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Dec 17

The foundations Cornelis laid

The bottom line is: Turkey and the Netherlands are friends. Officially since 400 years ago, but in practice even much longer. No temporary political wind can change that. According to Jan-Paul Dirkse, the Dutch ambassador to Turkey, all you need to do is look at the map: ‘Then you see that we are in the same sphere. It makes it …

Nov 24

Apology by decree

What’s it worth, this apology that Prime Minister Erdogan made yesterday for the Dersim massacres? He said it, he actually said that he apologizes on the state’s behalf for what happened in 1937 and 1938. A novelty in Turkish politics. But at the same time it is not a novelty at all. It is not the first time people’s pains …

Nov 13

History and tear gas in Diyarbakir

I’ve often wondered about the use of tear gas against Kurds who for example demonstrate or attend a funeral of PKK members. You sometimes hear that the police ‘just started’ throwing tear gas bombs, but is that really the case? As of yesterday I can say: yes, that is really the case.

I’m in Diyarbakir for a conference on the history …

Oct 31

The 10 most influential!

Newspaper Hürriyet published an article this weekend about the 10 most influential names in Turkey. Four men (no women) gave their top 10 and explained their choices. It caused discussion of course, for example because Atatürk wasn’t in any of the lists (which was because it was a list of living people, but of course some people say Atatürk will …

Sep 25

A glimpse of Üsküdar

’We want three’, she said holding three fingers up in the air, ‘for ten’, showing ten fingers. She giggled, as did her friends. Dutch, I heard clearly from their English accent. The salesman accepted the offer with a big smile. He handed them three pieces of bread with fish and some salad, they sat down on the edge of the …

Sep 12


Rosarin and I are having lunch. We are in Mardin, southeast Turkey. Mardin is a beautiful village on a mountain; it’s very old, well preserved and known for being the most ethnically mixed city in Turkey. Turks, Kurds and Arabs live here, and Christians too. In peace, and they always have. While we are having lunch, our good moods are …

Sep 07

The book in the shop window

I walk down Istiklal Street and see a huge advertisement in a book shop window. ‘Historical lies of the Republic’. I step back and look again. A book critical of the truths of the Turkish state through the decades? And it’s advertised that prominently? Then I see the sales slogan accompanying the book: ‘Documented answers to the lies of the …

Aug 13

Losing a loved one, and then all faith

‘I am sure the state is behind it’, says Kadriye Ceylan. Her son, Tolga Baykal Ceylan, disappeared in August 2004. He lived in Istanbul, where he was studying, went on a short holiday to the small town Igneada and never returned home again. Gone. Kadriye has no hope left that the state will ever listen to her. So she, and …

Jul 17

Ulucanlar prison: damp dormitories and flower beds

A flower bed in the courtyard. Thickly plastered walls. A squeaky clean room for visitors. Brand new signs with street names. But also: gallows, and a very dark hallway with small cells on one side where sounds of screaming people and lashes being whipped came out. Damp dormitories, too many beds in too little space.

I visited Ankara Central Closed Prison, …

May 02


‘Water is a right, it’s unsellable!’ When I saw that protest sign yesterday afternoon at Taksim quare, I was sure: everybody is here. Everybody that has something to protest about that can in any way be linked to May Day, was gathered in Istanbul’s central square. And showed a unity that was just breathtaking.

The general idea about Turkey is that …

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