I feel like a re-ignition of this blog has been long overdue and I’ve finally found the time and inspiration. I was in Istanbul for the New Year and found that the celebration in the main square there is devoid of a countdown. Instead the festivities consisted of one lone cheerer who caused a ripple effect across the crowd. This was followed approximately thirty seconds later by fireworks. It struck me as very usual how a festival which revolves around the celebration of time could be so badly, as it were, timed. However, I came to realise during my time in Istanbul that this was just one of many paradoxes that coloured the city’s streets.
For convenience, we stayed close to Taksim Square at the centre of the city. It was also the location in which, in the days before our arrival, there were anti-governmental protests and riots. I don’t claim to know enough about the situation to suggest which side is justified. However, what I was struck by was the sheer police presence with the intention – presumably – of intimidating any aspiring protesters. There were three buses of police accompanied by numerous police officers standing with machine guns. Now, high levels of police strength for intimidation are by no means an unusual sight for me. However, the reaction received is when the paradox arises.
Even though the police were intent on showing a position of complete authority the reality was quite different. I saw one policeman stoop down to take a picture with a little girl and watched some little boys pretend to shoot at the police with imaginary weapons. Therefore, the whole atmosphere was unlike what one would expect from the ostensibly aggressive nature of the police’s stance. It raises the question as to whether people see the authorities as on their side or whether they have become so accustomed to police shows of might.