As a Syrian in Istanbul, watching the campaigning for the recently concluded 2014 Turkish local elections made me feel like a kid looking into a sumptuous candy store. For the first time in my life, I experienced first-hand the end-result and ideals the Syrian revolution was supposed to have bought to my own country; the democratic process in all its glory.
Multiple political parties and candidates with banners and posters filling every area. The campaign offices with tables overflowing with electioneering pamphlets, staffed by volunteers sporting their respective party’s distinct colors. And roving vans blaring out campaign music. I loved hearing those vans in my neighborhood. They exemplified the very essence of a civilized society, one that resolves its differences not through guns, but at the ballot box. To a refugee who had left his own country in the midst of a devastating war, those campaign vans represented a veritable miracle; a functioning pluralistic, democratic society in the Middle East.
Having lived my adult life in no less than fourteen cities in the Gulf and Levant, I moved to Istanbul in September 2013. After six months, I can unequivocally say that this metropolis is the standard by which Arab countries should be measuring themselves. Without a doubt, Istanbul is the city all Arab cities should have aspired to be.