Sunday, 6 July 2014
Being held at gunpoint
Back in the seventies I spent six weeks tramping through Turkey with several friends that others would have described as "hippies". It was winter, Christmas in fact, so we decided to journey to the spot where according to Bible scholars the Virgin Mary was brought by St. John after the Crucifixion. Here she reportedly ascended to heaven and a shrine was built there, which is attended by Franciscan monks. So, off we go to midnight mass not knowing that the place was also safeguarded by the Turkish military. They had mandatory military service for two years for the population and they used the troops for all kinds of "security".
After the mass and a couple of glasses of brandy and Christmas goodies supplied by the monks we tried to leave the site which is located in mountainous country. "Wild dogs and bandits will get you" we were informed by inebriated soldiers. A confrontation soon ensued…men and women were separated and I found myself in a tiny room heated by a coal burning stove. The problem was the stove was leaking very black smoke into the room.
I thought, "great, I can choose between asphyxiation and being shot". My "sisters" were busy huddling in a corner crying. I bang on the door and shout in every language I knew. I violently rattled the doorknob. I could hear men arguing on the other side of the door. Adrenalin building inside me I start kicking the door. It gives way. Unbeknownst to me, on the other side there was a soldier sitting on the floor with a long gun across his lap. When the door gave way I had clipped him in the head with the doorknob. He jumps up and pushes the gun in my face. I still have a vivid recollection of his dark curly hair and white undershirt as he wove unsteadily in front of me. And at that point I hear my then husband (#1) say, "I told you she was trouble." All I could think was, "will I see tomorrow?"
Clearly, we did make it to our van…after everybody had sobered up, the emotional landscape had changed. The crazy thing is, in retrospect, I am glad this happened to me. I can feel this way because I had the luxury of surviving. Maybe it made me a stronger person. Later on that month I was nearly kidnapped in a bus station even though I was covered with a head scarf and ankle length coat. Being blonde and blue eyed made me a target. I got away after breaking my attacker's front teeth with my elbow. After that, I went to Switzerland and my husband to Palestine.