Republic of Turkish violence
BELGİN AKALTAN - firstname.lastname@example.orgYou know I don’t like to talk about myself and what has happened to me. Nor do I ever give examples from my own life. I generally write serious political articles, sociological analyses and macroeconomic projections to the future; you know, heavy stuff… This week I will make a change and tell you about the meaningless attack I suffered last week.
I live in a relatively upscale, new housing complex in a very poor neighborhood of Istanbul. Gypsies used to live here before these semi-posh tall buildings were built. Or shall I call them Roma, to be politically correct? It used to be a Roma neighborhood. Now, we live there.
Many journalists and media professionals live here, as well as all kinds of people from all walks of life. Newlyweds, young couples with kids, grandparents looking after kids… We have been living there for three years. We moved here to be close to my office, leaving our neighborhood on the Asian side of Istanbul. (We will go back.)
I say “we,” but I practically live alone. My husband works overseas so he is mostly abroad; my son moved out a few years ago… I don’t even have a cat. I foster some sick animals for a charity from time to time…
A woman living alone makes a good target for potential aggressors, here, in this part of the world at this time of history, believe it or not… Regardless of her age, a woman living alone - it doesn’t matter if she has a husband or a son - is a threat to both men and women nearby. Men hate her because she sets a bad example for their wives; women hate her because they cannot have what she has, things like freedom, less housework, mobility and full independence. This may sound like an exaggeration, but try and see.
Well, I was attacked by my upstairs neighbors on a Sunday morning.
The people living upstairs are a loud family; they shout at their kids, the kids cry, they shout at each other, they quarrel loudly, they bang, hammer, repair at all hours. The woman has phoned me a few times asking if they bother me with all the noise they were making. Then she started phoning me asking me if it was me who complained about them, in a threatening tone. I don’t know her, but I know her shrill voice very well because she starts shouting at 9 in the morning and does not stop until midnight. Her husband shouts back at her. And the kids cry – which can all be considered all very normal; people have different lifestyles…
I can explain the extent of their loudness as such: The plaster on my ceiling is falling down because of the jumping, banging, bouncing, skipping rope and football playing that is happening right above my living space. We have a huge garden with sports facilities, and all the kids play outside. But this family prefers to use the living-room as a court, right above where I watch television.
Anyway, there was again a lot of noise, some kind of a repair - banging on the pipes kind - on a Sunday morning, which is absolutely banned according to our internal regulations. They were changing the radiators, I learned later. Anyway, some other people living in the building banged on the walls and pipes to warn them. They stopped. But a few minutes later, my door rang. The mother with one of the toddlers was at my door. This was the first time and actually – hopefully - the last time I have seen this woman face to face. She said they had some kind of repair to do and would I allow them to do it? I told her that it was Sunday morning and it wasn’t up to me. Also, it was not me anyway who was banging for them to stop. I think it was then that she started shouting. It was a Sunday morning and a woman I don’t know starts shouting at my door. I closed my door. She kept on shouting. I told her to go away. She continued shouting, at the other side of my door, on a Sunday morning. I told her to go away a few more times. The toddler started crying. Actually the usual, regular everyday voices in my place. She left.
Then, only a few more minutes later, my door rang again. There was a crowd, banging on my door, shouting, forcing and hitting my door. The door started moving from its place. I was horrified and was very quick in locking all the locks but the push and banging were so hard on the other side of the door that I thought the door would break. (It is a solid, metal door.) I phoned security.
Other dwellers in my floor came out because of the noise, one young couple - my next door neighbors (Thank you Suna and Ersin) stopped the attackers, who happened to be the parents, the brother, and the husband of the woman. I phoned security again. Then security called me back and asked me if I wanted them to come up. I told them, “If you wish…”
At that time, I opened the door, everybody was in a shock. Nobody was expecting such a thing.
Security came. There were marks, scratches on my door. There was also a shoe print…
Anyway, security said they could only call the police on my behalf. No, thanks, I can call the police myself…
Calling the police would have just multiplied the scale of events; I didn’t call them. (I know, my international readers would have difficulty understanding this. My Turkish readers know what I’m talking about. The Turkish police don’t solve issues.)
What will I do? I will move. I just cannot deal with such people.
I believe this is the result of the culture of impunity. If a leader steals, hides the money, slaps and swears at citizens and is still popular; if an advisor can kick a person and get away with it, if police can shoot and kill a 14-year-old boy and get away with it, if at least three husbands kill their wives every single day, if women in the southeast are forced to commit suicide and the perpetrators get away with it, if rape is the fault of the women, if a terror organization starts ruling across your border, if your foreign policy is based on principles of Kasımpaşa street gangs, then of course people will be able to attack a neighbor and get away with it… It is the culture of violence at its best.
This is a genuine Istanbul story.