Last night there was an explosion in downtown Ankara that killed 28. There was another bombing in October. I’m still planning to stay in Ankara for the next six months. And I’m planning to have a baby here.
Well, first of all because the hospitals and doctor’s here are much better than those in Bishkek. And second, because I still feel safe.
How do I still feel safe? Because what I’m seeing here is political violence – not citizen to citizen street violence.
If you read the CNN article linked above, it isn’t yet clear whether this was a terrorist attack. Possibly, but not proven. If it was, however, it was a political attack clearly targeting the military (which would make sense, as Turkey has recently taken a stronger offensive against ISIS). It now appears that a bomb-loaded car blew up right outside one of the main military compounds in what looks like an attempt to harm military personnel being transported in clearly marked military buses. Not regular citizens, and not in an area of the city where there are likely to be a lot of non-military-affiliated persons walking around (if you’ve even been to Ankara, the urban military complexes are huge fenced-off areas rolling over dozens of acres – though centrally located, there aren’t any shops or civilian residences lining the streets). The attack in October (which has been pretty much hushed up by the government) was at a pro-peace (anti-AKP, pro-Left wing political opponents) rally and it’s still suspected that the government had a hand in this (trying to paint their opponents as terrorists or, at best, ushering in instability) especially considering their reaction to victims and their supporters in the week following – “Police have intervened in several demonstrations across Turkey in recent days, tear gassing people protesting against the bombings”). Anyway – political attacks, not personal.
The attack targeted a shuttle bus carrying military personnel, and there were several other military vehicles nearby – all of which were waiting at the traffic lights. Most of the casualties are believed to be soldiers.
I don’t fear street violence in Turkey. Yes, a woman who wears clothing that is too ‘revealing’ may get comments in certain neighborhoods (or certain regions of the country – like the more conservative South East), but I don’t fear violence perpetrated against my person from another individual on the street. I don’t fear walking down a street alone at dusk in my husband’s family’s middle class neighborhood. I don’t fear going out with friends at night. I don’t fear being robbed, threatened at gunpoint, harassed, stabbed, or caught in the middle of a streetfight. I don’t quibble over whether I should bring my cellphone or other valuables with me when I go out.
I feared all of the above when I resided in Hyde Park as a grad student at the University of Chicago. Every week we received several e-mails from the UChicago police reporting that three students had been walking along some street just blocks from my flat, had one or two males approach, threaten them with a knife or gun, and unburden them of all their cash and electronics (UChicago report page here). We didn’t receive updates on crimes perpetuated against local residents, which police statistics show to be even higher (and here). Turkey’s crime rate statistics are all far lower than those for the US (numbeo), and Ankara’s are low for Turkey (US Dept State). In short, as I explored in two posts I wrote for another blog last year (“Is it safe to travel in Turkey?” and “Is it still safe to travel in Turkey?”) I am much less worried about being a victim of crime here than back in the states. Worry about me if I join a radical opposition party or the army. Don’t worry about me walking to the grocery store.