A mother sheds tears as she is prevented from seeing her son.
As I sit in the crammed & crowded room called transit passengers resting room in Istanbul International Airport with tears streaming down my face, I felt my thoughts, feelings, and a pain so deep only a parent can understand, should be shared with others.
I am on transit from Geneva to Lagos. My flight landed a few minutes to 11 p.m. on a Friday and my connection to Lagos is expected to take off around three in the afternoon of Saturday, the following day. A transit period of almost seventeen hours, nothing to worry about l thought to myself, hotel accommodation would be arranged by the Airline, of this I was confident, having experienced overnight transit with Egypt and Ethiopian airlines.
My joy knew no bounds when I was informed of the choice of Turkish airlines for my official trip to Geneva; this is because I have a son who is studying in Istanbul. In full anticipation of getting to meet a child l have not seen since September last year, I carried with me a few favourites items of his including Nutri C, (my mother had also sent dambun nama from Maiduguri) all the way to Geneva & back.
On landing at Istanbul I was busy checking faces, hoping, but knowing very well that I have a few more minutes wait to see him. At the transfer desk, I was told and shown my abode for the next seventeen hours, a room where there’s no privacy, convenience or regard for gender. To cap it all, I was further informed I would not be allowed to go to the arrival hall, not even escorted by the police (this was my suggestion). I begged, ranted and cried, but the only words they kept repeating were “not possible”. I now suggested he be allowed to come in and see me, also escorted by the police; this was also “not possible”. Issue me a transit visa no matter how short, please, I begged in the name of Allah. NOT POSSIBLE! How could I have aspired to such when I don’t have a subsisting U.K., U.S. or SCHENGEN visa?
At this point I gave up on the Turks and Turkey. How can a people be so hard, cruel and fail to understand or empathize in such a situation? I was willing to forgo all the indignities visited on me if only I can get to see my son. I can only begin to imagine his disappointment and pain after the failure of a much anticipated meeting.
Before this trip to Geneva, I had applied for a Turkish visa in January, indicating my plan to visit my son during the period of his two weeks break. As l lay crying, nothing has been heard of my visa application from the embassy in Abuja. I wrote a mail to the embassy making enquiries about my application as I have submitted all the necessary and required documents. The only response was a suggestion that I should get my contact in Turkey make enquiries from the national authorities in Turkey.
I ask myself, what is special in Turkey? What is it that I can’t get elsewhere in the world? Why is it my choice of a travel destination? The only answer is, MY SON! For I know that Turkey is certainly not a heaven. With seemingly unending tears I promise myself never to fly Turkish Airlines again, insha Allah, besides there are quite a number of choice airlines to pick from. I can’t promise never to visit Turkey, this so long as my child is here, but I also ponder; where thee Nigeria? If not for the failure and near collapse of our educational sector and so many other things beside, why would a child of mine be among such hostile and inhospitable people?
I cry from the heart, hot silent tears I have not shed for a while, I cry a mother’s inability to see a much beloved child after months of separation, I cry for his disappointment after hours of waiting at the airport, but above all I cry at my helplessness. For those that are instrumental, be they Nigerian or Turkish, I leave you with God. May He in his wisdom do with you as He pleases.
For a country that so revere the West, to the extent of hinging the issuance of even their transit visa on the possession of either a SCHENGEN, UK or USA visa, I must say they fall woefully short of the standards and norms of a people they try so hard to emulate; that being respect and special empathy for the cause of women and children; this could not have happened in the U.K. or USA.
As a woman, a mother and despite my obvious desperation and pleas, I was not deemed human enough to be offered kind words of comfort nor genteel explanation as to why what I was desirous of (a simple meeting with my son) is “not possible”. This may have been and I strongly believe not unrelated to the colour of my skin. I may be black African, but I have not been raised to believe that any human being no matter how white, is superior to me, not even a Turk! I have a very good sense of my own worth and does not suffer an iota of inferiority.
The failure of leadership in Nigeria is so glaring, else why is it not possible for us to own and operate a national carrier a hundred times better than what Turkey has? I begin to wonder why my country should not share in the blame of the humiliation, pain and emotional trauma l was made to go through in Turkey?
I was so excited about my long transit in Turkey that I had sent my son a mail earlier inviting him to come to the airport prepared for an overnight stay. Unknown to me then he had written to his father exclaiming “would see Mama in a few hours”! Alas that was not to be. As my flight took off from Istanbul, tears still flooding down my face, for what should have been, but was not allowed to be; a mother’s joyful reunion with her son!
I just could not believe it truly did happen this way, but for the tight clutching pain in my chest l would have thought it was nothing but a bad dream, which I pray fervently to wake up from, and soon!
Two days later, as I continue this outpouring of a mother’s anguish, tears still fill my eyes. This is just so not me, those who do not know me may think l am being unnecessarily sentimental or that l cry at the drop of a hat, but those who know me, know that my tears do not fall easily.
Months later, I was told by my Son that leaving the airport that night well past midnight, he had to walk for a few kilometres before he could find a bus back to school as the trains stop operating after midnight. He walked in the rain for two hours and in temperature that was about seven degrees!
As is common with most mothers, I am prone to worry over the children and I asked myself; What if he had been mugged? What if he had caught a cold walking in such freezing cold? What if he had gotten sick? Caught Pneumonia or Asthma? (as it runs in the father’s family). What if? What if? The questions keep running through my head. Would they then have permitted me entrance into the hallowed chamber? Or would they have allowed me see him only when they bring his body home?
Alhamdulillah! None of my fears materialised into reality. He is hale and hearty, and happy to be home for the holidays!
Rabi A. Anwar wrote from Abuja.