Turkish scent at certain accidents

Turkish scent at certain accidents

BELGİN AKALTAN - belgin.akaltan@hdn.com.tr
Turkish scent at certain accidents This is a delicate subject. Even though it has been on my mind for a long time, I have no evidence; nothing to prove it is right or wrong. It is only an assumption.

Also, I am still at home recovering from my operation – which by the way is going well (the recovery) – a situation that makes me homebound, away from the newsroom, the flow of news, ideas of colleagues, my notes, my clippings, my desktop at the office.

Last Saturday (March 15), a tragic accident happened at Istanbul’s Sirkeci ferry port when a car fell into the sea with four people inside, killing the 5-year-old lovely looking child Ece Su Yılmaz. The car, driven by Ece’s mother, was the last one signaled to board the ferry when the ship moved too soon before closing its hatchway properly, dropping the vehicle into the water.

This accident made me think over and over again about similar accidents. Because I am at home and my notes are back in the office, I don’t have a list here. And this is only an ill-natured, evil assumption of mine, with no evidence.  

My assumption is these kinds of accidents are not accidents; they are those incidents that could have been prevented at the last split second by the instinctive, rapid, humane, clever movement of the captain, the operator, a shipman, or the train conductor, whoever has that power at that moment. It is the instant when the person in control decides or just instinctively opts for that human side. How can I explain this better? This phenomenon is in the description when experts were saying about 9/11, that no “Western trained” pilot would do it; that it should have been the terrorists flying the planes right into buildings full of people. A Western trained pilot would either calculate in his head that he is about to die and why not save the people and sacrifice himself or he would just instinctively save the lives of people.

I am saying this last minute effort to avoid the accident was missing in this incident. I am wondering whether it was because the driver of the car was a female. Maybe, if the driver was male and looked like a relative of the captain, if he looked like someone from his hometown, maybe the car would not have fallen into the water. Maybe, if there were some headscarf-wearing females in the vehicle, the accident would not have happened. There would have been a last minute maneuver by the captain or whoever could have prevented the accident and the life of the poor child could have been saved.

Why am I so “high” and sound so tough and so inhuman? Let me tell you an anecdote of an Istanbul inner city ferry captain who died a long time ago: He told us he was setting off from the port of one the Prince’s Islands when he heard people scream. One person had fallen into the sea. Then, either from the name being called or maybe because of the language being used, he knew the victim was a minority. The captain recalled that people around him - who must be his colleagues or - I don’t know - some people among the passengers were shouting “crush the boy, kill him” because he was a minority. I am quoting the captain’s words, “Why should I kill a human being because he is a minority? Of course I turned the ship around and saved him.”

Yes, I know you need a few minutes to stomach this much cruelty. I still cannot comprehend the mentality behind this. I was a child when I heard this anecdote. I am so glad the captain lived long enough to tell his story. But this incident always comes to my mind when I read about a tramway accident when the car hit and killed three high-school girls. (As I told you my notes are not with me to give you date and place.) Whenever I read such a tragic incident or a similar one, a voice inside me swears to God that if these high school girls were wearing headscarves instead of miniskirts they would have been saved by the last minute effort of the conductor.

Which reminds me of the incident when an İETT bus drove right on to me full speed at Kadıköy on a rainy day while I was crossing the street on a pedestrian crossing. If I had not stepped back at the last minute I would have been crippled for life. I went to the central station to find him and complain about him. He was totally astonished that a woman he was trying to “teach a lesson to” was after him standing up for her rights. That was a long time ago and I think I made him apologize. And I wanted to make him think how he would have felt if he had made me crippled for life just because he deliberately did not pull on the brakes at a pedestrian crossing. I don’t think he understood. He was talking about how hard it is to stop a huge vehicle, like a bus, especially on a rainy day. We are talking about a pedestrian crossing, by the way. He did apologize, but that was just to avoid trouble. His supervisor was not any different from him.

This is the mentality governing Turkey right now. It is brutal, it is discriminatory; it is full of hate. It does not want the other segment to survive. And Turks have an everlasting authority problem. Any tiny bit of authority given to any Turk is utterly abused, to an extreme extent. This abuse is much more easily done to women, minorities, gays, maybe young people, students, of course prisoners, private soldiers; well, pedestrians if you are driving a vehicle.  

These are all assumptions. This is an assumption that if vulgarism is so widespread, then these kinds of preventable accidents tend to rise. This is that split second that tests your humanity, whether you will opt for the side of brutality or the side of common sense.

This is a presumption I have drawn knowing this society very well. You may think it is the extension of hate speech, but it is not. I’m not accusing anybody or pointing at anybody. I am only saying this is the natural course of events when so much hate is planted in society. It either comes out as police brutality or captain, driver, conductor, operator