Campus News

Bethel student with family ties in Turkey discusses Syrian situation

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A painting of the view from Pithey's residence in Istanbul, Turkey, painted by Pithey herself.
Hannah Pithey, junior studio art major, has a deeper-than-average interest in recent developments in Syria, and for good reason. Her family lives in Istanbul, Turkey. Turkey is the northern neighbor of Syria. Pithey’s family has lived in Turkey for the past five years, and she herself lived in Turkey for two and a half years in between high school and college. “They’re missionaries, but we don’t use the m-word,” she said. “It’s not a closed country, like China or anything, we just keep a low profile. But they work there. It’s kind of an odd situation, because my mom actually moved back just a month ago…my dad’s still over there right now, though.” Pithey’s mother was a school teacher at an international school while she was there. “So in some ways, she was there making it possible for other missionaries or international people, making it possible for them to stay there, because their kids can stay in school there.” Pithey discussed how events in the Middle East have impacted her family in the past few years. “There’s two ways that it affects us,” she said, “there’s the immediacy, which affects my parents, and there’s kind of the being away from them that affects me directly. With my parents and my family, there have been a lot of times where they haven’t been able to go to church, because the church that we go to is on one of the busiest streets in the city…(and) there have been riots and stuff...a while ago there was a shooting and a bombing in (an) airport, which is one of the largest international airports in the world, and that was really scary for them and also for me, because I have been in and out of that airport multiple times, so I know exactly where this happened. I’ve probably walked across the places where these people have been.” Pithey said she hasn’t heard much from her family regarding the most recent developments in Syria. “We’ve been hearing about Syria for a while, like even when I was there, back in 2012, it’s always kind of been in the background, like people talking about it every once in a while. I watch the news now, though…I try not to watch the news a lot, but it’ll pop up on Facebook and stuff. I can’t believe that some of this stuff is happening.” Pithey went on, “I do wonder sometimes, whether it just doesn’t seem like other people care about it as much and they do actually care, and they’re just busy or something, or if it’s because I’m in a unique situation, but sometimes I wonder…we’re college students, and we’re busy, but at the same time, all this other stuff is happening on the other side of a planet that actually isn’t that big.” Pithey said she doesn’t feel the lack of concern as much at Bethel, and she understands people are busy. “It’s still happening,” she said. “Why is the world letting it happen?” Pithey said she mainly was concerned about Syria and the surrounding nations. She said the most recent event that stuck in her mind was the recent chemical attack in Khan Sheikhoun. According to the BBC, over 80 people were killed in the rebel-held city in Syria. Western authorities claim the attack was initiated by the Syrian government. Pithey specifically mentioned the videos of the attack that were posted online, showing children being sprayed with water “because the air was eating their skin.” Pithey isn’t the only one with close personal connections in the area. One of her graduating friends has parents in Jordan. Pithey had a few final thoughts on the situation. “It’s hard being away from (my family) in any case, but it’s especially hard knowing that they’re in a place that’s a little less than safe,” she said. “I feel a lot better having my mom and my siblings back in the (United States).”
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