For Turkey, 2021 Is No Different Than 2020 or Other Years
Amid newfound enthusiasm, hopes, and subtle cynicism ignited by a pandemic and increasing poverty in 2020, what 2021 would bring to Turkey was a mystery. Until a picture from a hospital.
As the entire world embraced the new year with an exalted hope that 2020 would be part of history after going through a brutal stress test ignited by a global pandemic, warming climate, ravaging wildfires, famine in some countries, racial and ethnic violence, the expectations about 2021 were sky-high. The arrival of the new year, under the lights of the increasing vaccinations across the world, has unmistakably brought fresh hopes to an unsettled world teetering on edge amid a global surge in Covid-19 cases.
Turkey also entered 2021 amid this confused global mood of hope and caution, perseverance and dithering, faith and fear. But whatever expectations are in store, a picture from a hospital in Ankara has brutally shattered the nascent optimism that faintly exists.
Hacer Yildirim just gave birth to a baby at a private hospital in Ankara in the first hours of the new year. What would normally be the happiest moments of her life threatened to descend into a memorable moment of horror. Yildirim, who happened to be on the wanted list of authorities for downloading a smartphone app — a perceived body of evidence that marks the definition of a terrorist according to Turkey’s post-coup counter-terrorism laws — had a C-section for a safe labor. Her newborn baby was immediately taken into an incubator for further treatment.
And police officers appeared at the delivery room, disregarding the warnings of the doctors. They came with a detention warrant for the new mother.
Ramazan Gozel, the brother of Yildirim, reported the unfolding scenes on social media, galvanizing thousands of people to seek the postponement of the detention by citing the mother’s precarious state and the baby’s health risk.
LohusaHacer Tutuklanamaz became one of the trending topics on Twitter on the first day of the new year in Turkey. And it became an embarrassing one.
The mother’s terrifying look at the police officer, who resembles a predator waiting for his hunt, speaks volumes for itself. This picture is the manifestation of state brutality against vulnerable, innocent people. It is the embodiment of the entire regime policy that systematically targets women and babies in the course of the political persecution that began before the 2016 coup attempt, and has never abated since then.
Thanks to the public pressure, the attempt to snatch the new mother from the hospital crumbled. A prosecutor came to the hospital and withdrew police officers.
The story ended happily for the moment. But for how long and until when remains entangled within the larger drama of Turkey’s unpredictable politics and the zealous government persecution that knows no bounds and apparently indicates no end.