“I believe the country has been touched by the evil eye. Let us pray for it to go away,” said Turkish actor Necati Şaşmaz, after meeting with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to open a dialog on the protests in Istanbul’s Taksim Square. How could the evil eye, a supernatural entity, have been responsible for the past month of mayhem in Turkey? The country has been rattled by an overly aggressive police response to demonstrators protesting against several issues, including restrictions on freedom of speech and plans for replacing an Istanbul park with a shopping mall.
In 2011, I traveled to Turkey, where I examined the place the nazar, or evil eye, holds in Turkish culture. My travels culminated in a visit to a workshop where artisans were making glass evil eye amulets in a pine-fed furnace. You can gain context for Şaşmaz’s words in my piece, “The Power of a Stare,” published today in The Smart Set, in which I probe the depth of Turkey’s beliefs in the supernatural, only to end up reckoning with a conclusion that rings far beyond Turkey.
I’m still unclear on whether a good pair of goggles can keep out both tear gas and the rays of the evil eye.