"Call me Ak Baba," the white-haired man says with a smile as he tells his not-so-happy story (Ak Baba means "white father" in Turkish). Indeed, the fifty-nine-year-old man looks older than his years, as even his beard is white. Considering the ordeal he survived and the life he's led for over thirty years because of it, the aging on his face is understandable.
Thirty-three years ago, when his wife was pregnant with their son, Abdullah Kork was working as a prison guard near Istanbul. He was a tall, athletic man but kind to the prisoners. His life was changed in just a few moments when two inmates, convicted as terrorists and serving long sentences, attacked him with a knife. The blade cut into his lower back and damaged his spine.
For two years Abdullah could not walk. With great determination and some medical rehabilitation, he slowly became mobile. Each step he took, however, was accompanied by pain. Abdullah had promptly filed a disability claim with the Turkish governmen
t after he had been forced to give up his prison guard job. He was offered early retirement, but the government refused to pay him any money other than his small monthly retirement checks.
Now, at 59, Abdullah stays inside and rests in his bed most of the day because of the pain he still feels in his back and legs, especially when he ventures outside for short walks around his rented apartment near Istanbul. His wife must work as a housekeeper to bring in a little extra cash, for Abdullah's monthly retirement checks are only the equivalent of $700.
This year, Abdullah filed a lawsuit against the Turkish government, and the case may go to trial in a month or two. Abdullah, however, is not optimistic of its outcome.
"I want to appeal to the Human Rights Court in Europe
," he said (in Turkish) as he held up his Turkish retirement card. "My family and I have lived in poverty for all these years. My son and his wife are currently unemployed, and they live with my wife and I. My daughter is struggling to survive as a university student. The Turkish government has ignored my pleas, and I believe they have refused me the universal human right
of a decent life. If you know how I can get help from the Free World, please tell me. Turkey wishes it could be part of the European Union
, but I doubt they will be because of human rights
issues like mine."
Still, he smiles. His apartment is small and in a dangerous neighborhood. Winter has hit Turkey hard this year, and snow piles up outside the windows framed in lacy curtains.
"It's even a struggle to keep warm," he adds as he sips a cup of hot tea. "Water and electricity prices keep rising, and many apartments have no access to natural gas for heating. Maybe, in a couple of months, someone will listen to my voice and help me with this battle."
If you want to help Baba Abdullah, send an email to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan at firstname.lastname@example.org