Saturday, February 27, 2016

Child marriage in Turkey, on film and in reality

A cinematic depiction of five adolescent sisters being married off one by one in rural Turkey, the movie "Mustang" has received plentiful accolades abroad; including an Academy Award nomination as Best Foreign Film.

But in the country where the feature film was shot by French-Turkish director Deniz Gamze Ergüven, the reaction is decidedly more mixed.

"There’s this idea you see in online comments and other responses that Turkey is being depicted wrongly in the movie," says Eylem Atakav, a senior lecturer in film and television studies at the University of East Anglia in the United Kingdom. "But the stories I’ve heard from Turkish women who were married off as children are far worse, much more brutal, than anything it shows."...

Read the rest of my article about the film "Mustang," and the issue of child marriage in Turkey, on Women's eNews: "Oscar-Nominee 'Mustang' Puts Turkey in Unwanted Spotlight"

Friday, February 26, 2016

Uncertain future for one of world's oldest urban farms

Driving into Istanbul from Atatürk Airport, the crumbling fortifications along the Marmara Sea demarcate where the historic, pre-sprawl city begins. But though they may evoke oohs and ahhs out the window, few visitors venture back to explore the 1,500-year-old city walls on foot.

My first time walking the 6.5-kilometer length of the walls was full of surprises: homing pigeons for sale in a parking lot, spectacular (if precarious) views, a livestock market for Kurban Bayramı (Eid al-Adha) sacrifice animals. Most striking of all were the gardens: lush plots of fruits and vegetables squeezed between the walls and the modern highway that now loops outside it. Years later, urban redevelopment has transformed or rendered inaccessible many areas along the walls, but some of the market gardens (called bostan in Turkish) remain, a last vestige of an ancient urban agricultural tradition.

I've written previously about the Yedikule bostan by the city walls for The Atlantic's City Lab, and about other examples of urban agriculture in Istanbul for Culinary Backstreets and Zester Daily. A new threat to the Yedikule bostan early this year prompted me to take a deeper look at the gardens' past, present, and future.

Read my new article, "In Istanbul's Ancient Gardens, A Battle for Future Harvests," in Yale Environment 360

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Turkey's 'hidden' coast: The Black Sea

My first hints that there was something different going on in Turkey's Black Sea region came in Istanbul -- watching environmental films that depicted the rugged beauty of its remote mountains and their hardy, sometimes eccentric inhabitants, and reveling in a wealth of unfamiliar flavors at the (sadly now shuttered) "Laz meyhane" Mohti, where hamsi popped up in everything from corn bread to omelets served in the raucous music- and smoke-filled restaurant.

Visiting the region for the first time last spring, I spent a week reporting on environmental threats from dams, mines, and other development, meanwhile picking up intriguing tidbits -- the distinctive regional architecture, the melting pot of languages and cultures -- that left me wanting to return.

The two travel lists I wrote for Matador Network this month offer just a taste of what the region has to offer -- if its natural beauty and rich cultural diversity can be preserved: