Istanbul-Ataturk Airport: Waiting for ?

Istanbul Ataturk Airport:

Kevin P Clements

16th August 2014

I am so keen to get home that I decided to head off early to the airport. This turned out to be a big mistake as the Singapore Airlines counter is closed and other Star Alliance partners won’t book me in so I wandered around looking for a place to sit for an hour before the counter opens. The one empty chair I found was amongst a group from Turkmenistan. They look as though they arrived in the middle of the night and have been offloaded with all their luggage, waiting for a connecting flight. As I sit down and remove old orange juice and water bottles from the space I want to sit in , an old woman lying down beside me shouts out something in Turkish which makes all the others laugh. I sit down anyway.

Those that are awake look at me with some incredulity. Whats a kiwi like me doing with Turkmen’s like them. Some other women smile at me. A smile is the universal way of letting strangers know that they will tolerate me intruding on their space. Every single luggage cart is piled high with boxes and bags all wrapped in tight plastic. They all look as though they are moving somewhere permanently. Each seems to have a lifetime’s clothes and goods in their left luggage. Two younger women come by and wake the older ones up. They all start stirring, waking from their sleep. Totally animated they engage in market banter sending messages one to the other, laughing, pointing at each other.

One produces a pair of pink knickers and throws them to another. This seems to crack them all up and I feel like a solitary, rather alien looking male, in this Turkmen group of women. I don’t understand a word of what anyone is saying but they are killing time, having fun, joking with each other, laughing… The men in their group keep sleeping. I’m not sure I get what’s happening. But one of the women has now pulled a big new bra out of a packet that says Don Love Underwear creations. I guess this means that they have been shopping at Don Love whoever he is.
They seem to be having fun. Their husbands, sons and brothers keep on sleeping. Oblivious to the women and their cheerful banter.

Airports are funny liminal places. What am I doing with a group of Turkmen women at Istanbul airport , waiting for my plane while they wait for theirs. All of us waiting to be transported North and South , East and West. Sleep’s not a bad strategy for dealing with the tedium of it all. Humour certainly helps. They are walking around now and some of the men are moving but nothing much seems to be changing we are all waiting, wondering, pondering. Hoping that there are no delays, that planes will arrive on time; that we will be able to book in and leave… airports are holding pens for where we want to be. None of us wants to be in the airport. This is a transitional space. A space for moving through, a space for humanity to mix and mingle for a while but not a space to stay any longer than’s absolutely necessary. The women all around me have well worn faces, worry lines where once their faces were supple and soft. Some have lined and calloused hands that have cooked millions of meals, washed dirty clothes, cut and piled up wood. There are no Yves Saint Laurent bags, Christian Dior or Tiffany necklaces in this group. In fact, apart from some ear rings, there is no jewellery at all.

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I’m sitting with a group of working class Turkmen women with their own memories, their own hopes and desires. Doing what women do everywhere. Laugh, keep each other happy, wait patiently for the call to board, provide succour and support one to the other… Their men continue to sleep, mind the bags. We are all waiting. Someone has just returned from a visit to the Turkmen counter, shaking her head at the impossibility of it all. I understand the words,Turkmen airlines. From their frowns I understand their contempt at the fact that they have been off loaded. They are waiting for some sign that their scheduled flight will depart or alternatively that they will have more boring hours waiting and hoping and joking for another afternoon, another day.
As for me. I’m waiting too …noting down what’s happening around me. Hoping that Singapore airlines will open up soon. Looking forward to when I can move from here to there, from away to home. Yes airports are indeed strange in between places.




About kevinclements2012

Short CV Professor Kevin P Clements. I am the Foundation Chair of Peace and Conflict Studies and Director of the New Zealand Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Otago, Dunedin New Zealand and Secretary General of the Toda Institute for Global Peace and Policy. Prior to taking up these positions I was the Professor of Peace and Conflict Studies and Foundation Director of the Australian Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Queensland, Brisbane Australia . I went to Queensland from International Alert where I was Secretary General from January 1999 to September 2003. International Alert is one of the world’s largest NGOs working on conflict transformation. It pioneered innovative policy and practical approaches to conflict prevention and transformation in Africa ,Eurasia and Asia . It has also made a major contribution to the mainstreaming of conflict prevention within European Foreign and Development Ministries, the EU and a variety of UN institutions. During his time there I was on the Board of the European Centre for Conflict Prevention and past President of the European Peace Building Liaison Office in Brussels. Prior to becoming Secretary General of International Alert I was the Vernon and Minnie Lynch Chair of Conflict Resolution at the Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution at George Mason University Fairfax Virginia USA 1994-2000 and Director of the Institute from 1994-1999. My career has been a combination of academic analysis and practice in the areas of peacebuilding and conflict transformation. I was, for example, formerly Director of the Quaker United Nations Office in Geneva and Head of the Peace Research Centre at the Australian National University in Canberra .Prior to this I was Senior Lecturer in Sociology and Coordinator of Peace Studies at Canterbury University, Christchurch New Zealand . My first academic position was as a lecturer in Sociology at Hong Kong University . I took up this position from a Post Doctoral Fellowship at Oxford University where I worked on development issues with Paul Streeten and others. I have been an advisor to the New Zealand, Australian , British , Swedish and Dutch governments on conflict prevention , peace, defence and security issues and advised the German Government and the OECD on States and Violence. I was, a member of the New Zealand Government’s Defence Committee of Enquiry in 1985 and I currently conducting Problem Solving Workshops in North East Asia with high level participants from Japan, China and Korea. Iwas President of the International Peace Research Association (IPRA) from 1994-1998, President of the IPRA Foundation from 1995-2000 and Secretary General of the Asia Pacific Peace Research Association. I was Secretary General of the International Peace Research Association 2008-2010. I got my B.A, B.A Hon ( First Class) and Ph.D in Sociology from Victoria University of Wellington New Zealand. and held a Post-Doctoral Fellowship at the University of Oxford from 1970-1971. I have been a regular consultant to a variety of non governmental and intergovernmental organisations on disarmament, arms control, conflict resolution, development and regional security issues and I have written or edited 7 books and over 160 chapters /articles on conflict transformation, peacebuilding, preventive diplomacy and development with a specific focus on the Asia Pacific region. Research Expertise 1. Peace Research Theory- Conflict and Conflict Resolution Theory . Preventive Diplomacy , Development and Peacebuilding 2. International and Regional Regimes-APEC, ASEAN, the ARF, ECOWAS 3. Political Sociology-International Organisations. Multilateral/bilateral negotiating processes. 4. Fragile States, Legitimacy and Political Hybridity 5. Alternative Defence and Security Policies-Peace and Security in the Asia-Pacific region. 6. The politics and ethics of international humanitarian intervention 7. Altruism and Compassion In my spare time I like to paint with acrylics or pastels, go to the theatre, listen to classical music, visit art galleries etc!
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