The Gulenists had built beautiful, well-functioning hospitals and schools on the Asian side. AKP, Erdogan's (pronounced "Ehr-do-ahn") party had financed the canal projects along the Bosphorus for hundreds of millions of lira.
In the summer of 2011, when Vera and I came back to Turkey, there was so much money in Turkey. Every sector was growing, from tourism, to commercial businesses, to education, and a better educated, more multilingual workforce was changing the impression of Turkey in Europe and in other nearby parts of the world.
So why was there also so much uneasiness? Many of the smartest, the best, in the country had left or were planning on leaving. The police officer Hakkan had passed his foreign service exam and was now working at the Turkish embassy in Cuba. Begum, one of my best former students, was doing everything she could to go abroad. "The way things are going, there's no place for us," she had said.
I thought about that after she left. Who was "us"? I knew she was an adamant supporter of CHP, the opposition party to AKP, as were most of my literature students. I also knew she had spent a year in the Midwest and her English was impeccable. 95% of my students, when asked who their biggest hero was, in a survey I distributed, answered Ataturk. But Ataturk, with his pro-European stance on Turkey and his alleged drinking, was becoming another AKP target (even if they couldn't directly attack him because of the laws set up after the founding of the Republic.).
The Mavi Marmara incident the summer before had polarized relations between Israel and Turkey, and AKP had done nothing to stop this polarization. They had even agreed to put money behind a museum to memorialize those who died on the Mavi Marmara. Nine Muslims were killed when Israeli soldiers boarded the Turkish ship on its way to Gaza. A PR disaster followed when Israelis found only humanitarian aid on the ship. It was a staged event and a provocation, but it had dampened relations between Turkey and Israel to such a degree that apparently in the year that followed almost one-third of the Turkish Jews remaining in Turkey left for Israel.
A map of the results of the referendum the previous August showed a country as politically divided as the red and blue states in the United States. Only AKP was steadily gaining and there was no viable opposition to control their power.
The Erdogans behaved more and more like untouchable royalty. Tayyip's daughter even demanded that a theater performance be halted because she claimed one of the actors tried to flirt with her. She also objected to a scene in which two actors on stage, a man and a woman, kissed. The performance was stopped so that she and her entourage of security escorts could leave the theater.
(to be continued)
20 hours ago