A Syrian kid and three Turkish kids

A Syrian kid and three Turkish kids

BELGİN AKALTAN - belgin.akaltan@hdn.com.tr
A Syrian kid and three Turkish kids I took this picture the other day when I missed the company shuttle and was trying to make my way to the office on a late morning, after rush hour. 

I was crossing a footbridge - now a classic for Istanbul - to hop on a metrobus, which has also become an Istanbul classic with its own rituals as a mass transportation system. These include waiting at the correct place across from the imaginary doors of the approaching vehicle, making strategic plans on how to get a seat - a friend dropped her shoe while trying to elbow her way to a seat - with all kinds of people, fights, arguments, with its official discrimination against women not wearing headscarves and last but not the least its peculiar smell - I would not say body odor, or human odor or the incredibly natural aroma of sweat and armpit, but this clean aroma of Istanbul folks who are known to take extreme care of their personal hygiene, the flower-blended sweet metrobus passenger smell - another classic of Istanbul summers now. 

Where were we? Yes, I was on my way to a metrobus stop when I saw this scene. There was a Turkish family, or maybe Kurdish, one cannot know. When I say “Turkish” what I mean is a resident family, who lives in Turkey, a local family (it’s interesting where we have landed in terms of Turkish and Kurdish). A mother with three small children stopped in the middle of the footbridge because the mother was fixing the shoelaces of her smallest one. Right across from them was again a small kid sitting on the ground selling Kleenex, what we call “Selpak” here. He could just as well have been offering to weigh people with a digital scale in front of him or could have been just plain begging. 

The three “family” kids were staring at what I am guessing was a Syrian child trying to sell tissues in the heat of July in Istanbul, again an everyday scene in Istanbul. Probably his family had to escape to Turkey and became refugees because of reasons he is unable to comprehend (as if we are all clear on that), because of the terribly wrong decisions of politicians. In the eyes of the local family, well-raised and well-dressed kids, was bewilderment. I know and remember that look. It was the look in the eyes of my little son when he saw a street boy of his age in the Kadıköy district of Istanbul for the first time (now, he is about to become one if he doesn’t find a job and start work immediately). 

The same shock, the same confusion… It is an age when “our” children are not allowed to walk alone in busy streets without adult supervision and they see another kid of their age practically living on the street, making a living there, talking to strangers, and  SITTING ON THE GROUND - which is incomprehensible. That is quite a shock for the children and you can see it in their expressions. 

Whatever you have taught your children, however, you have prepared them for life; this is the moment of truth. You need new explanations and viewpoints. This is the moment they step out of their “child” zones. 
Well these three kids had this look like “What is happening? Doesn’t this child have a mother? Why does he act so? Why? What? Who? Why again? Mom…” 

The Syrian kid, again I am guessing Syrian but please don’t think this is racist or anything, this is just realistic or just a tool to describe the situation in Turkey now… He could just as well have been a gypsy kid, or even a Turkish or Kurdish kid from a poor family, from dysfunctional, separated parents, trying to make a living on the streets, being exploited by adults…  

The Selpak selling kid was also confused. He was staring back at the well-taken-care-of kids about his own age, probably surprised they had a mother beside them. 

I walked past them and then challenged myself whether I would act quick enough to capture the moment. I did. But the mother noticed. Sorry, ma’am. I don’t really want to disturb you and your children or your family’s privacy. You seem like a very nice family. You have clean, well-dressed children, well taken care of. I was only interested in the scene. And the street vendor kid, apologies to you also, for taking your picture but really, it is only for picturing purposes. I know there are thousands of you out there on the streets of Turkey, from Syria or not. 

There is no end to this story. One doctor posted on Facebook how child diseases that were not seen in Turkey for decades because of successful health programs have come back because of unregistered and unvaccinated Syrian refugee children uncontrollably crossing the border. 

It is proof you cannot have “isolated happiness” or “secluded welfare;” it has to be a collective one. If your neighbor is unhappy or poor, you cannot be happy. This is one of the basic and forgotten principles of Islam and pardon me for being bizarrely religious on this holy day of Şeker Bayramı (Sugar Festival), the second day of Eid el-fitr. It suits. 

As a matter of fact, Greece has learned, after decades of obstructing every move by Turkey in the EU, they noticed or maybe they were made to notice by the Europeans that a better off Turkey would actually mean a better off Greece. This was their hard way of learning that being an enemy to your neighbor does you no good. 

We have to learn that a good Iran, a good Iraq, a good Syria and a good Armenia are good for Turkey. Otherwise, their misery strikes back at you in the form of long-forgotten pediatric microbes in the bodies of unvaccinated children crossing the border.