Thursday, April 13, 2017

Labor unions under pressure in Turkey

Six days a week for nine long months, Turkish road transport workers picketed outside three UPS transfer centres in Istanbul and İzmir, demanding the right to organise their workplaces. As more union members were dismissed from their jobs, the picket lines grew, holding firm even when riot police aggressively tried to break them up.

When UPS finally agreed to reinstate most of the fired workers, and eventually signed a collective bargaining agreement in late 2011, it was a shot in the arm for Turkey’s beleaguered labour unions.

“A lot of other unions visited us to find out how we did it,” says Kenan Özturk, the president of the All Transport Workers’ Union (TÜMTİS), which followed its success with UPS by signing an even stronger bargaining agreement with DHL.

But as political strife roils Turkey following a failed coup attempt last summer and ahead of a controversial referendum this Sunday 16 April, the union that provided a model for labour organising in tough times is enmeshed in a decade-long legal case that threatens to further erode the rights of all unions in the country.

Read the rest of my article, "TÜMTİS and the Case That 'Threatens All Trade Unions in Turkey'," on the website of Brussels-based news site Equal Times. (Also published in Spanish and French.)

Friday, December 30, 2016

Public workers protest job purges in Turkey

Selma Atabey had been working as a nurse in Turkey’s south-eastern province of Diyarbakır for 22 years when she was summarily dismissed from her job by government decree in late October. “I’ve had to sell my house and my car, I’ve lost my SGK [social security],” she says. “My son is getting ready for the high-school entrance exam and I’m afraid he won’t do well because of the stress we’re under.”

Atabey is just one of tens of thousands of public-sector employees removed from their posts in Turkey following a failed military coup in July, a series of on-going purges that the government says are necessary for the country’s security.

Many of the dismissed civil servants believe that they have instead been targeted for their union activity....

Since the failed 15 July coup attempt in Turkey, approximately 125,000 people employed by the government -- including teachers, healthcare workers, police officers, and lawyers -- have been dismissed from their posts. I interviewed some of these workers for Equal Times, a Brussels-based news site that also published the story in Spanish and and French.

Read the rest of my article, "'We Want Our Jobs Back': Turkish Workers Protest Post-Coup Purges," on Equal Times.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Top spots in Kadıköy

Artsy, eclectic Istanbullus are flocking to the city’s once-sleepy Asian side and its lively cafes, galleries, bars, shops, and eateries. For visitors staying near the historic sights of Sultanahmet, a short and scenically stunning ferry ride across continents is all it takes to join them....

I've been contracted by Lonely Planet to help update their online coverage of Istanbul over the next few months, an assignment I kicked off by writing a short guide to Kadıköy, a neighborhood that seems more vibrant every time I hop across the Bosphorus to visit it.

Read the rest of my travel guide, "10 places to soak up the vibe of Istanbul’s Kadıköy neighbourhood," on the Lonely Planet website.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Shaking up street food in Istanbul

Dürüm is the specialty at Basta Street Food Bar, but you won’t find a smoky grill inside this tiny Kadıköy storefront. With its bright turquoise counter, tile-patterned floor, and steel-topped, light-wood stools, Basta looks more like a hip café than a traditional kebab joint.

“One customer came in, sat at the counter, took one look at what we were doing in the kitchen and walked right out,” laughs Kaan Sakarya. The former chef of the highly rated Nicole restaurant in Istanbul, Sakarya opened Basta in April along with colleague Derin Arıbaş. Their aim: applying their fine-dining training to gourmet fast food – specifically dürüm, grilled meat wrapped up inside lavaş flatbread....

With Turkey's economic woes causing many establishments to shut their doors, it's always good news to hear about new places opening up, especially when their offerings are as satisfying as Basta's innovative dürum. I interviewed the restaurant's enthusiastic young chefs and left with a full stomach and a bit more optimism about Istanbul's future.

Read my the rest of my story, "Basta Street Food Bar: Gourmet to the People," on Culinary Backstreets.

Monday, October 10, 2016

The buzz from Copenhagen

A vast meadow called the Amager Fælled stretches out toward the ocean below the AC Hotel Bella Sky in central Copenhagen, affording patrons of the hotel’s 23rd-floor bar a soothing view. Those who can tear their eyes away from its marshy ponds and grassy expanses, dappled with heather, creeping willow, and blackberry bushes, might spot some orange boxes on the rooftop of the neighboring convention center—urban beehives, the source of the locally made honey that flavors the amber ale served in the hotel’s Sky Bar.

The honey and the beer are the fruits of the innovative project Bybi, named after the Danish word for “city bee.” Its mission: to use urban beekeeping to create a greener Copenhagen, connect residents with the city around them, and bring together and employ people from diverse backgrounds, including refugees and the formerly homeless...

Read the rest of my article about Bybi, "A Sweet Gig: Danish Beekeeping Program Employs Refugees," on TakePart.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Farewell to a favorite Istanbul restaurant

Influenced by the organic, locally grown California cuisine of Alice Waters, young chef Didem Şenol brought a fresh approach to Turkish cooking when she opened Lokanta Maya in 2010, eschewing rigid food combinations and letting high-quality ingredients shine.

Since writing up my first meal at Lokanta Maya in a restaurant review for Istanbul Eats, I'd enjoyed many delicious evenings there with friends, celebrating birthdays, entertaining out-of-town guests, or simply treating ourselves to top-notch food and good Turkish wine in a pleasing setting.

Sadly, the troubles that have enveloped Turkey this year have not been good for business, and at the end of July, Maya joined the growing list of places in Istanbul closing their doors. A small silver lining was the chance to speak with the ever-gracious and thoughtful Şenol about her decision to close the restaurant, her culinary philosophy, and the changing urban fabric around us.

Read my interview with Didem Şenol, "Farewell Lokanta Maya: Istanbul and Local Culinary Pioneer Hit Hard Times," on Culinary Backstreets (the successor site to Istanbul Eats).

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

A view from Istanbul during the #TurkeyCoupAttempt

Glancing at the to-do list on my desk that I’d scribbled just hours before, the scrap of paper seemed to have appeared from some alternate universe too banal to be believed.

Set alarm for 6 a.m. Take out the trash when I go out for an early-morning run. Bring some money to buy fruit for breakfast on the way home.

Cowering on the entryway floor at 3 a.m. as jets roared past, their sonic booms shaking the building and threatening to break the windows, hadn’t been part of the plan....

As shots rang out outside my window and concerned messages pinged in from friends and family around the world, my editor at CityLab, The Atlantic's website on urban issues, asked me if I'd like to write something about my personal experience of being in Istanbul during what turned out to be a failed military coup.

Read the rest of that essay, "Istanbul, the Day After," on CityLab.

For more on the politics of the coup attempt, its aftermath, and its possible ramifications, here are some news, analysis, and commentary pieces I think are worth a read: