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Kadıköy, Istanbul: A spectre haunts

A spectre is haunting Kadıköy, Istanbul – the spectre of Covid-19. Fethiye Beşir-Iletmis is in pursuit.

Here, in Kadıköy, you can see the tension on people’s faces, those who have to be outside, with the announcement of the increase in cases.

Universities were shut down for the next 3 weeks. Elementary schools were postponed for a week, but they continue with online learning. In my situation, as an unemployed doctoral student I am stuck at home for the next three weeks and my husband, as a white-collar worker, will work home until Monday. As of today, Turkey has announced shutting down of bars, dance venues and clubs, cinemas, theatres, cafes, Turkish baths, amusement parks, fitness centres and swimming pools in order to control the spread of the virus.

Photo by Erhan Demirtaş of Gazete Kadıköy

Mosques still remain open to individual prayers, but notably Friday prayers - all “collective” prayers - will not be allowed. Last Wednesday at 1.30 am, when everybody was almost asleep, the first virus case has been announced by the Minister of Health. Rumours said that the patient zero was in Grand Bazaar and as you will guess these rumours have appeared quickly on Twitter where everyone is pretty active. There are lots of caps, memes and jokes from all around the world regarding the virus and of course handwashing. The enormous attention to handwashing sometimes makes me laugh, because people really do not know how to wash their hands…

On Monday, authorities gave warnings about being out only when it is necessary. However, in Kadıköy where much of its population consists of the elderly, things are not that simple. For instance, on Mondays, the weekly bazaar is set up in our neighbourhood. In order to stay away from the crowd, I decided to go to supermarket at the end of my street. It was midday and the supermarket was full of elderly people who try to shop with face masks and surgical gloves. I thought that they also did not go to bazaar for the same reasons. After shopping, I stopped by a pharmacy to ask for some hand sanitizer for my home, but it was out of stock. Unfortunately, the price of hand sanitizer has doubled in online platforms after the national announcement was made in public. In other words, shopkeepers are trying to take advantage of this crisis.

Our district, listed as one of 50 coolest neighbourhoods in the world in the Time Out magazine, is at high-risk because of the aged residents. Even Kadıköy Municipality provides mobile service at neighbourhood hubs in order to decrease intensity in the municipality building and on public transportation.

While cases are increasing, you can see the tension on people’s faces who have to be outside. After further weakening of the health-care system due to neoliberal policies and privatizations in Turkey, nobody knows how to deal with the situation.

This story was shared by Fethiye Beşir-Iletmis, who is a doctoral student at Middle East Technical University in Ankara, but living in Istanbul.

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