Racism and Discrimination in Bogota El Dorado, Colombia. What is happening in South America?

As citizens of the Republic of Türkiye, Dicle Ürünay and C. Z., we landed to Bogota El Dorado Airport around 15:00 local time with the IST-BOG 9:45 flight (TK801) on Thursday, September 1st. As soon as we got off the plane, we were surrounded by the immigration police with the group of passengers in front of us and taken to the interrogation room for questioning. This group consisted mostly of people with Turkish Republic passports.

We are writing this text for the citizens of the world who, like us, are mistreated, excluded, despised, and wronged.

The interrogation police took photos of us many times, asking too many irrelevant personal and family questions. Social media accounts, gallery, phone book, WhatsApp messages on our mobile phones were investigated by the police. We were compelled to answer many irrelevant questions apart from our visit to Bogota, by the police officer (who made our interrogation during three hours) such as our political views, like the names of our parents’ deceased parents, the schools we attended since primary school, the clubs we attended, what our hobbies are and so on…
Dicle Ürünay was asked if she wants to go to USA. When she said she doesn’t want it, then she was asked why she does not want it. Another question the police asked Dicle Ürünay was whether she would ever use a gun. When Dicle Ürünay said that she is against violence, she was asked then what if in an imaginary situation would she use weapons to protect animals.

Phone numbers starting with +1 and +52 in our phone book were queried and asked when and where we met our friends who use such numbers. The scope and the content of the questions asked during the police investigation were offensive, manipulated and disturbing, and some questions were obviously asked just to kill time.

We respectfully and affectionately declare to the public that we will file a compensation for pecuniary and non-pecuniary damages considering physical and mental/moral fatigue due to this incident. We would like to file a complaint against the police officer who conducted our interrogation.

We went to Colombia for a vacation and were sent back to Istanbul without a rationale whatsoever as if we are supposedly trying to escape to USA, even though we had return tickets from Bogota to Istanbul and paid hostel reservations in Colombia.

We were 5 people in total, consisting of 2 more citizens of the Republic of Turkiye and 1 citizen of Chechen Republic, taken from the interrogation room to the waiting room, police officers accompanied us by yelling impolitely like “go! go! go!”.

As we were taken to the waiting room, the police officers tried to shout and push us. Upon this, Dicle Ürünay said that “you cannot touch me” to the police officer who touched her arm. The police intimidated us by showing the electric shock device in his hand. We were dropped off in front of Gate 48A on the lowest floor of Bogota El Dorado Airport. As we were under intense stress after 13 and a half hours of flight and 3 hours of interrogation, we conveyed our request again to smoke as a human right (We can compare not allowing a Turkish citizen not to smoke to an Argentine citizen not being allowed to drink mate tea. Even though smoking is a bad habit for health, it is kind of a cultural thing for us.) We were not allowed to smoke and we had a verbal argument with the staff. None of the security officers who detained us spoke English so we had communication problems. Our questions remained unanswered as there was no English speaking security guard and airport staff. Upon our request from an English-speaking interlocutor, Turkish Airlines (TA*) ground staff came to visit us and left us shawls and pillows. When we told the TA ground staff that we did not know why we were being held here, and whether they had any information on the subject, we were told that our trip to Ecuador created a complicated situation when interrogation.
*TA – Turkish Airlines for short.

The purpose of our trip to Ecuador was to visit and stay at the eco-lodge of our friend Ferhat G. who owns this lodge, lives and works in Ecuador for years. We were told that our entry into Colombia was supposed risky because of our plan to go to Ecuador and “the possibility” of us “defecting” to the United States.

When we got to the Gate hall, it was around 20:00 on September 1st. The hall was cold and we had about 19 hours of waiting until 16:30 the next day. After we told the security staff that we were cold and could not sleep with the shawls given to us and that we wanted a blanket, they said they had nothing else to give. We wanted to drink something hot because we were cold, but they said there was no hot water either. The security staff staring at us and laughing made us feel uncomfortable and unsafe. Only “No” was given in response to everything we asked as they didn’t speak English. The incident was reported to the officer in charge who was on duty, by contacting the Embassy of Turkiye in Bogota (time was around 20:30, out of working hours). As she asked if we need anything and we asked her in return to contact the relevant departments at the airport and convey our request to bring a blanket in order to spend the night warmly, but this request was not fulfilled either.When we said that we wanted to contact TA Station Chief Yusuf Morkoyun in order to inform him of the situation we are in, he stated that TA ground employees started their duty a few hours before the flight and would arrive at 14:00 on September 2nd. We had learned the thruth just before boarded the plane is that TA Station Chief Yusuf Morkoyun was on leave until 04.09.2022, after being occupied by the security guards for 19 hours.

We could not take our regular medicines for two days (Dicle Ürünay uses anti-depressant and fibromyalgia drug, C. Z. eye drops) and our personal hygiene products were left in our suitcases.

In conditions where our human needs were not provided, airport staff showed no initiative in this regard, and we were not allowed to smoke even a single cigarette in this waiting period for 19 hours in the cold. We were aware of the airport rules but there was no smoking area either even in a so-called “International” airport.

Airport staff treated us with a lack of empathy as if we are criminals and lower class citizens, their attitudes were unfriendly.

Maybe they have not encountered with the truth yet; maybe in an unknow future, their children will be in our position. They will want to go somewhere for travelling, go for working, for learning language, for meeting new cultures, for studying university etc. but they will not be able to go, they will not be wellcomed. No one has the right to treat another person this way.

We kindly invite the Republic of Turkiye Ministery of Foreign Affairs, the Turkish Embassy in Bogota, the Honorary Consulate of Colombia in Istanbul, the Colombian Embassy in Ankara, U.S. Embassy* Ankara, and all the people of the world to solidarity to condemn this racist and discriminatory attitude we have suffered.

*These complex situations occur because the U.S.A. has instructed to South American countries (such as Colombia, Ecuador, Panama, Mexico) not to allow citizens with Turkish passports to be brought into the country.

While we were detained at Bogota El Dorado Airport without any explanation, we asked the name of the police (who made our interrogation at the immigration office) to the security staff in order to be able to complain about this unfair situation to the authorities. We said that we want to report this person for abuse of power, but the name of the police officer was never told to us. We demand the compensation of the material and moral damage we have suffered.

Above all, we hope that our reputation as human beings will be restored back to us. And like many of the world citizens as we are, who are put in the place of the second-class people, pushed, excluded and discriminated from every nation, this situation will find its place in the public opinion and necessary steps will be taken to resolve this problem on behalf of all of us. We request the relevant authorities to take necessary actions against those responsible for this incident.
As self-educated, open-minded young citizens of the Republic of Turkiye who have worked in corporate companies and can express themselves clearly in English, we regretfully condemn this kind of treatment we are subjected to, and hope it to come to an end.


Dicle Ürünay

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