This week, planes began landing at Istanbul’s new airport. At least the guessing game over its name is complete—as President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan declared “Istanbul Airport” open—since this is more than can be said for the airport itself: the additional terminal buildings and runways will not be finished until 2028. Then, finally, the airport’s planned capacity of 200 million passengers per year and its size (7,594 hectares) will make it the world’s largest airport, just as Recep Tayyip Erdoğan desired. It will be far ahead of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta (103 million passengers, 1,902 hectares), Beijing Capital (95 million passengers, 1,480 hectares), Dubai (88 million passengers, 2,900 hectares), and Tokyo Haneda (85 million passengers, 1,214 hectares).… Seguir leyendo » “Erdoğan’s Flights of Fancy”
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On April 18, I was in a seaside coffeehouse in Istanbul when Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan called snap elections for June 24. There was confusion and even panic among customers: he had caught the nation off-guard. Political parties had only sixty-seven days to prepare, and if Erdoğan won he would likely hold the reins for at least another decade. But then came an intriguing thought: if he lost—and Erdoğan has never lost an election in sixteen years—the surprise elections might be his exit.
Turkey’s new presidential system, adopted after a referendum in 2017, is nerve-racking for Erdoğan and his rivals.… Seguir leyendo » “Will Turkey’s Voters Give Erdoğan the Imperial Presidency He Seeks?”
Earlier this year, Turkey opened its closely guarded population register, a monumental archive of lineages going back to Ottoman times. A website that gives access to all public services in Turkey now includes a genealogy tab. Users can download ancestry documents, with records going as far back as 1882.
Since the appearance of the new service, roots, migration, purity and hybridity have dominated the conversation in WhatsApp groups, offices and tea shops. In just two days, over 5 million Turks went looking for their heritage on the register. Interest was so intense that for a few hours the website collapsed. The government was forced to stop the service for several days.… Seguir leyendo » “Who Is a Turk? It’s Complicated”
People had said this would be the Pajama New Year in Istanbul. We would stay home, hang out with friends, keep away from public spaces. I was expecting a cozy night, far away from the crowds and celebrations, and headed to a house party in the city’s Anatolian side. Public gatherings in the squares seemed lame on TV: small crowds of men smoking in front of cameras, wet and cold under never-ceasing rain.
Midnight struck, and then came the news: Two gunmen wearing Santa Claus costumes had entered a nightclub by the sea on the European side and killed at least 39 people in a few minutes.… Seguir leyendo » “Istanbul: First Darkness, Then Terror”