(2 of 2)
A good bit of that country is visible from the Gunes' office window. The thoroughfare below looks like a street in any provincial city of Anatolia or some blend of them all. On weekdays, mothers in headscarves and raincoats hold the hands of their youngest, who hold the hands of the oldest. On a holiday, the family proceeds behind the paterfamilias, a man leaning back a proud 10 cm, hands in his pockets. Fifteen years ago, the streetscape of aspirational clothes stores (Will Power Jeans) and cell-phone emporiums was a mud track best navigated by tractors. It became part of Istanbul with the arrival of the city's ubiquitous feature, the six-story apartment building, which is to Istanbul what pile is to rugs. Ramazan Kirbiyik put up "50, easy" of them in the 1990s, when Bagcilar absorbed most of its current residents almost all of them, like him, straight from the village. A wheat farmer on the Black Sea coast, he became a builder in Istanbul by asking a lot of questions while working construction, then just throwing up the blocks himself, one every four months. "You don't have the animals living in the buildings anymore," says Erkan Gunes, yet another of the real estate brokers. "People adapt quickly."
It's the way of the world. "A guy sells his tractor, sells his animals, sells his land, and he comes here," says Metin Unes. "Starts as a renter in the neighborhood, builds a house, puts a workshop in the ground floor. And that's how he gets started." It worked for Unes, who, being from Corum, makes socks. His workshop is on his first floor: three fantastically complex machines surrounded by bags of inventory and, catching the light in the back room, splendid towers of thread. Downstairs, a half-dozen women prepare the product while Kurdish pop plays at full blast. Before being laid in pairs and stapled into a package, each sock is stretched taut over a flat model of a leg. The man in the corner moves among six upright flats with a rocking step that suggests a polar bear in too small a cage. The men get paid 300 Turkish lira (about $190) for a six-day workweek, the women 100 lira less.
These are the jobs that beckon those from Anatolia. Back east, "there's work but no jobs," says Hashim Cetimbas, six months after selling his cows for the down payment on a $40,000 apartment for his nine kids. Turkey's manufacturing juggernaut has helped make the country a genuine power in the region try to find a Middle Eastern city without an Istikbal furniture store while cementing the primacy of Erdogan's party, which Turks associate not with faith but with employment.
"Everything is business," says Mutlu Kaygisiz behind the counter of his Bagcilar photography studio. His first name means "happy," and as he talks, his eyes never stop dancing. Nor do his fingers, keyboarding changes on a wedding photo he's Photoshopping to place the happy couple in front of any number of landmarks they have never actually visited, including the Bosporus, the spectacular strait that defines Istanbul to the world and that a heartbreaking number of migrants have never seen in person. "You've got a lot of people who work 12-, 13-hour days," says Kaygisiz. "This is not a lazy society. This is not a government that will pay people to not work, like in Europe."
Europe, of course, is what Ataturk wanted Turkey to be. Turkey wanted it too, but the E.U. did not too Muslim, too big and so the republic is finding its own way. Lately it's been touted as a democratic model for the nations of the Arab Spring. Ataturk's republic was never going to fulfill the Koran's injunction that Muslims live under Shari'a. Some might have expected Erdogan's Turkey to do so, but political Islam's moment has passed. Any Turk can glance across the border at Iran and see a nation with the same number of people but fewer freedoms and prospects.
After seven decades of secular conditioning, the news from Bagcilar is that most Turks have reconciled the tension between God and country by making faith a private matter. "It lives in the heart," says Rukiye Altutas outside the textile workshop in Bagcilar where her shift has just ended. She is 24, was born 800 km due east and is striking in a silk headscarf and gray raincoat cut on the bias, a look that manages both piety and style. "But it's also something you can show," adds her co-worker Hidayet Ceran, 20. "You have women who wear the headscarf." Hers is pink. "You also have people who believe but would never show it." Does that describe many Arab societies? Her withering look is answer enough, but she goes ahead and says it. "Obviously, we're different."