Istanbul Travel Blog – Day 5

Today’s bloggers: Siri Samuelberg and Birger Robach

The day started with rain as usual. After our breakfast we walked to the Spice bazaar and then we headed to the Grand bazaar which is the largest in Istanbul. When arriving we got a notification about the plumeting Turkish currency. During this week the Lira has dropped 20 percent in value. Walking around the market we filled our bags with Turkish carpets, textiles, porcelain, jewellery, hand carved board games and much more. However, when leaving the Grand bazaar we were met with panicfilled Turks desperately trying to exchange their Lira into Euro/dollars in all of the city’s exchange offices. Suddenly the pommes granate juice in our hands which was before so sweet now tasted bitter and sour. The uncertainty of the future spread like a wild fire as we saw more and more people joining the queues. The day after many prices had been doubled.

In the afternoon we got the wonderful opportunity to meet with Nayat Karaköse from Hrant Dink Foundation. Hrant Dink was a journalist and human rights activist who got assassinated in 2007. After his death Hrant Dink Foundation was founded with the intention to advocate the rights of minority groups in Turkey, especially Armenians. Currently, there are 50 000 Armenians living in Turkey, primarily in Istanbul. Since 1993 there has been no diplomatic dialogue between Armenia and Turkey, even though they are bordering countries. Today Armenians in Turkey are discriminated in several ways, for example they have no right to work in public office. Also many Armenians choose to change their Armenian names to traditional Turkish ones in order to avoid confrontation and discrimination.

Hrant Dink once told a story about his Armenian friend in a TV interview. His friend and his wife had been exiled over and over again before they settled down in Istanbul where they bought a small piece of land. Hrant Dink came to visit them and noticed that his friend only had planted vegetables but no trees. When Hrant asked him why, he answered “When have I ever been able to eat a fruit from a tree that I planted myself?”

Today Hrant Dink Foundation is working in many different ways to improve the situation of minorities in Turkey. They monitor the escalating numbers of hate speeches, develop projects to promote an inclusive language and publish oral history interviews among other things. We are so grateful for the informative meeting and the visit to the Hrant Dink memorial sight.
In the evening most of us went to Istiklal for having dinner and exploring Istanbul by night!

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