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An Inhospitable Turkey

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 18/03/2016 Zeynep Lokmanoglu
ANKARA © Anadolu Agency via Getty Images ANKARA

My sister sent me an odd text message after the explosion that happened in Ankara on March 13th, killing 37 and wounding many. The message was in the format of those messages you copy and paste so that it reaches a large group of people. It informed me that on March 20th, Turkey will turn into a "lake of blood". Don't go to crowded places, stay away from consulates and embassies, warn your family. It ends with a list of the twenty cars that are suspected to have bombs in them, including their makes, models and plate numbers. I received two more messages, with varying contents afterwards. They were warning me not to go to specific neighborhoods, had some sort of narrative about who warned them. "Don't post this anywhere because it will cause panic," one said.
I could not, and still cannot understand the point of spreading these messages other than make people fear their day to day life more than they already do. Whoever prepared it is partaking in terrorism by terrorizing with the promise of terrorism. If I do yield myself to entertaining this warning I end up asking myself unanswerable questions and getting more confused and angry. Angry because, it has now become a normal expectation in Turkey that people will continue to become casualties in large numbers for an indefinite amount of time. Confused because, why aren't these cars being stopped and investigated? What if this is a ploy of distraction? What if the attacks happen on Friday instead? Who does this message reach and why not others? The message in the message is that the only way you might survive living in Turkey at this time, is to hide in your apartment and hope it passes, as if it's a natural disaster that no one saw coming. As if it's not the work of a country that has failed to produce solutions to a problem that has been in violent need of one for many decades.
The explosions happen in the cities, and we remember that we are the unfortunate citizens of a government that is making unfortunate decisions. In the East, in the demolished Kurdish cities of Sur, Cizre and in other not yet demolished there have been curfews and military control for months. I read an interview with a local businessman from Cizre who was asking for the curfew to be lifted because it had become impossible for him to make a living under military rule. What I couldn't get past was that he was trying to continue "living", amidst the bombs and the guns and the children who sit at home, and the meals that are somehow cooked with what's found. Living in Turkey today means going out into the street and not fearing death more than you would on any given day. Living in Turkey means trying not to live with the realization that you are living in a war zone under the pretense that it's a civilized place.
After the explosion in Ankara a story titled: "The Stories of Those Who Lost Their Lives in Kizilay" was circling social media. It had pictures and short biographies of the people who died in the explosion. There was a picture of two university friends, one of them had died during the peace rally bombing in October, the other one died in the most recent one. In a country that is an ally of the US and Canada, that is a coveted tourist spot, the country's own people can explode to pieces in a street corner as they wait for the bus. I've been told that responding to terrorism, taking it to heart, having it impact your life means that you make the act succeed. But I am not responding to this one specific act. I am responding to many years of living with the same problem. The most recent explosion is the culmination of a problem that has been killing the citizens for a long time.
I don't live in Turkey at the moment and I won't be there on March 21st. Still that message, even though i cannot logically process it as a legitimate threat, sank my heart. It made me think about my family and my friends, who wait in traffic, who go to malls, who conduct business and who get on the subway or walk their dogs. It is where they've chosen to live, go back to after being in other countries, vote to with the belief that they'll be represented by people they at least somewhat agree with. The only way they can respond now is to fear the public space they have to occupy.
March 21th is Newroz, celebrated in Turkey predominantly by Alevi Kurds, marking the beginning of spring. Yesterday it was announced that it will be banned in seven cities, for security measures. It's just another indication that spring has not arrived in Turkey, nor is it expected to anytime soon.

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