Selected sentences from 2015

Selected sentences from 2015

Belgin Akaltan -
Selected sentences from 2015

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When I look back at 2015, I particularly remember a number of incidents. 

In 2015, it was a summer evening when about 200 people attacked daily Hürriyet headquarters, our office in Istanbul’s Bağcılar district. The mob was chanting “God is great” and threatened to turn the place into “Madımak,” referring to the horrible incident in 1993 when a crazed crowd of radical Islamists burned 35 people to death inside the Madımak Hotel in the Central Anatolian city of Sivas.

The mob that attacked our offices smashed windows, broke doors and came back two evenings later. I called them “nocturnal” people in that week’s column: “I don’t want to be engaged in trying to explain to ‘nocturnal’ people again and again that there is another option: Daylight. Or that there are proven universal rights and wrongs that we don’t need to discover again...”  

I also remember baby Aylan, his lesser known brother Galip, and their mother Zahim Kurdi. It was Sept. 2 when their bodies washed up on the shore of the Akyarlar beach in Turkey’s Bodrum district, after the entire family attempted to migrate to Europe via a Greek Island. I wrote after the incident: “Turkey is a beautiful country. The Akyarlar beach, where the tiny body of a Syrian toddler washed up on the other day, is one of the most beautiful places in this country.” On the same afternoon that the Syrian mother and two toddlers died, a three-year-old holidaymaker was seen playfully digging holes in the sand near where Aylan’s body was found, I also wrote. 

Right at the beginning of 2015, on the first day of the year, Turkey’s health minister said motherhood should be the only career for women. I wrote in my first column of 2015: “Motherhood is a wonderful career. It involves a lot of sh*t but I guess all careers have their positive and negative sides. To start your career as a mother, you must first have unprotected sex...” 

Again in January there was the Charlie Hedbo attack in Paris on Jan. 7. That week I wrote a piece titled “We are like the cop shot on the pavement,” referring to our “in between” status: Caught between being Muslim and witnessing the acts of extremist Islamists. As I wrote: “We, modern Muslims, are like the French police officer Ahmed Merabet, trying to say something before dying, believing in the combination of our faith and our modernism, but unable to escape our fate of being shot in the head.”  

Then there was the June election, which I guess was the only couple of weeks of happiness for certain Turkish people. The theme of my column the week after was summed up by the headline: “We can’t stop smiling.” But this sentiment ended pretty quickly, making us feel sorry for ever feeling so good.

Months before, there was the brutal murder of university student Özgecan by a minibus driver on Feb. 11. Later, there was the hajj disaster on Sept. 24, when more than 750 pilgrims in Mecca died. There was the Suruç blast on July 20, killing more than 30 young activists. 

In October, the Nobel Chemistry Prize was shared by a Turkish-American scientist Professor Aziz Sancar. We were happy again. But then, only a few days later, the Ankara suicide blast happened, killing more than 100 peace demonstrators on Oct. 10. Apparently, happiness was too much for us in 2015. 

Stories from the survivors of the Ankara attack and first hand witnesses included the following impression: “Everywhere there was the smell of ‘mangal’ (barbecue), the smell of burning flesh, burning people. There were brains, blood and hearts physically on the ground.”  

On Nov. 17, more than 130 people died in the terrorist attack in Paris. Four days later, in a newly-built stadium in Istanbul, in Başakşehir, the moment of silence for the Paris victims was disrupted by whistles from the crowd. Oh, the shame of living in the same country as those who cannot even respect the pain of others... 

Then there was the 17-second airspace violation on Nov. 24 that resulted in the shooting down of the Russian jet. I wrote: “Rest in peace, dear Russian pilot… Dear Lieutenant Colonel Oleg Peshkov, I bow before your memory. It will not be long before we name parks and streets after you…” 

The main theme of 2015 seems to have been radical Islam and our “caught in between” status. As recurring themes we also see hatred of women, the politicizing of hatred of women, attempts to downsize the status of women in Turkish society, and the increasing violence against Turkish women.  

So that is this week’s piece… Move along… Let’s all try to do better in 2016…