Why are you in Istanbul?
Belgin Akaltan - email@example.comThis is the answer of a young man: “I am from a village on outskirts of Istanbul. My family lives in a place very far from downtown, in a village 50 kilometers away from Çatalca. My first year at university, I used to commute to school from home. I spent seven hours daily on the road. Then I decided to move out. We first lived in Halıcıoğlu, me and my three roommates. Then, the landlord asked us to move before the year was over. Our second home was a filthy apartment in 4.Levent. It was so big, we couldn’t clean it. The house was behind the gorgeous Istanbul skyscraper, Sapphire. It felt like -5 C in the mornings and -10 C in the evenings. That landlord also asked us to move. Finally, we moved to a place in the old city. While we were moving there, we carried our fridge on the metro. This is actually “classic” moment in a student’s life. Our landlord was from the special police force. Again, we were asked to move during the 10th or 11th month. We moved to a new place. We had to move to four houses in three years. Landlords make up excuses to move out students. But I have no problem with Istanbul, I still love it.
A street musician: “I am happy with my life and the money I earn. I have been in Istanbul for 10 years. In a big city like Istanbul, if there was no Istiklal Street, there wouldn’t be any life left in the city. I have been playing since I was 10 years old. This is in my genes, from my parents. Also, since childhood, everybody around me was interested in music. It comes naturally for me; music reflects out of me…”
From a group of three girls, the first girl: “I am in Istanbul because Istanbul is different than Turkey. Istanbul is actually like another country in Turkey. In Istanbul, you have access to everything. You may be at home, but whatever you wish for at that moment is present in Istanbul simultaneously. That’s why I am here, in Istanbul. Second girl: “I was born here and frankly, I would not want to live in another place. Of course there may be other beautiful cities but for me Istanbul has an utterly different soul. It is a living being… Istanbul has always, always been a different place.” First girl: “Istanbul accommodates more than one culture. It has lived; it has had many experiences. It accommodates very different people, from the east, from the Aegean, also from the Mediterranean and from the Black Sea; all these people are here. It forces me get to know people. Because I grew up in Istanbul, I noticed that I had more background and knowledge than any of my friends at university who came from other cities. Third girl: “I am in Istanbul because there is Kadıköy. I think Kadıköy is a life style, a life space and more. Istanbul, for me, is Kadıköy.”
All: “Istanbul cannot be described; it can only be experienced…”
A young woman: “Istanbul is a sacrifice for me. I wanted to go abroad for my studies but it did not happen. I have been trying to make it happen for five years. Istanbul is built on sacrifices for me. I am sacrificing so many things for my family, for my mother, for my aunt. I want to leave so much but I somehow cannot. But I will go one day, for good.
I want to go to Rome for my graduate studies. My senior year at high school I even started attending Italian language courses for this purpose. I was not able to go but I will not give up on my dreams.”
A father with a toddler: “Almost three years ago we ran away from Syria and came to Turkey. My wife was pregnant with Danyal then. It was the beginning of the civil war. The most logical option for us was to come to Istanbul. My mother is still in Syria. The last time we spoke to her she told us that the sounds of war were coming closer every day. We could have gone to Europe. I had my Schengen visa but my wife did not. Whatever; we wanted to come to Istanbul. I sold my car and sent my wife to Istanbul somehow. I was able to come a month later.
Of course it took some time for us to adapt to Istanbul but it was not very difficult. Istanbul is a little bit of the Middle East and a little bit of Europe. We both instantly fell in love with Kadıköy and decided to live in that district on the Asian side. Kadıköy is a place that reflects our lifestyle. It enchanted us with its art, music, cultural activities. Everything we love is here. Also, my son Danyal was born here. Sometimes, I feel like I am wandering at the streets of Damascus, because it has the same atmosphere. Well, of course, it was before the war. Now you cannot even recognize the city. Living conditions are, of course, difficult in Istanbul. We barely make enough money; we are very slow at learning the language. It is immensely difficult for a Syrian to find a good job. Despite all these difficulties, I would have not traded Istanbul for any other city but now we have our son Danyal in our lives. This place is unique but we have to go. We will soon leave for Holland with refugee statuses. They offer better opportunities than Turkey, especially for our son. I’m sorry but everything is for him now.
These and many more portraits from Istanbul can be found at www.nedenistanbuldayim.com and its facebook page. It is a graduation project on migration by Ferdi Ferhat Özsoy of Bilgi University’s International Relations Department. Emine Yılmaz Özsoy, a dear friend and former colleague, took the photographs. I love the content; I love what they have done. I had always wanted to interview Istanbul residents, ask them who they are, what they do, whether they are happy or not, and why they are here…
Really, why are we all here?