musings on travel, international living, development aid, politics, turkey (the country more than the meat) and anything else that comes to mind...

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Classical Pianist must be a Massive Threat

So my good friend Tayyip has done it again. This time his cronies in the judiciary have convicted Fazil Say - perhaps contemporary Turkey's most famous classical musician - of 'insulting Islam'. Since when is it a crime to insult Islam in Turkey? Oh right, since however long Erdoğan has been in power. I thought Ergenekon (and other military witch hunts) marked an insurmountable level of ridiculousness. Apparently I was wrong.

To be fair, Fazil Say must be a massive threat to national security. The pianist and composer - who has garnered worldwide acclaim working with the New York Philharmonic, Berlin Symphony and others - must be a bad, bad man. A felon. A breaker of laws. The uni-bomber!

Why, you ask?


His most egregious tweet, you ask?

A link to Ömer Hayyam's "Quatrain". Though I'm not familiar with the piece myself, apparently it discusses sex, wine and... you guessed it - the Garden of Eden. Blasphemous. Fazil also tweet-joked about Imams and the call to prayer. Double and triple blasphemous.

Joking aside, Istanbul's 19th criminal court just convicted Say of 'inciting hatred' and 'insulting Islam'... on Twitter. Fortunately he won't serve any jail time... unless he 'commits a similar crime' within 5 years. Whether or not you agree with his views or style, jailing someone for crassness is a bit much.

But the whole episode brings up a broader, more subtle issue with Erdoğan's Turkey, one that further reinforces my image of him as a shrewd political operator above all else.

As has been pointed out by others, using the courts to silence critics is sadly nothing new in Turkey. Communists, comedians, journalists and Lord-knows-who-else have been put in jail for lesser things than 140 characters of 'blasphemy'. Erdoğan has continued this tradition, simply re-focusing it not only on those critical to him but on those perceived to be critical of Islam in general. Whereas Atatürk and/or the Armenian Genocide were (and arguably still are) off limits, Turkey's taboo of the day is the Prophet. Don't give Lord Tayyip too much credit for this bit of judicial ingenuity.

My heart goes out to Fazil Say. Turkey is a beautiful country with so much to offer; but the 'insult' laws are a continuing thorn in its, and Mr. Say's, side. Article 301, the law against insulting "Turkishness" (which now includes Islam perhaps?) is absolutely Byzantine. Pun intended.

Say is simply the latest public figure to be caught up in Erdoğan's campaign to integrate radical Islam even more into the fabric of Turkish society, using whatever tactics - old and new, tried and true - he possibly can.

(Hat tip goes to Marc Champion for his excellent article in Bloomberg.)

Monday, April 8, 2013

Top 14 from the Last 365

Around this time last year, Lauren and I quit our jobs. She was accepted into the graduate program of her dreams so we would need to be back stateside in August anyways. But why not quit early and travel for a few months? After that's over, why stop traveling? There's long weekends... winter vacation... spring break... remember them?

Needless to say, the last year has been ______________ (insert synonym for 'amazing' here)! This post is as much an open invitation for you to seek tips and suggestions/offer your own experiences and thoughts/etc as it is a selfish exercise in nostalgia.

Here are my top (3+6+5=) 14 highlights:

14. Pretending I know how to play frisbee with great Juba friends on Tiwi beach in Kenya.
13. Holiday shenanigans with Lauren's family on the Texas coast.
12. Chillin' with some elephants in Jaipur before melting at the Taj Mahal.
11. Trying to photo bomb crasians at Angkor Wat.
10. Coming home to this mug after playing soccer with village kids while dodging dogs and cows in South Sudan.
9. Planning where we want to live while jogging through the streets of Sydney.
8. Completing the (not-really-a-real-thing) Luang Prabang Mekong Triathlon(g).
7. Helicoptering over the outer reef in NE Australia.
6. Practically everything (the viewglaciersTe Papa museumwhale watching in Kaikurawine tastingdouble rainbowsbaby seals, good times with old/new friends, night runs through parks, etc etc etc...) about New Zealand. Yes, including jumping off a bridge for the first time.
5. Trying desperately not to wreck a motorcycle in Vietnam while a man half my size maneuvers us through mountain passes along the stunning (and curvy) coastal road to Hoi An. Ha Long Bay and the limestone caves were pretty sweet too.
4. Waking up in the rain at 3am on the last day of arduous/awesome trekking along the Inca Trail... then hiking a few hours before dawn just in time to catch our first majestic glimpse of Machu Picchu before the clouds take over.
3. Stepping back to a simpler time at Inle Lake and lazily biking through the moonscape of deserted Bagan temples in fascinating Myanmar/Burma.
2. Penguins (all things Antarctica for that matter...).
1. Conquering the Tiger's Nest in Bhutan... and hearing that one word response to my question that changed my life...

On the wish list for the next 365: Turkey, Nigeria, China, Ecuador, Israel/Palestine, and ..........?