May 12, 2010 ~ Returning from a recent trip to Lebanon, Helen Talia, traveling with her friend Laurice Somo, both from Chicago, approached the security gates at Istanbul AtatÃ¼rk International Airport, carrying a host of religious (Christian) gifts ~ crosses, rosaries in her carry-on handbag.
â€œNo sooner did I approach the first security attendant, says Talia, my bag was turned upside down and ridded of all the religious gifts I had brought back from places of worship I had traveled thousands of miles in pilgrimage to Lebanon ~ Mar Charbel and Haresa. Needless to say, the manner in which the procedure was carried out was very vicious and without any regard to the value that another human places on his or her spiritual practices.
I gestured to the young woman handling the items to use caution, but instead, and rather in a sarcastic tone, she stared me in the eyes and said in the English language, â€˜do you have a problem?â€™ then proceeded to dump everything in a big garbage dumpster next to her, without offering me an explanation, then quickly moved me to the next security station.
In the meantime, the otherwise forbidden [liquid] items, the water, which I was carrying in my bag, remained untouched and made it through security. I began to speculate the obvious that the intrusion was not part of security, but rather a deliberate attack on my faith and a form of intimidation.
When asked to place a complaint at the second security station, a female supervisor, proceeded to contact two airport police, both male, one of whom grabbed me by the left arm while snatching my U.S. Passport and flight boarding pass out of my right hand. â€˜Now, do you want to place a complaint?â€™ asked the security supervisor angrily.
This all happened in what seemed to be in the blink of an eye . . . I noticed the one officer who grabbed my passport quickly made a photocopy of it, claiming it was necessary in order to document the complaint, while pretentiously placing a call to a superior who would handle the claim, one who never made it to the scene.
With only twenty minutes left for my flight to take off to Chicago, still no visible sign of anyone who was coming to address the issue, I began to realize that I was being given the run-around. At this juncture, I concluded my flight, but vowed to follow-up with a story and a letter to the Turkish Embassy upon returning to the United States,â€ concludes Talia.
This story is dedicated to the memory of the unborn Assyrian, Armenian and Pontian and Anatolian Greek children, whose lives were stolen before birth, and whose mothers were raped while carrying the seed of life in their holy wombs during the Ottoman Empire, the Young Turks era and the formation of the Republic of Turkey.
This article calls to the Republic of Turkey to recognize the Genocide and criminal activities committed against the Assyrians, Armenians, and Pontian and Anatolian Greeks c. 1870-1930, and to establish grounds for restitution.
Helen Talia was born in Baghdad and raised in Chicago, where she currently resides. She is a Certified Public Accountant, a writer and an activist.
~ Helen Talia, Chicago