On Monday morning, September 1, 2014, the car that was to take us to Atatürk Airport for a flight to Tbilisi for the Caucasian Mathematics Conference was late. The dispatcher said there had been a breakdown, but he was sending another car. To wait for this was frustrating; but the new car did come, and we made it to the airport in plenty of time. Indeed, our driver said the roads would be clear (and they were), because a lot of traffic had been tied up on the Bosphorus Bridge. This had been closed, because of a threatened suicide.
After some hours, the suicide actually happened: so our driver told us, and so his radio reported. Thus a report of the incident in the Hürriyet Daily News would appear to be correct. I cannot vouch for the authority of the accompanying photo, which Hürriyet does not source.
International Business Times sources its story to Hürriyet, but its photo to Twitter. In any case, my purpose is not to investigate the accuracy of news media, but to recall my thoughts on the way to the airport; they have been sadly exemplified since then by the deaths of ten workers in our neighborhood.
To prevent a man from taking his own life, the authorities closed one of the two bridges joining Europe to Asia. The closure lasted for hours, but was futile. The man jumped and died. Meanwhile, workplace safety in Turkey is a disgrace. Three hundred miners die in Soma in Manisa province on the Aegean, and the Prime Minister (now President) says, in effect, shit happens.
During the last week of August, from our Istanbul balcony, I had watched men remove the tiles from the roof of a school that was being demolished.
Four floors from the ground, the men worked without any kind of safety harnesses that I could see. I have watched men here demolish houses by sledgehammer: the walls that they strike are the walls that they are actually balanced on top of. At our neighborhood school though, once the roof tiles were off, the walls were torn down by machine.
The demolition lets us see some greenery now. Apparently the greenery will be screened again though. At least the screening will be done by another school, rather than, say, more high rises like the ones seen rising in the upper left.
I mused on this as we drove to the airport on September 1. It is well understood that injuries and deaths will happen on construction and demolition sites. The authorities show little concern for preventing these; but one guy threatens to jump from a bridge, and the authorities will close the bridge for hours.
I do not mean to suggest that they should just ignore the guy and let him jump; but since he did jump anyway, the authorities might want to reconsider their suicide prevention measures. It appears that sixty-five people jumped from the Bosphorus Bridge between 1986 and 1995. Would a net be justified, as in San Francisco? Or if it is judged to be too expensive, why is closing the bridge unexpectedly for hours not too expensive? If indeed it is not, then let us close some more roads, and permanently!
On September 6, a day before our return to Istanbul, ten workers died on the high-rise construction site in my photo above. Next day, at a protest at the site, the police deployed their usual weapons of tear gas and water cannon.