Cheating Death and Doubting Life as a Stambouliote

Sultan Ahmet (Blue Mosque).

I wrote this article right after the bombings in Istanbul that took place two months ago, but I never got the chance to publish it. Since it’s coherent with our subject of doubt, I wanted it featured for Le Zadig.

By Berke Alikaşifoğlu

Over the past week, as four locals of Istanbul, we welcomed and entertained a total of 16 friends from Sciences Po. I hosted two friends and, as a group of five in total, we were always together, visiting the city. I actually intended to write an article about how underrated Istanbul is for locals, who get to cross between continents with ships as a daily routine.

I realized how I underappreciated my city, how I never even thought about some of the things that fascinated my friends throughout the week.

With them, I discovered over and over again an endless layer of culture buried beneath the city; from the palaces to the mosques, churches, sleepless streets, relentless stray cats, food, coffee and numerous other details that made me fall in love with my city, maybe for the first time in my life without any “buts” or regrets. When my love for Bâb-ı lî was at its peak, when I finally understood how and why Loti, Kemal, Pamuk and others were and still are writing books as love letters for Istanbul, I wanted to produce something about its beauty as well. However, ISIS had different plans for me…

It’s funny, living in a country that is constantly under danger. You’re always in a state of alarm, which, in long term, tires and numbs you. You don’t know what atrocity you’re going to read about next. It can be a state of emergency in the east, or a teacher being hunted down for raising her voice against it. It can be a journalist getting beaten or a news agency being “busted”. It can be a religious leader honouring incest. Today, when I woke up, it was a suicide bomber in Sultanahmet, the heart of Istanbul’s tourism, the district where we spent our last 3 days.

Yesterday at around 10 A.M. we were happily walking to Hagia Sophia, the cathedral-turned-mosque-turned-museum.

Three days ago when we visited the Blue Mosque, we missed out on Hagia Sophia because it was closed, so we absolutely had to come back to see it; “even if that was the last thing that we would have done in Istanbul.” When I said that sentence yesterday, I didn’t know how true that would have been, had the terrorist decided to attack a day earlier. Yesterday at 10 A.M., thousands of tourists were in the area between Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia, including myself. Today at 10 A.M. at least 10 dead –and counting. Have I cheated death? What would have happened if my friends decided to stay a day longer? Is human life that cheap?

I feel like my life is on a scale. On one hand, there’s me. On the other hand of the scale, there is a certain weight –uncontrolled by me. The key to that weight, which is what keeps me alive, does not belong to me. It belongs to other people who –for some reason- get to decide whether I get to stay alive for another day. This time, I got lucky. Another friend was thinking of visiting Sultanahmet today, she and her friend overslept. Should I feel happy? Should I feel guilty for wanting to be happy? I got numerous calls and texts from friends all over the world asking me if I was okay. Believe me, friends, I don’t know the answer…

Berke Alikaşifoğlu

Born and bred an Istanbulite, the co-editor-in-chief of Le Zadig, Berke has grown up in socially divided, politically complex environment that is Turkey, and he decided to focus on his passion for social sciences.
Utilizing his wits and writing skills to give voice to the diverse mentonese Ummah,Berke can express himself in three and-a-halflanguages. Although he admits that his red, thick and gorgeous beard is a vital part of his charm, he doesn’t like to be reduced to only his facial hair. He can rock a beanie like no other and rumor has it, that he is the reincarnation of the great pirate Barbarossa, exploring the Mediterranean, and discovering new horizons.
Berke’s passion for music is a driving force in his life, and please don’t talk to him if you don’t like Pearl Jam. His heart can be won by nuanced talks on Kurdish regional politics, anything Marvel or DC.
Berke is single and he resides in rue longue and his door is always open for those who seek intellectual conversations and intoxicated company.

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