By Sofia Demirturk
“Whatever would be the age of the murderers, 17 or 27, I know that they were born babies once. Without questioning the darkness that created murderers from those babies, there’s nothing to do, my brothers and sisters.” Rakel Dink at the funeral of her husband Hrant Dink – a Turkish-Armenian editor, journalist and columnist assassinated by a Turkish nationalist.
Living in Turkey, where suicide bombers were once something we associated with other countries in the Middle East, we are trying to recover from the shock we had been drawn into after the latest Ankara blast that happened in the core of the capital city. I had changed my personal routine while commuting, preferring less crowded options — boats over ferries, minibuses over large buses — doubting everyone who was ‘hiding’ under heavy clothing, almost forgetting just how cold Istanbul is in March.
Family members are sharing concerns over WhatsApp with their loved ones, sharing speculative documents with each other saying, “Don’t go to this place during that day”. Big shopping malls are becoming deserted, people are avoiding crowds at all costs — life seems to have changed a lot for us civilians. Starting to live with this paranoia, there comes the question of why anyone would be a suicide bomber in our minds.
Many years ago, a Palestinian movie called “Paradise Now” hit the theatres, which told the story of two Palestinian childhood friends recruited for a suicide attack. The film examined their last days on this earth, without glorifying the deed of one killing himself amongst many innocent people. It simply tried to explain to us the very psychology hidden behind this action.
Cinema, of course, is not the sheer image of our reality, and is affected by our surroundings. But that particular movie was quite successful in giving us a glimpse of understanding this phenomenon. Reading books, seeing movies, looking through documentaries, I tried my best to grasp the mentality of how one could ever become a suicide bomber, as it has literally hit my country and thus my life.
A couple of days ago, the TV channel TRT — pretty much the Turkish equivalent of the BBC — broadcast a documentary about the ongoing war in Syria. They interviewed a little girl, about eight or nine years old, whose father was killed by Syrian forces. Her statements stirred a big controversy in Turkey, as she declared she would blow herself up at a check point because her father was killed in the name of Islam, and this was the way she wanted to avenge her father’s death. Her cute, innocent, childish face did not match with the cruelty that spilled out of her mouth. Of course, I can understand a little girl grieving for her father, but her choice of words, glorifying martyrdom and using lots of Islamic terms, gave me chills along with many other Turkish people. Kids being the mirror image of their surroundings, the things they have heard, been taught, one cannot help but feel terrified, worrying about how many girls and boys out there are thinking like her, brainwashed, told killing and dying in the name of Islam would grant them the gardens of the heavens above.
Being an ex-Muslim, brought up by a devout Muslim grandma, the Islam I was taught by her was pretty much, “Don’t harm others or break anyone’s hearts. Apart from that, pretty much everything is forgiven by Allah — just do not face him with others’ Haqq [right] over you”. According to Salafis and extremists, however, this is probably not the ‘real Islam’.
Although not being a Muslim anymore, I never felt ashamed of my cultural and religious background as I have no bitter memories. Religion has always been something that is associated with my grandma teaching me Ayet-el Qursi [The Throne Verse], or her bribing me to fast for Ramadan. I defy bigots justifying their hatred for others on the deeds of these people who are killing, in the name of people like my grandmother, my family, my friends, of many nice people of Muslim background qhom
We should question the darkness that creates murderers from babies. We should question when we let extremists creep into our lives, making our own neighbours, friends, and beloved kids turn into our enemies. Because, unfortunately, this war is pretty much Islam vs. Islam and we are being victimised on a daily basis, both by bigots and by extremists.
Gulnur “Sofia” Demirturk is your average Turkish accountant based in Istanbul. Apart from worrying about balance sheets and income statements, she is interested in financial crimes, politics, feminism, Abrahamic religions and Bollywood. She is an ex Muslim but still feels Islam is an important part of her identity.
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