Outcry on Turkish social media as videos show elderly people harassed in public

The Coronavirus outbreak in Turkey has led to social media debates about the way older people are treated in Turkish society, with videos showing people being rude and disrespectful or making fun of older citizens. These videos have in turn led to a backlash against people who publicly disrespect the elderly.

On March 21, the Interior Ministry announced a curfew for people over the age of 65 and with chronic illnesses. This announcement led to a number of videos showing people attempting to implement these state-backed restrictions.  

In one viral video shared thousands of times, two men stop an old man on the street and ask him why he is walking around. The man was embarrassed as he had gone to the hospital and was on his way home. One of the younger men says he ‘might need to punish’ the old man. ‘We will forgive you this time’, the young man says, proceeding to reference the hashtag #evdekal (stay at home). 

Following an outcry on social media, the men who made the video shaming the older man were taken into custody. Some officials from the local municipality then went to the man’s home to apologise and check on him. 

Examples of both officials and ordinary citizens being rude or disrespectful to older people have become quite common since the Coronavirus outbreak in Turkey. In one example, an official in police uniform shouts angrily at an old man that he ‘needs to respect the authority of the state’s officer’.

Because of this video, an official Turkish police twitter account issued a public apology about the officer’s behaviour. In another video, a man stops an older man and makes fun of him, saying ‘we found someone with coronavirus’, putting a mask on his face and pouring cologne on his head.

Some social media users also suggested that public buses were refusing to stop for older people due to the pandemic.

In another video, an older woman even lay down in front of a bus which was refusing to let her travel on it because she looked older than 65.

Unfortunately, the Turkish government’s restrictions of movement of older people have been taken to heart by some people who see it as their duty to implement the government’s restrictions as if they are important government officials themselves. Whether these people are bus drivers, guards or other minor functionaries, it seems that some people have been taking pleasure in acting in an official capacity to feel important.

However, there were also some videos showing people helping older citizens, such as this one showing a municipality worker asking an elderly man what groceries he needs.

Some people also decided to create volunteer teams to deliver necessary goods to older people who could not leave their homes. As in many countries, the coronavirus pandemic has revealed both the positive and negative sides of the Turkish public, with some people abusing their power while others go out of their way to be kind and generous.

“Recently, there have been "elderly" discourses / videos on social media. Let's not forget that these people who are older than you are the memory of their society, their conscience. We are still standing with the education and acumen of this generation. Do not be mean. This is very important. #HayatEverSığar

The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Ahval.