I kept at the classes, no matter how low the turn-out had been at times.

Meanwhile, being a yogini I always do a lot of introspection. Over the summer I found myself falling into a pitfall on one issue. I used to have this one friend as a child who grew up to be not so interesting. Her allure is mostly based on her gossiping power. I must admit that even though it is not like me, I was drawn into it. Since we had not much else in common as adults, chatting with her meant discussing other people. This was her scope and I got into it as well. Under the leadership of the gossip boss, I found myself sharing this mutual interest with some other friends from the same group as well. She would discuss one friend, be mad with him, and try to get others to be as angry with him as she is by speaking behind his back for hours obsessing over this nonsense. Of course not a word to his face but snarky pathetic comments to be later discussed amongst the gossip group as the highlight of her pathetic day. “I stuck it to him but I am not sure he got it.” would be way to go about it.

It was an interesting phase for me because when I question myself, I realize that I was trying to bond with certain people who do not share my interests so I tried to share theirs. Of course it did not take.

First of all I could not care less what other people do or don’t do. Second of all it is the habit of those with no life to get obsessed with other’s life. I have a life, so why bother.

Third of all I am a yogini and I tend to love people, not pretend to like them and turn around to put them down. I really, truly have positive feelings for almost everyone, even for complete strangers which drives me to have volunteer Sahaja Yoga classes. Sharing love is the idea behind it and it gives me immense satisfaction. Positive vibrations are the expression of Divine love and it can feel like a slice of heaven.

So, naturally the gossip group considered me too straight forward. If I have something to say, I say it to people’s faces. Anyway, the phase wore-out, I returned to my life and had completely forgotten about them.

After all these were a very small fraction of a much larger group of old friends which consists of plenty of non-gossip, sweet natured, real people whom I very much enjoy. The rest of the same group is such a delight that it makes me happy to have them in my life.

In fact I always find myself looking forward to spending time with the other friends from the same group. When I meet any of them, discussing others does not even occur to us. Instead we have good laughs and good chats about life itself, or art, cooking, animals, fashion, sports, politics anything but the life of those we mutually know.

This experience was still interesting. I realized that one must have a really dull life to take pleasure in discussing others for hours. It made me feel blessed that I do not base my sense of joy on something so dull.

It was also a good experience to see how draining such people can be. Ever since I grew apart from the gossip fraction of the group, their negative mood has lifted as well. I did not exactly gossip because hypocrisy is against my nature, instead I would end up reacting to the face of the person about whom everyone spoke but smiled to the face.

What a waste of time and energy when we can enjoy every moment of life. So that short phase helped me observe how miserable some people live and gave me more appreciation for not being like that.

It is God’s blessing to have the ability to enjoy the moment and I try to share this ability with as many as possible through the practice of Sahaja Yoga. And every now and then seeing how other people’s attention works makes me appreciate the joy I feel even more.

They also seem content in their inferno, so probably all works out the way it is meant to…

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Snow Joy

2017 arrived with grief. Reina a popular club by the Bosphorus was attacked on New Year’s Eve, by an ISIS member who killed and wounded people while they were celebrating. Just like that he walked in, shot everyone and walked out. They have not even caught him.

It made me feel really uneasy because Reina is a place where I have celebrated New Year’s Eve in the past and also have had many dinners.  The club part was never my favorite spot but with my family, we did enjoy bringing visitors from abroad there to dine since the atmosphere and view is very pleasant.

Facing that it offered a false sense of security and is in fact so easy to attack has made me and my circles very uneasy, as we considered the attack to be targeted at a symbol of a certain life style. It could happen at any of the places that we like to go to frequently.

As we were feeling down over this reality, just a few days later İzmir was attacked. Luckily a hero police officer spotted the terrorists before they could carry out their plan of heavily attacking the court house and he gave his life to stop the live bomb.

Although we felt really terrible to be so vulnerable against terrorist attacks as a nation, the fact that our police force was at least able to stop and kill the terrorists before they could carry out the plan gave some sort of relief. The Reina attack was worse in the sense that the assassin just walked in, killed people and walked out with no one there to even try to stop him.

Anyway just as we were having days of worry and no joy as a nation we got snowed in. Somehow nature has a way of bringing joy at the least expected instances and she did. We woke up to a white Saturday, everything covered with snow. Of course children and adults all started to play, thus childlike joy found us all. We exhausted ourselves playing in the cold weather and then rushing home for warm cozy treats. Before we knew it, we have become able to enjoy the simplicity of nature.

 

I personally have had a lot of fun since my doggies love the snow. I don’t know what awaits us in the near future but having had a break from such worries and just doing cozy things at home and playing with my doggies in the garden felt good.

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I bet the terrorists hate these happy photos of people on social media playing in the snow like children. They have just hit us and hit us hard. It’s not that we don’t or won’t grieve but let’s call it Divine intervention. Their aim is to put us all into a deep state of fear and depression and then Divine sends us joy in the form of snow. So we enjoy the moment ❤

What else exists anyway?

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Ready for New Beginnings

foto-banuThe year 2016 has almost come to an end. This has been a difficult but good year at the same time. The difficulty mainly derives from the terrorist attacks and loss of ‘sense of security’ which we had to endure as a nation. It has become our new ‘normal’ just like that, as human nature tends to adapt even when conditions are unpleasant.

Having said that, personally I have felt a lot of progress this year. Taking a trip to India was like getting back to my roots. I was a college student when I started my spiritual journey of Sahaja Yoga. It has helped me see things from a different angle throughout my life. However lately I was feeling not completely lost but confused. Sahaja Yoga is all about love and joy and forgiveness. Here I am in a country where aggression has peaked every which way, people are frustrated and miserable, polarization has put a wedge between various layers of the society, which made it tricky to still try and be joyful.

I had started to feel worn down. One of the main disturbances was my encounter with people who are not necessarily well read, yet holding decision making positions. The idea that merit means absolutely nothing was frustrating. I was asked to help a Turkish economics magazine to bring out a monthly English edition. Although I was not necessarily interested in this position I had accepted it as I was promised collaboration on a TV job. They would use their connections to pitch my documentary series idea. Since connections are more important than merit, it all made sense. So, I got to work on a freelance basis with a magazine where none of the owners speak English. The way I was raised kept me from making them feel unwell about it. Anyway it was a bit naïve of me, looking back I realize they were stringing me along to get their English magazine off the ground for which they needed my help but probably never had the intention of sharing my pitch with the connections they claimed to have.

I’ve had so many encounters where people who lack culture happen to hold decision making positions within the media industry that I suddenly had it. My kindness towards such people did not derive from the desire to be on their good side or anything of the sort. On the contrary, it was the way that I was brought up. Compassion was preventing me from belittling ignorance.

Somehow that has changed upon my return from India where I took some time for my spiritual benevolence. I find myself telling people off, left and right. So one of the major changes through 2016 is that, I have lost patience for people with inferiority complexes. There is some sort of relief in telling them off. At the end of the day ignorance is vice and knowledge is virtue and someone needs to tell them. Evidently when nobody does, they feel OK belittling the concept of knowledge as a whole. Lack of it does not hold them back in life since merit holds no value.

Then again, a pleasant aspect of 2016 has been my friendships. I have been in very close touch with my childhood friends. We’ve known each other since we are 12 years old. There is something so priceless about this relation where we give instant childlike joy to each other. Also, we are as real as it gets around each other. Most people need to keep up appearances in their adult lives. They lose the luxury of being fully open and able to share everything without at all being judged amongst their circle of friends. It is not like that for us, we get to share everything, even embarrassing things and laugh like we did when we were kids.  Feeling loved like that with no judgment is wonderful. There have been other people with whom I have grown closer. The common denominator is yet again that they are ”real people.” So this was a good year for friendships.

It was a good year for my health.

I have started working towards different business goals which feels good. I have quit smoking which feels good. I am working out much better than I used to which feels good. I’m properly recycling which feels good. Some weeks, I was unable to put out my collected recycle items for the weekly pick up, because if I put them out too soon, the trash guys were grabbing them. Finally the recycle guys have discovered my hidden spot where I collect them in a recycle blue bag at the side corner of my house. They grab it even if I’m not at home during their weekly pick-up hour. It may sound like a small detail in life but week after week, I have separated recycle items collected them, then the trash guys grabbed them because I could not be at home at the hour of recycle collection, and put them out too soon.

Anyhow, I do not have very many New Year’s resolutions.

However keeping in shape may be one of them.  I’ve gained 3 kg’s upon quitting smoking whereby not even my size has changed but somehow it caused some insecurity. Luckily my good friends snapped me out of it by telling me that I was too thin anyway thus look better.

Saying that is what good friends do….:)

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I am hoping that this New Year will bring all the best to me and my loved ones and throughout the year, I’ve made that wish in various temples of different faiths, so I am sure it will….

Happy New Year!

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My Heart Sees You

i-phone-6-plus-596At the end of the summer I took a long needed trip to India. It was the beginning of my “eat, pray, love” days, was my joke when I landed at the Delhi airport. It was 4 am when I landed and the car that was supposed to pick me up was not there. It was dark yet, I smoked a cigarette in front of the airport and took a cab, which I was later told was dangerous.  The cab drove me to Noida where I reached the Sahaja Yoga Health and Research facility.

i-phone-6-plus-621As soon as I arrived, I felt like I had arrived to heaven on earth. I could feel my Guru Shri Mataji’s vibrations on the premises although She has passed away a few years ago. Her immaculate taste and refine touch was visible everywhere along with the feeling of Her love.

Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi

Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi

It was the break of dawn and there I was sitting with some old Indian ladies who did not speak English but just gave me some chai. Looking at the garden while sipping my tea, I just knew I was going to be ok.

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The point of my trip was to be cured. For past three years I had non-life threatening but disturbing health issues one after the other. I just could not lead a regular life. I could not leave the house without having my pills with me in case something happens. My condition was causing extreme bloating whereby I could not breathe. Not knowing where and when it will find me was also very disturbing as it was happening while I am driving or having a meeting.

So although I appeared normal from afar, I had limited my outings to necessities. That was no fun!

I tried to work out of course but the quality of my work-outs were very poor with my breathing problems.

As soon as I stepped onto the premises in Noida, I knew all that was going to be my past. The doctors worked on me from the first day on. In the afternoon, although I was sleep deprived from the night flight, I went out to get a local sim-card. Meanwhile being away from the Health Center, I decided to feed my habit of smoking. In Istanbul you can lit a cigarette on the street, although traditionally a female smoking on the street is not considered very lady like, it has become more normal over the years.

However when I was on the streets of India and not one person smoking, no coffee shop to sit, ‘me holding a cigarette in my hand’ brought my Turkish upbringing conditionings into place and I just threw it away, for I could not appear like a trashy person with no proper manners.

That was my last cigarette so far. It was such an easy way to quit. The vibrations of the Sahaja Yoga Health facility were so strong and over powering that they cut off my demons, thus my addiction.

By the time my stay was finished the doctors had worked on me for many days and I was cured. I was hardly bloating and more importantly I did not have to worry about having shortness of breath while travelling from one spot to the other.

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They had worked on many of my chakras but the one blocked and causing the shortness of breath was my heart chakra.

Hmm…

Something I make a habit of ignoring…

As my stay in Noida was completed, I went to Delhi and from there to Dharamsala, the Himalayas. When I arrived I realized that it was like a cartoon fairy tale. I was literally walking among the clouds. My dear Uncle Yogi Mahajan who had taken me to Dharamsala suggested that I burn my heart catch in havans, which is a treatement to burn away negativity.

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So I did, and with each Havan the weight on my heart lifted some more…

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Vibrations were amazing, a sweet Indian Yogini told me that she could feel so much love pouring out from me, towards her. It was true. The humane kind of love, I have always felt, even for people that I don’t know so well. So in this sense a completely open heart can be misguiding.

There is no vulnerability involved. I can go out of my way to help friends or even strangers, since I would be doing it with no expectations in return, it is easy. It’s just a humane kind of love.

However entrusting a man with my heart…trickier! Of course when you love someone, you love someone, it just happens, that part we cannot stop from happening but the mistrust can mess things up.

Anyhow, upon my return from this incredible trip, not only do I feel cured health-wise but my heart chakra feels so much better in general. Also I feel joy the way a yogini is supposed to feel it, in other words all the time. This transformation feels miraculous. Moreover the physical strength and ability to run or swim the way I used to is so elevating.

Even the ladies in my Sahaja Yoga Class can feel the difference, our group meditations are more powerful than ever. So my ability to spread humane love has increased even more. I don’t know if the joke of “eat, pray and love” will become a reality as in loving a man anytime soon but I can sense my heart regaining the ability to see …..maybe even see what was sitting right in front of me. How that will affect my life is yet to be seen but it appears that I burned my baggage away during the Havans in India and that is incredibly joy giving…

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A Liberated Spirit does not Give-in

kundalLately I have been holding a lot of Sahaja Yoga classes. It gives me immense joy to meditate with others and pass on the information and techniques. However the most satisfying part is passing on the love. During meditations we try to go thoughtless and stop listening to our mind while spontaneously we get in touch with our inner self, our spirit.

It is a very subtle yet very relaxing state. During the first meditation the Kundalini awakens and as she rises, we become reconnected with the whole. The Kundalini is a female energy which we are born with and which assumes a dormant position by the time we reach the age of three or four.

This is the period when our ego and superego develops and our conditionings start. Conditionings vary from culture to culture, however they create a hold on our spirit.

Along with the awakening of our Kundalini, this hold gets released and we start regaining some of the qualities which we are familiar with from childhood.

The ability to be in the moment and enjoy the simplest things, is one of the most common traits of children. I recall one child’s birthday, the boy was turning two or three. An adult gifted him with gold, of course the boy could not care less about the gold pendant and was overjoyed playing with the wrapper.

Not having developed a notion of monetary value makes it easy for children to find joy in the simplest things. We all possessed the same ability as infants, however as we grow up, based on our conditionings we develop a value system. In time, our happiness becomes defined in the frame of this value system.

It does not necessarily have to be a monetary value but some kind of achievement dictated by the society, draws the frame of our ability to feel happiness.

We start setting one goal after another and consider ourselves content or not so content, based on where we stand on our way towards our goals.

Whereas, true joy is the simplest thing and it is in the moment.

Along with the awakening of the Kundalini the childlike ability of feeling simple bliss returns instantly. So most people who join the meditations tell me that they felt a slight sensation during the first meditation, yet the next week that I see them, they tell me how well they felt all week. That they found themselves laughing a lot, that things somehow worked out easier than usual, things that bothered them before does not get to them anymore…

That transformation is the liberation of the spirit, the more we meditate the more our spirit breaks free from our conditionings, thus our confidence builds, the frame work that suggests things to be possible or impossible, necessary or unnecessary, lifts. Once out of the frame, the things which had the ability to bother us lose that ability, the things that seem difficult stop appearing that way. More importantly we start enjoying the moment and feeling the simple joys of life.

Those who join the meditations come back the next week in a state where we all get to laugh at the simplest things while having our little chats in between mediations. This lifts my spirit as well and makes it all worth putting in the time to have these classes.

The best kind of love is shared love, and that uplifts everyone’s spirit at the same time. I observe that those who join the classes feel the transformation but do not necessarily feel able to define what is happening, which is why I felt like roughly summing it up.

These are the initial occurrences. Those who have been mediating over longer periods of time also feel an overall change such as; the ability to maintain a more relaxed state in stress causing situations. Since the transformation is very spontaneous those who experience it find it a part of their natural presence. In a given situation it is usually others who tell them “How come you are not reacting, how come you are not stressed…etc.” Since the new calm state has already become their new normal and since the importance they place on things happening in a certain way has already positively changed, it baffles others more than themselves. This comes especially handy when one is in a position where another human being takes pleasure in inflicting pain by provoking them with a certain attitude.

A liberated spirit does not give-in, to such attitudes!

All in all, bliss resides within us, the moment we decide to connect with the whole, everything changes, our perception, our surroundings. Thus we finally go back to that familiar childlike state of joy…laughing away through life….even through rough patches….and that is true bliss!

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