Personal protection against terror
BELGİN AKALTAN - firstname.lastname@example.org
AA photoNot a nice subject, I know. With the renewed wave of terror all around the country, the least we can do, as ordinary mortals, is to take our own personal measures.
As a plain, commonplace, non-expert Turkish citizen who has lived through the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, I (and you in general) have accumulated more knowledge on terror than an ordinary western expert. I did not say that; a couple of international experts told me that.
As a resident of Turkey in these times, we have to be alert, watchful and extremely observant. Sad, but we are back to the days of the 1970s.
In the beginning of the terror wave, right after the Suruç massacre, on July 23, two traffic police officers were ambushed, shot and one of them killed while they responded to a (fake) accident call. Well, I’m just wondering, didn’t these poor officers or their supervisors read papers about recent incidents? Didn’t they know that one of those incidents following the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris involved the shooting down of traffic police after a fake call? This was the repetition of the same plot. I mean, would you not be alert about these kinds of ambushes?
What else do I remember as fatal personal mistakes against terror attacks? Our beloved colleague Uğur Mumcu died in 1993 when his car exploded. We learned later that as a precaution, he would always start his car a few minutes earlier, alone, while his family remained behind.
Now, this has been occupying my mind ever since. Obviously he received death threats, serious ones as to keep his family out of danger. Well then, if you can think of that, then maybe think of parking your car in a closed garage, or looking under your car for any suspicious wires, bombs, pipes, cables, or any kind of change (if he had looked under his car, he would have seen the bomb, experts said afterward). Or, I mean, man, don’t use your car. Sell your car and take a taxi. Park it in different locations.
Also, Professor Bahriye Üçok; she opened a package on Oct. 6, 1990, in Ankara thinking it was books.
However, she went outside to the entrance of her building and opened the package. It exploded and she was heavily wounded, dying in hospital a few hours later. Well, again, if you know well enough to remove the package outside your home to protect your family, then for god’s sake do not open the package. What package can ever be more important than your life?
You got it. If you receive threats, if you are a policemen or a member of the military working in the southeast or in certain neighborhoods in Istanbul, if your nationality sounds hostile to some ears, then be careful. Who am I to give military advice but logic tells us certain things. Lock your doors. Do not open packages. Change your routine. Do not take the same road at the same time every day. Do not have a routine.
When you are outside, look around. LOOK AROUND. If you see an unattended package or suitcase, you must alert security. If we see a placard hanging from a footbridge with a weight tied to it, call the police. Do not go near vehicles that look suspicious, which may be a dusty, unwashed, unused van, maybe with black windows, without a license plate…
Well, be alert and use your common sense at all times. If something looks suspicious, it probably is. If something scares you, it’s probably scary. Leave that place immediately. Listen to your instincts.
If you park your car and need to leave your keys, only leave your car keys, not the home and office keys attached to it.
If you receive threats, do something about it, take them seriously. It is not time for showing off. Peace is a thorny process as you can all see. It has its ups and downs. It has its breakaway groups. It has its saboteurs. Those who believe in peace, that is all of us, we should be resilient.
Do not go into dark streets or if you need to go to your car in a dark parking lot, look around, take somebody with you. Run to your car. If you are afraid to do something, do not do it.
Act and dress like the locals when you are in a town or a country you do not know well.
What else? Do not sit by the window. Sad, but true.
Call a taxi from a taxi company; don’t just jump in the first taxi you see on the street. In Istanbul, taxi company names are written on the side doors of cabs. Do not take a taxi with no company name on it. Just wait for the next one.
At least tell one person where you are going. Avoid walking past dark areas, parks at night, abandoned buildings, construction sites and under bridges. Do not argue with strangers; especially do not get into political debates.
Lock your car doors at all times. Keep them locked. This is sad but do not give a ride to strangers even if they look “safe.”
Before getting into your vehicle, check around for anything different or suspicious. Check other parked cars nearby and whoever is inside them.
Do not accept help offers in the case of an accident. Drive and walk on main roads, not secondary roads or dark ones. Do not wander in neighborhoods known to have a high crime rate.
No need to confront a drug addict. Don’t argue. Give him the money he wants.
Read the news, watch the news and listen to the news. Look into the details of daily police incidents. This will help you raise awareness and give you clues.
I don’t believe in this but keep a purse or key chain to use as a weapon while walking in the street.
First of all, do not be in a dangerous place but it you are in one - this is my own advice, not an expert one - if you see a hostile group approaching you, walk directly to them in confident steps (a security expert once told me “security is a feeling”). Don’t do it if you cannot do it properly.
Do not respond to accidents, fights, sick, unconscious or injured people on the street before observing. It might be fake.
This may be very hard in Turkey but do not let any stranger approach your child. This is also very hard in Turkey: reject all kinds of food or drink offers from strangers.
Look carefully at who is in a queue in front of and behind you; check their behavior when you are drawing cash from an ATM. Even if you are slightly suspicious, leave immediately.
Do not try to help people. The last stranger I talked to, a teenage girl who looked very innocent and was asking for an address, tried to steal my purse.
It all sounds paranoid, but it’s better to be paranoid than a victim.