Our boys walk through Iznik shaking hands with soldiers and policemen and stop to have a chat. They aren’t fearful of the guns both carry, and walking through a body scanner as you enter a shopping centre is not something they’ve even noticed. Being on alert is a fact of life living here and is so much a part of our normality it is normal.
Turkey has compulsory national service. Soldiers are part of daily life. When they’re off duty these are the “big brothers” who ruffle the boys hair and ride the same minibuses in and out of town. The majority of the soldiers we saw standing in front of tanks were these young men. Conscripted young men unaffiliated with the coup following orders from higher up. While we were tweeting about the coup they were still believing they were on a training op. Emerging photographs capture the situations reality dawning on their faces. I can’t even begin to imagine how those sons must feel. Where do I begin to process the very real fact that in the future our sons could be those soldiers God forbid? When I haven’t yet processed how I feel about national service in principle how am I meant to separate these things? How do I begin to discuss nationalism with them in a country divided on the compatibility of religion and state? Will I be strong enough to encourage them to march for democracy against the instinct to keep my babies safe?
How do we explain to the kids that some of the soldiers are goodies and some baddies and not give them any fear of one day being in the soldier role? How do we explain that the police were shooting the army and army helicopters shooting the people, or that the beautiful sounds from the mosques are seen as a threat, in complete contrast to the reassurance the words bring to us? How do I explain the religious discrimination deepening in this country and the targeting of muslims in the west? How do we explain violence on any side when Islam forbids the harming of (even) an insect?
How can we at the same time understand why the west may question Turkey’s secularism and still be a believer in Turkey’s democracy?
How can I answer through all of this and not question raising our children here when I’d just come to terms with that decision?
Turkey is not at risk of an uprising inshallah – it seems more “at risk” of feeling united, a concept so strange it’s difficult to embrace the hope of. But that after the last 24 hours, only God knows.
I don’t want to think anymore. I really don’t want all the feels.