Of the many books I’m reading, I’m in the middle of Louis de Bernières’ “The War of Don Emmanuel’s Nether Parts.” It’s a very accessible further foray into magical realism for me. I’d read the third book of this trilogy already; this one is number one in the triad.
In any case, I stumbled across this passage the other day, page 279 ff. in my version of the book. Mind you, this novel was published in 1990. Read on and be cowed.
“It was just beginning to be possible for the President to feel a little more optimistic about the economy; the urban guerrillas had seemingly miraculously disappeared. He had heard the rumours about their secret extermination by the Armed Forces, but was relieved that now every bridge he opened was not blown up the day after the opening, and that power cuts were caused nowadays not by bombs but by good old-fashioned incompetence. He was also pleased that so many Trade Union leaders had vanished inexplicably, during the recent general strike, as their successors were more moderate in their demands for higher wages to offset the two hundred per cent rate of inflation. He had inaugurated campaigns of hundreds of arrests against strikers for breach of the peace and obstruction, and General Ramirez had very kindly sent a large number of plain-clothes soldiers among any groups of strikers to incite them to violence. As soon as this happened, the police would arrive with their batons and water cannon, and would release clouds of vomit gas, which caused the strikers to spew violently at the same time as being drenched and beaten over the head. The workers, having experienced the hell of flailing around on the ground in a rank lake of vomit became understandably more content with their steadily falling standard of living, and industrial harmony was largely restored.”
I read this out loud to Mary. The first thing she commented on was that it sounded just like what had been happening in Turkey this year. More’s been going down this past month. This time violent response to protests took place in Kadıköy, the district in Istanbul where I’d lived for two years. The idea of giant water cannon tanks tearing through those tiny streets, the Bull Statute at Altıyol inundated with tear gas, rocks thrown at police, police throwing projectiles back at crowds, mentions of Moda (the actual area within Kadıköy where I’d lived) in Facebook posts and in tweets — it all felt way too much to consider at the time. I still can’t piece it all together.
An American woman, close to many friends of mine still there, was – supposedly – arrested as she walked back to her apartment, not a part of the çapulcu movement that night. Beat up by police. Put in jail. Deported.
Even if what I’d heard was 100% accurate, she’s not in Istanbul any longer. She’s back in the US. For who knows how long.
I read this segment a few days ago. The resurgence of protests and the deportation took place around September 11. Things seem eerily quiet now.
If I could tell you what the state of Istanbul will be at the turn of the New Year, I would not be able to say a thing. I have no clue.