Today I am honoured to publish a guest post written by Simay Yildiz. Simay is a friend of mine who lives in Istanbul. It appalls me to see the lack of news coverage on the continuous attacks and bomb scares in Turkey and Simay's words describe exactly how it is to live in Istanbul right now. This piece will send chills through your body and will hopefully help portray how real and terrifying the situation really is. I will let Simay's words speak for themselves.
‘Fear’ is a four-letter word, so is ‘bomb’
Turkey’s latest ‘fear’ and ‘bomb’ history: on October 10, 2015, two bombs go off three seconds apart at a peace gathering in capital Ankara. Officially, 92 dead; unofficially, it might be 128. This goes down in history as the “bloodiest terror attack in Turkey’s history.” On March 13, 2016, a bomb goes off in Ankara leaving 32 dead and 125 wounded. This is the third bomb attack in Ankara in the last 5 months. On March 19, 2016, the ‘live bomb’ that went off in Istanbul leaves 4 dead and 36 wounded. There are continuous bomb threats and warnings all over the country.
Today is the third day of my terrorism-induced, self-inflicted house arrest. Turkey was on red alert yesterday, warnings stating that there would be a total of 20 bombings in different places on the day of Nowruz. As the rest of the world started spring celebrations, taking the time to observe flowers blooming and birds chirping, I found myself pacing back and forth in my living room, weighing the possibilities: “which is higher risk? A bomb exploding at my bus stop or my heart stopping because I’m scared shitless riding on a bus?” I decided not to find out, hence the house arrest.
People having to stay in their houses and having early curfews is not a new concept for my country. Growing up, I knew what “terrorists” did before I was allowed near a stove to cook pasta. Every night we would gather in the living room to watch the evening news, and almost every time there would be news of terrorist attacks in the Eastern part of the country; videos of men, their faces covered, holding big guns and firing them endlessly, mothers of Turkish soldiers crying over their dead sons’ coffins, families of children kidnapped by terrorist organizations helpless, broken, pleading…
Over the years, it did not get any better; it only came closer to home. The “I could have been walking up that street with a hangover” kind of close. Saturday morning on March 19th around 11am, that’s all I could think of when I saw on the news that a “live bomb” went off on Istiklal Street leaving 4 dead and 36 wounded. We were lucky because it could have been a lot more if it went off during the busy hours of the area, and the bomber didn’t let it go off early “by mistake,” according to rumors. Watching the news in horror was followed up by calling friends and family in a panic to make sure they were okay. Even if somebody is on your speed-dial, this is way too stressful in itself because trying to call someone after a bomb explosion is like trying to find a cab in the city in heavy rain: it doesn’t work when you really need it to.
Thankfully, everyone I know is alive, but not knowing how much longer we will be is why I’m working from home today. Government officials keep saying they will not let terrorism become “normalized” and not let their citizens “get used to it,” but you know what? Terrorist attacks have already become a part of our daily life and they cannot even assure our protection, our basic right to not die. Right now, even when I go to the grocery store I realize people are checking one another out, staring at one another’s shopping bags, jumping if someone puts their hand in their pocket for their keys, leaving big spaces in between the other person when they’re waiting for the traffic light to turn green. At this point, we are all Usual Suspects: you never know when someone purchasing gum in the next aisle might explode.
They got what they wanted: We are scared shitless
What this kind of environment does to a person is that you get scared, “pee-in-your-pants-with-every-little-sound” kind of scared like when you watch a horror movie before bed and have to sleep with the lights on. Last time I got on the bus to cross the Bosporus Bridge to work, a live bomb had gone off in the city of Ankara the day before, leaving at least 34 dead. At my third stop, this old, regular-Joe looking man got on and set his black duffle bag right at my feet. You know, the kind they carry big guns in in the movies… I started shaking quite a bit, telling myself, “Not going to die today. Not going to die today. Not going to die today.” Just as I was evening out my breathing, I saw him make a move to put his hand in his coat, and my mind directly said, “he is clicking the button now; goodbye, cruel world.”
As is evident from my writing this, I did not die that day because it turned out it was only that his balls were itchy and needed a good scratching. Normally, when someone does that and I saw that we were holding onto the same post on the bus, I would move away to a different spot and sanitize my hands endlessly. Yet, that day, I was just glad that he did not explode.
As my grandmother says, there is no set time or way when it comes to death. If I died in an accident, that would be okay. If I decided to try bungee jumping one day and died of a heart attack due to my fear of heights, that would be okay. If our building toppled over in an earthquake and I died in it or due to an illness or for no reason, suddenly, those would be okay as well. It is the balance in the world and nature’s way or whatever. But dying in the unnecessary fight for power between greedy men would suck.
You can find more of Simay's excellent work right HERE. Please feel free to comment, share and reach out to either myself or directly to Simay on this subject or any other!