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Mothers of Istanbul


The woman buying an Elle magazine asked me where the owner of the bookstore was and asked if I was happy working in such a place amid luxury townhouses. As I was about to respond, Sevda came in through the front door, smiled at her customer and  apologized for being late. 

I left the store in seconds and as I left, I saw some of the gardeners and babysitters in the garden as I hurried to the main gate of the community. The guard waved at me as I was phoning Emre. He told me he was already in Üsküdar and we were quite late to see the mothers of the missing people, so he asked me to take a taxi. After talking with him, I ran to bus stop. I have a monthly transportation card and I cannot afford to pay extra money. He is a teacher at a private school and makes quite good money, so he can afford to spend a little extra money. With my mother’s help, I had found the part-time job at the bookstore. She had worked as the housekeeper at Sevda’s family house for years. Mom blames my dad for not finding a job for two years after graduating from university in biology. Since then, he has fought against the municipality for his small house where we still live. When Grandpa built that house, it was located on the outskirts of the city. Now it is in the center of the city and the goverment wants to give that area to wealthier classes for their modern homes. After he had founded the neighbourhood solidarity organization, he was fired from the city fire department. Maybe Mom is right about thinking in such a way. He was in the newspapers and on television for days.

The coming bus was so full, as usual, that it seemed impossible to get in the front door. I got in through the back door and passed my card to the front of the bus to show my card to the driver. I hoped it would come back to me without going missing somewhere. My two hands were busy holding the metal bars of the bus, my breath was on the neck of a teenager, an old man’s breath is in my left ear. It was so crowded that I thought that maybe I should have listened to Emre.

I got of the bus at Üsküdar and I looked for a way to walk to the docks. The road was closed because of the Marmaray Project. I wonder if I will be able to travel on that projected railway under the water. They began work ten years ago and I am losing all hope for its completion.  I had to run quite a distance to the ferryboats. I saw him. He looked so lovely. I embraced him from his back like a cat, he kissed my hair and we passed through the turnstiles to get on the ferry. We like to sit in open air to look around. Emre took my hands and started to kiss them while I looked around to see the reaction of the other people. There are no dirty glances here. He started to talk excitingly,“ look at that, the hills above Çengelköy, yesterday I looked at houses there.” He was so bored living with his family and was trying to find a house to rent  for himself. I replied, “If I were you, I’d prefer to live in the old city, like Sultanahmet or somewhere along the Golden Horn.”  I went to university in Beyaz?t and enjoyed seeing the old buildings like churches and mosques on the the way to school. Now, grey clouds fell back in front of Dolmabahçe Palace.“ Emre, can you get a picture of palace? “ He gave me his phone and I took many pictures; vessels, seagulls, ferries and the Maiden’s Tower in the sea.


She was holding my phone in her hand and suddenly she leaned against me and whispered into my left ear.“ I am pregnant”. I looked at her face while she took more pictures. She is my love, Gamze, only she can say ‘I am pregnant’ as easily as saying ‘I am hungry’. I do not know what I can do or say. I really do not know. I raised my arm and put it on her shoulder while thinking of the right words to say. I need my words now. The ferry docked at Kabata?, where were got off. We stood up and walked to the exit. I am thinking that she wants that baby. Our families, relatives and neighbors. We need to get married.  I read on her blog  last week that she wants to get a Master’s degree in sociology. A baby and sociology. She took my hand and said  that we need to take the finicular to Taksim Square. She looked the same as always. On the funicular, my eyes stayed on her belly. ‘How big is that baby, maybe only like a nut or a bean.’ I looked at the face of my activist woman, who was always marching for human rights,  city rights, workers rights. She turned her face to me and said: “Do you remember Gülsevim Ana? She has been coming to Galatasaray for 7 years for her missing son. Two weeks ago she said to me that her husband was stopping her from coming every Saturday. I really wonder about what happened to her.”

Today, after the meeting of the Saturday Mothers, we would go to Tarlaba?? to find a house for me. Gamze knows that area very well. She was in the group protesting against the renewal of  the neighborhood. The goverment enacted official regulations for urban transformation and began to destroy parts of city.  I am not sure that area would be good place for the baby. I have to look at community houses for rent. They are safer for kids. I do not know if she will accept getting married before the baby is born. She can call me “My Cliched Lover” as she always did. I catch her eyes on me as we ascend the stairs to Taksim Square.

It was always very crowded in Taksim. I was looking at people passing by and I want to cry out to them:  “She is pregnant, baby is coming , I am the father!” We were walking quickly towards ?stiklal Street and  a hundred policemen were standing behind the tram station.  Where we arrived at the French Embassy, we saw some people who were ptotesting the new education system and I agreed with them the  regulations will ruin the future of Turkey. I have never been into participating in protests. Gamze saw some of her friends in the group and wanted to say hello to them. I stayed in front of a Chinese restaurant while she moved towards them. They were holding up posters and shouting slogans. When Gamze reached her friends, police suddenly came around the corner and tried to take some of the protestors with them.

Others policemen made a barrier around the group. I saw fists and kicks. I saw Gamze in the middle. I tried to go to her, but a policeman stopped me. Gamze was between two policemen and suddenly, one  threw her to the side, her fragile body was on the stones of the street, while the pepper spray of the police was coming into my nose and eyes. I saw blood on her face from her dark hair. I shouted breathlessly with tears on my face, “ She is pregnant; she is the mother of Istanbul!”