İzmirians would never give up their freedoms

İzmirians would never give up their freedoms

I was born in the Aegean port city of İzmir and lived there until I was 17. But, for the next 17 years, I lived in Istanbul. Naturally, I was evolved from an İzmirian living in Istanbul to an Istanbulite who was born and raised in İzmir. Thus, I am able to see my hometown with an outsider’s eye. 

Last week, we were in İzmir with daily Hürriyet’s “Explore with Hürriyet” travels. I was a tourist in my hometown for three days. I was able to observe my city as an outsider. My feelings were that the crises, the chaos, the fear, the concerns, the fights, the uproar and the clashes Turkey has been undergoing all around have been blocked in this city. It was as if some people have put fences around the city and this sentiment that has grasped the entire country was not allowed into İzmir. This stormy weather was not able to infuse İzmir; that whirlpool did not swallow the people of İzmir.  

There are certain values that the city has lost, of course, but respect has never left the city. This is actually what makes the city so attractive and livable.  

In the streets and avenues designed for pedestrians, respect is everywhere. People salute each other even though they have not met before, they do not walk looking down, they do not avoid eye contact; they smile.

 Drivers do not honk continuously to relieve their stress; cars allow pedestrians and motorcycles to pass first. 

İzmir has also, like almost all cities in Turkey, spread to the outskirts of the city in concrete waves. But the city center I was born and raised in is exactly like I left it. The names of stores have changed, but the buildings are the same; they have yards and balconies, windows with Mediterranean-type shutters, streets with many trees, wide sidewalks… As a matter of fact, my neighborhood is even more beautiful than it was in the past. 

The old Levantine buildings have been restored. Cycling paths have been made; the coast is more attractive than ever. It is a luxury nowadays, amid all the urban memory being erased with demolitions and constructions, to have your childhood places reserved as they were - are you aware of that privilege? 

The greed that makes Istanbul ugly, the one that destroys memories is not seen in İzmir. 

The owner of the restaurant “Beğendik Abi” in the Urla district, Handan Kaygusuzer said, “We opened a branch in Alaçatı. We immediately closed it because we saw that that crowd would erode us. We have a reputation and we don’t want to risk this just to make more money. We may earn less but maintain the quality. Not everything is money.” She was born in Urla and has lived all her life there. Who would have this high level of awareness having lived in the same town all their life? 

Well, İzmir is such a place. The family, those around you and the city culture infuse you with this “feeling of satiety.” These are manners that pass from one generation to the other in İzmir. Greed is frowned upon in İzmir. This is actually what protects the city from outside factors. 

An İzmirian cannot easily degenerate. No matter how big domestic migration is into the city, İzmir makes the newcomers resemble them. As some people say, “İzmir is not a city; İzmir is a lifestyle.” 

İzmir imposes its lifestyle to newcomers. Do not misunderstand “impose.” When it is freedom that is being imposed, nobody rejects it. 

And İzmir owes its freedom to its women; because only the cities where women are liberated are free. 
You cannot overpower women of İzmir; you cannot lock them home; you cannot stop them from expressing their thoughts. 

The women of İzmir refuse to live under oppression; she does not allow herself to be trodden; she would fight, if need be, with all her heart and passion. Children born in İzmir are raised by these women. 

When these children grow up, they become brave, self-confident and strong women as well as men who are respectful toward women and their freedom. 

You can take away many things from them, but never their freedoms.