How happy is the one who says ‘I am a tourist’

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I was talking to a friend from Brussels, where we have vacationed together for many years. She told me that the COVID-19 pandemic measures were easing and she was planning a vacation for this summer, before asking me about the situation in Turkey.

“This place is amazing, but for you, the tourists,’’ I told her. “Come to Turkey for a vacation, but it seems like it would be difficult for me to accompany you. Perhaps, however, if I get grouped in with you as a tourist, I too could get vaccinated.’’

I think these sort of conversations are taking place in many homes nowadays. In Turkey, we are nearing the end of a precarious, unsupported “full-closure”. I spent part of this period in quarantine because of the coronavirus, and in the last two weeks had to go out twice: once for health checks and once for the Saturday market.

The streets during both were jam-packed. There was one notable different however – all small businesses were closed, while big supermarket chains such as Metro and Migros were teeming with people to point that there was traffic on the streets leading to these big stores. Yesterday, a friend of mine, who works for one of these chain supermarkets said they had not seen in their lives the kind of turnovers recorded in the last two or three weeks time of Turkey’s full-closure. What can be said? Good for these big companies. Let them grow even bigger, hand-in-hand with the state and the nation.

Although the large companies continue to grow, small shopkeepers are in ruins. Many local companies in Turkey’s southeastern Diyarbakır province that I know have closed down and gone bankrupt. Many families I know have had their homes foreclosed.The future remains uncertain. Young people are looking for ways to go abroad. They are searching for every legal and illegal method to do so. Human trafficking for those who have money has spread throughout the region.

These three weeks have been more difficult than I thought due to illness, childcare and cleaning duties. Having children at home is a challenge itself for women working from home. Every article I wrote and every broadcast I attended was arranged according to my children’s programme. Our lives are determined by their online lessons.

Life has been no walk in the park for children, either. They have been inside their houses for over a year. This year has been very difficult, especially for the students preparing for entrance examinations to high schools or university. On the one hand, there are the difficulties of going without a physical school for over a year, and on the other hand, is the fact that a few-hours-long exam  – which students are trying to prepare for without school and teachers – will determine their future. This exam stress has permeated the psyche of all of us at home.

As children cannot go to school and women cannot buy their most basic needs, there have been ongoing congresses, protests, demonstrations, marches, party conventions, ministerial travels in convoy vehicles, mass funerals, etc.

On the one hand, exorbitant fines are being imposed on people for violating curfew regulations, while washing their car in front of their houses, swimming in the sea, going to the supermarket with their baby, collecting scraps, all the while mass funerals, demonstrations in support of Jerusalem and protests condemning Israel are taking place.

Who is this full closure for and who is doing planning and according to what? These are questions puzzling all of us.

The country is travelling like a vehicle set to hit a wall soon, run by a mindless and ridiculous administration.

People are dying, with no vaccine available for them, but they do not care about anything but their own power. Citizens have no value, unless they serve the tourists. For us Kurds, we have never been considered as citizens in any case. But the whole “how happy is the one who says I am a Turk” era appears to almost be over.

“Running barking over an unvaccinated tourist as a form of entertainment. A perfect summer awaits us,” one Turkish Twitter user wrote. If only it remained with the summer, this sort of perfect future awaits us under this government all year round.

Just as I was finishing writing this article, I saw a video circulating on social media, shared by Turkey’s Tourism Ministry – a Turkey advertisement prepared for tourists.

The video explained how Turkey’s tourism workers – everyone that tourists encounter,  will be wearing masks that say “I am vaccinated” in English.

I do not know if there is any other country that humiliates its own citizens to this degree.

What can be said? How happy is the one who say I am a tourist.

The views expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect those of Ahval.

Ahval

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