The elections that were held in Turkey last week meant a lot of changes.
Firstly, and bizarrely, Turkey was thrown into some kind of temporary time zone for 2 weeks. When most of us turned our clocks back and enjoyed the extra hour in bed, residents of Turkey woke up in confusion and asked themselves ‘what time is it?’. It had been decided months previously that the clocks in Turkey would not go back on 25th October with everyone else, and instead they’d go back on 8th November, to ensure that voters in the election last week would have as much daylight as possible to make it ‘safe’ to vote. I don’t see the logic in that at all, but that’s just Turkey for you, instead of opening the voting stations an hour earlier they’ll create a temporary time zone for 2 weeks… It led to some confusion when modern technology, smart phones and laptops, automatically updated to change the time, so when people woke up they really had no idea what the ‘real’ time was. Quite Hilarious, and definitely one of those ‘ah, only in Turkey’ moments! The clocks did finally go back today though, so they’re all caught up now!
The election results were pretty predictable, although plenty of people hoped for a miracle… Berkay, however, didn’t even get to vote as people doing their national service have no input at all, which I think is disgusting. I guess the logic behind it is they should be fighting for their country regardless of who is in charge, but I still think it’s really bad that they’re not even allowed to vote.
The elections were predicted to cause hostility, so around a month ago Berkay was told he’d be sent to a different army base. For the past 7 months he’s been in Kayseri, a major city and really quite modern. He’s been allowed days out and wandered around the shopping centres with friends, been to internet cafe’s to talk to me and even smuggled his phone inside base so that we can skype (shh..). So when he was told he’d be going to a city close to the border with a high terrorist presence, it was a bit of a shock.
He was told he’d be sent to Diyarbakir a few days later, which although I hear from people who have friends and family there, is a nice place, at the moment it’s a significantly more dangerous place to be while in the army. It does have a high PKK terrorist presence, a lot of Kurdish/Turkish conflict and there are often reports of attacks and deaths as a result of this. Berkay’s name was put down to go but 3 weeks later he still hadn’t heard anything, and was still in Kayseri. We were both hoping he wouldn’t end up going, but last Monday he rang me and said he was packing his suitcase and getting sent to Diyarbakir on Tuesday. Obviously this hit me like a ton of bricks, and despite Berkay saying he wasn’t worried, I know he was really. “If anything is gonna happen there it can happen here too” he said, which is true.
Tuesday morning at 11 oclock he got on the army plane to Diyarbakir. He text me at the airport and managed to call me when he got to a base and actually had a 7 minute long phonecall which is long by normal standards! He said they went on a cargo plane, and he had to sit with all the luggage in the bottom of the plane, he said it was the worst flight he’s been on, bumpy and so noisy they had to wear ear protectors. They went to a temporary base overnight and woke up at 4am to transfer to the next base, they had to go by bulletproof bus and then in a tank, from what I understood. Berkay’s brother messaged me to tell me he’d spoken to him and that he had arrived OK.
I don’t think I’m allowed to say the name of the place he’s in, other than that it’s in Diyarbakir. He say’s it’s more relaxed and friendlier than his other base. The officers seem more understanding there, as soon as they arrived they were asked if they’d all called their friends and family to let them know they were there safely and he even told them if they had phones they were allowed to use them rather than queuing for the base one, which is a relief because I was unsure whether I’d hear from him as often now, but it seems as if I will. It means he’s been able to use his iPhone there and we get to skype when the internet signal is working. Berkay’s original job in Kayseri was an ambulance driver but now he’s just on guard of the sleeping quarters. He says he feels safe there, there’s a long 10km walk to the entry gate and the outside world, and it’s mainly hills and land, no city or shops close by so he won’t be allowed out at all. He doesn’t know how long he’ll be there for, as always in Turkey it’s very laid back, no plans. He says some of the soliders are going out on an ‘operation’ to find and kill terrorists this week and that after that’s complete he should be going back to Kayseri. He said there was another operation the night after he arrived and all the soldiers came back in the middle of the night and woke them up to celebrate successfully finding terrorists, although a few of their own men also died. When he tells these stories it really hits home how serious it all is, and as I always say, I don’t understand how anyone can see national service as just a 12 month stint in a training camp, it’s real life, it’s scary and its horrible.
The only good thing is there’s only less than 3 months to go!