Istanbul and the coming neo-cosmopolitanism

Iason Athanasiadis in Al Jazeera:

2014466445332734_20Two articles that appeared on the same day last month illuminated wildly differing aspects of daily life in contemporary Istanbul. The first appeared in the Turkish newspaper Milliyet titled Beaten, exploited and locked in a room, and described how the police discovered a man, referred to as TM, one of the tens of thousands of Syrian refugees flooding the city, locked up in a textile factory by his Turkish employers in between shifts. When he dared to request a pay-raise, he was beaten.

On the same day, the Wall Street Journal ran a beautifully-photographed feature titled The Discreet Charm of Istanbul, about a Turkish businesswoman, Asli Tunca, and her Belgian husband, Carl Vercauteren, who purchased a 19th century, five-story, 7,000sqr ft building with a garden in Istanbul's posh Beyoglu district and renovated it. The lady of the house called the house Hazz, Ottoman for “Enchantment”. The article concluded with Vercauteren saying that, “If there's a place on earth where God lives, it's Istanbul. The whole city has an energy and rich contrasts.”

After his cruel ordeal, TM would struggle to agree with the first part of Vercauteren's quote, but he might sympathise with his conclusion. TM and the Vercauterens inhabit the same city, yet they live in different worlds. Already an urban behemoth of 14 million, Istanbul continues its vertiginous ascent towards reclaiming its former cosmopolitan status.

More here.