Global Conference in Istanbul, 2022 Reporter's Notebook Top Travel

Watch out for Türkiye’s evil eye

Turkish 'evil eyes' hanging from tree branches. (Norah Springborn/YJI)

ISTANBUL – From the moment our flights touched down in Istanbul, the blue evil eye was everywhere. Resembling an eyeball, the concentric circles seem to almost stare back at you – rings of different shades and sizes of blue and white with a sharp black dot in the center. 

After the first look, it’s hard not to spot the evil eye. They’re embedded into cobbled stone streets, murals on the walls, jewelry, and even hanging from light fixtures. The symbol is scattered around the city, and it’s impossible not to spot one somewhere. 

At the airport in Istanbul, travelers pass under an ‘evil eye’ symbol. (Norah Springborn/YJI)

Turkish culture seems to revolve around the evil eye symbol, believing that it wards away the gaze of those with bad intentions. It is said that the evil eye brings bad luck to any person who looks upon another person with dislike.

The evil eye is also viewed as protection from sinister schemes and plans. 

The universality of the symbol throughout regions of Turkey only exemplifies its importance and significance to Turkish culture. It appears that Turkish culture is devoted to integrating this eye into their everyday lives.

As Americans, it’s difficult to spot a symbol that unites the whole country. Türkiye seems to have developed a culture around the evil eye, and all people participate in it – the eye doesn’t discriminate. 

Despite differences in race, language, nationality, gender, and religion, the whole country seems united over this singular symbol of protection. 

American culture isn’t built on spirituality or superstition. Watching how important an object with a relatively abstract purpose has great influence over the Turkish people is quite interesting. America is so divided, but seeing something as agreed upon as the evil eye shows how easy it is to bring people together. 

When first stumbling upon the evil eyes, we didn’t truly understand their importance. Being surrounded by it at Youth Journalism International’s Global Conference in Istanbul truly taught us this piece of Turkish culture. 

As far as the eye can see, it is simply impossible to unsee the evil eye in Istanbul, Türkiye.

Sreehitha Gandluri and Norah Springborn are Correspondents with Youth Journalism International from the United States

Authors Norah Springborn and Sreehitha Gandluri. (Norah Springborn/YJI)

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