Sunday, March 23, 2008

Noor takes Istanbul!

We've just returned from back to back transatlantic trips so taking me some time to update the blog (I'm in the process of a major overhaul-perhaps even moving to a website.

Istanbul was fascinating, especially to see how its changed over the past ten years (last time I was there was '96). Namely, just how insanely-disproportionately almost-expensive its gotten. I'm still not sure how to figure it- but Turkish apricots are actually cheaper in the US than they are in Turkey.

We got a glimpse of a pro-Kurd demonstration in front of our hotel (protesters were subsequently tear-gassed).

The exhibit was also a success and garnered much attention from the local media. Some pictures on the curator's flickr account here.

But without doubt, the highlight of the trip was Noor! I always knew the Turkish people were warm and affectionate, but I no idea just HOW MUCH they loved children!! There wasn't a passerby, receptionist, waitress, coffee drinker, or couple who didn't stop to coo at her. Before we knew it, she was being whisked out of our hands by total strangers- and I can't even tell you how many cell phones' her picture is on now! Incidentally, the shot of the women with headscarves was taken about two weeks after the headscarf ban reversal in Turkish universities. Theirs was one of hte only ones to implement the reversal-most are challenging the decisions in courts.

I also had the chance to meet up with some readers from my blog (Aicha Qandisha and Zeynap Alp) who treated me like a long-lost sister!

Here are some highlights:

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

"Unrecorded" in Istanbul

I'm in Istanbul this week to present the You Are Not Here urban tourism mashup project that I narrated and helped present last year in Rotterdam, this time at a gallery in Istanbul. The exhibition is called "Unrecorded".

Noor has come along for the ride, Yousuf (much to his dismay) has been left behind this time.

I'm writing to see if any readers of my blog happen to be in Istanbul (I seem to remember at least one) and wouldn't mind meeting up, maybe giving me the local scoop. I'm at a bit of a loss seeing as how I speak no Turkish (maybe besides the words that happen to overlap in Arabic...tamam, kofte, meydan, etc).

My mother is traveling with me. We continue to keep abreast of the situation back home. Last time we spoke with my cousin Sunday morning, usually the optimistic and cheerful type, all was not well. "Our lives are difficult; so very difficult. We are living in dark and desperate times" he said solemnly. He said a building next to his was leveled-with all the occupants still inside of it- with no advance warning. And that because cement has run out, bodies are being buried with no gravestones to mark them.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

The Gaza Genocide

We celebrated Yousuf's fourth birthday today. We ate cake. And we counted the bodies. We sang happy birthday. And my mother sobbed. We watched the fighter jets roar voraciously on our television screen, pounding street after street; then heard a train screech outside, and shuddered. Yousuf tore open his presents, and asked my mother to make a paper zanana, a drone, for him with origami; And we were torn open from the inside, engulfed by a feeling of impotence and helplessness; fear and anger and grief; despondence and confusion.

"We are dying like chickens" said Yassine last night as we contemplated the media's coverage of the events of the past few days.

Even the Guardian, in a wire-based piece, mentioned the Palestinian dead, including the children, in the forth to last paragraph.

In fact, a study by If Americans Knew found that the Associated Press Newswire coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict significantly distorts reality, essentially over-reporting the number of Israelis killed in the conflict and underreporting the number of Palestinians killed. The study found that AP reported on Israeli children’s deaths more often than the deaths occurred, but failed to cover 85 percent of Palestinian children killed. A few years ago, they found that the NY Times was seven times more likely to comment on an Israeli child's death than a Palestinian one's.

Is it only when Israeli deputy minister Matan Vilnai used "shoa" to describe what will come to Gaza that some media outlets took note. Here was an Israeli government official himself invoking the Holocaust, of his people's most horrific massacre, in reference to the fate of Gaza. But it was not necessarily because Gazans may suffer the same fate that they were perturbed, but rather that this event, this phrase-genocide or Holocaust- could be used with such seeming levity; that using such a loaded term may somehow lessen the true horror of the original act.

It is as though what has been happening in Gaza-what continues to happen, whether by way of the deliberate and sustained siege and blockade, or the mounting civlian death toll, is acceptable, and even encouraged
Illan Pappe has said that Genocide “is the only appropriate way to describe what the Israeli army is doing in the Gaza Strip” after much thought and deliberation.

But the real genocide in Gaza cannot or will not be assessed through sheer numbers. It is not a massacre of gas chambers. No.

It is a slow and calculated genocide-a Genocide through more calibrated, long-term means. And if the term is used in any context, it should be this. In many ways, this is a more sinister genocide, because it tends to be overlooked: All is ok in Gaza, the wasteland, the hostile territory that is accustomed to slaughter and survival; Gaza, who's people are somehow less human; we should not take note; need not take note; unless there is a mass killing; or starvation.

As though what is happening now was not a slow, purposeful killing; a mass strangulation; But the governments and presidents of the civilized world, even our own "president" (president of what?) are hungry for historic peace deals and make-believe accords; theatrical summits and quasi-states; so they say, “let them eat cake!” And we do.