Ümit Balak may be the only mayor in the world who is campaigning to bury his own village.
Tuzköy, a community of about 2,000 people near Nevşehir in central Turkey, is blighted by an epidemic of cancer and lung disease linked to erionite, a rare and highly toxic mineral present in local rocks.
The priest’s voice echoed off the crumbling plasterwork of the sanctuary, as only two worshippers took part in a recent Sunday service in Istanbul’s Meryem Ana Church. The low turnout is typical these days. The Turkish Orthodox Church is possibly the country’s smallest Christian denomination, and certainly its most controversial.
In most countries, it’s unusual for the looming death of a television character to become a source of official anxiety. In Turkey, however, a hit television series chronicling the 16th century reign of Ottoman Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent has riled officials, who are looking to that era to help shape their own conservative message.
In most ways, Kuşköy resembles countless other villages nestled in the Pontic Mountains along Turkey’s Black Sea coast. Its 500 or so residents cultivate tea and hazelnuts; there is one street with a baker, a butcher, and a few cafes. It is the sounds, not the sights, that make Kuşköy different.
At Köksal Yılmaz’s fish stall along the Sea of Marmara in Istanbul’s Bostancı District, bream and sea bass are as popular as ever. But the days when most of his fish came from these waters are long gone.
A bucket dangles on a string from a top-floor window in one of Istanbul’s older neighborhoods; inside it, within grasp of any passerby, lie a couple of crumpled banknotes. After a while, a shopkeeper takes the money and replaces it with an order of groceries.
In the wake of two devastating earthquakes, the Turkish government has unveiled ambitious plans to rid Turkey of all unsafe and illegal housing. But analysts say shoddy building practices are likely to continue unless Turkey also ends light-touch regulation of its construction industry.