Posted 3 weeks ago

The America that drew my family was a journey of seven thousand miles, and although mountain roads and voyages in steerage were treacherous, the hardest were those first miles away from home, away from faces that would no longer be familiar. By the time we arrived in New York, or Texas, or Oklahoma, or wherever, much was lost. “Your first discovery when you travel,” wrote Elizabeth Hardwick, “ is that you do not exist.” In other words, it is not just the others who have been left behind; it is all of you that is known. Gone is the power or punishment of your family name, the hard-earned reputations of forebears, no longer familiar to anyone, not in this new place. Gone are those who understand how you become yourself. Gone are the reasons lurking in the past that might excuse your mistakes. Gone is everything beyond your name on the day of your arrival, and even that may ultimately be surrendered.

So much had to be jettisoned for the sake of survival. Emotions were not acknowledged when so many others had suffered more. There was only survival for these travelers and faces to recall until the pictures they carried frayed or no longer held together. Though none of us could summon its image, Isber Samara’s house remained, saying his name and ours. It was a place to look back to, the anchor, all that was left there. To my family, separated or united, Isber’s house makes a statement: Remember the past. Remember Marjayoun. Remember who you are.

House of Stone, Anthony Shadid (Shadid, who was a Lebanese-American journalist, died in 2012 in Syria while covering the war there for the New York Times)


Posted 9 months ago

hard news

I was listening to this mix, Anna German’s Nadezhda to be exact, when I saw this article, the news of Yuri Yakovlev passing away. And I told my dad, and he stared at the screen and then gave me the anticipated sigh of “eeekh!”, and I promptly started crying. 

Posted 1 year ago

Cousin’s amazing baby is amazing. 

Posted 1 year ago

A fascinating map of the world’s most and least racially tolerant countries


I call bullshit on this map and this kind of “social science.” Mainly because there is no way Russia gets to score that high on tolerance. Also check out Armenia and Azerbaijan hanging out in there like the beacons of tolerance that they are. 

Posted 1 year ago

running list of things other people can’t ruin with their stupidity

  • sex
  • food
Posted 1 year ago
I mean there are slayonnaye piroshki and then there are slayonnaye piroshki.
My mother, on the piroshki she had at Literaturuli Cafe in Batumi.
Posted 1 year ago
All colors suit me.
My grandma.
Posted 1 year ago


Yesterday was the 1st of May public holiday. People in Berlin celebrate it either by rioting, or having a picnic in the park. Ali discovered that I was planning on doing the latter with my good friend and colleague Tania, who Ali knows and has a bit of a soft spot for. So he asked if he could join us, and arrived bearing fruit and Turkish pastries. And wearing this suitably jaunty suit.

This makes me even happier to be going to Berlin.

Posted 1 year ago

note to self

don’t look at people’s photos from their transsiberian railway journeys in one sitting. 

Posted 1 year ago

Critique of Postcolonial Reason

  1. me: Victory Day is big in the Caucasus, so there are a lot of good pictures coming in today, if you are interested.
  2. the editor: you mean Russia?
  3. me: no, the Caucasus.
  4. the editor: whose Victory Day are we talking about?
  5. me: the Soviet Union's.
Posted 1 year ago

In New Job, Italy’s First Black Minister Confronts Culture of Casual Racism |

Consider this culture of “casual racism” (what does it take to simply call it racism?) with the numbers:

Kyenge was at the forefront of a dramatic demographic shift in Italy. As recently as 1991, just 1 in 100 residents held a foreign passport. Today, it’s 1 out of every 12. For every five children delivered in the country, one is born to a foreign parent.

This is more or less the situation in Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway and elsewhere in affluent Europe. Last month, I was interviewing an official from the City of Amsterdam’s Department of Integration. They told me that half of Amsterdam’s population are non-white/first or second generation immigrants. Very soon, it will be more than half. What will Europe do about its racism and the number of people they view as outsiders? 

Posted 1 year ago


World Press Freedom Day, Redux

Additional imagery from Reporters Without Borders to go along with our earlier post.

Select to embiggen.

I’m sorry this just makes them look badass in a cool way. Doesn’t work for me at all. 

Posted 1 year ago

Meritocracy for sale

Another great op-ed by Sarah Kendzior. And it’s not just unpaid internships. In no major city can you afford a comfortable and financially independent life with only your salary from your entry level job in policy, human rights or journalism.

I got my first internship when I was 17, and since then every internship and job I ever got was thanks to the ones before it, as it usually is for most people. I’ve been able to afford almost all of these internships with help from my parents or relatives that I could stay with. My first full-time job (at a foreign policy think tank) paid 1300 TL, or roughly $850 a month, a pretty standard figure for similar jobs. Commuting there alone cost about $150. 

Privilege is recast as perseverance. The end result hurts individuals struggling in the labour market but also restructures the market itself.

Another consequence is that you have the upper classes speaking, advocating, conferencing, protesting, grant-writing, charity-collecting and resource-distributing on behalf of the disadvantaged and the abused, the irony being that the most disadvantaging abuse in the world (and the root of conflict, in my opinion) is the inequality in wealth distribution. I think this is one of the major reasons there is a gigantic gap in the size and the mission statement of the “human rights industry” and its actual achievements. It’s mainly privileged people talking to each other about inequality and injustice, choosing to ignore the price of their privilege. Because, you know, what else are they we going to do?

Posted 1 year ago
I think at the root of conflict is our inability to seriously address inequalities, inequalities within states, between people within their own states, inequalities between states, extremely inequitable and unequal distribution of the wealth of the planet…. We have still fallen short, considerably, of addressing that.
Louise Arbour, Crisis Group’s President and CEO, in an interview with the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs (via crisisgroup)
Posted 1 year ago

Turkish Airlines crew banned from wearing red lipstick and nail polish

How articles like this one make it to the Guardian via Reuters is that most of the time the people employed by these organizations to be based in places like Turkey get their impressions, information and anecdotal evidence about what’s going on in the country from their friends (as do most people), at the rakı table, from the local people in their expat communities - in short, from a particular and narrow demographic. Who in turn disseminate these articles back within the country as “objective, outside perception” of what’s going on, in a circle of validation. I suspect this is the case in most of the “non-West.” Whether this article or another is truly accurate or not is irrelevant here (in part because it’s actually very rarely possible to convey accuracy, much less in a short news piece), it is the process of knowledge production that is fascinating. 

But still, this article reads like a newspaper ad by an Association of Concerned Secularists, what with using “covered women work at check-in counters and in other positions in the company” as evidence for “creeping Islamisation”, a process that is supposed to be perceived as a threat by everyone in the audience.