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January 09, 2013, Wednesday

And winter came…

No, this is not about Enya's celebrated 2008 release. It is not about the album for which she sold more than 3 million copies and which is known for Enya's soothing sound that made her a hallmark in New Age music.

I am going to write about the winter that has arrived in Turkey's capital. Thanks to the imaginative mayor of Ankara, the neighborhood of Söğütözü, where my office is located, has become the capital's version of İstanbul's Maslak. I do not mean it in the sense that Söğütözü has become some sort of financial center as it is in İstanbul. On the contrary, I mean it in the sense that business towers, hotels and hospitals are springing up and touching the sky here. Many of us are puzzled to see them rise so quickly and unimpeded. Subsequent to the mayorship of Ankara issuing permits to build such a multitude of high-rises, it is becoming ever more difficult to access the area. Traffic has become a real issue. Once a pride of “Ankarites,” the proper traffic situation we -- unlike folk in Istanbul -- used to have here is a thing of the past. Any winter day with a normal amount of snow -- or rain for that matter -- quickly transforms into an urban nightmare. 

Except for Eskişehir, almost all Turkish cities are going through the same “cementization” as was eloquently described by Ferhat Kentel recently. As Kentel noted, “From Edirne to Ardahan we have come to believe in the normality of these cement fields.” Eskişehir is the only city in this country where the change that is occurring in our cities has gone in a positive direction. In all other Turkish cities, nature and beauty has been sacrificed to the false belief that building cement towers is a sign of modernity. The once beautiful Black Sea is a case in point. That precious piece of our geography has been steadily sacrificed to ugly construction in the midst of the beautiful green and blue that the sea offers. Like Ankara, the unbearable attraction of easy income for municipalities has transformed the rest of Turkey's cities into cement temples. Many conservatives are critical of the government's construction drive and accuse them of “transforming from Islamists to contractors.” (It rhymes in Turkish: “mücahitlikten müteahhitliğe.”)

What has come from this tasteless cementization? We now have cities that all look alike, with little taste or finesse. A thorough cementization has driven many affluent Turks away from centers of cities and forced them to set up suburbs with yards on the outskirts of the cities. Tired of the cementization, weekend houses or gardens are springing up in the İncek and Gölbaşı areas far from Ankara's heart. This might be good news for the government, as statistics confirm that the more gardening and landscaping the less likely revolution (read: political activism) becomes. So, as it stands in the middle of winter 2013, decision-makers in Ankara should not be worried at all. The cementization of the country is continuing unabated, shopping malls and apartment complexes are rising everywhere, the middle class will be busy gardening in a couple of months and Turkey's opposition parties ensure there is no credible challenge to the ruling party in the country.

Turks have a naïve sense that Mother Nature is infinite. They rarely see nature as a commodity that is finite. They consume it carelessly to the extent that not much of it will remain. There is little consciousness or care over the kind of mess we are going to leave to our children.

That is how winter came in Ankara. On this gray January day, that is how I see my city and my country.

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