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Beyond the Coast

The Tunisian Freedom Fire…

By Tarik Ayasun When I first sat down to write this article, it was January 5th and very early in the morning.  I was scanning various international news headlines on the internet as I do every morning when an item from Tunis attracted my attention. A 26 year old Egyptian, Mohamed Bouazizi who had doused himself in gasoline and set himself afire nearly three weeks ago on December 17th had died in the hospital early that morning.  Bouazizi had an engineering degree from a University but had been unemployed since graduation! I thought that this was a very important and ... Read More »

Turkish Coffee… Part II…

by Tarik Ayasun In Turkey, one can’t consider lunch or dinner to be complete unless it ends with a piece of delicious baklava washed down with a cup of foamy, well made Turkish coffee. Many Turks believe that having this cup of coffee after a meal is actually very healthy as the strong coffee settles the stomach and helps in the digestive process. Obviously, I am not qualified to comment on the health aspect of Turkish coffee; however I thought it may be interesting to inform everyone how a perfect cup of Turkish coffee is prepared. It all starts with ... Read More »

Turkish Coffee… Part I

by Tarik Ayasun Ever since the very first day I arrived in America, whenever someone inquired as to where I am from and upon hearing my response; their first reaction has always been “I love Turkish Coffee.” Oddly enough, being an avid tea drinker, I had little experience with Turkish coffee when I lived in Istanbul other than on the occasions when my mother took me along for her never ending fund-raising activities for the local orphanages. In order to raise funds, she would engage in “fortune telling” whereby she would “read” peoples fortunes by looking at the sediments left ... Read More »

Noel Baba (Papa Noel)

by Tarik Ayasun As a young man during the mid-1960’s, I spent a considerable amount of time traveling throughout Turkey and Europe. Because owning and driving a car was out of the question for a 17 year old, most of my traveling was done by bus and train. During one particular summer, I was traveling south, trying to get to the beautiful and historical seaside town of Antalya. After hours on a rickety, smelly old bus with uncomfortable seats I arrived at a small town called Kale (now called Demre) on the Mediterranean coast of Turkey. As was the practice ... Read More »

Giving thanks on Thanksgiving…

I was watching the homecoming of a Marine Regiment from Iraq on TV about a week ago and what a young Lance Corporal said stuck in mind, maybe forever. “Until you go overseas and see how they live and what they have, you will never appreciate where we live and what we have.” Maybe this does not come off as such a profound statement to millions of us who saw the light and emigrated to this great country; but it is always good to repeat the statement to our youngsters who walk around with iPods, communicate through “Facebook,” post their ... Read More »

Connecting The Dots

On September 3, a UPS plane crashed shortly after takeoff from Dubai International Airport, killing two crew members. This was a Boeing 747-400, a very dependable aircraft with a clean safety record. Initial news reports indicated that fire may have broken out in the aircraft just after take-off. Then, on Friday October 29, explosive devices were found at the FedEx facility at Dubai airport and on a UPS plane at a UK airport. Now there is talk of re-investigating the September 3rd UPS crash. One would not be a conspiracy theorist to think that these events were somehow related and something ... Read More »

“Holiday of the Sacrifice”

One of the most important holidays in the Islamic world is coming up in November. It is called the Festival of Eid-El-Adha in Arabic and Kurban Bayrami (Sacrifice Holiday) in Turkish. The festival celebrates the Biblical and Kur’anic account of Abraham’s near-sacrifice of his son on Mount Moriah, proving Abraham’s complete obedience to God. In the story, God stays Abraham’s hand at the last moment and provides a ram for sacrifice instead, praising Abraham for his faithfulness. Following this tradition, the head of each Muslim household hopes to sacrifice one or more sheep or ram according to his financial standing ... Read More »

Sounds, scents and images of my childhood…

It is a wonderful autumn morning in Marco Island. The Cardinals are singing as loud as they can before they attack the feeders I put out for them in the back yard. The Eastern sky is turning brilliant red, signaling the sunrise over Barfield Bay. But something seems to be missing. Other than the Cardinals’ morning songs I hear nothing else. It is very strange yet very normal in my neighborhood. The sun rises, it gets warmer and sometimes I hear the engines of a few cars in the distance. I sit back and listen carefully for familiar sounds, and ... Read More »

A “tragic swimming accident”

A couple of local fishermen walking along Cevlik beach in the Province of Hatay, near the Syrian border in Southern Turkey, came across a bloated dead body on August 16, 2010. On September 1, 2010 the Russian newspaper “Red Star” reported in a terse announcement from the Kremlin that  “Major General Yuri Ivanov, Deputy Head of GRU (Russian Military Intelligence Agency) had died in a ‘tragic swimming accident’ while on holiday in Latakia, Syria on August 8.” Nothing about this incident was reported in any USA newspapers to date, September 3, 2010. The death of such an important official of ... Read More »

More than just the Mosque…

Last week, two seemingly separate items caught my eye. One was “nationalization” of the building of the mosque/Islamic Center near WTC Ground Zero issue. The other was two pamphlets I received at home via the US Postal Service. These two events prompted me to expand my view of the situation. It has been almost four weeks since I wrote an article on the mosque which an Islamic group, called “Cordoba Project,” is trying to build insensitively close to Ground Zero. I received many emails supporting my position, and some questioning my logic. After considering the varying points of view, I ... Read More »

Till death do us part…

It was August 1975. I had just completed my compulsory military service in the Turkish Army. My wife and I were spending the remaining days of the summer in Istanbul making our plans to return back to America, when my cousin and his family arrived for a one week visit. Although regular weekly or longer family visits were common in Turkey at the time, the purpose of this visit was very special. My aunt and uncle had found a suitable candidate for my cousin, who had just turned thirty years old, to marry. The rules of an arranged marriage in ... Read More »

Mega Mosque near Ground Zero? Never!

Referring to his idea of covering the European landscape with mosques, the Islamist Prime Minister of Turkey declared: “Minarets are our bayonets; domes are our helmets; our mosques are our barracks; our believers are our soldiers”…With that, he spelled out his own version of Jihad for Islam to conquer Europe and convert the populations. For those who are not familiar with the religion of Islam; a mosque is where believers and practitioners of the religion of Islam congregate to offer daily prayers, and on every Friday noon, listen to sermons from the pulpit. Traditionally, mosques were built on conquered lands ... Read More »

Missing Afghan soldiers and Russian spies…

Last week most Americans were “surprised” to hear that up to forty-six Afghan soldiers, some of whom are pilots, went missing from Lackland Air Force base in San Antonio, Texas over a period of two years. A few days later, they were further surprised to hear the FBI announce the arrests of ten Russian spies. These spies allegedly lived every day American lives in typical American neighborhoods! If one looks at these two events separately, one may not be too alarmed. Spies have been around for as long as there have been countries and borders. Foreigners have come to America ... Read More »

The beautiful game

I played soccer since the day I could walk and kick a ball all at the same time. We called the game “football” when I was growing up in Istanbul, Turkey. I only learned that the same game was called “soccer” in America when I was twenty years old. That transformation took place when I was offered, and accepted, a full soccer scholarship to attend the University of Maryland in the summer of 1969… My first memories of playing organized soccer go back to when I was six or seven years old. We lived about a mile away from the main ... Read More »

We must support our friends…

In the early morning hours of May 31, 2010 Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) intercepted six ships heading for the Gaza Strip in international waters. These ships were known as the “Free Gaza” flotilla. The advertised purpose of the flotilla was to deliver medical and food aid to the Gaza strip. However, the real purpose of the flotilla was to break Israel’s defensive blockade of the Gaza Strip controlled by the terrorist organization Hamas. This flotilla was sponsored by the Turkish Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH) whose ties to Hamas and other Islamic terrorist groups, including Al-Qaeda is well documented. Weeks before ... Read More »

Dear President Calderon…

There are a number of low points in our history where Americans may have thought, “We finally hit rock bottom.” The Japanese decimation of the US fleet in Pearl Harbor, our retreat from Vietnam and radical Islam’s attack on September 11 comes to mind. I also add the following events as low points: American hostages taken in Iran followed by the failed rescue attempt in the desert and the tragedy in Somalia (Blackhawk Down!). However, I never felt as outraged and disgusted as when I watched in horror the President of Mexico, Felipe Calderon, holding American sovereignty in contempt when ... Read More »

Living through a military coup…

This month, Turkey marks the 49th anniversary of its May 27, 1960 military coup, remembered as a breaking point in its political history and a longstanding determining factor in Turkish politics. The first of its kind in the history of the Republic of Turkey, the 1960 coup resulted in the prosecution of 592 people and execution of three leading political actors. The notorious coup was a breaking point in Turkish politics, as many political parties and their leading actors determined their policies in accordance with its outcomes, with some still continuing to do so. On May 27, 1960 the military ... Read More »

The Legend of Leander’s Tower

I grew up in the wonderfully magical City of Istanbul. The first 20 years of my life I played soccer in her streets, ran up and down any one of the seven hills she sits on and drove around the new and old parts of the city. One of the most intriguing, mysterious and romantic sights in Istanbul for me had always been what was called “Kiz Kulesi,” in Turkish meaning “Maiden’s Tower,” located on a tiny islet near Uskudar on the Asian side of Istanbul, with a history spanning over 2,500 years. The tower is also referred to as ... Read More »

The feeling of being an American…

It was a cold December day in 1979 when I landed at JFK airport in NY and stood in the line marked “Citizens Only.” Showing my brand new blue USA passport to the previously dreaded immigration officer was a proud moment for me; I was an American returning home from a business trip. For such a seemingly mundane event, it may be difficult to appreciate the feelings and thoughts that I am about to describe. It was about a year before, on November 17, 1978 when I had stood before a Federal Judge in Hackensack, New Jersey and was sworn ... Read More »

Reflections on China

This is the first of a short set of articles comparing glimpses of China 30 years ago with today’s China. In 1980 I began a series of business/pleasure trips to Asia centered on obtaining U.S. aviation rights to serve China. The first articles are condensed from extensive notes taken in 1980. The later set is based on a trip in April-May 2010. Beijing – 1980 April 13, 1980 The clouds break shortly after we passed over the coastline. Below us we see the flat, rather dull face of Northeastern China. It looks like the Midwest during late fall. The ground ... Read More »