» CORRUPTION & SNOW IN ISTANBUL

Corruption is like a ball of snow, once it’s set a rolling it must increase.”
— Charles Caleb Colton

Photo EssayUnlike corruption, ethnic bigotry, national chauvinism or dubious coup attempts, snow is growing rarer in Istanbul, but one day in early 2015, it didn’t seem to interrupt the usual activities of the city’s birds, fish or fishermen. A few dogs seemed on edge, and cat sightings were rarer, but otherwise it was business as usual.

Galata Bridge fishermen on a snowy day in Istanbul. - (c) 2016 Brian Awehali

I spent about two months in Turkey in the winter of 2014/15, mostly because I wanted to visit while it was still hospitable for U.S. citizens. Numerous people I spoke with in Istanbul mentioned exiled-to-the-U.S. Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen and the “parallel state” he was suspected of operating within Turkey. The eerily unvarying invocation of this exact phrase made me wonder then how manufactured or propagandistic a concept it was, and later, in 2016, to what extent Erdogan was exaggerating and scapegoating real and perceived enemies in order to orchestrate a political advantage for himself while whipping up unifying enemies for the country to hate.

Galata Bridge fisherman on a snowy day in Istanbul. - (c) 2016 Brian Awehali

Of course, a majority of Turks don’t need much help when it comes to being hypernationalistic and disliking other people and nations… Continue reading

» BLACK(ENING) EARTH: THE CASE OF FAZIL SAY

fs_bw“Have you heard of Fazıl Say?,” she asked, with the obscenely picturesque Istanbul skyline behind her. We were, all of us, at a rooftop bar/restaurant, eating and drinking raki when I asked about Turkish musicians I should know about. I admitted I hadn’t heard of him.

“He’s a genius,” she said. “But he was punished for insulting Islam.” Continue reading

» GOLDEN HOURS THOUGHTS IN TAGONG (LHAGONG), TIBET

by Brian Awehali

These days, urban China is made of people, cars, and ubiquitous green scaffolding and yellow-orange cranes flying the red Communist Party flag over construction sites. Everywhere you look, edifices of glass, concrete and stone predominate. By day, construction; through the night, construction. It stops for nothing, not even torrential downpours so heavy that the cab of the crane can’t be seen from the ground.

In western Sichuan, the rains have fallen particularly hard this year, causing floods and mudslides that have killed several dozen people and blocked key roads.

One of those key roads is the one that takes you from Chengdu, where I’ve spent most of my time in China, to Lhasa, the epicenter of Tibet, which is just now laboring under its 59th year of Chinese occupation. It’s rugged country, and the Tibetans are rugged people, accustomed to harsh conditions and high elevations. As an American of partial Native American descent, I feel what I consider a natural resistors’ affinity with Tibetans. Many Han are good and respectable people, but en masse, and acting under the corrupt dictates of the Chinese government and economic order, they’re part of an unjust invading force that has to tell themselves soul-killing lies to justify their expansion at the expense of the Tibetan people’s desire for self-determination.

Continue reading

» YUSHU EARTHQUAKE RELIEF EFFORTS: Fact vs. Fiction

On April 14, 2010, a 6.9-magnitude quake struck the predominantly ethnic Tibetan area of Yushu, Qinghai, in southern China. Over 2000 people were killed and over 12,000 were injured, according to “official” reports.

There is rarely agreement between “official” and actual accounts in China, especially when politicized matters involving Tibetans are concerned.

A friend of mine here in China speaks excellent Chinese and keeps a close eye on a number of important things. Today I am sharing some of his work. He writes:

A Chinese blogger combined pictures of pre-quake Yushu with this article by Ai Mo艾墨, “The Stage,” that appeared recently in Hong Kong’s Mingbao newspaper. The full text of that short article, which did not appear on the Mingbao website, is copied below, after my translation. [Some papers in Hong Kong face pressure over the publication of sensitive material and do not keep such material online. I have no direct knowledge of the track record of Mingbao in this regard. – ed]

Continue reading