While I'm excited for just about every aspect of our trip, I must say that I am most excited about visiting Taskim Square. Much of our journey in Turkey will be focused on the nation’s rich history with its former cultural and historical importance, but I also find modern Turkey intriguing and believe that a greater familiarity of the current Republic will allow us a better understanding to such a foreign and important area of the world.
Taskim Square is said to represent the contemporary center of Istanbul. As visitors to Istanbul, we might at first simply marvel Taskim Square because of its proximity to many restaurants, hotels, museums and other touristy attractions. We might consider it something like the Times Square of Turkey, but not quite as epic. However, I believe Taskim Square represents something more important to the Turkish state. I take into consideration the major protests have been staged in Taskim Square, some of which of ended in violent left-right confrontations. The political violence resulting from these protests in the 1970’s and 80’s resulted in a ban on any type of major gathering in Taskim Square. Recently, this ban has been lifted.
On the other hand, Taskim Square is also a site of celebration. The Turkish public commemorates festivals such as New Years here. Also, music concerts and football (or, as we call it, soccer) game screenings are also common events for the square. One certain festival that caught my attention was a march called Gay Pride Istanbul. This annual attraction gathered more than 10,000 in 2012. I suspect that such a large gathering to support gay rights is not common is majority Muslim countries such as Turkey. In my humble opinion, this only makes Turkey out to be unique in the region and having a very distinct culture of its own.
By examining the more recent history of the Turkish Republic, I believe that we will be able to understand better some of the current issues that Turkey and the region are facing. Also, I hope that this will help us understand the Turkish identity. With Turkey’s attempt to join the European Union, understanding the Turkish identity may put into question the traditional idea of what it means to be European. Also, with a vast majority of Turkish citizens being Muslim we will be better able to consider Turkey’s situation in the Middle East and the region’s Western relationship as a whole. To me, Taskim Square seems to embody Turkey and its challenging, changing political character - an important aspect to our trip in and our world. Also, it’ll probably be lots of fun!
Happy Holidays to all!