So, if you are a journalist and you write a report about something involving a crime, you have to immediately call the authorities and report it. That’s what the lawsuit against reporter Emin Bal makes clear. He wrote a story about a funeral of PKK combatants, and during the funeral slogans supporting the PKK and its leader Öcalan were shouted. He didn’t call the police, and that’s his crime. All he did was write it down and publish it. And that, in my opinion, is exactly what a journalist should do. His job is to inform the people about what’s going on, he’s not a public servant.
Driving a car, that’s no problem for my Turkish lover. Not that he ever had official lessons, but his father taught him everything when he was a teenager. So I feel perfectly safe when occasionally he is driving instead of me. Point was, he didn’t have a driving license, and that’s not so practical. Even less so now that daddy has bought a new car and the old one is just standing there doing nothing. It will be easier to borrow it if we both get our license.
This morning, it was time: driving exam. He had to be there at 8.30. Not in Istanbul, but in the village where he is registered, Ürgüp. How easy, I thought, doing a driving exam in Ürgüp (15,000 inhabitants) on an early Sunday morning. He came back at 10.30. Passed? He supposed so, he can call for the result later the same day. I asked if there was a lot of traffic on the road. No, there wasn’t: the exam was not on the public road, but on a circuit. Long circuit then, that it took so long? No, it took a long time because he had to wait in line. Wait in line? Yes, on both sides of the circuit there’s a line of candidates, you drive around the circuit, get out of the car at the end of it (about 3 to 5 minutes later), the next candidate takes over the wheel and makes the circuit in the opposite direction. Waiting in line, my friend was warned that when it was nearly his turn, he had to watch the approaching driver carefully: recently somewhere in Turkey something went wrong with the brakes, which resulted in two deaths among the waiting candidates. I asked: what sort of situations do you come up against at this circuit? At the start, he answered, there’s a sign saying ’30’. After that, they ask you to stop at a ”no-stopping” sign and check whether you obey the sign. And – and then I was definitely rolling on the floor laughing out loud – they built a fake railway crossing. There are hardly any trains in Turkey.
He just called. Baby, I passed.
Sunday night, I decided to go to Diyarbakir, ‘capital’ of the Kurds living in southeastern Turkey. The Turkish government and army have been threatening for weeks to cross the Iraqi border to attack PKK camps, and I wondered how the Kurdish population felt about the plans and what the atmosphere in the city was like. It struck me how silent people are about the PKK. My translator spoke in euphemisms sometimes, for example when we talked to a family in a poor neighbourhood. ‘They know some people too’, for example. Later, somewhere indoors, he explained that on the street, people will not use the word ‘PKK’, either positively or negatively. If you ‘know some people’, then you know some PKK guerillas. People are scared to talk too openly about their political beliefs. You never know who might overhear, you never know what the consequences may be.
During the last few years there have been many improvements in the rights of the Kurdish minority in Turkey. But over all the preceding decades, fear and distrust got a grip on the people in this crowded, poor city. Laws and rights don’t change that so easily.
It’s not easy to live in a smokers’ country as a non-smoker. Like tonight, on the boat from Kabataş back to home in Üsküdar. The weather is still nice, so I decided to sit outside to get some fresh air. I should have known better: in Turkey, people don’t sit outside for fresh air, but to smoke. So there I was, trying to point my noise to where there was no cigarette smoke. I tossed and turned, but had no chance amongst the seventeen (yes I counted) smokers polluting the nice evening air. I tried to irritate them all back. But I don’t think anybody noticed my fart.