Rushing to get my favourite doner from my favourite doner place, I was oblivious.
Mert, the guy that does my doner, seemed a bit more quick on his toes, adjusting his pivot ever so often to look at the mini television set resting on a counter behind him, which was also behind me.
I thought, “interesting, a really good game must be on”, thinking that the only thing that could warrant such a reaction was football.
As he turned facing me and the mini television set about to wrap my doner and put it into a plastic bag, he paused with his eyes wide open and lips slightly ajar. I anticipated the sounds of thunderous celebration coming from spectators for the goal that must have been scored or saved.
None came. Just the monotonous voice characteristic of a news reporter.
Mert’s reaction piqued my interest and so I turned to see what was so riveting.
The screen showed several shots of people walking quickly on the streets, some running. Despite what I would then come to understand as a moment of terror, it did not register as such- at all.
It was however, the bright red title on the screen that read in Turkish, with one word unambiguous to anyone living in the world- TERROR.
Seeing my confused face, Mert pointed and shouted in Turkish. Of course I did not understand, but I wanted to affirm whatever he had said. And so, I responded to him with the only word that I knew we could both understand, “terror?”
“Evet, Petra. Ankara.”
I quickly paid for my doner even though Mert did not even seem aware that I had to pay. Rushing on to the streets, some two hours away from where the bombing in Ankara took place, the street was as calm and autumn pretty as any Hallmark postcard would have you believe.
No hysteria. Just people walking with their children, laughing, talking; young lovers holding hands and old men sauntering along the sidewalk.
Confused by the reality and what I saw on T.V. I made my way to an American friend. I told him about what I had seen and had learned minutes before. Turning immediately to his phone and laptop, social media and International news agencies confirmed the attack, with still shots of the area as the bomb had gone off circulating.
“I wonder who is behind all this?” he pondered.
It was true. No one according to International media reports had claimed outright responsibility for it in the minutes that followed. However, Turkish media houses had already posited the view that the recent instability between Kurds and the Turkish government was to blame.
Walking home, nothing- and I do mean nothing seemed out of the ordinary at all. No one looked worried, or perturbed or devastated. Just an ordinary Saturday.
Knowing that the attack was already International news and that it would inundate the news cycle for the next 48 hours, I honkered down and waited for the feverish phone calls back home from my family in the #Caribbean.
“Get out, ISIS is taking over!!!” my mother shouted in the background as I spoke to my sister over the phone.
“Do you really think it was ISIS?” I asked my sister.
“Yeah, I mean that is what all the news is saying. CNN, FOX everyone.”
“I just don’t believe it,” I countered.
“Are you kidding me?”
“No, I’m not. Think about it. According to reports here, ISIS has not claimed any responsibility. And on top of that, think about it. You really think that if this was ISIS that Ankara and Istanbul would still be standing and still be in the hands of the government? ISIS don’t exist to bomb, they exist to take over territories in their quest for Islamic domination.”
“You have a point there, Petra,” she observed. “So why are they saying that here?”
“I’ll tell you something you always told me: Believe half of what you hear and none of what you see.”
The total obliviousness of Turkish people to the magnitude of the terror attack and more importantly, that ISIS had reached the seat of power, continued when that night they had, what we in the Caribbean refer to as, a ‘bram’: a good old fashion neighbourhood party.
The speakers blared live music as people mingled and enjoyed themselves in a school’s large courtyard. So, passionate was their singing and, dare I say, their revelry, that they did not even stop at the sound of the last Ezan- call to prayer, which stipulates that all music MUST cease during the call. Even the playing of music on your headphones is not allowed.
The bram went straight through the Ezan, the Muezzin struggling to stay one octave above the blaring speakers; his efforts to quiet the party proving futile.
This disparity between my reality here and the reality being painted by Western media, made me question my sanity. Really.
Concerned that I just may not be au fait with how Turkish people deal with dread and terrorism, I decided to go directly to source to ascertain how they felt.
Speaking with a few Turkish people the next day, I immediately dove right in after the formalities that accompany “hi, hello.”
“Do you think that ISIS will succeed in taking over soon?”
An instantaneous, uncontrollable, pee in your pants laugh erupted from my four person panel.
“Yeah, ISIS. That is what CNN and all the others are saying was who did the attack.”
“No, Petra. I think you have gotten it all wrong. That was no ISIS.”
“How could you be so sure, though?” I challenged.
“I think we know our country better than CNN and all of them. It is nothing more than politics. An attempt to destabalise what needs destabalising.”
I was suddenly conscious of the fact that I was incredibly stupid and felt angry that once again, Western media had manipulated me into believing that their edict on who was culpable was the black and white truth.
Continuing to show my ignorance of the socio-cultural-political climate of Turkey and the #Middle East even more, I wondered, out loud, why would anyone want to destablise anything for political reasons?
“Elections, Petra. Elections.”
“You mean the one that happened in June?”
“No, Petra. The one that will happen on November 1st.”
This story speaks to the main reason why I started this blog and why I believe blogs of this nature are necessary to debunk the Western hold and authority on perception.