Blue Shirts vs. Black Shirts: Continued Adventures in Detainment

I lied in the last post about jail. Sorry. Some events are getting hazy. I did not wake up to my lawyer. I woke up to a police officer shouting “Elizabeth!” with far too much joviality.

“Dear God,” I thought. “What fresh hell is this?”

He cheerfully brought me out to the lobby and motioned for me to sit and asked me if I wanted breakfast. I said yes, but breakfast never materialized. Tea did.

Several black shirts came up to practice their limited English with me, which is, of course, exactly what you want when you’re disoriented, tired, and stressed out in jail. Three asked me why I’d thrown rocks at the police.

“Why?” one earnest young blackshirt asked. “Why?”

“Do you speak English well?” I asked in Turkish.

“Only a little,” he replied.

“Then how can I explain?” I crossed my arms and stared into the middle distance until he went away.

The consulate called me after a half hour or so to ask if I was being mistreated. I said that I desperately wanted a book, and that I also desperately wanted a night’s sleep.

“We looked into that- they said you must have been disturbed by the noise.”

“No. They got me out of bed twice last night- once for a statement that didn’t need to be taken and once to go to a different office and have my fingerprints taken for the same time. Uninterrupted sleep and a book are the only complaints I have.”

“So they lied?”

“Yes. And they’ve just woken me up again and I have no idea why. Did they know you were going to call?”

“I don’t think so.”

“Curiouser and curiouser.”

It turned out that they woke me up to be nice to me, and let me wander around in the sunshine in the courtyard.


I wandered around in lazy figure eights in a space with room to park maybe nine or ten cars. The blue shirt cops grinned at me and hollered encouragement: “Sport!” and swung their arms to indicate I should be more vigorous. The chief warned me sternly about my parameters, and I endeared myself by sticking strictly within them and letting them know exactly where I was at all times and asking very nicely to use the toilet every time I had to go. Shortly I was basically unsupervised. From the courtyard you can see the Bosporus, and the ferries coming and going, and people walking. I had dreams of friends and students being able to wave goodbye, but at this point nobody had any idea where I was. It turned out later that Hannah thought I was in Kartal for some reason. Sesame and my lawyer and my mom were the only people who knew where I was.

I stood in the sunshine and watched people coming and going for as long as I could stand it and then went in to sleep on my pallet of stinky blankets. If I am relatively thin in my old age, it is because I’m not a stress eater: I’m a stress sleeper. When life becomes too difficult to handle I nap.

They didn’t even bother to lock me in my cell.

I woke up to my wonderful lawyer returning with a book and more water and a suitcase packed by Sesame. We conferred, and decided that since I appeared to have special privileges, I might as well stay where I was, rather than continue on to the detainment facility, which was an unknown. To arrange that all that had to happen was for her to be too busy to take my final statement.

When she left I did a few more figure eights in the parking lot, and then took a shower in the filthy little ladies room. Oh, dang- I’ve been holding out on all of you, particularly you, Julia and Barry. Of course you’ve been holding on to this dull narrative for one purpose only, so I won’t keep you in suspense any longer. Bathrooms in jail are a 1 out of 5: apparently toilet paper and paper towels can be used as weapons of violence and aren’t anywhere where feckless prisoners can get their hands on them, but there is soap. The water is freezing cold, but it will get you clean. It smelled absolutely appalling but appeared relatively clean. On par with a ferry bathroom, one point above a public hospital.

I changed into a clean dress and was rearranging my pallet of blankets and reorganizing my few things in the cell when there was a changing of the guard and I was locked in again. It turned out that the police chief that day liked me and trusted me, but the new guy did not. I know this because some black shirts came in and introduced themselves to me- oh my god, the unrelenting cheerfulness of those people almost killed me- and introduced me to the new chief.

“He has two houses!” one said proudly. “And a car!”

I know what cops make in Turkey. I can only imagine how he can afford two houses. The police chief was smiling the same smile as me: polite but bored and unable to escape.

“But he’s married!”

“Darn!” I said, and made a big show of snapping my fingers in disappointment. Everyone laughed and the chief slipped away.

“He doesn’t like you!” said blackshirt 1. “But don’t worry, because we do.”

“Thank you, gentlemen,” I said. And then they closed the door and left me alone.

An hour, maybe, later, someone came in and locked the door to the cell area from the inside, which baffled me until I figured out that the blackshirts were all getting ready to do battle with my friends and fellow çapulcus. There is only one men’s bathroom in the space, and I suppose when there aren’t lady prisoners, the blackshirts just go use the bathrooms in the cell area, but someone was looking out for me.

I don’t trust the blackshirts to not harass a lady, so I am grateful for small kindnesses.

I was woken up in the middle of the night by a far too cheerful “Elizabeth! Come!” The station was quiet and the chief nowhere in sight. They brought me out to the courtyard and gave me a cigarette. They were both fidgety and looked nervous.

“This is the last cigarette I’m going to have for a long time,” I thought.

I was right.

They took me back to my cell and locked me in and closed the door.

This entry was posted in Deportation, Gezi Park, Istanbul, Kadikoy, Turkey, Turkish Jail, Turkish Politics. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Blue Shirts vs. Black Shirts: Continued Adventures in Detainment

  1. Alan says:

    . . having once, in a past life, been a ‘screw’ (look it up and stop smirking) it is beyond me how a jail cannot be kept clean. Nothing ‘crims’ enjoy more than the chance to get out of a cell and do a bit of cleaning for a ciggy or two!

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