It’s a question I get asked often and right now I’m inclined to say:
I’m not safe in Turkey.
What I mean is, I’m not safe from other people’s fears and what they create around me.
The atrocities and struggles we see today – acts of terrorism, restricted freedoms of expression, divisions in society, hatred towards others – they’re products of fear.
People’s fear of losing power, or not gaining power.
People’s fear of the truth being told.
People’s fear of cultures they’ve never experienced, or countries they’ve never visited.
People’s fear of other people they’ve never met, or the religions they’ve never understood.
The truth is, if I ignore the fears of others, and focus on my pleasant day-to-day life in Turkey, Ido feel safe – especially in Istanbul. In the very city that just yesterday was devastated by a bomb in the heart of the city’s tourism district of Sultanahmet.
You see, Sultanahmet is a place I call home. It’s where I spend most of my time. It’s one place in the world where I’ve always felt at peace, because it’s where East meets West every day and many friendships are formed.
My favourite thing to do in Istanbul is sit in a cafe in Sultanahmet, savouring a Turkish tea, whilst talking to tourists and locals. I’m always amazed with how easy conversations with strangers start here with anyone from Australia, Canada and America to Algeria, Syria and Saudi Arabia. We instantly have a common topic to discuss – Istanbul and all the magnificent historical attractions of Sultanahmet.
To hear of the bombing yesterday that killed and injured people in “my home” is something that is too difficult to comprehend – as it is for many with an affection for the city.
The fear now is that this dreadful event may tarnish tourism and many businesses may flounder. Inshallah (god willing), it will not be this way. Like New York, Bali, Madrid, Paris – any tourism hotspot that has overcome terrorist attacks and continues to attract world travellers – I intend Istanbul will too.
But, just how can we overcome this?
I believe, you become what you think. You become what you create. However, influencing this are the thoughts and act of others. What other people think and what other people create can shape our reality and collective thoughts are powerful. Another way of looking at this is, positive thoughts bring positive results. Negativity breeds negativity. Fears can breed negativity.
I’m in Australia at the moment and it’s been somewhat trying when the topic of “my home” comes up in conversation. I’m constantly asked to respond to other people’s fears about Turkey with the question: “Do you feel safe Turkey?” Instead of asking about the good things happening in my life in Turkey or what I enjoy about the country, people “auto-reject” within seconds to focus on the negative.
I’m growing frustrated because Istanbul is my home and I believe inflicting negative views, essentially invites further negativity. I don’t want that for my friends in Turkey or Turkey itself. Like a sensitive vampire lifting their cape to doom, I hiss back: “Do you feel safe in yourhometown?”
The counter question is always met with silence or a stutter of random comments. “Well, do you?” I poke with my words, hoping they might come to the same conclusion I have. That is, a reality distilled from fears. The reality that threats to our personal safety and lives occur every day, everywhere in the world. We have perhaps become desensitised to many of them, because sadly, they have become to norm.
Alcohol and drug related violence, car accidents, homicides, drownings, falls, electrocutions, deaths by exotic animals and gun violence in America. Scan the morbidity and mortality statistics on these around the world and realise that the chance of succumbing to these issues are far greater than terrorism, but like terrorism, we cannot always predict when these afflictions will strike.
So, what can we do?
Be aware of your fears and how they may impact on you and others.
Question the sources of information around you – are they reliable and unbiased?
Choose positivity over negativity and put the right intentions out to the world for you, for others and the places affected by terrorism.
Mourn those who have lost lives and livelihoods in the terrorist attacks around the world, and remain defiant – never to let another person’s fears stand in the way of your life goals and happiness. (Waleed Aly says it best here)
And, for Istanbul’s sake, be positive. Be like a good friend going through hard times, come visit to help her heal.
Please don’t feed the fears.