Puppy cake (Chocolate cake)

Specially dedicated to my flatmates here in Ankara.

Known as ”Puppy cake” in our flat because apparently the smell resembles puppies, in a good way. Like new born puppies, which apparently smell good. I’ve never smelled new born puppies but if they smell like chocolate, I suppose it would make sense.

Vegan Puppy cake (Chocolate cake / Mud cake)
4 dl sugar
2 dl oil (sunflower)
3 dl Soy milk (or water, or milk if you don’t want to be vegan)
5 dl flour
8 table spoon kako
2 tea spoon vanilla sugar
0,5 tea spoon salt
6 table spoon coffee (or not)
+ nuts if we want

Mix everything in a pot. Put in oven for about 40 minutes, 150°. It should be soft, liquid is fine, on the inside, but at least the surface should not move when you shake the pot.

If you’re fancy, you can eat it with cream, or ice cream, or fruits or something. If you’re like us, you eat it with a spoon directly from the pot. It’s hard to take it out from the pot and keep it pretty. It’s not supposed to be pretty, it’s supposed to be tasty.

 

IMG_4750
Don’t turn it upside down. Just don’t.
Annonser

Afghanistan

So the other day I ended up in a heated debate with my Turkish teacher. In Turkish. Which felt quite disabling. I was reading a news article about refugees and smugglers, when she commented that she was angry with Afghans coming here and trying to reach Europe, as there is according to her no security problems in Afghanistan, and thus the people who leave the country are purely economic migrants – often already rather wealthy. She agreed that they should have the right to move, and that maybe a  small proportion of them are in need of protection, however, Afghans should respect that there are more urgent crisis going on (Syria and Iraq) and that they should therefore wait in their country, and not take the ‘spots’ and resources from people in greater need. And so on.

Even though I can kind of see where she’s coming from, I disagreed quite a lot. Frustrated with my inability to properly communicate, I went home and researched about Afghanistan for 10 hours or so (because I’m just not capable of prioritizing my time). I ended up not sending it to her, because it’s taking too much time to translate it to Turkish xD But since it’s here, I thought I’d share it with you. It’s a random mixture of facts, news, emotions and opinions, with a variety of reliable to less reliable sources and you’re reading it at your own risk 🙂

About Afghanistan

I’m actually not going to write an introduction to Afghanistan, because I’m sure that you know more than I do (this was intended for my teacher, if you don’t agree then google knows more than I do anyways). However, I wish to highlight some events and facts that makes me consider the country within a severe armed conflict, which we could denominate war. This lays the foundation for why I think that Afghans seeking refuge should not be considered economic migrants by default.

ISIS

American drones dropped 251 bombs in Afghanistan in January and February 2016 (which is 3 times more than last year) – although Obama decided to end combat mission in the country a year ago. Why? Because ISIS, with their Khorasan branch, is gaining more territorial control in the country. About 340 people have been killed in these airstrikes. The ISIS branch in Afghanistan, whose link to the group in Syria and Iraq is unclear, is recruiting followers in 25 of the nation’s 34 provinces brings more horror and a new dimension to the country.

The ISIS in Afghanistan include members of foreign origin, for example Chechnya and Uzbekistan, according to the villagers, though the UN investigators have reported that ISIS fighters from Iraq and Syria have also come to Afghanistan. ISIS and the Taliban have also declared war on each other, accounting for a number of casualties. After ISIS winning fierce battles with the Taliban in a southeastern village, where also a number of civilians fell victim, houses of suspected Taliban supporters were burned, men were abducted from mosques and several of them tortured and executed through painful means.

Villagers report of how ISIS is forcing families to send at least one of two sons to join their forces, and families with daughters to provide wives for the newly recruited fighters, if they don’t want to be beheaded. In most cases, both perpetrators and victims were Pashtuns, which might explain the current lack of mass-rape as we have seen committed in amongst others Iraq. Nevertheless, the treatment has not been mild. “They pulled out my brother’s teeth before they forced him to sit on the bombs”, says one of the tribal elders. Villages were forced to join the Wahhabism, whereas they had previously mainly practiced the Hanafi strain. Schools were shut down, electricity lines torn and cellphone towers destroyed.

Taliban

Nevertheless, the Taliban insurgency poses a bigger threat in bigger parts of Afghanistan as they seem to be stronger than ever since 2001 – which is when the Taliban rule of the country ended. During the first month of 2016, there were at least 4 bombing attacks with more than 85 casualties by the Taliban in Kabul – a city deemed safe according to Swedish authorities (though of course not safe enough for Swedes to travel to). The victims were mainly civilians, including children, media personnel, but also police officers. During the past month, Taliban have gained increase geographic power as army forces have pulled out of several cities following months of deadly battles. Historically, the Taliban have in general been more active during the summer months, which might lead to the suspicion that the situation will worsen later this year. The combats have increased since most foreign troops left the country in 2014, and in response to this troubling trend, Obama has decided to keep about 5’500 troops in Afghanistan, as opposed to the initial decision.

Diversity of actors

The situation is also complicated as many actors are present in the area. We have the ISIS and the Taliban, as previously mentioned, but also Pakistan’s efforts to target militant extremism within their border had the consequence of pushing more militants across the border to Afghanistan. Furthermore, the diversity of ethnicities as well as branches of Islam causes tension outside of armed groups, and we have seen a history with discrimination and unorganized violence as well. Since many years back, Kuchi nomads and primarily Hazara’s have annual clashes with many casualties. Many of the refugees are of Hazara ethnicity, and they tell of violence from several actors and perpetrators.

An example

During last year, we saw a number of events where passengers were forced off busses by gunmen after being forced to show identification documents. Several of these passengers, who were mainly of Shiite minority, were then executed, amongst others through beheadings, which created countrywide – and even international – protests among the Hazara population. Also my social media feed was filled with pictures of a 9 year old girl named Shukria, I don’t know if you’ve read about her. Her family had returned from Pakistan, where they had been refugees, to Afghanistan in 2012, to work their land again. Her father, who walks on crutches, says: “She was the smartest girl in her class. When I hurt my leg, Shukria told me she was going to become a doctor and fix it”. Instead, he had to take farewell of her with her head roughly stitched to her neck. Some leaders in Afghanistan say that there were over a dozen attacks towards the Hazara minority in Afghanistan during some 10 months of time, and the perpetrators are not always identified.

Iran and Pakistan

More than 2 million Afghans are living in Iran and Pakistan, and a number of them also leave to Europe due to violence and discrimination towards these minorities in the other countries. Iran is also recruiting Afghans – especially those adhering to Shia Islam – to fight for Assad in Syria. This is done to a large part through threats and coercion. This would of course not be a problem if the people affected could consider going back to Afghanistan, but many of them do not see this as an option.

Worrying development

There were 11’002 civilian casualties in 2015, mostly due to the increased ground fighting between Taliban and security forces and complex suicide attacks, UNAMA (United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan) explain in their 2015 Annual Report on Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict. These civilian casualties are the highest recorded since 2009, when recording started. The casualties were mainly (62%) caused by anti-government elements, especially the Taliban. During the same period, Afghan security forces suffered from more than 12’000 casualties. The UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) in their 2015 mid-year report also reported of a 50% increase in internal displacement over 18 months as conflicts intensified. Another worrying trend is the increase in recruitment of child soldiers by armed groups. The Taliban uses madrasas to provide military training to teenage children, who are then deployed in combat.

War or not?

Uppsala Conflict Data Program is a rather renowned resource within peace and conflict studies. According to them (as of 2014), there was by 2014 an ongoing war in Afghanistan, with the highest level of violence since the invasion started in 2001 (see table 1). And as mentioned, 2015 was worse than 2014 in regards of casualties, according to UNAMA.

Table 1: Estimation of fatalities in the war against Taleban (and Hizb-I Islami-yi Afghanistan) in Afghanistan during 2001-2014

Year Intensity Low Best High
2014 War 11337 12132 15492
2013 War 7604 8044 10167
2012 War 7225 7396 8443
2011 War 7085 7228 8096
2010 War 6225 6374 7886
2009 War 4600 5276 6639
2008 War 4171 4561 5852
2007 War 5360 5828 6569
2006 War 3095 3159 4211
2005 War 1214 1268 1655
2004 Minor 597 621 1559
2003 Minor 346 353 902
2001 War 2772 2877 4703

 

Peacefulness

Indeed, Afghanistan might be less unsafe than Syria and Iraq; it ranks on 160th place out of 162 on the Global Peace Index; with 3,427 points compared to 3,444 of Iraq and 3,645 of Syria (the higher points, the worse). Main factors causing these differences: Afghanistan has less security personnel and police compared to both other countries, more of UN peace keeping funding goes to Syria, where more heavy weapons – and violent demonstrations – can also be found. On the other hand, Afghanistan suffers a greater political instability, have a greater number of internal conflicts fought and spends more money on the military. Iraq suffers the most impact from terrorism, Afghanistan second. We can see that these three countries received the same score for political terror, intensity of conflict and deaths from internal conflict.

Right to Asylum

Now, moving on to asylum seekers. The right to apply for asylum and protection from persecution is described in international laws and conventions. The shape of the current system could be much more safe and efficient. Nevertheless, the asylum process exists in order to distinguish people who need protection from people who don’t need protection. In other words, if someone is granted asylum or subsidiary protection with the benefits that this entails, that person had a reason to flee according to International or domestic law.

The stance of Europe

Germany has indeed explained that asylum seekers from Afghanistan are economic migrants, and not in need of protection. They are also angry with Afghans for fleeing the country. Germany, Macedonia and several European countries have taken measures to decrease the number of asylum seeking Afghans. At the end of last year, the Macedonian border was only open for Afghans, Iraqis and Syrians. Now, Afghans are also off the list. The European Council on Foreign Relations writes that the push by Germany and EU countries to depict Afghan migration as an economic problem is a part of a “broader desire among European policy makers to put Afghanistan behind them”. Whereas the country is “far from truly secure”.

To stay undocumented

If the asylum application is rejected, the person can choose to stay in the country without permission. These living conditions are extremely harsh – they don’t take resources from someone else, as they don’t receive any support. I worked with undocumented migrants in Sweden for about 3 years; we used to hand out food to these undocumented people, and asylum seekers. We would collect left-over food from stores; expired food, old bread, sad vegetables… If they had chosen to return to their countries of origin, the Swedish migration agency would have provided them with transportation, and maybe even some financial support. Instead, they chose to stay in Sweden. Almost three years ago, we implemented a new law granting undocumented migrants subsidized ‘health care that cannot wait’, and children the right to go to school. Before that, they didn’t even have these rights. Most people still don’t know about these rights.

Of course, they do not receive any economical support, and they don’t have the right to legal work. A friend of mine was 17 years when I met him. He was offered a ‘black’ job at a pizzeria. No insurance or guarantees, and he would earn about 4% of my salary. Apart from the lack of services, and job opportunities, they live in constant fear of being discovered and sent back, as well as threats from anti-migration groups. In spite of the difficult situation in Europe and in spite of the dangerous route, they choose to come and they choose to stay. How bad was the socioeconomic situation in their country, I wonder? Or is it because of safety reasons that they came?

The unfriendly discourse

The phenomena of setting vulnerable groups against each other is quite common; for example in Sweden, there are always people arguing that we need to take care of the homeless, the old and the poor Swedish citizens before we start to help refugees and other migrants, with the main argument that we have a set budget, a set quantum of money and resources that can be spent on caring for other humans. That might be true, I have never studied economy, but from what I heard, the profits of big private companies, banks and similar greatly exceeds whatever costs migration might have. Nevertheless, they are not addressed in this zero-sum calculation. The main problem thus does not lay in a conflict of migrants against disadvantaged local population; it’s rather about the systemic level management.

Zero-sum game

In my opinion, being angry with the ones who are fleeing is misdirected. Blaming them for insufficient support for other refugees in need is to set two vulnerable groups against each other. If we say “an Afghan is living in a house where a Syrian could have lived”, why don’t we say “a Swedish person”, or “a Chinese person”, or “an American” is living in that house, where the Syrian refugee could’ve received shelter? Furthermore, is there a set limit of shelters that can be offered, and these will be distributed as a zero-sum-game? If an Afghan wins, a Syrian loses. No options. Life is dangerous when we play zero-sum games. We all become enemies when we play zero-sum games. Meanwhile, someone further up in the hierarchy, someone above the game, someone benefiting from status quo, is laughing at us and enjoying their privileges. I know that the situation in Syria is extraordinary, but for me, it would make more sense to tell the people in Sweden to buy one less bag of potato crisps per week and thus afford for one more refugee to continue their life in Sweden, than to tell people in Afghanistan to stay. On a structural level, this might be true. But I find it hard to put the blame on the individual – especially of such a country as Afghanistan. I could also scold my friend for buying a bag of crisps instead of donating for UNHCR in Lebanon to help Syrian refugees.

To judge suffering

I agree, that one should be considerate about people in worse situations. But at the same time, it’s too easy for us to judge. “I don’t think you should make such a fuss about you being sexually harassed, at least you were not killed”? People have different perceptions, tolerances and knowledge. When I was reading the articles and reports on violence in Afghanistan, I imagined that I would be the one living there. Had I not fled, if it had been me? Had I not fled, if it was my family abducted in the bus, tortured, beheaded? Had I not fled if my son would be forced to join ISIS, and my daughter would be married to one of their soldiers? Had I not fled, if the government of my country continuously lose ground to terror organizations, if I’m starting to doubt that they will remain in power for much longer? I don’t know, maybe I wouldn’t. Maybe I would’ve thought “wait a minute, my fear and suffering is probably not as grand as of the people in Syria, if I try to find a safer life for myself, maybe one person in Syria is deprived of this opportunity”. Probably not. But what I know is, that I don’t want us to judge the ones who flee.

Now, chances are that a number of Afghans don’t flee because they face an immediate risk of death. The socioeconomic situation in the country is indeed very bad – I encountered a number of articles supporting that during my reading session as well. Even if that is the case, I do think that they have the right to leave. They have the right to apply for asylum, even if they are rejected. Of course I’m not saying that you should do something just because you can; a legal right is not always morally right, but being angry with them is like kicking someone who is already lying down, while privileged people, for example Europeans, hold the same benefits and many more, and use them without a second thought. Who are we to judge how desperate a mother should feel for not being able to feed their child, or a child for not seeing a future after decades of war?

Wealth and poverty

We should once again remember that refugee status has little to do with who is rich and who is poor – economic wealth has little to do with the need of protection, although I admittedly sympathize more with the poor than with the rich. I often think of refugees as poor people, which is definitely not true. On Lesvos, three kind young Afghan men told me: “Don’t help us, don’t pity us. We have money, we’re well educated. We might not have showered for 5 days, but we are not helpless”. And then they gave me a box of dried figs from Iran. I also met many young Moroccan boys on the island, and I would ask myself: “Why are you fleeing? There is no war in Morocco!” And that’s what the authorities also thought, henceforth, the boys were rather badly treated, often not given blankets, food and similar – also by volunteers. We all thought that they were in less need than Syrians, Iraqis and Afghans. They should’ve stayed in Morocco. But at the end of the day, when they are cold and hungry, do they not deserve help and support as much as anyone else? We are not here to compare one person’s suffering to someone else’s. They don’t need our judgement and anger. We, who have money in our bank accounts, who would return to a warm bed by night, have no right to judge them, have no right to tell them to stay in poverty. In my opinion.

Safety and perceptions

Maybe you’re right – maybe, a large percentage of Afghan refugees don’t come from the circumstances that I’ve mentioned before. Some people will say that Afghanistan is safe. I haven’t heard anyone saying that Syria is safe, but as mentioned I have probably a dozen friends trying to convince me to come to Iraq. “It is safe,” one of them promises, while others are screaming that I’m out of my mind if I even considers it. And another one invites me to Libya – “Jessica, if something bad could happen, I would never ask you to come here!” he exclaims. From someone else, I hear that the only one smiling in Libya are the cookies with faces. I don’t think any of them is wrong, or lying. They just have different perceptions of reality. And that’s also human.

The power in words

So, many Afghans – as well as people of other nationalities – might come here ”unnecessarily”. Even if that would be the case, I would kindly like to ask you to be careful with generalizing terms. I understand that you would probably never say that to their face and I feel reassured that you would never treat them like any less of a human being, but I believe that words are still too powerful. As for myself, I might relate unhealthily and abnormally much to the people I meet, but when you say that you’re angry with Afghans who seek a better life in Europe, you’re angry with the child who tried to kill himself when he learned about the rejection of his asylum application. You’re angry with the pregnant women and the two other persons who drowned while trying to enter Macedonia the other day. You’re angry with my friend who would show me the scars on his body and tell me about the bombs that fell when he was a child. And it pains me too.

My fears

It pains me, because I know that they are already facing numerous challenges and a lot of hate. Although I have not yet been in Afghanistan, I have heard about difficult times there. Of course, that is a question of belief and disbelief. Sometimes, stories are contradictory. But from the dangerous road and the pain they live through here and along the way, I choose largely to believe. And they are already treated as unwanted. People are angry with them. Hateful. Violent. I don’t want this to happen to them. I’m not claiming that Afghans are in more , or less, need than anyone else, I just want them to be treated respectfully and with dignity. If people think that Afghans shouldn’t be here, that they don’t deserve protection, that they are only selfish and aiming to take advantage of systems designed to protect others, then I can imagine that the treatment of them will be worse. If someone hears “Afghans shouldn’t come here”, then it does sound like it includes everyone from Afghanistan, also the proportion that you recognized might be in need of protection. In fact, the statement is hard to interpret in any other way. And, as mentioned before, it’s already hard for us humans to not generalize, even to statements that are not generalizing.

Summary

But to sum it up, my personal believe is that the security situation in Afghanistan is bad enough to be classified as “war”. Furthermore, even if a big proportion of the people leaving the country do not flee due to war, I don’t believe that they carry the blame for difficulties that war refugees face. On top of this, I wish to call for a careful usage of language as it is a powerful tool in shaping thoughts and values. Generalization, anger and blame on a specific ethnic group – especially an already underprivileged such, often constitute the seeds of the alienation, segregation, discrimination and even violence that we see today.

Most people in the world are looking for better opportunities, and migration comes as a natural part of it. Maybe, the war in Syria should make everyone stop and wait. But that won’t happen. If we want to be angry, then maybe we should be angry with everyone. I’m not saying that it’s wrong. In fact, it might be right. Personally, European politicians and decision makers have become the target of my anger, as I believe that they hold more power and responsibility than an individual crossing through the Aegean Sea in a tiny inflatable boat.

Bibliography

Day 199: Mid-term training!

I’m at a 3-days training for EIMG_7946.JPGVS (European Voluntary Service) volunteers from different countries in Europe, currently residing all across Turkey. This is the second meeting with the group, but I missed the first one so I don’t actually know anything or anyone. We will see how this will go; most people hang out quite a lot according to their organisations, and everyone seems to know each other already.

During the first evening, we had some kind of get-to-know-each-other activities, but I didn’t actually get to know anything apart from 8 persons names. So…

Day 2, we had a session on learning styles. I learned that good morning in Czech/Slovakian is dobre rano. (y) Then we did some stuff on how to fill in the Youthpass (like, what we learned about our mother tongue, science and maths, etc…), but honestly I cannot imagine my future employers caring much about this, if I continue within medicine (which is my plan, of course). In the afternoon, we were off for Ephesus and Sirince 🙂

To be continued….

J

 

 

Day 187: English classes!

Gave my first English classes today. The kids are very cute, super excited and extremely affectionate. The whole everything is very different from Sweden, for good and for bad.  It was an interesting experience, but honestly I don’t think that I want to continue with these. First of all, I’m not an English teacher. Is it really in the kids best interest to have me teaching? We’re not supposed to do formal education within EVS anyways, and definitely not supposed to substitute other employees. But then again, I’ve heard that no one teaches them English if we don’t. I don’t know how the Turkish school system works, I suppose I should figure that out.

Anyhow, although I have done some teaching and similar before before this is waaaayyy above my competences. They had fun, sure, but I’m not teaching. I don’t know, if we would just call the activity ”mess around and play” then it would be quite alright I suppose, although that might not be exactly what I want to do either. We don’t have much of proper impact assessment and quality assurance. They will surely not learn much English from me, and I don’t like this idea even though a co-volunteer keeps telling me that the important part is to give them a positive connotation of the English language, for the future, rather than having them acquiring actual knowledge. What is my aim? What is my goal in life? No just kidding. I’m confused.

So, you might or might not wonder, how was these lessons actually? Background info: primary school in a socioeconomically vulnerable area. I had four classes, each 40 minutes, with four groups of first year students. Some of them were able to read, some had not yet learned it. It’s funny though because they read everything with the Turkish alphabet pronounciation, so I was weighing the benefit of teaching them the correct spelling versus the ‘phonetic’ spelling, and ended with the latter. So teacher became tiğçer and goodbye became gıdbay. They had English last year as well with another volunteer, the amount that they remembered was… varying.

I was alone with the students; for every lesson I entered the classroom right when the bell rang and the children would swarm around me, making sounds of excitement and shouting ”İngilizce öğretmeni!”. I would try to make them sit down, and talk a little bit. Some 5 minutes later, their ordinary teacher would show up, looking very puzzled about my presence. We would exchange some words in Turkish (such as, ”Oh, I didn’t know that you’d be here! Are you teaching English?”, ”yes”, ”okay, good luck!”) and then they would leave again. Ughh. Let me tell you about the four classes. In every class, there would be a few kids sitting down and listening, but the vast majority would spend most of the time running around, chasing each other, fighting, and I don’t know what. Oh well.

Class 1: I was quite nervous, as it was the first class. I soon realised that there was not much to be nervous about, because everything was chaos no matter what I did haha. No but. They were around 20 kids, very sweet. However, fighting way too much. Don’t know how many times some kids ended up crying after hurting themselves or others hurting them or I don’t even… And then they’d be like ”He hit me!” ”He took my pen!” and running around. But some of the girls were very helpful and also tried to make everyone sit down and listen and do their stuff. Someone asked to use the bathroom, and I said okay. Suddenly, 70% of the class was out and heading for the bathroom. Wups.

Class 2: This was a smaller class, maybe 14 students. Nevertheless, it was crazy. The kids were once again very sweet – the class started with a spontaneous group hug. And when I was at the board talking, one of the girls would randomly run up to me and hug me.  Then, of course, someone wanted to go to the bathroom. Okay, I agreed, Another one raised their hand immediately, and wanted to go as well. Learning from my previous mistake, I said no, and explained that it would be one person at a time. So far so good, right? Well, all of a sudden, I turned around for a second and the kids had started to paint each others faces instead of the papers. And suddenly, half of the class was outside the classroom for no reason at all, completely oblivious for what I was saying. I managed to get them back, but then some others else left.  And so it went, around and round.

Class 3: What to say. Someone had brought candy, which is of course much more interesting than I could ever be. Their ordinary teacher entered and yelled at the kids to sit down. The candy provider looked at her, and moved in slowmotion to his seat as to provoke a response. The teacher left. There was loud music all of a sudden. The kids rushed to the window and then to the door. Something was happening out there. Then, another adult came and scolded the kids for running around. She remained standing, gazing firmly towards the spectacle. Some kids were standing as well. Was it their national anthem playing? Shame on me for not knowing. I figured that I might as well wait until this was over. The music eventually ended, but there was still noise from outside, making the kids very curious – they constantly tried to sneak out. I had no idea what was going on. Later, I learned that it was a theater play to celebrate the anniversary of the Çanakkale Zaferi. One of the boys from this class had a role in the play, and he returned after half of the class. He was a star – the kids hugged him so that I was almost afraid that he’d suffocate. The girls tried to kiss him and everybody wanted to sit next to him.

Class 4: Oh, oh. This class was sweet for the first… one minute maybe. They were all sitting on their chairs, claiming to be the best student. I turn around, and one student is sitting on the table instead. I ask him to sit on the chair, but all of a sudden, everyone is sitting on their tables. Their ordinary teacher entered and yelled at the kids for their misbehaviour. ”Who started?” she asked, and the kids pointed at each other. Then, she proceeded on to telling me how bad they all were, and told me that this was the worst class. Well, they were also sweet in their way;  while I was talking I could suddenly find everyone standing in a circle around me at the blackboard, I would tell them to go back to their desks, and two minutes later they’d be up front again. Odd. This class was more difficult in one way because they’d try to take things from my hands as I was holding them. But well, I survived.

Those were my hours of English teaching.  I think I could’ve handled the kids better, but then again I tell myself that I don’t have any training in this, so it’s okay to not know it. (Which is why also I maybe should not do this, especially not alone, according to my opinion). The other teachers mostly made the kids listen by screaming in falsetto. I jumped the first time I heard it; I’ve never heard such screaming before, not in a classroom, and not sure even if anywhere else… ”They will be naughty if you’re not angry,” one teacher said to me after yelling at her class. It’s not my style and I don’t know if it’s anything that I believe in either. Working with big groups of kids is not something that I’m not planning on continue doing in my professional life, and honestly I don’t know if these are skills that I want to prioritize.

In summary, if these lessons are really beneficial for the kids, more beneficial than whatever they would do otherwise, and if there is no options of another durable solution, I might be able to consider continuing with it. Otherwise, I’m out. All I know is that the next time I see a copying machine or a printer, I will appreciate it more than ever before.

Do something!

37 people dead, 125 injured, they say. The third attack in less than 6 months in Ankara. This time, the car carrying the bomb exploded in the heart of our city. In the middle of everything. At the bus stop that we used every week. At the metro station that I entered two days ago. At the park where we normally meet our friends. At a place full of people waiting for the bus, relaxing in the park and living their life.

The victims were not soldiers, not politicians, not even activists of any kind. They were just humans. Civilians. Just like anybody, just like us. Students – many students. I cannot imagine the pain of their families and their friends. And my friends. Maybe that’s why it’s too hard to hold back my tears today. It could have been me, it could’ve been any of us. We were lucky that we did not decide to go there at that time. But then again, life is already a lottery. Any safety that we have is by luck. It could always be any of us. I suppose we tend to forget about it until reality slaps us in the face.

I wonder what can make a human do such a thing to innocent people around them. I wonder, what pushed them to this point, what is their goal? This attack feels scarier in some way as it was completely indiscriminate towards the civilians, and due to its manifest location. Maybe also because it seems to suggest an unpleasant pattern and an undesirable development in the region. I can no longer say that life here looks and feels like normal, even though we still do the normal things – whatever normal means.

In spite of this, I’m not feeling afraid. I just… don’t even know what I’m feeling at the moment, or if I’m feeling anything. The darkness sometimes seems overwhelming. I see that there are acts of retaliation. More people will suffer. Reading that some 14’000 people are stuck at the Greek-Macedonian border, trying to find safety in Europe. One thousand people trekking across a river, three of them drowning. And the wars, in the countries already so much torn by war that we have almost forgotten about them. Still going on. A friend once told me to not read the news, maybe that is a good advice.

Today, my thoughts are with the victims of this attack. The injured, the deceased, their families and relatives. Please pray for them if you pray. For the whole society, for all of humanity. for the misfortunate people who see no better way than violence. And then, we have to do something. Anything. You don’t have to be Ankara, you don’t have to feel with us. But now, every action is needed. When the morning comes, I will also look ahead. We can be broken, we can be demoralised and scared. But in the end I am certain that we will stand strong – because we don’t have much choice. I do have the option of leaving the country, as opposed to most citizens. However, I would rather stand here. This is our world, and we have to stand together.

Day 183: Bomb #3 in Ankara

On my way home to Ankara. We were eating dinner when a friend suddenly tells us that there has been a bomb attack. Central Ankara. Pictures of burning cars at places where we used to hang out. Again.

Once again texting friends in the area and receiving worried calls. Haven’t found much more news, I think there was a rather high number of casualties…

I won’t have internet for a while, but I’m fine.

Day 158: Another bomb in Ankara

Day 158, the day when I heard a bomb explode, for the first time in my life. Another bomb in central Ankara, death toll 5… 11… 18… 28…, and 10… no, 61 people injured.

We are at a café, maybe 2 km from the place where the incident is to happen. Suddenly, there is a loud boom. Everybody looks out, up, towards the sky, and at each other. No way, I thought. Phones are grabbed, news are read, calls to beloved ones are made. We are not allowed to leave the place for a while due to safety concerns. So, people return to playing cards, chatting and drinking tea.

Eventually, we can go out. The streets do not look very different, only more full of security forces. A helicopter flew above our heads.On the bus, the atmosphere is heavier than usual. People look into their phones with troubled expressions, and the buzzing of calls fills the air. ”Was that really a bomb?” someone asks. ”It happened before I left work”. ”How many people are injured?” Someone else is crying.

I’m home now, and I’m fine. I was thinking this morning that it was time for another ”I’m alive”-update, but I never expected to write this. Still, life is quite normal. When we read about how Turkey bombs Syria, about how close to war we might be, then it feels crazy. Apart from that, life is abnormally normal. But what else could we do? The million dollar question is: will my family call me and tell me to leave this country? Because I have those privileges, or those rights, that so many other people cannot access.

Day 50: Turkish elections

Winter is coming, it was a cold morning. Turkish general elections were held yesterday – the second time this year as a government could not be formed after the previous elections in June.

It feels distant from me, as I really don’t know much about the politics here and what implications the results might have for the future. But I was reminded of our elections in Sweden last year, how we held our breaths waiting for the results, as well as the mixture of frustration, disappointment and resignation succeeding it. Politics, politics. I wonder what the people in Turkey feel today – was it a cold morning, not only because of the winter?

So I try to read up a bit, and meanwhile writing a little summary if there are any other uninformed but curious people around. Now this is according to the internet and my understanding, both of which might be very wrong 🙂

The center-right Justice and Development Party (AKP) came to power in 2002 and has ruled with majority ever since. After the election in June this year however, the party was unable to form a majority government due to decreased support and as the left-wing, pro-Kurdish, People’s Democratic Party (HDP) entered the partliament for the first time. The Turkish election threshold is 10% in order to obtain seats in the parliament, and apart from AKP and HDP, there is the center-left Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP). The attempts to form a coalition was not successful, and thus a snap election was to be held (yesterday).

The result of the votes:
AKP received 49% (June: 41%)
CHP received 25% (June: 25%)
MHP received 12% (June: 16%)
HDP received 11% (June: 13%)

This means that AKP (initially founded by current president Erdoğan), will remain in power with parliamental majority for at least four more years (unless something unexpected happens, of course). While critical voices have arised regarding events surrounding the elections, Erdoğan calls for respect and recognition. With that said, I will now hold my tongue and return to my homework. Sorry mom for mentioning politics, but at least it’s kinda objective—ish.

Day 28: Bombs in Ankara

The update I’m fine and safe doesn’t feel meaningless today. I’m in Marmaris at the moment, on the west coast of Turkey, so I didn’t know anything about the bombings in Ankara until some hours ago – in the same way as most of us read news about terror attacks, conflicts and disasters in far away countries. For me it’s not far away anymore – it’s real. Ankara is my home now. Videos showing the streets you’ve walked on less than a week ago full of injured and panicking people, victims of a bomb attack killing 86 people if not more, it feels surrealistic. As I understand it, it was a peaceful demonstration. It was a demonstration for peace, attacking only the violence between Turkish and Kurdish groups, using only words. What if I would’ve passed by, what if I would’ve attended? It sounds like something that I could’ve attended, at least in Sweden. I promised my parents to not do those things before I came here, but it didn’t feel so serious. Now, it’s serious and it’s real.
Another sad thing is that there are probably people who have long ago grown used to these kind of things – to see their homes destroyed and their neighbours suffering, in pictures, in articles, on TV…


I’m going back to Ankara tomorrow. May the victims rest in peace. May the survivors, and the rest of the human population, soon find a way to live in peace.