Istanbul Ataturk airport attack: 41 dead and 239 injured in ‘hideous’ suicide bombings in Turkey. My eyes watered as I read that headline. I read it again just to reaffirm. I just sat there frozen—stunned– for a while; I couldn’t even get myself to read the body of the article.
I clicked to see the pictures below and I wish I hadn’t. Images of bloody children as young as my 10-year-old brother emerged. My heart sank. Innocent people. These are innocent people that were just traveling. Airports are supposed to be happy places. There is always an element of jubilant expectance. Individuals are either expecting to see family members or friends that they haven’t seen in a while. To have that robbed away from them in a heartbeat is utterly barbarous. Seeing pictures of weeping family members with their eyes screaming ‘Why me, what did I do?’ inflicts me with ineffable pain. In the midst of the heart wrenching images, the one that stood out to me the most was an image of a Palestinian child on the hospital bed waiting for her mother, not knowing that her mother has, in fact, been a victim of this heinous crime. This girl will grow up without a mother, for what? Because of three selfish, unprincipled suicide bombers? How is that fair?
Turkey is known to be an aesthetically pleasing country, one packed with cultural heritage. Istanbul is the 7th most populous city in the world and is home to 14 million people—99% of them being Muslims.
I vividly recall every detail of my visit to Turkey for the first time last year, alone. I had always wanted to go for the basic reason—that it was glamorized everywhere. From the prolific Instagram posts to the countless Tumblr blogs, I decided I wanted to witness it for myself. This determination led to take a quick two-day stop in which I tried to soak in as much as I can.
In short, the country took my breath away, quite literally. I was in awe at how exotic every landmark was. The architecture of the Blue Mosque was so profound that merely being inside the mosque somehow gave me a physical sensation of the historic vibes that were so strongly embedded in it. From the mind-boggling architecture to the striking blue tiles and the resplendent minarets, I was awe-stricken. So much so that I forgot to take pictures on my phone (something I terribly regretted afterwards). The second I entered the Hagia Sophia, I didn’t want to leave. (I was seriously contemplating ways of staying there overnight without being noticed.)
Generally, I am not a shopper and I abhor everything shopping-related but the Grand Bazaar and its shopkeepers made me want to shop till I dropped. The smiling face of each shopkeeper as they whiffed the scent of tourism on me was filled with genuineness and I succumbed and bought their goods.
I was envious of all the civilians that walked by because this was their home and I was merely a passerby and tomorrow, I would return.
To have such a glamorous country tainted with despicable tragedies that one could never recover from brings me and others great anguish. It’s even worse because I was there, at some point, savoring the profundity it offered me. It terrifies me at times because that could have easily been me but it wasn’t me, it was so many other beautiful souls that didn’t deserve this. Just because it was written for me to be saved this time, it doesn’t mean that I’m always safe.
I refuse to allow these pleasant memories to be effaced with every tragedy that hits this country. I will pray day and night, especially during these sacred last days of Ramadan, for its people and the victims and for peace to be returned to it once again.