‘It was the worst day of my life’

‘It was the worst day of my life’

BELGİN AKALTAN - belgin.akaltan@hdn.com.tr
‘It was the worst day of my life’ This is my service for my non-Turkish-speaking readers. This Facebook message of a witness to the death of Uğur Kurt has been circulating on social media. Our fraternal paper daily Radikal printed it, but here I have translated it into English.

Because it is in Turkish, you may have missed it. Uğur Kurt was shot dead in the courtyard of a cemevi, the house of worship for Alevis, while he was attending a funeral, most probably with a police bullet. (As I was writing this, it was confirmed that the bullet came from a police weapon.) There are many witnesses who saw police officer(s) shooting at the cemevi, and there are video recordings of the incident.

I only have space for the Facebook message. After reading this, maybe you will have a better understanding of why people, young and old, take to the streets in Turkey. And why there is so much hatred around here…

Dr. Hülya Hürmet Özcan wrote this on her Facebook account:

“It was the worst day of my life yesterday (May 22, 2014). My 80-year-old mother, Esma Ceylan, an Alzheimer’s patient, who was in a coma for the past week, died at around 6 in the morning. According to my mother’s wishes, I and my sisters went to the Okmeydanı Cemevi to carry out the procedures for the funeral, the place where my father’s funeral had been held. We were sad; we had lost our mother.

“We were at the cemevi at around 9 in the morning. With the help of cemevi officials, an SMS about my mother’s passing was sent to the members of the association of Sivas Province, Hafik district, Üzeyir village, which was my mother’s village.

“We were planning for the funeral prayers to take place at 2 p.m. in the afternoon and proceed to the cemetery after that. We started gathering and sitting in the courtyard of the cemevi with 20 to 30 friends, relatives and acquaintances at around 11:30.

A nice-looking, young man approached us and shook my sister’s hand first then came up to me and said, “Abla [‘Abla’ means older sister in direct translation but is also a word of respect for a female not necessarily older than you, mostly among people of rural background], they told me you are the family of the deceased. I am also from Üzeyir Village. Please accept my condolences to you and your family.

“I was thinking about what a polite and nice young man he was. It was only one minute or so after this, that two demonstrators with their faces covered with scarves ran down outside along the walls of the cemevi which is situated on a narrow, steep street. All the funeral congregation, all of us looked in that direction and gun shots – ‘ta ta ta ta ta ta’ – were heard from up the street. Just one magazine. A rhythmic eight or nine shots…

“It sounded like the firecrackers I remember from my childhood. We were all frozen at the first moment. What could it have been anyway? We were all gathered in the courtyard of a place of worship waiting for our funeral. I was surrounded by all my relatives and with people I know…

“A few seconds later, I saw everybody running inside and a young person lying on the ground. I heard voices saying, ‘Someone’s been shot.’ My older sister, my abla, who is a nurse, was first to attend the young person at his side. She had taken off her jacket and was cushioning the bleeding neck of the young person. Blood was flowing from his mouth.

“We tried to put him in the correct position with a professional reflex. I could not take his pulse nor observe any breathing.

“The poor guy’s eyes and look were frozen, his pupils were already enlarged. Because blood was pouring continuously from his mouth, I could not even turn him on his back and perform CPR.
“As a doctor of 20 years who has treated people between life and death hundreds and thousands of times, I could not do anything. Anyway, two minutes later, a gas capsule fell right next to our feet. We took our elderly and others and went inside the cemevi.”

Writer’s note: Take a break here. I did. I needed one.

“The young man was left behind on the cold cement floor of the yard in the middle of a blood bath. The son of a mother, the husband of a young woman, the father of a 2-year-old baby, that young lean nice man, after shaking my hand and saying, ‘Abla, my condolences to you,’ two minutes after that, he was all alone on the cement floor in the middle of his own blood.

“When the tear gas dispersed a bit, we went back to his side but there was nothing we could do for this poor young man whose light of life snuffed out the moment the bullet hit him. Then, the next two hours – a time frame worse than the worst nightmare… The ambulance came 15 minutes later and took the young man. A crowd started gathering in front of the cemevi, everyone who saw or heard the incident were quite justly in unrestrained fury. I tried to collect all my loved ones, the elderly and the young, with the fear that the police might fire again at any minute.

“The two hours passed in a hurry until we took my mother’s body and got out of there. We performed my mother’s funeral prayers on a narrow street on the way to the Feriköy Cemetery and buried my mother.

“I will never forget May 22, 2014 until the end of my life. I have seen thousands of deaths. No other person, nobody has died as innocently and as without reason as Uğur Kurt. The image of that young man who just came to convey his condolences and fell on the cement floor two minutes later will haunt me for as long as I live.

“I hope those, just for the sake of chasing demonstrators, those who fire on people, especially on people waiting inside a house of worship, those who hide the ones who fire, who protect them, who excuse them, who make up pretexts …”

Next Tuesday, the prime minister referred to Uğur Kurt’s death while speaking at the Parliament, saying three times, “Maalesef… Maalesef… Maalesef…” Which means unfortunately; well, the adjective I would use would not be “unfortunate.”

Oh, I don’t know... I think we are running out of solutions… I am asking the United States and the EU, which contributed to the rise of this bus ticket seller. You always have your own ways, please do something…