|Editorial | Turkishpedia | July 16, 2017|
Social scientists try not to use anecdotes as evidence to support their claims. It is because anecdotes do not only reflect a piece of truth, they also reflect how the observer sees the world. They are biased by our presumptions about how things are. This does not mean that anecdotes mean nothing. At the very least, they show that such things do happen. Here is one example. Last week, I had a problem with my computer and took it to the tech person of my company. While he was fixing my computer, we talked about various things and he asked me where I was from. I said that I was from Turkey. The next question he asked was: “Esed is your president, isn’t he?” This anecdote is a very poor evidence to argue that American people confuse Syria with Turkey. Nevertheless, it is adequate to argue that there are people in the US who confuse Syria with Turkey. Of course, the two arguments—American people confuse Syria with Turkey versus there are people in the US who confuse Syria with Turkey—are much different. The former has much more load than the other. Here is another example. The next day, my son and I were at the pool; he was swimming and I was typing something on my Mac. A neighbor came by and we started talking. He did not know that I was from Turkey. When he learned that I was from Turkey, the first thing that he asked was what I thought about Erdogan. Then he added; that he did not know that Turkey was next to Syria. Again, this anecdote is a very poor evidence to argue that Erdogan is the first person who comes to an average American’s mind when s/he thinks about Turkey. Or, Syria comes to an average American’s mind next when s/he thinks about Turkey. But again, it is adequate to argue that there are people in the US who think Erdogan and Syria when they think about Turkey. And again, the former argument—that is, Erdogan and Syria are the first two things that come to an average American’s mind when talking about Turkey—has much more load than the latter—that is, there are people in the US who think Erdogan and Syria when talking about Turkey.
By the way, I said Erdogan was a dictator. He agreed.
Lay people tend to build their arguments on anecdotes. Social scientists don’t. They use anecdotes when there is not much fact available on a subject. And this is the right thing to do, because anecdotes are not only pieces of fact, they are also how we see the world. Nevertheless, anecdotes are more than nothing. Especially, when they show a pattern, anecdotes are rich sources of new questions.
Here is one anecdote from a southeastern province of Turkey. On May 3rd, 2017, a police panzer smashed into a house in Silopi, Sirnak. Two brothers Muhammet (7 years old) and Furkan (6 years old) were killed at the incident. This was obviously an accident. However, there is nothing in the news indicating that the accident happened during a hot-chase or something like that. The police panzer was deployed for the safety of a political party’s (that is, the ultranationalist MHP’s) headquarters. Silopi is a city with a majority Kurdish population. Later on, panzer’s driver police officer was arrested. Some social media accounts claimed that the driver was under influence of alcohol during the incident. Sirnak governor refuted the claims.
Here are a few more anecdotes. On July 24th, 2016, a police panzer run over a four years old in Van, Turkey. The child was killed during the incident. On September 6th, 2016, an armored police car ran over Naciye Ozmen (71 years old) in Tunceli. Naciye Ozmen was crossing the street. On February 9th, 2017, an armored police car ran over a 7 years old, Berfin Dilek, in Dargecit, Mardin. On April 27th, 2017, an armored police car ran over Hatun Elhuman (55 years old) in Diyarbakir. On April 28th, 2017, two people were killed in an accident by an armored police car. In the same week, seven people were injured in another accident that involved an armored police car. On June 14th, 2017, Pakize Hazar (70 years old) was run over by an armored police car. She was killed at the scene. She was crossing a street that was closed to through traffic. According to the victim’s sister, Hasret Yasarer (80 years old), police gave her a nylon bag and asked her to collect her sister’s body parts from the street. On June 20th, 2017, an armored police car colluded with a bus in Diyarbakir. Five people in the bus were killed during the incident.
What do these anecdotes mean? Kurdish MP’s of Turkey have asked the same question to the ministry of interior in the parliament. All of the incidents involve armored police cars. Victims are Kurds in all of these incidents. Is this normal? Do such accidents happen in western provinces of Turkey as well? Is it normal to have so many fatal accidents in one year? Were armored police cars used to kill so many people in the past as well? Or, is it something new? In a previous piece, we wrote about Erdogan’s not so secret armies. Is this a new form of warfare that these armies fight?
Anecdotes do not make good evidence for social scientists. But, they do raise a new questions.