Istanbul’s Kurds feel sidelined as their state is broken apart

In Istanbul, the story of driving a Kurdish taxi has now all but disappeared from the headlines. Car accident? Who cares? A fellow passenger delivered a c-word in Turkish and the driver leapt at it, paused, then kept on driving. A policeman got out, looked at the text and probably nodded along and never said a word. The taxi driver was cited for intimidation of fellow passengers, speaking a language other than Turkish.

The driver was not ethnic Turk like himself, rather someone from the western coast. And he spoke English, giving him some 15 seconds to warn the passengers in case they would lose their designated driver. And so it was. The argument rippled through the taxi ranks, with men from Syria sitting next to Turks from Paris, and without the text, without the tips, the taxi became another Ottoman tourist trap, strange to some women and foreign men who were raised in France and Germany but now living in Turkey.

Istanbul is a melting pot. Turks from these two provinces mix with those from Istanbul and eastern Anatolia, North Africa and Southeast Asia, all of which share one language. Here, however, one neighborhood, Fatih in the Golden Horn, has more French than English and foreigners arrive without having learned to speak Turkish.

The joke is that in Istanbul, even taxi drivers talk in Kurdish.

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