Just had an incredibly TERRIFYING, heart pounding experience, on the streets of Istanbul.
—— It highlights how dire a lack of control can truly be.
Just got off the ferry, into Istanbul carrying a load of luggage and accompanied by my parents and siblings.
Stepping onto the main road, we get at least 5 taxi drivers offering us rides for extortionate prices. Naturally, we politely declined. Uber all the way.
In a foreign country like Turkey, the SAFETY of your family must be your top priority. No yellow cabs.
The drivers were naturally aggravated. They call a man over.
This man was in plain clothes.
But he had a Gun.
You see any well-informed man knows that Turkey is Restrictive when it comes to Gun Control.
Having a Gun is not a normal thing here.
So, we decided to approach with caution.
He strode confidently towards us, with an Army of cabbies at his heel.
He looked us up and down, as if to study us, identify our level of threat in case something kicks off.
He starts talking to us in Turkish.
His tone was calmly commanding. Streetesque. Of course being English, we understood nothing.
–> See no matter who you are or how well connected you think you are, in a place where you do not FULLY control the situation, or its outcomes, tread Very carefully.
Especially if you do not fully understand the gravity of the situation. Which I did not.
Be Prepared for anything.
I decided the best course of action was to play the role of the dumb tourist.
“Sorry what? We don’t speak Turkish only English” knowing fine well that more than 95% of Turkish students cannot respond to questions spoken in English, so how about the older populace.
He stared at us. Threateningly.
He said Police. Police. Police.
My dad looked him in the eye and said “Prove it”. He understood from the tone of his voice and brought a card out.
He was Police.
This scared us even more. This felt very dodgy. My internal fight or flight response system was screaming at me to run, but I stood my ground.
You could tell my mum and sisters were terrified, while me and my dad remained steel faced.
We had done nothing wrong, or even illegal.
All we did was stop and mind our own business and suddenly the Police and the local drivers wanted something from us and we had no idea what it was.
Not ideal. This was meant to be a holiday and not an interrogation camp.
I decided we had had enough. I said “We’re gonna walk up the road and get an Uber. Thanks for your time, Sir.”
But he walked in front of me, blocking my path.
What the fuck was he talking about?
He kept repeating these two words like we had a clue what they meant.
Naturally, my heart was racing. This was a Foreign country, and the streets were Dark. Anything could happen.
I have been through some shit. I have lived in Syria. But my whole family were here. This was something else. I did not have control of the situation.
So I did the only thing I could think of.
I put my phone away, excused myself and walked.
Just got away.
My family followed suite.
We walked for 5 minutes.
I called an Uber.
He picked us up. We drove.
Not for long.
Due to the nature of the street we were on, we had to pass by the road outside the ferry station.
We got stopped.
By the same plain clothes policeman.
He ordered the driver to get out of the car.
About what, I do not know. We expected the worst. We had heard plenty of stories of tourists getting into all sorts of messy problems on the dangerous streets of Istanbul.
We expected the worst.
Another man joined them, the herd of cabbies stood silently observing from a distance. As if they expected something from this encounter.
This went on for 20 minutes. All of us in the car just sat there, twiddling our thumbs.
No-one would tell us anything.
No-one could tell us anything.
It was like being blind on Guy Fawkes Night. You would feel totally out of your depth.
When the driver came back, he flashed us a smile.
“Problem Yok”, he said. This means no problem.
My dad tried to ask him what all that was about.
“Problem Yok”, he said.
Whether he didn’t speak English, or he was just playing dumb, I have no idea.
But the tension in that 45 minute taxi ride was so thick that you could almost cut it with a knife.
Along the way we half expected to get stopped by a gang of highwaymen.
I have nice eyes. Maybe they wanted to take my eyes.
Alas we made it home safely.
Physically we were fine
Mentally, we were not.
It was the lack of control of the situation that got to me. If something was to have happened there was not a goddamn thing I could have done to protect my family or myself from these people.
That thought alone, is terrifying.
I’m going to have to go back to that boxing gym I think.
Safe to say, I wil not be in a hurry to get back to Istanbul anytime soon.