F*ck Terrorism

Update:  There was little information in relation to the attack in Mersin as authorities had issued a media ban.

Further 11 suspects have been detained in connection with the attack. It was also revealed that it was suspected that the PKK, a terrorist group active in the country since 1980s, is the likely culprit.

The PKK resumed its armed campaign against the Turkish state in July 2015, unilaterally violating a cease-fire agreement. The organisation rose to prominence in the early 1980s in southeastern Turkey, which has a large Kurdish population.

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Yesterday afternoon a bomb exploded as a service bus carrying polis passed by here in Mersin.  Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ said 17 police officers and one local were wounded in the attack. He also added that it was a “terror attack”.

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The blast occurred on the main road which was full of commuters on their way home from work and children on their way home from school. It took place in the densely populated area of Yenisehir. I had friends on that road. I myself was with Daughter only a block away.

Of course, Daughter and I had no idea. I mean mysterious explosions happen in Mersin all the time anyway. The other night I was on my terrace and the loudest bang I had ever heard nearly blasted me out of my seat. No idea where it came from. No idea what it was. No one seemed perturbed and went about their business in the Village so ‘whatev’s’.

Whatev’s has been fine up until now. Now, for the first time, a terrorist attack has come within spitting distance of me, my family and my friends.

I have always felt safe here in Mersin.  There has always a very large polis presence on the streets and security at government buildings, shopping centres and community gatherings.   Roadblocks and licence checks are common (hell it happens to me all the time). In fact, you can rarely drive through the city without passing polis on main corners carrying big-ass guns and checking cars as they pass. On the news, we get regular updates on terrorism threats and the polis efforts in thwarting these attempts. Arrests. Crackdowns. And with Mersin’s polis force on the hunt, we have not suffered from any significant attacks. Until now.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the bombing although the initial word is that it is Kurdish militants who frequently target police vehicles and transports vans. I expect the polis investigators will be all over this and arrests will be made very soon.

My heart goes out to the 17 polis officers and one civilian that were injured in this attack.

This shit has got to stop.

To those of us living in Mersin and Türkiye – be vigilant guys.  Be aware of your surroundings.  If shit looks iffy its probably for good reason but my hope is that this was an isolated incident.  I also believe that security in Mersin will be even more heightened in response to the attack.

And my response to terrorism, we owe it to those injured in this attack and to all the other victims terrorism attacks around Türkiye and the world to not let the terrorist win by being terrorised.  That’s exactly the response they want.

Feck Terrorism!

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I am Ankara

On Sunday night a car bomb exploded in Turkey’s capital city of Ankara, killing 32 people and injuring more than 100.

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In February a car bomb exploded in Turkey’s capital city of Ankara, killing 28 and injuring more than 61.

Sound familiar?  Let’s keep going.

January 2016 – Istanbul 12 killed and 14 injured.

October 2015 – again in Ankara 102 killed and over 500 injured.

July 2015 – Suruç with 22 killed and 104 injured.

Enough yet?  Are you surprised by the numbers?

Maybe we should put a few faces to those that have lost their lives.

On the right is Deniz.  Deniz lost his life in the bombing in Ankara last October.  On the left is Ozancan who lost his life in the bombing on Sunday night.  Did they deserve to die at the hands of terrorists?

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This is Elif.  She was 19 years old and going to University.  Why must her family suffer for the belief of another?

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This is Mehmet Emre.  He was 16 when he died on Sunday night.  Why must his family shed tears for their son who was merely waiting for a bus?

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Sunday night’s attack was on a busy street, at a metro hub filled with people young and old enjoying the springtime evening weather.

I will not point fingers or give opinions on what is right and what is wrong with the world.  I will say merely this – no political, cultural, or religious belief is worth the lives of these kids.  Kids with dreams.  Lives with real meaning to those around them.  Families shattered.  Devastation.

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My New Motto

I am going to try and keep my posts nice and light for the next few weeks.  There is so much going on over here right now with protests, bombings, the parliamentary elections and the humanitarian crisis so rather than focus on the negative and start sprouting off about things that I cannot possibly fully understand I will move forth with this motto – “If I don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything at all”.

This will have a two-fold effect on my life (and my sanity).  I won’t get grey hairs (read that as more grey hairs) and also I won’t have the internet trolls pestering me anymore.

So watch out for my next uplifting post on unicorns, kittens, ridiculous happenings in the village or perhaps another expose on the Turkish moustache.  To give testament to my new motto I have included this photo of a kitten to give you a clear indication of what will be posted in the future – unfollow me now.  You have been warned.

 

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My Letter to Özgecan

I never had the pleasure of meeting you Özgecan.  I never had the chance to hear you laugh with your friends or sing along to your favorite tune.  No I did not know you at all but I know you now.  Your name will forever be etched into my heart and into the hearts of millions of others here in Turkey and around the world who woke on Valentine’s Day, the day of romance, to the sickening news of your death at the hands of a monster.  We are shocked beyond words hearing of your suffering and of knowing that the simple task of stepping on a bus is no longer safe here in Mersin.

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What happened to you happens to other women every day, all over the world.  Whether it is in New Delhi or Melbourne monsters can be found everywhere.  But with your death comes the news that tens of thousands of people are marching in cities all over Turkey angry for your pain and suffering.  They are angry that this has happened to you.  For too long women have not felt safe as they stand in their kitchen, walk down the street or even step onto a bus.  For too long society has looked the other way at certain behaviour but today it is time for Turkey to change and you are an important part of that change.  What happened to you Özgecan and the reactions of people here in Mersin and all around your beautiful country prove that they too want things to change.

I watched with tears of pride as your friends and family defied the imam as he told them to “let the men” carry your body.  Hayir.  They stood by you and helped you to your final resting place.  These women will never forget you Özgecan and they will stand up for you and yell your name with honour.

People no longer want to hear that women are secondary to men.  We no longer want to listen to politicians who outlandishly state that “violence against women is just about selective perception (thank you Fatma Şahin, AKP Family Minister)” or “equality between men and women is against nature” (thank you Recep Tayip Erdogan, President). No Özgecan we will no longer allow politicians to sprout nonsense that should be basic human rights.

Today people are calling for much needed change and, although you had to lose your life, I hope that the powers that be will realise that changes must be made to ensure that no one else must spend their last moments in fear at the hands of another.

Özgecan your soul is now soaring in the sunlight.  You have no more pain.  We will remember your name and we will remember you.

I am reminded of something Maya Angelou said, “History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again.”

Rest in peace Özgecan.

State of Alarm

Upfront – this is my personal opinion.  We all have them.

No doubt many of you are already aware that on Thursday the Australian Federal Police thwarted a terrorist plan by ISIS (now Islamic State) members to kidnap a random member of the public, drape them in the Islamic flag and behead him/her on camera.  Holy shit!  This is not Australia!  I cannot believe that this is even a possibility in Australia.

Since Thursday my social media (and for that matter Australian mainstream media) has exploded in anti-Muslim sentiment.  I feel I have to ask “what is happening to Australia as a nation”?

I always believed that Australia is the most tolerant country with the most tolerant citizens on earth.  Sure like all families we argue but then we have a beer and all is forgiven. Today I wonder if I am mistaken of our tolerance (Cronulla Australia Day riots aside).

Please remember not all Muslims are extremists!

Do we judge a religion by the actions of those who use and twist it’s meaning to support their extreme actions? If so where do we stop?

Shall we take the view that all Christians are evil given the findings of a Royal Commission into institutionalised child abuse? Or the deceit by Australian’s own Christian Prime Minister as common to all?

I agree wholeheartedly that people living in a country that is not their own (me included) should abide by the laws of that country and should conduct themselves in a manner that is acceptable to their adopted homeland. If you do not abide by the laws of your adopted homeland then your visa or your citizenship should be revoked and you removed from that country immediately.  Simple.

Islamic State is a growing concern to all around the world. In Turkey there is a very real concern that IS has infiltrated the country with 20+ car bombs and suicide bombers.  A very real concern by IS to attack, maim and murder Turkish Muslims. [Today’s Zaman]

Australia is a nation where we are all immigrants (other than our indigenous Aboriginals).  40 years ago it was the Wops, 20 years ago it was the Asians and today it is Muslim people who suffer from intolerance by a small minority of people.  According to the 2011 census, 476,291 people, or 2.2% of the total Australian population, were Muslims.  On Thursday 14 men were detained, not 476,291.

Where there is fear there is radical behaviour, by all of us.

Presidential Election

Today Turkey will be heavily featured in the international news for its historic first Presidential election.  For the first time ordinary people will decide on a post that is normally chosen by parliament.

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There are three contenders for this position.  Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu and Selahattin Demirtas.  Erdogan is, of course, the current Prime Minister of the country and will no doubt win this election today as well.  Why?  Well he is the face that people see every day in newspapers, on television.  The Turk said to me that for him Erdogan is the leader of a cult which has smothered democracy.  A rock star if you will.  He is adored by his followers and his smooth talking can turn even the most hardened head.  Erdogan has allowed religion and politics to mix and that’s not on in The Turk’s mind.  The other two contenders Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu and Selahattin Demirtas really do not have the power to pull in the numbers that Erdogan has.  Ihsanoglu was previously the leader of the International Islamic Organisation so really isn’t that well known here in Turkey.  Selahattin Demirtas is a young Kurdish hopeful but, as Turkey was at war with the minority Kurdish only a few years ago, the fact that he is running at all is a milestone for the country I think.

So what will happen from here?  Probably nothing.  Erdogan will move into the presidential position, one of his flunkies will move into the position of Prime Minister and life will go on.  His control will continue, his opinions will be flaunted (Israel and foreign interests) sometimes to the detriment of the country but for me as a yabanci living in Turkey I just hope that Turkey continues to be a safe home for me and my family.  We will see.

Absent Without Leave

I have been AWOL the last week or so.  There is no particular reason, I have just been busy with life and better to be busy than bored I think.

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There has been a lot going on both in Mersin itself and with my life.

In Mersin local elections took place on 30 March and they were hotly contested.  CHP won in the Village but Mersin itself was won by MHP.  It seems, however, that there was one box of votes that were not counted and the shit royally hit the fan yesterday with CHP believing that they in fact should have won.  There were protests and some localised rioting (The Turk wouldn’t let me out of the house) and a recount of the votes was to take place today.  My sister in law is in the Council and a member of CHP so she is hopeful that the count will reinstate her and her and her party CHP to power.  Incidentally Erdogan’s AK Party pretty much cleaned up in most other areas and in fact increased its share throughout the country.  I am surprised at the increase in popularity taking into consideration the corruption scandals that were dogging him over the past few months along with the recent passing of Berkin Elvan in Istanbul.  No official results have yet been announced, but the tally published by Turkish media put the AK Party on around 44% of the nationwide vote to 26-28% for CHP.

Personally The Turk’s aunt passed away last Saturday.  She was my mother-in-law’s older sister and another example of just how wonderful and kind Turkish women can be.  I have also been to a wedding (which had a yikes factor of 7), took Daughter to the dentist (which had a yikes factor of 10 and a never again) and took myself off to the hairdresser which took 4 hours and two attempts before I finally walked out of the salon.  No I am not satisfied – I am blonde.  Well blonde-ish anyway.   The trip to the hairdresser had a yikes factor of 6 but I’m upping it to an 8 because I am still not happy.  Funnily enough, my sisters in law all love it and asked me why I didnt go blonder!!??

All in all a very busy week and leaving me little time to sit down and reflect on my thoughts.

 

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WTF is going on with Turkey?

Twitter is gone.  YouTube is gone.  I am wondering how many more posts I will be able to get out before the death sentence is handed down on all social media applications.  Facebook?  Definitely.  Google?  Probably.  WordPress?  It has been blocked before so no doubt it will happen again.  Why not just close down the internet?  Even as I type this I realise that this is no doubt something that the Turkish Government has considered.

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I have had a lot of emails and messages from friends and family worried about our welfare.  I do not know what the news channels are telling you back home but Turkey is perfectly safe right now.  Mersin is safe and we are still safe.

Will it be safe tomorrow?

I just don’t know.  Council elections are expected to go ahead on Sunday and I think the outcome of those elections will bring much of what is going on here in Turkey to a head.

Also if you are interested in a little conspiracy theory with your breakfast go ahead and Google “Tomb of Suleyman Shah”.  This should keep you occupied while you are eating your Corn Flakes. 

So what do we do?

Get on with daily life.  School, home, friends, family. 

My thoughts?

Better to keep my trap shut!

We are watching history here folks.  The destruction of a country that has been blessed with so much but thanks to the corruption of a few I expect many more lives will be put in peril.  

Right now I can still blog.  I can still get onto Facebook.  My emails are working.  I will continue to update the blog over the coming days so keep checking back for updates.  

Contradictions (and a bit of a recap)

I wrote this a little over a week ago but due to some personal issues with my father in law as well as the current tensions in Turkey I felt it more appropriate to not post this at that time.  Turkey is in upheaval, yet again, and although tension is high I feel completely safe here in Mersin although there have been recent protests.  With elections looming all parties are throwing heated comments at each other and with the recent death of 15 year old Berkin Elvan it has become a travesty to bear witness to.

Officially it has been six months since we uprooted our lives and moved to Mersin.  Since I first met The Turk we would fantasise about moving to Turkey, whether it is for one year or forever but that fantasy was always put on the backburner as real life would interfere with our dream.  When my beautiful Dad passed away from that evil bastard that is cancer the dream of moving to Turkey was put back on the table but this time it was Daughter’s idea.  Having just lost her Granddad she wanted to spend as much time as possible with her other grandparents before they were taken from her too.  Her thoughts were, understandably, a little morbid but on reflection perfectly timed and we were all grateful to have had time with her grandmother, my mother in law, before she passed away in January.

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As an expat Turkey is a country of contradictions.  We live in a luxurious apartment with every modern convenience (just don’t mention toilet paper to me) but right next door my sister in law and her family make their bread over an open flame. Contradictions.

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We shop at Zara and TopShop, we get our coffee from Starbucks and we eat in nice restaurants.  We are surrounded by all our electronics to make life easier too from flat screen televisions, iPods and iPads meanwhile from my balcony I can watch the local women working on the farm across the lane for 30TL a day or witness children begging in the streets.  Contradictions.

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I smile at the faces of people around me.  These people are my family now but there are times I want to throw a brick at the shopkeepers who are so unhelpful as I am a yabanci or to the strangers who watch me as I walk by in my western clothes.  Yes I wear jeans and a t-shirt; no I am not a whore.  No I do not wear a head scarf; yes I have the utmost respect for your religion although I wonder do you have any respect for mine?  Before you ask, no I do not want to pay twice as much because I am a yabanci and just for the record I am not your ATM machine.  Contradictions.

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Adjustments were made by all of us over the past six months.  I think I have had it the easiest (well if you put aside the fact that I had no Turkish and now six months later I have little Turkish).  I had no expectations.  I know that things will not work the way that they did in Sydney and I was ready to accept this although I do get mighty peeved when the rubbish internet dies.  I think it has been The Turk who has had the most difficulty in adjusting – or should I say re-adjusting – to life in Turkey.  Having had the luxury of living in Sydney with its first world conveniences the littlest molehill can quickly escalate to the largest mountain.  I cannot tell you the number of times The Turk has said he wants to go back “home” to Sydney.  I guarantee before this day is over I will hear it yet again.  Cry me a river mate.

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Daughter is very content.  She has made some good friends, she has quickly learnt conversational Turkish (although apparently has a funny accent).  She is getting by at school and although she now has a nemesis she considers this means she is truly accepted by her class mates.  Her adjustments were mostly first world problems too.  Disappointments when things don’t go according to plan and realising just how damn lucky she is compared to so many.  Contradictions.

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Last Friday I had to return to the Emniyet yet again but I won’t bore you with that story today.  Anyway, while we were waiting to be interviewed I watched group after group of Syrian refugees lining up to speak to officials, to update their living arrangements or to ask for assistance.  I was shocked by the sheer volume of refugees coming through the door but The Turk has little sympathy for them.  I recently watched on the haber that there have been a few instances of racism against refugees in Turkey with most of Turkish society considering the refugees “temporary” in that they will return to their own country in due course.  There are in fact a few Syrian families that have settled into the village however The Turk does not interact with them in any way.  Recently a Syrian mother came to our door asking for a small donation and The Turk sent her on her way without a kurus.  Why?  What’s a few lira?  “If you give them an inch they will take a mile”.  His behaviour completely floored me firstly because he used one of my mother’s favourite sayings (a saying I have used on Daughter many, many times) and secondly because usually The Turk is the most generous person I know.  Contradictions.

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Turkey can be, and should be, extremely confronting, full of contradictions.  I have difficulties in accepting these contradictions at times and I guess this is a good thing.  I should never accept these differences.  I should ensure that Daughter never accepts these differences because once you have acceptance then you will never help change what is to come.

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Don’t you dare Mr Erdogan

In February the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan put to vote (and was subsequently passed) a law that would enable the Turkish Telecommunications Directorate to block websites if they are determined to violate privacy. 

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He goes on to say:

“We are determined on this subject. We will not leave this nation at the mercy of YouTube and Facebook. We will take the necessary steps in the strongest way. . . . These people or organizations encourage every kind of immorality and espionage for their own ends. And there are no boundaries. Such concept of freedom is unacceptable.”

These social networks have become the place to go to for those who oppose the current Government.  Comprising information about Erdogan are easily distributed via the internet and email in our 21st century life and it all came to a head with the recent release of telephone conversations between Erdogan and various political allies including his son.  But who is really at fault here?  Telephone tapping is not unusual or new.  The US Government was recently caught phone tapping the German Chancellor.  The information is already out there and in fact he basically admitted (in a very obtuse way) that it was in fact his voice on the telephone.  Corruption is part of daily life here in Turkey and I expect that had Erdogan admitted to it quickly this latest scandal would have disappeared instead he steadfastly denied any involvement in the scandal and pointed the finger at others.

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The Turkish Government previously banned youtube and WordPress back in 2008 and despite the ban the website was among the top 10 most accessed sites in Turkey.  Savvy internet users skirting around the regulations.  I recall my old place of work banned Facebook for a while but that didn’t stop the younger employees setting up proxy links.  Kids can pretty much do anything these days.

Erdogan needs to understand that his time as Prime Minister is limited and that the younger generation of Turkey are realising that social media (Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, etc) are learning to have a voice and to stand up for what they believe is right.  Looking back at Gezi should have been a warning sign for Erdogan to listen to the younger generation – he may just learn something.

If Janeyinmersin goes silent you will know why.  I imagine I will have to start sending smoke signals to you all if that happens.

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