Duvar English

The passengers of flight from France to Turkey on March 17 are now being held at a student dormitory in Istanbul. Yet their trip has sparked controversy on social media. 

Footage gained by an anonymous passenger which shows a police escort separating the daughter of a government official from the group has spread on social media. Most saw this as a preferential treatment flouting nation-wide measures to stem the outbreak of the coronavirus.  

The Interior Ministry and Ministry of Justice announced an investigation had been launched against those responsible for the escort. 

The same anonymous passenger said that Turkish Airlines had cancelled their tickets to Turkey earlier on, but called them back to inform them they could purchase new tickets. “There was a stampede in the ticket line and they didn’t even check our tickets as we boarded the plane,” the passenger said. 

The passengers’ body temperatures were checked before boarding. The passengers then waited on the plane for an hour before take off, which also created a risky environment to contract the virus, the passenger added.

The passenger also said that one body temperature check was also conducted during the flight, though no other precautions were taken during the flight. 

“When we landed, our luggage was spread all over the floor. They put us on four buses on which the drivers wouldn’t talk to us. They wouldn’t tell us where we were going or what we were doing.” The buses took them to a quarantine location. 

A privileged passenger causes outburst 

As the bus suddenly stopped on the side of the road, the passengers were told that they were not allowed to get off. 

The daughter of the Head of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus’ Civil Aviation Department was on the bus. It is her that the footage shows being taken away by a police escort. 

“You could tell she knew people in high places,” said the anonymous passenger about Güzide Sofi, “She was always on the phone and had already received preferential treatment on the plane,” the passenger observed. 

“Once the police took her away, everyone in the bus spoke up and started banging on the windows. The police told us to calm down but all the passengers were boiling with anger.”

Poor conditions in isolation 

When the passengers arrived at the dormitory where they are isolated, they were directed to a basement where their luggage was piled up and passengers from other flights abroad were waiting.

“They didn’t hand out any masks or anything. Now we’re staying in single rooms though it’s obvious that they weren’t cleaned before we moved in,” the anonymous passenger said. 

Nobody came to speak to the passengers in their rooms until 11 a.m. the morning after they arrived and no medical checks were performed on them. 

“I decided to look out the window to see if anyone was around. I saw a plate with breakfast food on the dirty floor, I had to pick up that food from the dirty ground.”

According to the passenger, healthcare professionals came to the dormitory and the passengers weren’t directed to any healthcare authorities either. 

“They have these police officers standing over us but we’re allowed to talk in the hallway and everything. No warnings or anything.”