Meeting the Yazidis: an Encounter with the “Devil-Worshippers” of Iraq

When I went to meet the Yazidis, the “devil-worshippers” of Iraq, I thought I had found a strange and improbable oasis of peace in that ravaged land. I remember the Yazidis were so amazed to be visited by a journalist from another country that they took photographs ofme. Though they were surrounded by the mayhem and violence of Iraq, their villages in the shadow of the Sinjar mountains seemed an echo of an older Iraq. Children played in the fields, and the men chuckled as they told me how … [Read more...]

Madness in Taksim: how the people brought flowers and the police answered with water cannon

They came in peace, bearing flowers for the dead. And the police answered them with water cannon and clubs, tear gas and rubber bullets. What new madness was this? In Taksim Square today Recep Tayyip Erdogan's police turned a peaceful, non-violent protest into a night of mayhem. As I write, police are chasing protestors through the back streets of Beyoglu, usually one of busiest night life areas of the city, tear gassing bars and restaurants, and terrorising people in their homes. Huge … [Read more...]

Love in a Time of Tear Gas

A strange way to spend my 38th birthday, holed up in a small hotel round the corner from Taksim Square, waiting to see what comes next in the struggle for Turkey's soul. But then these are heady days to be alive in Istanbul. Last night I went to one of the city's parks where protestors had gathered to discuss their next move. Hundreds sat packed together, listening to a succession of speakers, while others sat in groups under the trees as night fell, drinking beer, laughing, sharing the sense … [Read more...]

Marching to Taksim

Tens of thousands were on the march in Istanbul tonight. Perhaps hundreds of thousands. They came onto the streets all of a sudden, in a spontaneous outpouring of anger when they heard the police had moved in to Gezi Park. They came unarmed and peaceful, offering nothing but their voices and their presence. And the police answered them with violence, with tear gas and batons, with rubber bullets and charges. This was Recep Tayyip Erdogan's application for the presidency of his country, … [Read more...]

Camels wrestling…and how to lie your way onto a ministerial flight

My career in journalism didn't start with a bang. It started with camels wrestling. After I finished university I moved to Istanbul to become a foreign correspondent. I had no employer, I was freelance. No newspaper was interested in sending a complete novice abroad. But I wasn't going to let that stand in my way. In my mind, I was going to be the fearless foreign correspondent of myth, the sort you see in the movies exposing wrongdoing, giving a voice to the oppressed, and standing up to … [Read more...]