News & Events

Mars Hill University Student Is Afraid For Friends and Family in Turkey

Selin TalaySelin Talay (pronounced like “Celine”), a rising junior at Mars Hill University, has plane tickets to go see her parents at Christmas time. And already, she is afraid.

A native of Ankara, Turkey, Selin will be flying in to Istanbul Airport, the site of the recent bombing, claimed by Islamic State militants, which took the lives of 42 people and wounded 239 others. The attack was the fourth suicide bombing by militants in Turkey in 2016.

"To be honest, yeah, I'm kind of afraid, but I have to go there," she said. "I feel like my family and friends are there. I would like to see them, but no one knows what's going to happen in Turkey."

This summer, Selin has remained in the U.S., an intern in MHU's admissions office. Although she is many miles away from Istanbul, the recent attack was very personal for her. Not only is she often in the airport herself, but she had friends who were in the airport mere minutes before the bomb went off. On Facebook, she learned how close she had come to losing some of them.

"Some of my friends had left the airport about 14 minutes before the explosion. Some left an hour before the explosion. They said that they were really lucky," she said.

Another two friends were close by in March 2016, when militants bombed civilian buses in Selin's hometown of Ankara, killing 37 people and injuring 125. "That's where I used to take the bus, the exact same area. I thought I was so lucky that I wasn't there," Selin said. Selin's friend Mine (pronounced Meenay), sent photos to Selin which included violent amputations and burning vehicles. "I deleted them because it was really bad. It was so sad, so I deleted them," she said.

Since the bombings began, Turkey's extensive public transportation system has become a source of constant fear.

"In Turkey, we have lots of public transportation. I used to prefer those, but maybe I will just take a taxi," she said. News in her hometown warns people against using public transportation at rush hours, because it is a tempting time for terrorists to attack.

Selin's parents have a private car, and use it whenever possible to travel, but recently, her mother was forced to take the bus on a solo trip downtown. "She texted me and was very afraid," Selin said.

Another source of fear for Selin and her parents is any display of faith in public. Selin's parents and most of her friends are Muslims, but she became a Christian last year after coming to the U.S. On a recent trip home, Selin wanted to attend a Christian church service. Her mother talked her out of it, not because she disapproved, but for safety reasons. Newspapers in the area had warned that ISIS militants planned to target Christian churches in the area, and Selin's mother was afraid for her.

"I am afraid to go to church in Turkey, afraid to read the Bible publicly, afraid to pray out loud," she said.

Not long ago, Selin's American boyfriend wanted her to pray with him before a meal in public. She agreed, but even here in western North Carolina, she feared bowing her head in public. "I am trying to get used to it," she said.

Though she has not experienced discrimination from her friends at Mars Hill University, Selin said she feels that many Americans misunderstand people from Turkey, and Muslims in general. The people she loves in Turkey are victims of ISIS and have much to fear.

"I don't want them to think that all Muslims are terrorists," she said.