Coexistence; Growing Up in a Small District of Cosmopolite Istanbul


I was raised in Harbiye, one of the most multicultural neighbourhoods of Istanbul where residents were from many different ethnicities.
Children did not know the word ‘minority’.
My friends at the school were sum up of Armenian, Assyrian, Rum (Greek), Turkish and Jewish kids. My best buddy was a Jehovah’s Witnesses.
We did not know the word ‘tolerance’.
The only thing our parents had to tolarate was our misbehaviours and the lack of interest in our homeworks.
We used to eat, cry, laugh, play all day together with joy and we loved each other unconditionally.
We used to live collectively.
Knocking the doors of our Catholic neighbours during Easter was so fun as the colourful Easter eggs offered were so bright and delicious. And the best thing for me is having another Easter and colourful eggs just one week later!
Sharing the religious days and praising them together with your best friends from different cultural backgrounds were nothing but a double, triple fun for a kid.
It was such a normal thing to see my friend’s ‘mama’, ‘tata’ and ‘yaya’ joining our ‘mevlut’ ceremony wearing beautiful head scarves and my ‘anne’ to visit an Armenian church wearing full black for a funeral.
It was the third grade when they separated us for religious classes.
It was the first time our hearts got broken.
We envied our friends who were exempt from the class as they were allowed to play in the garden and more important the class was so boring. And our friends envied us as they were curious about the class and they felt sidelined for the first time in their lives.
Not a good way to explore differences.
I was a Galatasaray fan so was my best friend, why should we have been divided for the prophet we had to follow?
We have not.
Our parents have not.
Friendship, harmony, love, respect and enjoying life together were the most important instruments in our small neighbourhood and also in Ferikoy, in Kurtulus, in Bakirkoy, in Prince’s Islands, in Pera, in Karakoy and in many other historical districts of Istanbul.