What If I Said You Could Learn Everything You Wanted To Know About Turkey In Under 30 Minutes… For Free? Is This Offer Too Good To Be True? You Tell Me

Taksim, in the center of the city’s European side, is considered the heart of Istanbul. The square itself surrounds tiny Gezi Park and is covered with concrete and filled with traffic, but the absence of buildings offers at least a sense of free space. Erdogan wanted to close the square to cars, build tunnels for them beneath it and replace Gezi Park and its rows of sycamore trees with a giant shopping center designed to look like Ottoman-era military barracks. Putting anything Ottoman-like in Taksim, a symbol of the secular republic, felt like an assertion of Erdogan’s neo-Islamic identity. In terms of scale and presumption, it would be as if Michael Bloomberg, New York’s former mayor, tried to erect a five-story shopping mall in Bryant Park with facades like blinking Bloomberg terminals.

Except Erdogan wasn’t the mayor of Istanbul. And he wasn’t consulting his constituents there. Far from it: When a local committee composed of academics, historians and municipal appointees unanimously voted against the plan, he simply had another committee made up of his own bureaucratic appointments override the vote. This, to Turks, was what his rule had come to mean.

—If, like me, you are a barely educated American who has a hard time grasping foreign affairs because you went to an American high school where they didn’t never teach you nothing, I have good news! This piece on Turkey from this coming Sunday’s Times magazine on the country since the election of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as prime minister in 2003 is fascinating, incredibly readable and crazily informative! I learned things and I enjoyed it! It’s a small miracle. Someone should monetize this service of information-giving.