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On ducks and the Haydarpaşa fire

November 30, 2010

Haydarpasa ablaze
I was going to write up a post on Haydarpaşa, and how, if you haven’t heard, it was engulfed in flames on Sunday, but then I found this other post that says pretty much everything I was going to say. So I’ll point you over to InAnatolia, a new blog that looks exciting and well-written:

Yesterday the roof of the contended structure ignited during renovation work. Within an hour of the blaze, news reports included quotes from suspicious officials. My favorite has been Eyüp Muhçu‘s accusation that  fire-fighting helicopters were deliberately ignored in order to weaken the structure as much as possible. The problem is these conspiracies are not so far-fetched.

If Haydarpaşa’s structure has been damaged enough, the plans to convert it into a convention center may go forward. Then the station would no longer be a charming transitory point, but a destination requiring hours of modern, efficiently uncomfortable transit in order to spend soul-crushing hours cooped into meetings.

One of the things I’ve learned about conspiracy theories from my time in Turkey is that just because they’re conspiracy theories doesn’t mean they’re wrong. Look at Susurluk, for example (oh God I sound like a Turkish columnist. Sorry.).  And what strikes me about Haydarpaşa’s fire is that in the aftermath, everyone’s theory is the same: that the station, a gift from the Kaiser and a gorgeous landmark on the Asian shores, was deliberately set ablaze to allow development plans for “urban redevelopment” to go forward. Of course we can’t know for certain yet, and probably won’t know what truly happened even after the ongoing investigation is finished. But as Sarkozy and Erdoğan have noted in various forms the past few weeks, if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, chances are good that thing’s a mallard.
Unfortunately, unlike water from ducks, flames don’t exactly just roll off the back of historic train stations. Cumhuriyet’s reporting repairs will take 1-2 years. Of course, if they just redevelop the whole thing into a modern shopping, convention center and hotel complex, that’ll take a bit longer and result in the kind of soulless waterfront hulk that’s currently gracing Sutluce. Oboy.

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