Paris on Pennies

My sister and I took a week trip to Paris in April this year. As the pair of us are students, our finances could only stretch a fraction of our imaginations. This only meant that we had to make the most of our days enjoying the free things in life.

So how did we do it?

We were coming from Edinburgh, Scotland where we flew with Transavia airline to Orly Paris Airport. The flight was £35 (~€41)each including our luggage. Pretty decent.

From the airport to the city center we got the Orly Bus which is €8 pp. Our apartment was right next to the drop-off point at Denfert-Rochereau, or perhaps you know it as the home of the Catacombs. We airbnb’d it because we are super suave and modern, which cost us £200 (~€230) for 5 nights in a studio apartment. Bargain.

We walked everywhere. We only got the metro one day when we were coming home from being at the Arc de Triomphe via the Eiffel Tower (our feet were understandably throbbing). The metro is €1.90 pp and the ticket lasts up to an hour for travel, handy.

As I mentioned, we visited the Arc de Triomphe, where you can get a spectacular 360° view of Paris. The entry fee for an EU nation is free. Woohoo.

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View from the Arc de Triomphe

We also visited The Lourve Museum, also free for EU nationals. The Musee d’Orsay- also free for students. City of Paris Museum of Modern Art, Musee Picasso, all free for students under 26. Seriously?!

For food, as we are both vegetarian, our meals are usually on the cheaper side of the menu. That’s right, no snails or even frog legs for us…unfortunately…. What a shame.

We didn’t really consume much alcohol which could have perhaps have been a major factor in our budget. Apart from popping into a pub at happy hour where we got our “blonde beers” for €4, we didn’t take advantage of the wine selection Paris had to offer, because…well…I don’t like wine. What! What’s wrong with you?

To get home we took the EuroStar to St Pancras Station in London, which if booked in advance can be purchased for £24 pp (~€28). We arrived into London at around 0800 where we got to spend the whole day before getting on the coach at night from Victoria Station to head back to Scotland, which was £8 pp (~€10). Voila.

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So even after buying keying’s and macrons (which do not taste as good as they look) to take back as gifts we tallied up the money score. Including food, travel (when in the city) and any other items purchased whilst here, we ended up only spending €150 between us. To be honest, most of the money saving was unintentional and at no point did we feel that we were limited in what we could do. There are so many great things to do and see for free- monuments, gardens, galleries and parks- that makes it a pleasant trip for you as well as your bank account.

Some may call it “being cheap” but we call it “being Scottish”. Stay Cool Bloggers.

To see more of my photos visit my insta page @erolminded 🙂

Dual Nationality

Having a dad from Turkey and a mum from Scotland, there have been many occasions where cultural differences have caused an exchange of diverging views, to say the least. Here’s some…em “differences” we’ll call them, between the British and Turkish cultures:

 

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British- Well done you tried your best and gave it your all!

Turkish- What?! You got a C in English? You must do it again and get a better mark. (Ignoring the fact I had also got 4 A’s in maths and sciences)

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2.When it comes to eating

British- Choose what ever you like on the menu.

Turkish- We won’t need a menu we will all have the fish. It’s brain food after all.

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3. Choosing your career path3

British- You want to go to university? That’s great honey, *boasts about son/daughter being at uni regardless of which degree it is*

Turkish- “Dad, I want to be an actor”, “Son, it’s pronounced “Doctor”


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4. Relationships

British- “Sooooo…is there a wedding on the cards?!”

Turkish- “Roses are red, violets are blue, you have an arranged marriage waiting for you. “

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British- You should probably put on a jacket, it’s -10°C out there.

Turkish- You should probably put on a jacket, it’s 35°C out there.


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6. Visiting family

British- We won’t intrude, there is a lovely B&B we can stay in just along the road.

Turkish- All 200 of you can stay over, every sofa in this house folds down to a bed. (There is no such thing as just a sofa)


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British- So we have our fancy set that we use for dinner parties, out silver set that is only used at Christmas, and then our everyday set…

Turkish- We have plate-bowls…

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8. Family tree

British- Aunts:2, Uncles:1, Cousins:5

Turkish- Aunts:just about every middle aged woman, Uncles: 50? I lost count… Cousins: HA! (Basically yous can populate a small city)


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British- Ah a nice cuppa with milk and sugar.

Turkish- A 100ml glass of tea with no milk (because why not), but don’t worry you will usually have about 10 refills

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10. Packed lunches

British- Standard sandwich, maybe a twix for afterwards.

Turkish- *other kids stare at you* “Why do you have a full aubergine?”

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British- Salt, pepper, vinegar and tomato sauce are  the table necessities

Turkish- Yogurt is your necessity, it goes on everything, even soup and in your drinks (ayran)…


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12. Health

British- We should probably go to A&E and get it checked out , just to be sure

Turkish- “Here put some cologne on it” “But dad my arm is broken“, it doesn’t matter what is wrong with you, cologne will always fix it (or leave you deformed…)

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In saying this, I would never change my dual citizenship for the world. Being raised in a multicultural environment really opened my eyes from a very young age.  Being able to to speak and fit into the country, is a privilege that I was lucky to be born into. Even if I do hate kissing old peoples wrinkly hands and the fact that anyone outside Turkey cannot pronounce my name…

Granola Chomping Tree Hugger

I have consumed meat for just under twenty years. But it was during the summer of 2015 when I decided to go vegetarian. Since then, I have never looked back and over a year later I am still thriving on a life without the bloodshed of meat.

To be honest, over the years I had heard and met people whom also did not eat meat or consume food made with body parts of animals, but I had never really thought a great deal about it. After watching some disturbingly true and eye-opening documentaries it got me thinking. Going on a diet that was plant and dairy based. But what would I eat, rabbit food?!

As it turns out, you end up exploring alternative food arrangements very quickly. Whether it be just substituting the meat for a bean burger, or making a completely different dish altogether and inventing new recipes, it really helps you become more creative and open-minded in the kitchen. As I live on my own, I am responsible for cooking my meals myself (Boo). So by eliminating the opportunity of buying a chicken sandwich from Sainsbury’s for lunch during university, it forced me to actually make an effort to look more closely and to take care of the way I eat.  I was actually vegan for four months as well, but soon had to return to my dairy products. This was after realising that the drastic change to my diet restrictions in such a short time period ment that I couldn’t cope with the change (vegan means eat no food that is derived from an animal eg. eggs, honey, milk). Maybe someday I pick it up again and be able to stick to it! I also got some heavy critisism for doing this from family and friends, but it didn’t stop me (my family in Turkey thought I was trying to kill myself- they had never heard or vegetarian or vegan before).

By becoming vegetarian, I have experienced first-hand the struggles that you encounter when it comes to eating out. So for a start; no fast food like McDonald’s, Chip shops, etc. As most of the foods are cooked in the same fryer/cooker, it means that the majority of the food has come into contact with meat. But then again it all depends on how serious and critical you are about it- asking restaurant staff if the same utensils have been used and so on. Oh and jelly sweets are a no go as they usually contain beef or pork gelatine, ewe, maybe think twice before devouring the Haribos when they contain pig feet. Also, cheese becomes a big part of your diet I have noticed. Many places will substitute whatever they were offering with cheese. And although I love cheese as much as Wallace, there is only so much you can stomach without gaining a few extra pounds.

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Cheese display at a hotel I was staying at- a vegetarians dream

HOWEVER, it doesn’t have to be all sad and gloomy- you don’t have to get just the plain margarita pizza. Sweet potatoes are another favourite to use as well as, bean chillies, aubergine salads, garlic yogurt, falafel, veggie pasta bakes. I most can agree a the fact humus becomes your best friend- a chickpea based paste that you cannot live without. Nothing excites you more than when you’re reading through a menu and find something that sounds delicious and it has that little green “V” beside it, YES, I’ll take that please.

All in all, I have ended up feeling more positive and healthier towards my outlook on food. I’m not saying that you’ll lose weight or become super fit by becoming a vegetarian as other factors of your lifestyle obviously need to be taken into consideration, but at least you’ll be on the right path.

The vegetarian diet is extremely beneficial to the environment- cutting CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions. If you want to read more on how processing meat impacts our environment, you can refer to the Fight Climate Change website.

I have found that the best places for veggie food are: Marks and Spencer’s as they have a large range of snacks and sandwiches/ salads and Waitrose as they also have a large Vegan/Soy range. Also makes such as Quorn, Linda McCarthy and even shop brand vegetarian meals and foods are available. Continue reading

I’m about to snap

 

Taking photos is one of my favourite pastimes. So when I’m on holiday or anywhere with a scenic view, I’ll probably have camera in hand. When I travel with my sister, her eye roll says it all when I whip out my camera to capture some scenes. I have learned from experience some of the tips which are listed below, most of them have improved my quality of photos. So here are the tips accompanied by some I have taken myself. These can either be applied to photos taken on a phone or a camera, it really doesn’t matter!

1. Watermarks

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If you are posting photos on the internet, it might be a good idea to watermark them. This way it’s harder for people to take credit for YOUR photos, it doesn’t have to be big, just a little word, phrase or symbol would be useful to stamp your identity on it. And I do realise the irony of using the above picture as it is not my own, but who doesn’t love the grumpy cat?

 

2. Angles, angles, angles

They can transform a picture, making it more interesting, exposing different details and the ratio of the objects that are being pictured. Move about and take lots of shots, you might like a certain angle that you would never have previously considered.

 

3. Composition

It can be useful to be sure you have the right ratios in the picture. Not too much sky, or too little of the person in the photo etc. Getting a balanced shot can take some time and practice so, taking multiple shots can help to see what looks alright and what looks great!

 

4. Use lighting to your advantage

The best lighting is natural light, having the sun at the right position in the sky can set the tone for your photo. If you want a soft sunset, a bright midday shot or want to use luminous rain clouds, these lightings can set the mood and desired shadows. So be adventurous, get up early and catch the sunrise and wait out the sunset, it’ll be worth it!

 

5. Props

Whether its still or live props, it can make a photo more dynamic and interesting. I love using animals in photos, or some strangers that are in the right place at the right time. They can bring a photo to life and can also give it a topic like a center piece.

 

6. Orientation

It’s a good idea to assess potential photos ideas by making sure you are getting everything you want into the shot. For instance, scenery and landscapes are usually best shot in landscape, and portrait orientation are commonly used for portraits, not rocket science really. Just don’t miss anything out the photo, you can usually adjust the photo sizes before taking it to see it if it’s a good fit for your particular shot.

 

7. Edit photos, express your creativity

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 It can be fun to take your photos that little bit further, whether it be enhancing colours, cropping to desired sizes, adding filters or applying some effects. If you are more adventurous than just clicking on an Instagram filter, then you could tap into editing photos manually, adjusting hue, saturation, contrast, brightness, focusing etc, to make your photo look its best. However, just be aware that over editing can sometimes end up ruining a photo so avoid piling on the filters, sometimes small adjustments can be the best!

 

8. Stand out

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You can still defy the so called “rules” of photography and still end up with really interesting photos. As long as they stand out and people want to look at them then that’s fine, right? Why else do we take them, for the pleasure of looking at them and the individual story that each of them tell.

Trip to Truva (Troy)!

Yes, there is a film called Troy that sports a very strong, muscly Brad Pitt playing the almighty Achilles. This post may not be as dramatic as the film (but at least it will be true), nevertheless I hope to give an insight on the historic grounds that once held each of the nine great cities, Troy.

To clarify that last statement, there once stood a  city called ‘Troy’, but it was rebuilt nine different times during 3000 BC and 500 AD. The cause for the reconstruction was mainly due to shift in the earth soil, or earthquakes, which ultimately destroyed the living space. The reconstruction of the new cities took place on top of the previous. They continued to build on the same spot of land as they did not want to lose their precious space near the sea that was impenetrable to any outside source. And I could understand why, it was so high up that as I walked around the site I was almost blown off my feet a few times, you are so high up you can see the sea and even the other side of the peninsula.

The site was founded by a German man, Heinrich Schliemann. It was him that discovered the first pieces of evidence and that the such talked about myth suddenly became alive. As this was such a huge discovery, it drew attention from other archaeologist and historians from around the world. One man in particular was eager to join Schliemann on his quest, that was Frank Calvert a British archaeologist. The two of them had some disagreements during their uncovering of the ruins and it was Schliemann’s hunger for jewels and treasure that eventually led to a fall out.

As the ruthless, treasure hunter was keen to dig quickly to see if he was right about the location of the city. Schliemann’s thirst for success  caused them to dig right past the several levels of Troy and into a time period a few hundred years too early. They effectively ruined the chance of ever recovering anything from the layers they dug right through, but some could argue that the techniques for archaeologists were still in the early stages of being developed.  Nevertheless, Schliemann being first and foremost a businessman, had his methods described as ‘brutal’ and ‘savage’, having torn down so much of the ancient city (something the Greeks couldn’t even do).

The history of the city goes like this; The war between the Greeks and Trojans began after the Greek kings wife had eloped with Paris, the Prince of Troy. But, after a brutal war the Greeks failed attempts to bring down the City of Troy  and they had to come up with a different plan. They deployed devious measures to trick the Trojans as they could not defeat them by combat, they offered a gift to the Trojans as a sign of their surrender,  The wooden horse, that later became known as the iconic Wooden Horse of Troy. The Greeks filled the hollow horse with their own soldiers, with the Trojans being none the wiser. The wooden horse was accepted as a present and was wheeled through the front gates and into the City of Troy where it stood on display. Little did the Trojans know that were wheeling the war into their own city in plane site. Greek soldiers sat patiently inside the ‘peace offering’ to the Trojans and waited till night to open the front gates to the Greek army that waited entry to attack the city from the inside, slaying the sleeping people; men, woman, children, and eventually burned it to the ground. The city was never built again, only the story was carried through the centuries to tell the tales of the great Trojan war. So, yeah some Turks still hold a grudge against the Greeks, but you can understand why. Unfortunately, most of the treasures that were found were stolen and not given back to Turkey, by archaeologists, the main being Schliemann who stole many of thousands. He took the stolen goods back to Germany but during WWII the Trojan treasures were taken/stolen by the Russian Forces and taken to Moscow where they currently lie today in storage; still today a disputed issue between Turkey and Russia.

As my grandparents live in a village right next to Troy, I have made a visit to the place almost every year. I have seen the site develop and update over the years. I used to go when there were no turnstiles or security, no ticket office or restriction barriers. I thought this was normal. Apparently not, we had had the privilege to experience the site in this raw manner. When we were little girls, my sister and I would walk around the dirt site with my granddad as he told us the story (probably walking over artifacts whilst doing so as it was not properly excavated). I visited Troy today with my granddad and could see how times have changed, and the place actually looks a tourist destination, pretty suave I must say! My granddad seemed to have overlooked this fact. For example, there are now barriers restricting you from entering certain parts of the site which may be deemed unsafe or are under construction, he just lifted one up, ducked under it and strode right through the Amphitheater like a pro. (I ran after him and had to pretend he was senile to avoid any penalties). Then two bus loads of Japanese people disembarked and walked past us at the site entry. My granddads bewildered behavior must have been at its peak as he pointed out a Japanese man and said ‘JAP’ very loudly. To be fair, he had been born and raised in the same village and even me and my siblings were considered exotic as we were from another land. After quickly lowering his arm and acknowledge that I (and the Jap man) did in fact hear him, he continued as approximately 100 Japaneses shuffled by us, “JAP, JAP, JAP,JAP…..”, aaaaand so on- you get the picture. I think I must have dissolved in my seat at this point as I do not remember anything after this.

Thankfully, I have some photos that I took during my trip to Troy!

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Fun Fact: The horse that was used during the film ‘Troy’ that was released in 2004(Top) was then flown to the Çanakkale waterfront (Bottom) where it is now on display.

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Home of Turkish Cuisine!

Middle Eastern countries have a very distinct taste when it comes to food dishes. Their pungent flavors, unmistakable smells and rich colours are what makes their cooking so desirable.  However, with the modern world constantly evolving, adaptations have been made to accommodate the new and stylish dishes.

The food that Turkey has to offer is directly related to the ingredients that the country can produce itself, as everything being grown local. In the year of 1923 when the Republic of Turkey was established there became two main branches of food; the Regional cuisine (also known as the folk cuisine), and the Classical cuisine. The regional cooking consisted of using foods that were grown locally to the original place you were from. This combined culture then allowed for lots of different traditional dishes to be formed.

A query people may have when traveling to another country is whether or not their dietary restrictions can be met sufficiently. As eastern countries like to eat bread with almost every meal, including bread and pastry based meals, the most famous dish being pide, it may not be a celiac’s dream come true. Although, being a vegetarian myself, I do not feel as though I am limited in what I can eat here. Many of the dishes are originally vegetable based such as okra (bamya) which is pictured below, and more often than not the addition of meat is actually optional.

The most famous foods that are eaten are of course the shish kebabs. These are the marinated pieces of meat that are barbecued  on a skewer and served with vegetables and pilaf rice. There are also many other meat dishes which I have pictured below. The main meats which are consumed are lamb, chicken, beef and fish. Pork however, is indubitably forbidden as it is a Muslim country. When I was younger I used to wonder how they could go about life without ever having tried bacon, before realizing, if they have never tasted it they wound know what it tasted like.

As it goes for drinks, tea will become your best friend (just like the British). Though the tea leafs themselves are more bitter and produce a much stronger beverage. Unlike the British however, no milk is added, and it is not drank out of weird and wonderful mugs, but instead a tiny hour glass shaped tea cup…making you feel like a giant. Which just means you end up having several cups instead of one regular size mug.

Classical cuisine is what I have grown up with. My grandparents live in a very small village near the historical site Troy (Truva) on the Asian side of Turkey. My grandfather is a farmer and has grown almost every crop under the sun, literally. Taking advantage of this, my grandmother makes very traditional food, all recipes passed down from either her own mother or her grandmother. When I was younger I came to Turkey to visit either in the summer time or during the Christmas holidays. She would make replicas of the food her mother would make her, and I would devour the lot. However, not everyone has the luxury of having a “chef granny”, and I (being young and naive) thought that everyone dinned like this. I soon realized this was the case when I would go to a friends house for dinner in the big cities and they would be eating garlic yogurt out of a shop bought carton. I remember thinking, “What is the meaning of this?”. Why didn’t they just go to Ahmet’s farm, buy 5 liters of his cows milk and make their own?

It has only really been the past decade that foods, which would otherwise have be alien to the nation, have slowly fused their way into these classic dishes. This more westernized approach may have chipped away at the authenticity of the food, but the taste of the mouth watering flavors remain untainted. Below are some of my favorites along with some traditional food which I believe have made the cut to get posted here. ENJOY.

 

 

Turmoil in Turkey

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan

16th July 2016

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, born 26th of February 1954 in Kasımpaşa, Turkey. He is the founder of the “Justice and Development Party” (the AKP) in 2001 and has dominated in politics since 2002, the first time he was elected as the Prime Minister of Turkey. Since then, the party has been elected into power a further three times, making him the second longest reining prime minster of Turkey. He then stepped down in 2014 to run for the presidency roll, to which he was elected.

As of late Friday night, 15th July, a coup began in the most established places Turkey has to offer: Istanbul and Ankara. These history infested places are no stranger to becoming the solid grounds for battles; eg. The end to the civil war took place on the Bosphorus in the pristine year of 324, perhaps Constantine’s final victory. However this time, it was the military services in Turkey that began an uprising against the

 

current president Erdoğan believing that he possess dictator like characteristics and want to free Turkey from the power he holds over them.

The night of revolution was just beginning:

“…as soldiers and tanks moved into key positions around Istanbul and the capital, Ankara, people poured into the streets. A night of confrontations, loud blasts and gunfire ensued across the capital, with at least 17 reportedly killed and scores wounded while fighter jets and helicopters buzzed overhead.” The Guardian,Turkey military coup attempt: what we know so far, Patrick Kingsley and Ghaith Abdul-Ahad in Istanbul

The death toll is currently sitting at 90 officers and a further 100 coup plotters. Authorities have also stated that over 1500 members of the armed forces have been arrested for treason.

The military had taken over the neighboring CNN news station, CNN Turk, escorting the news crew from the set.

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Screenshot of our television, CNN Turk news set left empty whilst on air

This was the news station, along with others, that was previously criticized for not showing the 2013-2014 Gezi Park protests that were a

major event happening in Turkey, where 11 people were killed and more than 8,000 were injured. Instead, they broadcasted a documentary on Penguins. Yes, that is right, whilst live coverage of the riots was broadcasted by CNN International. Another card played by Erdoğan in attempt to shield his nation’s eyes from the terror within their own country and more importantly, the dictator he has become.

 

 

Being a UK citizen as well as a Turkish citizen, my family and I have been advised to avoid any public places by the British Foreign Office. Other nations including the U.S had sent out similar warnings. 

There may be some controversy about the legitimacy of this coup, seen as the president was voted into power in 2014 in a democratic election and did win with just over fifty percent of the vote. However, back in 2014 once the candidates had finished the final leg of campaigning and the voting had came to a close, the numbers from the election began to emerge. With results being better than expected for Erdoğan’s campaign, questions began to rise. Even insiders to his own party were surprised

 

when the results exceeded the projected result. This then fed the conspiracies that began to generate after the results to the presidency election emerged just 2 hours after the voting ended. Let’s put this into perspective…in the Scottish local council election which was held in May this year, the results were revealed roughly 12 hours or so after polling has closed. The population of Scotland is approximately 5 million. The population of Turkey is just shy of 80 million. Either Scotland is lazy or….

On the other hand, many believe that this whole uprising could be seen as a staged event plotted by Erdoğan himself or his own people. Showing that even after an uprising of the military- the force that fights for the country, that signifies strength, can’t even defeat the president. In other words, to put the message across to the

 

people that no matter how many protests are conducted, how many lives are lost- he will always come out on top.

So here is a small list of some of the things Erdoğan has done either as PM or president which may have led up to this rebellion:

  • 2014: Soma mining disaster. Over 700 miners were trapped and after the president ignoring the matter (and also the cosy relationship between the government representatives and the mine executives) a proper rescue plan was neglected leaving over 300 miners trapped, left for dead. When Erdoğan arrived in Soma the following day, he was booed by the people who were disgusted by

 

his actions. His response- “Deaths are part of the job. Boo me and I’ll slap you.”

  • 2014: 14 year old boy was tear gassed and put in coma during the Gezi protests. The boy died short of a year later and the mother held the president responsible for her son’s death. His response was that the boy had a slingshot and was using it to throw stones, “His mother calls me a murderer. Who did I kill?” To which the crowd he was addressing booed the mother. He then proceeded to disgrace her during a speech on mother’s day.
  • 2016: His statement, “You cannot bring woman and men into equal positions; that is against nature”. Remember, he is the former leader of the Justice and Development party, ironically.

 

  • His continual put down of women, in a world that is striving for equal rights. He said a woman is “incomplete” and “deficient” if she failed to reproduce. He then carried on to state that he recommends woman having at least three children. Erdoğan has three children…how convenient.
  • The television stations in Turkey are monitored so the people of Turkey can only see news from the world and even Turkey itself that the president finds suitable.

For example: President Erdoğan abandoned Muhammad Ali’s funeral after his conditions for the speech he was to give were not met. He demanded to read from the

 

Quran and also place a cloth on the deceased boxer’s coffin. After being told this would not be allowed, Erdoğan furiously cut his trip short by flying back to Turkey.

There are also many television stations which are funded by Erdoğan and his cronies. By doing this, he can blind sight the people from reality. Blanking out stories in the media and keeping people, this own people, in the dark from stories that could be damaging to him and his party. This also includes a history of temporarily banning social media sites such as YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. 

I spoke to many citizens based in Istanbul, most of whom are up to date with the modern world and what is going on globally. But when I mentioned this outrageous behavior of the president at the funeral, they didn’t have the slightest clue what I was

 

talking about. His actions were completely wiped from the Turkish television broadcasting, his reputation still untainted as only the illusory stories can reach the eyes and ears of the people of Turkey.

UPDATE: Death toll rises to 265 with 2,839 member of the armed forces detained.

#DarbeDegilTiyatro, This is not a coup this is theater.