Kadıköy, Istanbul: The virus has reinforced ageism

In Turkey, the national government recently imposed a curfew for senior citizens, Fethiye Beşir-Iletmis shares with us how this has led to elderly being bullied in the streets. Besides, she sees how the polarised climate of Turkish society is also reflected in how the virus outbreak is being dealt with.


As of March 23rd, 24,017 people in Turkey were tested of which 1,529 tested positive. My country recorded 37 deaths on Tuesday night.


Last weekend, images of people going to the seaside and parks dominated TV channels and social media platforms. In response, the national government imposed a partial curfew for senior citizens. The announcement of the curfew led to elderly being bullied in the streets, some of these videos were shared on platforms such as Twitter or TikTok.


The Coronavirus has reinforced the issue of ageism, which crystallised after the trend of “OK Boomer!” in everyday discrimination. Public opinion always creates an 'Other' in order to manipulate the rest of the society. In Turkey, the older generation has become the other now, after Syrian migrants were considered similarly in the past months.


Photo by Roza Zümrüt


The Turkish government has not declared a nation-wide lockdown yet, but people in my neighbourhood have become very much aware of the seriousness of the virus. Since my previous post, the centre of Kadıköy has become emptier.


Today, when I took my cats to the vet for a vaccination, I only saw couriers in the neighbourhood. The side streets seem very empty - however, despite having no customers, the dairy shop and the copy centre in my street have remained open. There are some people on the main roads and in public transport, people who still have to go to work early in the morning.


Personally, I developed my cooking skills during the past 10 days of self-quarantine. I have tried making brownies two times, and one time a pastry. We even bake breads with different flavours at home. I also shared some videos of the things I baked with my mother who lives in Izmir - she would do a much better job of course. These days, I have noticed, people send pictures of homemade food to their friends and have started to challenge each other on Instagram.


As the government only announces the total number of tested people, positive cases, and death rates, we don't know how fast the virus is spreading around the country. Nor do we have access to any detailed data regarding the places where the positive cases and the deaths were identified. Moreover, the number of tested people has decreased in the last two days.


The polarised climate of Turkish society is also reflected in how the current situation is being dealt with. While supporters of the ruling party, the Justice and Development Party (AKP), believe that the issue has been handled properly so far, opponents point to the lack of transparency. We will see how the process will evolve in the next two weeks.


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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