Hello everyone. I am using my platform to share with you a very strange and deeply unsettling set of experiences I had recently, on multiple occasions, at Istanbul´s New Airport with its flagship carrier, Turkish Airlines.
I have already written a complaint through the appropriate channels and nothing was done about it. In fact, things got even worse.
At first, it was general derision and ridicule, followed by someone literally trying to deface my US Visa – followed by (on a different occasion) a Turkish Airlines staff member who physically tried to intimidate me.
I had to throw up my fists to defend myself, right in the center of the airport – with his staff members watching (and his supervisor on the phone) doing absolutely nothing.
That was followed by yet another encounter at passport control where they refused to speak English and kept asking me questions in Turkish because – and I quote – “English was an imperialist language¨ and if I wanted to visit Turkey I had to learn Turkish. This had absolutely NOTHING to do with stamping my passport so I could go through border control.
Whilst not everyone has this sort of experience through the new airport, other travellers whom I met and observed had similar issues – especially if they were single, dark-skinned female travellers. I provide more detail in the video report.
Whilst I did find some lovely people at the airport doing their best to help, these were sadly in the minority. To be clear, I do not have any deep set grievances against Turkish people in general – I visited Istanbul in 2006 and had a wildly different – and positive experience.
These experiences were not at all what I expected – and as a global traveller of 16 years … this level of discrimination and harassment – at an international airport – is unprecedented from my observations.
Whilst people are entitled to their political beliefs and cultural identities, it does not give them the right to belittle, demean, physically bully or intimidate others who are not like them. A running joke amongst the staff was how women of colour had no money. And so were treated in deeply disrespectful ways.
The behavior of the passport control officers and agents were nothing short of sociopathic.
As a single female traveller of colour, I do not feel safe travelling through that airport again.
As I know a written report has absolutely no effect, I make this video in the hope that other travellers who have had the same or similar experiences.
If you have contacts within the airline industry, to any bodies of oversight and accountability, or a straight line to Turkish Airlines – please do send this to them.
And if you have your own story to tell, say it.
Nothing will ever change if you don´t.
Dr. Bairavee Balasubramaniam PhD
The Sky Priestess
7:56 pm, 11th June 2019
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia