Fighting at the Sultan’s grave

Elif met me one day near Mesut’s bread factory in Fatih, and we went to the Sultan’s grave at the Suleymanie Mosquegot, where we got into a lovely fight with the ticket-taker. He told her to wear head-covering, which not only against the law for the municipality to demand (ominously, the heads of the government Islamic tourist center, and even the ticket-takers on Istanbul’s boats and buses, are looking more and more religious in appearance), but it’s actually contrary to Islam: you’re not supposed to pray over a person’s grave.

On our way out, he nagged us repeatedly to make a donation, to which Elif said, “Just do your job and sit in your chair; there’s already a ‘donations please’ sign.” He made the grave mistake of talking back to her; Elif asked him, “Did you say something?” (That’s Elif’s pet “Are you talking to me?” expression.) He told Elif to “calm down, sister”; she said she wasn’t his sister and that she had every right as a Turkish citizen to be there as she pleased; and he came outside his booth and said a phrase he immediately regretted: “You’re just saying that because you’re in charge of the country now…”, implying, “You just wait till we religious people take over in a couple of months.” A nice crowd of Turkish women not only in headscarves, but in burkas, had gathered to see him visibly shake when Elif demanded his name for making that comment. He refused to give it, so I got in his face and made him. It was really great in nice, safe, broad daylight to back up Elif and watch him quiver with fear, with him thinking we were important and wishing he could eat his words. It’s even better that Elif’s mother will call the municipality today and give his name. Most likely, it won’t help a damn, but as I told Elif, men here have to do military service, so this is your duty for your country.

More Turkish extremists are being arrested in Germany every day, which is where they’re fleeing from the Turkish government in order to plot the revolution. One couple was arrested simply for trying to name their kid “Osama bin Laden.” Another was arrested for plotting to blow up US stuff there. We stopped by the American Consulate, and they’ve instituted a phone chain warden system. “If you are registered at the Consulate you become part of our emergency notification system, called the ‘warden system.’ In the event of a natural disaster or other emergency affecting American citizens, the Consulate will phone a number of volunteer ‘wardens’ who are American citizens resident in Istanbul. They will in turn call 20-25 other Americans residing in their area to pass along information from the Consulate. If you are interested in volunteering to serve as a warden, please call the Consulate’s American citizens services unit.” I was born in Los Angeles and live in Istanbul, so natural disasters are a way of life. It’s the threat of “other emergency affecting American citizens” that begins to worry me, which is the whole point.

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