17th February: the staff of the Consulate was preparing a farewell dinner for the CFO of Unilever Turkey. As usual they smiled, but their minds were clearly somewhere else. An hour earlier a bomb had exploded, in Ankara. 28 deaths and many injured.
In my broken Turkish we talked about terror attacks, children and their future. Some had sons in the army. Near the Black sea said one, implying that he was safe for the moment. The son of another colleague is located close to the Syrian border, less secure. They talked about their own time in the army, during the violent 90’s, the worst years of the armed conflict.
Turbulent events in Turkey: there are often more of them in one day than in the Netherlands in a month or in a year. People in Turkey therefor have too little time to internalize what has happened. In the past years there were also incidents, very violent ones sometimes, but they seemed far in between.
The recent months in Turkey, with its succession of (suicide) attacks remind me of my posting in Israel in the mid 90’s, when there was a prolonged series of bombings. Statistically the chance to be killed was extremely small (the Israeli traffic was more dangerous) but the fact that people were actively looking for ways to kill others, felt very enerving. I remember very well how for a longer period the fear for terrorism had become the permanent background noise of our daily lives.
For me there was also the period in Iraq in the ‘80s, when Iran fired a Scud missile to Baghdad every few days. We all ‘waited’ for the next one, and when it came, the waiting resumed for a following missile. Also then, more than the concrete risk itself, the eternal discussions and speculations were the most unsettling part.
I have been now 2½ years in this beautiful and fascinating country. I like the hectic pace of Turkey, feel very much at home, but I am saddened by the increasing number of security issues. Humans in general have the capacity to digest a lot. Most of us manage, especially if the gaps between terror attacks are wide enough. When these gaps become too short, they lead to an erosion of emotions. One laughs, but not wholeheartedly, one plans, but keeps the option of cancellation open. Emotional balancing becomes the norm, every day again, to choose between staying home or going out, organizing workshops or not, inviting friends or not. Life goes on, must go on and will go on, but at the same time sorrow and sadness cannot be neglected.
The dinner ends; it was a success. Many discussions of course on terror attacks as was to be expected. Again I am very glad with the staff. Although their emotions are being eroded they showed themselves to hospitable and professional.