Turkey Fethiye 2001.04.01 - 04.04

Kayaköy Attack

Photos of Lycian tombs in the Lonely Planet guide drew us to Fethiye. These weren't mundane sarcophagi lying about. They were temples carved into rock-faced cliffs.

Our bus from Denizli arrived at the Fethiye otogar (bus station) at 17:00. Having read in the Lonely Planet that the best time to visit the Lycian tombs is before sunset, we hoped to leave our backpacks at the bus station, view the tombs on foot for an hour or two, and return in time for a later bus to our next destination, Kaş. The last bus to Kaş departed at 17:15. We were stuck in Fethiye for the night to the delight of Soner, the Ideal Pension owner scouting the otogar for customers.

Soner directed us to a dolmuş stop across the street from the otogar. "The taxi drivers become irate when I drive customers directly from the otogar," he claimed. Having reached the roadside wondering which dolmuş to signal for pickup, an Australian man ran up to us blurting rapidly. "Are you staying at Ideal Pension? A lady from New Zealand has been attacked." Not having decided to stay at Ideal and confused why our lodging decision had anything to do with someone getting attacked, Wes thought of the only lady from New Zealand he knew to be in Turkey (actually we thought she'd be in Greece now) and inquired, "Is her name Anne?". "You know her!" was the completely unexpected response. We hurried down the road and saw Anne by the roadside with dirty torn trousers (not unusual for her) and noticeably swollen foot as she crouched over her walking stick appearing to be in pain. We later learned that after a life threatening mugging on a hiking trail, she staggered out of the forest with a broken foot, found a dolmuş back to Fethiye, and yelled "STOP!" when she saw us out the window.

On the way to the pension, Anne told us the whole story. She intended to walk alone from Fethiye to Kayaköy (about 6km) to Ölüdeniz (another 8km). After finishing lunch in Kayaköy, she started up the trail towards Ölüdeniz. Only a few minutes from the town, she saw a well-dressed teenage boy. Confirming that she was walking to Ölüdeniz, he waved goodbye. Up the trail Anne walked. When she reached the top of the hill 30 minutes later, the same boy appeared. Upon being asked what he's doing, he concocted an obvious lie claiming to be looking for his sheep. Anne thought his behavior strange but thought he merely wanted to practice his English. He followed her along the trail until it overlooked the ocean. As Anne stood at the edge of a cliff to admire the view, she was suddenly shoved forward over the cliff. Grabbing for anything protruding from the rock side, she managed to cling to a small pine tree about 6 meters down. Scrambling back to the top of the cliff, she found the boy, visibly upset that she saved herself, wielding a meat knife. Being a criminal psychologist, Anne knew to undermine the boy's aggression by remaining calm and talking about the situation as if it were normal. She said, "You don't have to do THIS. If you need money, then I have money. Let's see, I have 25 million. Well, I need 5 million to get home, so you can have 20 million." The boy next demanded her camera. Anne first reasoned to him, "No. I'm a tourist here and taking pictures is important to me. I need my camera." But the boy's eyes widened and he began hyperventilating. Anne knew he was emotionally charging himself to use the knife. "Ok. If the camera is also important to you, then you can have it." Taking the cash and camera, the boy ran away. From that point on the trail, Anne pushed onward to Ölüdeniz, suppressing the pain in her foot to reach safety.

Wes and Soner accompanied Anne to the Jandarma (local military police) in the tiny beach-front town of Ölüdeniz to report the attack. Passing through a barricade guarded by a heavily armed soldier, we entered the office of a non-English speaking sergeant who recorded Anne's statement translated to Turkish by Soner: near the village of Kayaköy, 13:00, teenage boy, too young to shave, well dressed, deep-blue button-down shirt, black pants, black dirty shoes, dark hair, about 160cm tall, changing personalities, meat knife with wooden handle, pushed Anne off a cliff to disable her, stole her Pentax camera and 20 million TKL. After the 30 minute interview, the base commander gave orders. Immediately, Anne was loaded into a Jandarma van with 6 heavily armed soldiers (plus driver) and the commander. Wes and Sonar followed by car.

Based on the boy's dress, the Jandarma guessed that he worked at one of the restaurants in Kayaköy, the starting point of the hiking trail where the attack occurred. Being a tiny town with only a dozen restaurants, they chose to systematically drive restaurant to restaurant, line up the workers, and ask Anne if she recognized her assailant. At the 3rd restaurant, Anne identified the boy as he approached the military police with seemingly idle curiosity. A 2 minute search of the premises turned up Anne's camera. When the commander matched the camera with the manufacturer slip that Anne kept at the pension, there was no question that the correct boy had been found. Plopped into the rear of the Jandarma van between armed soldiers, the boy was transported back to the military base where he was questioned by the sergeant in the presence of Anne and Sonar. Within an hour, the boy admitted his guilt. Impressed, Anne said to Wes privately, "All those negative things I said about the Turkish military I may need to take back."

Although apprehending the boy was quick, recording the exact sequence of events based on testimonies by Anne and the boy were time consuming. Wes waited these hours in the hall and got a brief glimpse of Turkish military life. The soldiers were all serving their mandatory 18-month military duty. Ages ranged from late teens to early twenties. The base commander was in his early 30s and the regional big chief was only 34. Two soldiers spoke English and through them, Wes talked to half a dozen. Each soldier came from a different part of Turkey: he's from İsanbul, he's from İzmir, he's from Ankara, he's from near Iraq. Each had a narrowly defined responsibility: he drives the van, he answers the phone, he cooks, he carries a big gun sometimes standing by the front gate and sometimes riding in the van. They were each paid 5 million TKL per month (about US$5). The 18-month duty is served 10 months on, 1 month break, 8 months on. One married soldier last saw his wife 4 months ago just before he arrived for duty. He wouldn't see his wife for another 6 months. One 19-year old soldier had already completed 14 months. He was desperately looking forward to freedom in only 4 more months. They were all counting days. Wes' chatting caused disruption of monotonous routine and the scolding of some soldiers who strayed from their post to join in the conversation. The armed soldier who was supposed to guard the front gate, for instance, gradually meandered towards our laughter until he was spotted by his commander 20 meters distant from his post. It sounded something like, "Get back in position, soldier!" spitted into his face in Turkish. It must be difficult to remain serious about guarding a gate at a tiny military office sitting directly in front of the gentle waves of the Mediterranean Sea in a quiet town of no more than a few hundred people where the biggest event of the century was probably Wes, a foreigner, sitting in the hall.

While waiting, the sun had set and Wes was hungry. "Are there any restaurants nearby that I could walk to?" he asked one of the English speaking soldiers. No, everything was already closed but the soldier found some apples in the kitchen and offered some bread that he had bought at the market. Content with some bread and apple, Wes munched in the hall while chatting with the soldiers. The base commander exited the interrogation room and saw Wes in the hall, stormed up to the kind soldier who had offered his personal supply of bread, and proceeded to spit seething explicatives at him. After the commander stormed out of the building, Wes timidly asked if he was violating some rule about food consumption in the hallway. No, that wasn't the problem. The translation was, "We have a hungry guest and that's all you can find?!!!" Several minutes later, the base commander returned with a glass of orange juice which he set on the hall table with a polite smile. We can only suppose that he subsequently caused hell in the kitchen, because soon afterwards, a tray of food was delivered.

At 23:00, a report for the court was generated and we proceeded to our next stop: the hospital. First the boy was taken in for a psychiatric evaluation that lasted only long enough to ask, "Do you know your name? Where do you live?" Then Anne's foot was x-rayed haphazardly without calibration or decent positioning only to be told by the night assistant, "I looked at your x-ray and I don't know if there's a fracture because I'm not a doctor." The sub-quality x-ray image was delivered to the doctor's house while we waited. "Yes, your foot bone is fractured. We will put on a temporary cast tonight because there's too much swelling for a full cast," they reported. An under-trained nurse slapped some cotton and plaster on the broken foot without disinfecting the open wounds. "Shouldn't we wash and disinfect the foot first?" Wes and Anne asked. "No. This is just temporary," the nurse dismissed our concerns. Sure enough, the next night, one of Anne's toes covered in plaster hurt unreasonably. Wes and Masami used water and Swiss Army Knife to expose a small dirt-filled wound that now pussed white with infection. We cleaned the toe, disinfected it, and reminded ourselves to always be persistent with authority figures who obviously don't know what they're doing.

Justice in Turkey is quick and impressive. The military apprehended the boy the day of the attack and the public prosecutor heard the case the next morning. Because Anne wasn't going to be in Fethiye long, the judge agreed to an exceptionally early case hearing that afternoon. Sentencing occurs on May 2. Until then, the boy stays in prison. The only remaining concerns are Anne's emotional state and the blatant ineptitude of public Turkish hospital doctors and nurses. The doctor who applied the full cast 2 days after the attack seemed to be as uneducated as the idiot nurse on our first night. The difference was that we insisted the foot be cleaned and disinfected before applying the cast. The doctor wasn't happy to have his procedure questioned, but so be it.

We decided to adopt Anne for the next 2 weeks until she's mobile again. The first objective was to leave Fethiye so Anne could mentally recover away from the persistent negative associations of the town. The 3 of us took a bus to Kaş.

These impressive Lycian tombs were carved into the cliff rising above Fethiye around 450 BC. At night, they are lit by spotlight and visible from nearly anywhere in the town.

Along a hill in Kayaköy is a deserted town of 2000 stone houses. The restaurant BÜLENT'İN YERİ on the main road directly in front of the ghost town serves excellent Turkish pancakes and distributes a decent hand-drawn map of the ghost town.

A poorly marked hiking trail connects Karaköy and Ölüdeniz. It was along this trail that Anne was attacked. We hiked it the following day without worry since the boy was in prison. Budget extra time for this hike because bushwhacking is the only option after the trail is lost.

HomePrevious PageNext Journal PageJournal Index 2001Map of the Middle East

  Copyright © 2000-2002   Wes and Masami Heiser.   All rights reserved.