BELGİN AKALTAN – [email protected]
She is like the story of this land. I have always and always felt sorry for her; from day one. I think this nation owes her and her family an apology. I think she is the victim of being born in Turkey.
How? Here is how: Nobody even remembers her name now. She lost her life together with her parents in the major earthquake that struck Western Turkey on Aug. 17, 1999. She was only 24 years old.
How did Turkey get to know her? We heard her name, Esra Elbirlik, when the popular football player, Hakan Şükür, who was more or less a national hero those days, fell in love with her. It was one-way love. The year was 1994.
Esra was 19-20 years old. She was a graduate of Kadıköy Anadolu High School, an esteemed high school where only top scorers in central exams can enroll. She was a second year student at the Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry at Istanbul University. I think Hakan Şükür was a dropout, after primary school.
Esra was a pretty, smiling young intelligent woman with a good future ahead of her and I’m sure she was quite happy. Yet, all that changed when the whole nation stepped in to ruin her life so that the country’s spoilt son Hakan Şükür could be content.
Anyway Hakan Şükür was transferred to an Italian team, Torino, at that time. He immediately became homesick. He wanted to eat a kebab. I remember one time when several batches of Turkish food had been sent to him by air. And he probably also wanted a wife.
He was like our football ambassador in a European country, so he had to play well, be in good condition and be the pride of the nation. It was as if it was the entire nation’s duty to make him comfortable.
Then the love story erupted. Hakan Şükür was so much in love with Esra that he could not concentrate on his football. Esra and Hakan were friends from Yalova, having met when retreating for the summer to their holiday houses. For me, she was way out of his league.
Esra was very young and she was only a student. She and her family refused at first on the grounds that it was not the right time for her to be thinking about marriage. But how can you let down a national hero? The whole nation and the then Prime Minister Tansu Çiller even intervened. It was Tansu Çiller herself who got involved in persuading the family.
I think it is difficult to resist the pressures of the entire country and the prime minister personally. The 19-year-old girl and her family, of course, gave in.
Then the fake love story began with a lot of public attention. The Prime Minister and her husband joined the families. They became engaged. And then got married in a glossy wedding party in a luxury hotel where Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the mayor of Istanbul at the time (Oh yes, what glorious times) performed their
marriage ceremony. Fethullah Gülen, the leader of the Gülen movement, was Hakan Şükür’s witness, which roughly corresponds to being “the best man.”
This socially forced marriage, what some people on social media called a disproportionate use of force, lasted four months. Media commentary included references to that young, beautiful, intelligent girl’s life that was wasted because of a caprice of a man-child.
Esra left her husband, returning to her family. Hakan accused her of stealing jewelry and money from the house. Turkish tradition openly rules that the jewelry belongs to the wife. Isn’t it interesting how they bend and twist the perception of a tradition?
Esra kept her posture. She did not say a word. Hıncal Uluç, a writer for the daily Sabah whose commentary knows no bounds, started begging, “Hakan Şükür. Please shut up. Stop talking,” during their divorce. I think Tansu Çiller phoned him to say that it was appropriate that Esra keep the jewelry.
What went wrong? A better question would be what was ever right in this marriage? Hakan also said, “My wife Esra never loved me. She agreed to it as it was a marriage of convenience.” Really?
She went back to school and then we heard that she was involved in a traffic accident. She hit a pedestrian.
Then we heard she died in the 1999 earthquake together with her mother and father. What a sad,
sad life. How Turkey has treated this family is a good example of power, male dominancy, lack of appreciation, memory loss, double standards, bowing as to where the wind blows.
Hakan Şükür remarried and claims to be happy with his second wife. They have three kids.
His wife, Beyda Şükür, recently decided to cover her head with a headscarf.
Hakan Şükür was elected as an AKP Deputy for Istanbul on June 12, 2011. As social media asserts, he does not possess any outstanding political, social or cultural qualifications just as many of his fellow deputies don’t either.
This is just a segment of Turkish life. I always wonder as to the quality of our people in our country. What caliber are we?
I sometimes hear Esra say: Don’t cry for me, my dear Turkey.https://twitter.com/belginakaltan