GÜLSÜM KABADAYI
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GÜLSÜM KABADAYI

A STORY OF A MOTHER : UMUT
Interviewer: Senem Yıldırım
Place: Gülsüm Hanım’ın evi. Meydan Kavağı Mahallesi.
Date: 19.08.2015

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Interview



Will you introduce yourself to us?
I was born in 1972 in Şirinyalı, Antalya. After I was born, my mother gave me to my grandmother. My father was a baker, so I am a worker child. My mother was a gardener. I have never seen a mother love. My father died when I was five. This is the fate,.They say you start to be tested when you are born.  That's how my test started.  My Grandma took care of me. I started primary school meanwhile my mother married my uncle. We were exposed to violence. It’s told that “uncle is a half dad” and with this opinion my grandmother convinced my mother to marry my uncle. But he never showed us love. Also, my mother did not show love to us. After I finished Primary School, I went to Anatolian İmam Hatip High School. After the first class of high school I quit, because we had many visitors to our house and I was expected to help with house works. My stepfather and my mother didn’t care about me. My grandmother was too old. But my grandmother brought us up very well. She grew me up with the love of God. She taught us to take care for our elderlies, for the disabled, for the sick ones and for our neighbours.
 
How was your marriage?
When I was 15, I had an arranged marriage; although we had no chance to know each other before we got married,  I loved my husband very much. There is an age difference of 13-14 years between me and my husband. He gave me every kind of love, mother’s, father’s and a husband’s. After that, my testing was starting again because I could not get a child. We had many treatments. Six years later my first son was born; we were very happy. His name is Tunahan. Then I had two more sons. I gave them the love I did not see. Our financial means were very good. We had a minibus line, we had a shop. I was working. We had a good life. We often had guests in our house. Somebody was taking care of my children. Property does not belong to people. God gives and takes. God took everythings from us. That was our fate. The children and me were really affected by this. Finally we divorced in 2006, but I never gave up fighting. I worked in various jobs, I never gave up. My children grew up and started primary school. My youngest son could not speak. It is my destiny to look after a disabled child. The doctors noticed about the disability of my son before birth and they proposed an abortion. I did not accept and thank God, I have a wonderful boy.
 
How did you first meet with Umut?
I was divorced in 2006 from my husband, but my sister in law was older than me, she was for me like a mother. She also did not have a mother; we were very close to each other. She was the cause of Umut entering my life. She was having a treatment at Akdeniz University Hospital. After a simple operation she was in a coma. At that time, Umut had an accident and was brought to us. I had another testing with Umut. Not only with Umut, but also with the whole world. It is very important to struggle. I learned this from my grandmother and I took care of her after I got married. It is our responsibility to look after the people who are in need. Today it not like this anymore; there is no neighbourhoodship anymore. There are many things to consider; we are not poor, we have power as a woman. It is all in our hands. We can do whatever we want. I'm trying to explain this to people. People understand, but they do not want to understand. Even in a pot of concrete the seedlings will grow when you treat them with affection. If people would give love to their surroundings, there would be neither crime nor terror. The reason for violence is the lack of love; I have experienced this. I did not do physical violence to my children, but my uncle did exercise violence on me, both verbal and physical. But I repented. If I get married, I said, I will give love to my child, to my husband. No matter if man or woman, people should be like this. If you have been hurt, you should not hurt somebody else. You should treat others with love and patience. This is the way problems will be solved. When Umut entered our life, he became my eye, my arm, my leg. Explain this, people said. Umut was my eye, so that I could see a more beautiful world. I had mistakes too and Umut showed them to me. He showed me how to do good. It seemed as if he said “Mom give me love, try hard for me and it will be going better”. I tried to tell people about this. Umut brought happiness to my soul, peace, health. Because he loved us, he caused the roses of love to blossom. When they say to me “How do you look after Umut, do you not feel repelled?”, I say “No, I see only love.”  Because if you think good, your approach is also good. He did not bring us the evil, he filled our home with love. I have 3 sons and none of them does have bad habits. Only Umut (Hope) is in our lives.
 
Have you had negative experiences during your marriage?
Never, I saw the love I had not seen from my own family. Our financial situation was also very good. We were such a beautiful family. We separated because of our financial situation and because of my health problems. The doctors told me that I had a serious illness and this depressed me. But Umut gave me life. That is what I’m trying to tell people. I was thinking of everyting except death. I told myself to never give up. We had hard times financially, but I never gave up. That is how women have to be, because we have to take care of our children.
 
If you look back, do you think what your life would have been like, If you were born elsewhere or if you would have married with someone else?
No, I did not, because it would not have been different. This is my fate. I never feel envy, because when I think of the past 8 years or later, I was unhappy despite being wealthy. Why I was not happy then? Because I did not know people, but now I am very strong as woman. I have many friends and I talk to everyone.
 
How is your health now?
I am diabetic and I have blood pressure problems, but Umut is like a therapy for me, believe me. I had a facial paralysis for example, doctors told me that healing would take a long time, but I got over it in a week. I think it’s because of Umut and the prayers for Umut. As if Allah has given us this happiness. I can’t think of anything other than Umut even when he goes to treatment for a short period of time. As mothers, we can prevent violence and terror, this I learned from Umut.
 
What is the difference between the other sons and Umut? What makes you so emotional about Umut?
Umut’s hand, arm and eye are mine. To me, he is a trust of Allah. Spirituality is something very different. It gives me strength. Think, how may a woman cope alone during 8 years with this type of struggle. A sick child connected to the machine and the doctors saying that there was no hope, but he lived with the help of a spiritual force. Whatever I experienced in my dreams, it all happened. Everybody asks, why I look after this child. I answer, that I do not think this way. We should show the strenghth of a Turkish woman. Everything is in the hands of women.
 
How would your life be without Umut?
Probably it would be the same, working, taking care of my children, but spirituality would be missing in my life. I say, iI would not be as strong as I am now, if Umut weren't there.
 
You are applying a therapy to Umut, but could we say, that Umut also is a therapy for you?
Yes, in fact. It’s not me who takes care of Umut, Umut takes care of us. My children sometimes do not want to go out. They say, " Harm comes from the people outside”. Some of my children's friends say, “We could have an accident and lie next to Umut, your mother is a very good person, she will look after us”. Families need to take care of their children. They need to teach their children pity, patience and love.
 
If you were a man, could you still look after Umut like that? Do you think a man would do the same?
If his mother has raised him in a good way, he would. I ask my sons, what will happen to Umut when I am old. They say, that they will take care of him. Men cannot be without women. Women arrange everything. Women need to be a leader in every way. For example, the number of women in the parliament is very few. Women would lead Turkey better, because women know better about the difficulties. In education and social services, women are more successful than men. Women should also fulfill military service. Everything must be equal. If women would be more in the foreground, Turkey could be so wonderful.

Which type of books attract you most?
I love reading political books. Sometimes I read a novel for relaxtion. The novel “Çalıkuşu” I liked most. I also read informative books about Umut's care. I've researched a lot. In the last 8 years I read about how to take care of a patient at home. Umut has been lying for eight years, but there is not a single decubitus. I learned a lot about things like elderly and patient care, physical therapy. I am researching at every opportunity and my research is going very well. I am investigating  about herbal treatments. I am very curious about testing old treatment methods.
 
Have you been criticized by people?
People criticized me very much. They ask me, “Why are you dressing like this? Why do you not take more care of yourself?” But they are surprised, when I start talking.
 
Which people have done this criticism?
Our own people say these. The foreigners did not criticize me at all. Our own women said all this and insult me. They criticize me about my clothes and my appearance. They do not know how to improve themselves. There must be solidarity among women. Women should not confront about clothing.

Do your children complain about this? Do they want you to spend more time with them?
No, they said nothing. The Social Policy Directorate has already asked them about their thoughts. Do you know what my little boy said? "My mother is Umut's hand, arm, leg ",he said. My little boy was not speaking, but he talked to Umut. That happened because of Umut’s love. Love overcomes every difficulty. My children love Umut very much. My sons are deprived of many things. They say, "Our wedding, our festivities will be celebrated when Umut heals". I am happy if I teached them this mercy, this patience.
 
You have been looking at Umut for eight years. How do you handle the financial burden aside from the spiritual burden?
There were times I had a lot of difficulties. I prayed a lot and I experienced miracles on this matter. Diapers arrive before they are used up, meat comes before it is finished. I have three volunteer mothers. And my divorced husband gives support too. Welfare organizations from Antalya and the Russian Friendship and Culture Association also aid.
 
Do you get help from the state?
The state gives a family welfare salary, 4 diapers per day, a reduction of 10 % for our electricity and also for water we have a discount. Normally, healthy children are given to foster families. We had so many female ministers at the Ministry of Family and Social Affairs, none ever called. Provincial representatives and bureaucrats contact us, but ministers do not. Could the state not offer more support for illnesses like this? For example, why electricity could not be free? There is no physical therapie for those children. Many mothers call me and ask me for support. They ask me for help, but I didn’d do anything, not even a treatment for him.
 
Is this because he is foreign?
Yes, I think there is kind of discrimination. I am against this, why should we distinguish people? People say ”Why are you taking care of this child? He is a foreigner, let him go. He is not a Muslim." I don’t care what they say, people cannot affect me anymore. The fact that Umut is a foreigner is actually an excuse, to escape from such a task. We have lost our culture of solidarity and cooperation.

What about your trip to Russia?
When I was assigned as foster family, we stayed in hospital almost two years. They said that I should look after him at home and we rented a house near to the hospital. One day, a woman named Kristina came to the hospital for medical treatment. When she saw Umut, she started to speak Russian. The child, who had never cried before, started to cry when he heard the Russian language. Kristina said, "I will bring this child to Russia and I will help you that people in Russia hear about you." Then women of Russian TV channels came. Journalists from Russia came to see Umut and stayed in our house for 5 days. They took photos and videos of our daily live and they said that Umut was a star in Russia. Then they took us to Moscow. As a Turkish woman, I was very well welcomed there. The Turkish flag was everywhere. They told me to come with my usual, daily clothes. I went to the TV channel with my shalwar and head veil. When I entered the studio the Russian minister held my hand. Everyone was crying. For minutes they applauded to Turkey. The minister of Putin came as the deputy of the nation and kissed my shalwar. A week later, in Russia they called me a holy woman.
 
How did people abroad react to disabled people?
In developed countries, there is respect for those with disabilities. But when we go out here with Umut, when we take the tramway, t there is no respect. They are afraid of Umut. But everybody could have a disability one day, they do not know this.
 
How is the situation in Antalya?
It is difficult. It is difficult allover Turkey. Sidewalks, public transport, wheelchair ramps ….  In Antalya, it is very difficult to take a person with a disability to the sea.
 
Do you have favorite leaders?
For me, the greatest leader is Atatürk.  We ow everything to him. A republican woman is very different. No woman can be the enemy of Atatürk. Ataturk brought us unity, brought order, brought equality between men and women. Women should not forget this.

If you had the chance to choose a profession, what profession would that be?
I would have loved to be a teacher. And I wanted to be a cop. Being a police, I wanted to help the women in bad situations. I wanted to wear that uniform and help people. To teach is something else. I would like to be a teacher for disabled children. I would like to help autistic children. My God gave me Umut. In fact, it is not only to study, it is important to train yourself.
 
Does the house where you live belong to you?
Russian minister Ramin Gasymov and the Rönesans Holding gave this house to me. A handover ceremony was held, when we changed to this house. Many officials from Russia came to the ceremony. There were very nice speechs at the opening ceremony, with honorable words for me and I cried a lot.

What do you think where Umut’s family is?
I think, Umut has a family, but they do not want him being disabled. When the Russians came here to Turkey, the journalist Andrey Malahov told me that. It would be difficult for me, if the family were found. Giving birth is different, giving effort is different. I did not try so hard on my own children. It would be difficult to give him away now, if his mother showed up. But for Umut it would be good, he would be with his mother.

Will Umut be all right?
Sure he will. That's what the physiotherapist says. Umut is getting better. His body is fine, only his brain suffered. He understands, but he cannot answer. He reacts very strongly to the Russian language I absolutely believe that he will recover.

What difficulties do you have as foster family for Umut?
Umut is now a Turkish citizen for reason of treatment costs and bureaucracy. In the beginning, the goverment did not want to give him to me , because I am separated from my husband, I had children and I was in financial difficulty. Everything is not as it seems. These past eight years have been very difficult..  Now we have problems with the social insurance covering the treatment expenses, but I will also fight in these matters. I do not give up on a task. Goverment wanted to take Umut from me. But nobody but God can separate him from me. If they separate us, Umut will die.

Does he understand what you say?
I have a very different communication with him. I do everything carefully and on time in his treatment and now he is used to it. He has physical therapy every day and I do his exercises. He expresses when he is thirsty, making some sound. He is aware of some things. I went to Samsun with Umut and during 8 months  I have seen a special training there. A charitable businessman paid for our expenses. When we returned, Umut was able to sit upright. Now this treatment has to continue, but the social insurance is not covering. A Bioenergy specialist came from Russia. This was very helpful, Umut can smile now. He loves listerning to the children's voices at the park. I wished, the kids would not run away from him. He loves water and animals.

What do you think about the future of Umut?
I think he is going to be fine and he will find his own family. Now everybody knows about us. All the statesmen know about us now. I just want a permanent solution for all these person with special needs, not only for Umut. This patient should have physiotherapy all their live, love and help.

What about benevolence in Antalya?
Antalya is a very rich city, but everybody is on his own. There is no unity. The business women in Antalya gave me a medal only. Much more things can be done for people with disabilities, for example a battery powered car is a huge necessity.

Concerning Antalya, did your visit to Russia change something?
At that time The Governor of Antalya called me "tourism attache”. Umut was an icon. Actually, much more could have been done. For example, I tried to establish a "Umut Volunteers Foundation", but I did not succeed. This could have been very good for Turkey and for tourism.

What do you think about the Antalya Women's Museum?
I am very glad to hear that, because women now have a voice being heard, will be more recognized. I think the museum can evolve and it will be very useful for our future. This museum is a very nice idea.

What would you like to see in the women's museum?
I would like to see everything that women do. That would make me proud. I want to see the woman's work there. Labor is very important. The difficulties women that women face, women’s patience and their sense for protectation need to be demonstrated. I want to see both, the bad things women experience and the good things. I am really curious about that museum. I want to see strong women.

What do you think about the future?
I was wondering, if my children would take care of me when I'm old, but now I am more optimistic. I want to see Umut’s wedding and his children. This is my dream, I want this so much. I feel sorry for him. May God prevent people from being tied to the bed.
GÜLSÜM KABADAYI