Sudden Violence

Is there another kind?

Leaving Istanbul a couple days ago I saw something many in my circle take to be indicative of the country’s direction. On this conclusion I am unequal parts ignorant and agnostic.

Coming from Fatih (from Pages) to Kadıköy to sleep for a handful of hours before getting the bus to Sabiha Gokçen airport on the Asian side, my phone died, it turns out, 350m before I was at the hotel.

I traveled years without a phone or google maps, so while I was certain I could locate it eventually, time was in consideration. When I happened beside an internet cafe I decided to double check. In short order I was verifying my incredible proximity, but there was trouble outside.

Across the narrow street six or eight men, boots and leather jackets, were rushing a restaurant. They set to smashing glass with the stools, some carried blunt instruments. A man was pulled, shirt torn, into the street. At this point the patrons of the nearly empty internet cafe had detached from virtual reality to observe (therefore, it must have been loud). There was a moment when they, perhaps five young men, stood in a row, looking through the glass to the violence a few yards before them, as if it was for their entertainment. I thought mainly of my own exposure.

The man stumbled maybe two steps forward before his face met with the full force of a thug’s boot. It was as if the coordination had been practiced, such was the squareness of the kick.  Somehow he rose from his knees to run down the street. The mob took chase. Some remained, angry, unfinished with their devastation.

Meanwhile the owners of the internet cafe were trying as surreptitiously as one could, to collect the large potted plant from outside their store and to get the three sets of shutters, one for the door, two for the glass windows on either side, down. A thug or two remained at the restaurant. Some coordination was afoot. Smashing continued while the restauranteur shouted. Where were the police, I wondered, that such a racket could sustain itself for so long?

The Polis showed up, patrons began scuttling out of the briefly raised barricade, I saw pedestrians in the street. It had all been less than twenty minutes. When I took my leave, eight policemen now surrounded a shouting man on a corner downhill. He was shouting slogans at the top of his lungs.

I slept soundly and woke, 4:59am, one minute before my alarm.


The attacked shop (in red) by day. 


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