İsa Artar about Istanbul and Berlin

Because of his political and journalistic activities, İsa Artar came under state pressure and police observation in Turkey. Before he was sentenced to a custodial sentence, he managed to flee to Germany in December 2016. In this interview excerpt, he describes the greater personal freedoms that life in Berlin offers in comparison to life in Istanbul.

İsa Artar, private photo.

“Ich war hier schonmal für einen Monat nach dem Putschversuch 2016, eigentlich als Tourist, das erste Mal in meinem Leben im Ausland. Ich habe da das erste Mal Berlin kennengelernt. Ich habe gesehen, dass man hier leben kann, dass das Leben hier besser ist als in Istanbul und Istanbul ist das beste in der Türkei.  […]

In welcher Hinsicht ist das Leben hier besser als in Istanbul?

Ich glaube, persönliche Freiheit.

Also, es kommt darauf an, wo du wohnst, aber zum Beispiel: Wenn du nicht so viel Geld hast und du wohnst in einer normalen Ecke, wer zu dir kommt, wer von dir geht, es ist immer wichtig. Deine Nachbarn sagen: Du hast schon viele Frauen zu Hause und so […] Das hat genervt. Als ich in der Türkei war, habe ich immer versucht, mich dagegen zu wehren. Ich bin auch gegen diese Meinung, wenn man sagt, das ist unsere Kultur, daran muss man sich halten. Das ist für mich voll Quatsch. Man soll auch in Syrien oder der Türkei leben wie man will. […] Aber wenn der Staatspräsident das sagt, also zum Beispiel über Männer und Frauen, die [unverheiratet] zusammenleben, dass das abgeschafft werden soll … Das ist dann schwer dagegen zu kämpfen. Das ist dann einfacher, hier zu leben.

Und zum Beispiel ist bei uns Alkoholtrinken eine politische Meinung. Alkohol zu trinken ist oppositionell. Aber hier ist es nicht so. Das finde ich schön. Denn dass ein normaler Teil deines Lebens ein politisches Zeichen sein soll, finde ich blöd.

Aber auch städtische Sachen. Also den Berliner Senat finde ich gut. Und auch, wenn einem Unrecht passiert ist, also zum Beispiel bei Diskriminierung oder Frauen bei sexueller Gewalt, dann kann man die Polizei rufen, und die Polizei kommt. Und sie sagt nicht [zur Frau]: Weil sie um 3 Uhr nachts auf der Straße war, kann es halt passieren. Also so ist das in der Türkei: Wir haben kein Vertrauen in die Polizei, wir haben kein Vertrauen in den Staat, wir vertrauen niemandem. […]

Wir haben krasse physische Gewalt in der Türkei. Das kann überall passieren […], in der U-Bahn, auf der Straße, wenn jemand komisch guckt. Aber hier ist komisch zu gucken kein Grund, jemanden zu verprügeln.

Also habe ich mir vorgestellt: Das ist Istanbul, aber schöner.

Und auch Grünanlagen und so, man kann Fahrradfahren, es gibt mehr Platz für ganz normale Menschen.

In Istanbul musst du, wenn du dich wohl fühlen willst, sehr viel Geld haben, mit den Reichen wohnen. Dann kannst du auch jeden nach Hause einladen, Party machen, Alkohol trinken usw. Das ist dann legitim […], wenn Du Geld hast.

[…]

Die zweite Sache ist: Es gibt hier auch türkische Kultur. Wenn ich mich langweile oder wenn ich mal türkisches Essen vermisse, kann man es hier finden. Es gibt hier auch eine neue türkische Generation, mit der man befreundet sein kann.

Deswegen passt Berlin für mich sehr gut.”

 

“I have already been here for one month after the attempted coup in 2016, actually as a tourist, for the first time in my life abroad. It was the first time I got to know Berlin. I saw that one can live here, that life here is better than in Istanbul and Istanbul is the best in Turkey. […]

In what respect is life here better than in Istanbul?

I think personal freedom.

Well, it depends on where you live, but for example: If you don’t have that much money and you live in a normal neighborhood, who comes to you, who goes from you, it’s always important. Your neighbors say: You have many women at home and so on […] That was annoying. When I was in Turkey, I always tried to resist. I’m also against this opinion when people say that this is our culture, you have to stick to it. For me, that’s complete nonsense. One should also live in Syria or Turkey as one wants. But when the president says that, for example about men and women who live together [unmarried], that this should be abolished, it’s hard to fight against it. It is easier then to live here.

And for example drinking alcohol is a political opinion in our country. Drinking alcohol is oppositional. But here it is not so. Thats nice, I think. Because I find it stupid that a normal part of your life should be a political sign.

But also municipal things. So, I like the Berlin Senate. And also when injustice has happened to you, for example discrimination or women who suffered sexual violence, then you can call the police and the police will come. And they don’t say [to the woman]: Because she was on the street at 3 a.m., it can happen. So that’s how it is in Turkey: we don’t trust the police, we don’t trust the state, we don’t trust anyone. […]

We have blatant physical violence in Turkey. It can happen everywhere […], in the subway, on the street, if someone looks strangely. But here, looking strange is no reason to beat someone up.

So I imagined: This is Istanbul, but nicer.

And also green spaces and stuff, you can ride your bike, there is more space for normal people.

In Istanbul, if you want to feel good, you have to have a lot of money and live with the rich. Then you can invite everyone home, have parties, drink alcohol, etc. That is legitimate […] if you have money.

[…]

The second thing is that there is also Turkish culture here. If I am bored or if I miss Turkish food, you can find it here. There is also a new Turkish generation here with whom you can be friends.

That’s why Berlin suits me very well.”

After being politically active in school and university, İsa Artar became involved in the Gezi protest movement in 2013. 112013 a broad protest movement against the government of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan began in Gezi Park at Taksim Square in Istanbul. The demonstrations, which were originally directed against a planned construction project, developed into a diverse and strong civil society movement, which also received a lot of international support and spread beyond Istanbul. The police took violent action against the demonstrations, and some people were killed. Afterwards, while studying art history, he became editor-in-chief of the independent and critical news portal “Siyasi Haber”. After the failed military coup against Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in July 2016, there were mass dismissals in the military and public service in Turkey. The state persecution of opposition members and government critics, especially journalists, has increased sharply since then. İsa Artar also came under the scrutiny of the authorities. However, before an arrest warrant was issued against him, he managed to escape to Germany in December 2016. In the meantime he has been granted asylum, is studying journalism and communication sciences and writes for the Tagesspiegel, among others.

In this excerpt from an interview that We Refugees Archive conducted with İsa Artar in July 2020, he talks about the advantages that Berlin offers him as a city and new home compared to Istanbul. In particular, he emphasizes the greater personal freedom, more trust in state institutions and the presence of a Turkish community.

    Footnotes

  • 12013 a broad protest movement against the government of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan began in Gezi Park at Taksim Square in Istanbul. The demonstrations, which were originally directed against a planned construction project, developed into a diverse and strong civil society movement, which also received a lot of international support and spread beyond Istanbul. The police took violent action against the demonstrations, and some people were killed.

This is an excerpt from an interview that We Refugees Archive conducted with İsa Artar in July 2020.

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