The Turkish President – we have both President and Prime Minister – has a house along the seashore ten minutes from our flat. Whenever he’s coming or going, the hill running parallel to our street is cornered off by police; police wielding rifle style guns. Loaded guns. I vividly remember the first time I saw a policeman holding a gun in the UK ( Stanstead airport as I flew out to Romania) and I remember clearly feeling nervous at the sight: Why would they need guns?? For my son, gun touting policemen will be his norm.
I will never feel comfortable with seeing policemen carry guns – or the relaxed approach to gun licenses which allows live ammo to be used to celebrate a positive football match outcome! – yet I can’t criticise the practise of, nor question the need for armed police.
Turkey is not an island. Amongst its border countries are Iraq, Iran and Syria. Since the late ’70’s, Turkey has been in the midst of a civil war which at its peak saw the bombing of the British Embassy and Jewish Synagogues in Istanbul and has to date claimed more than 40,000 lives. Roads need to be cornered off and police patrolled when the President is passing through; in the same way as the IRA held peace in Northern Ireland hostage for more than 30 years, so too has the PKK made severe violence and terrorist acts a very real threat. Police here need to be armed, I’m thankful they are, yet that doesn’t make it normal to me as I walk, M strapped to me, to see more than ten armed men standing by.
Life for M will be full of norms which will always remain foreign to me. Some will look at his norms and question why I choose to bring him up in a country that’s so violent, so unstable..it would seem. My answer is simple: in the half-decade I’ve lived in Turkey, I’ve never once encountered a street fight, a violent struggle in a bar or heard swearing of any kind in or around an area with women & children. The country may be unstable, certain approaches may be more violent, but as a society? It’s peaceful. M’s safe here. And the bombs and other scary stuff? In Gods hands – what will be, will be. As a Mum, it’s not my job to sweat out the big stuff nthat we cannot change; it’s to take charge of the small stuff and that I can do much, so much better, from here.