When they started firing the first thing that came to my mind was brother Suleiman`s children. Straight off I threw myself upon him to shield him from bullets. If the same thing happened right now I would do the same.
Sometimes kindness means sharing; sometimes it means helping others; sometimes it means smiling to a total stranger, or like Ismail Ertem did it means risking your own life for your friend.
It was December in 2015. İsmail Ertem and Süleyman Yalçın were away from home, in Şırnak`s Cizre, an eastern town of Turkey. They were stationed in Cizre for an important task. The fate of these two brave men, who never knew each other before, was connected for a holy duty. Their task was to ensure the security of people in Cizre as there were illegal groups threatening lives and properties of innocent civilians in the region. Ismail Ertem came across many things that broke his heart in his post; civilians were killed, schools, villages, streets and hospitals were damaged, local residents taking shelter at home were threatened, pupils going to school were learning to fear.
Law and order was disrupted; there were roadblocks on the streets. Some of the residents started leaving their homes out of fear. But the people were not alone. Thousands of soldiers and policemen like İsmail Ertem and Süleyman Yalçın were putting great efforts to make sure that the civilians in the city would be able to breathe again. The locals were relieved to see the soldiers and policemen stand by their side and the cloud of sorrow started to disappear slowly.
The only concern of Ismail Ertem and those like him who left their families and children behind was to end the suffering of the locals living under the threat of terror and to let them live in a safe environment without ditches and barricades on the streets.
The duty of the soldiers and policemen is to ensure the safety of the civilians. This was the task that they were assigned to. While they were trying to protect the lives of others and themselves they would act considering one step ahead. Tales of dozens of heroes were written everyday.
This is the story of Ismail Ertem who has acted to honour the duty; the story of how travel order turned to kindness…
Ismail Ertem was a brave soldier fighting to end the suffering of terrorized civilians in Cizre, Şırnak. He was a young man who is the father of three small children.
He used to carry the pictures of his children in his pocket and was longing to see them again. Ertem thought that thousands of policemen and soldiers were working toward restoring the law and order in these cities where the security and peace was broken out. They were stationed here in order to make sure the students would go to school without fear; the shops were not looted nor destroyed; people could sleep in peace and children could dream.
Ismail Ertem trusted his wife and three children to God and set off to Cizre, because only if children in Cizre could live happily then his own children would be happy too. If Cizre children would again safely play in the parks then he would feel his children were safe too.
Süleyman Yalçın, whom he calls “my elder bro,” was a senior police officer in his fifties that always remained by his side. They were more than friends, almost like father and son. The footage of Ismail Ertem shielding injured Süleyman Yalçın with his body had touched everyone’s heart across the country.
Süleyman Yalçın was shot in a cold winter day. When he fell on the ground specialized sergeant Ismail saw this and rushed to him. He moved his friend to a safer place and tried to keep him conscious until the ambulance arrived. The ambulance did not arrive for a long time as it could not enter the street due to the ditches dug up by the terrorists…
Süleyman Yalçın was losing blood; he was supposed to be taken to the hospital immediately. Meanwhile Ismail Ertem applied the first aid to his friend and consoled him telling him that he was going to be all right.
After a while a tank arrived to take them to the ambulance. They were supposed to go to the place where the ambulance was trapped by tank.
They put police officer Süleyman Yalçın at the front of the tank with face down. Ismail Ertem did not leave his friend, whom he called brother, alone as he lied down next to him to protect him. They had to travel in this fashion for about 250-300 metres. The skirmishes were going on. It was getting increasingly difficult to get to the safe zone. Süleyman Yalçın was injured and vulnerable. The skirmishes escalated. The buzzing bullets were flying past them. So this is how it feels to be face to face with death two friends thought.
Right at that moment Ismail Ertem without hesitation threw himself upon his friend using his body as human shield. “Brother Süleyman`s children came to my mind” says Ismail Ertem recalling those life threatening moments. He feared that his brother Süleyman Yalçın’s children would lose their father. Indeed he himself had three children who have been waiting for him to return home.
Sacrifice… Selflessness… Even if all the kind words came together they would fail to describe what specialized sergeant Ismail did for Suleyman Yalçın. Because he put his own life at stake to save his friend`s life. Specialized sergeant Ismail Ertem risked his life to protect someone, who was assigned to protect his people. “If the same situation happened again I would do the same,” is his only comment.
Visiting Brother Sulaiman
Ismail Ertem visited Süleyman Yalçın some time after he was taken to the hospital. Ismail Ertem was so excited as if he was going to see a family member. Likewise Süleyman Yalçın was so happy to see him as if one of his own children were visiting. He could not hold back his tears and the words stuck in his throat. Obviously Süleyman Yalçın had a vivid memory of what they experienced together on the top of the tank. “I would kiss the hands of your parents as they raised such a brave son. I will not forget your sacrifice to the end of my life,” he spoke slowly.
Not only Süleyman Yalçın but everyone, who fought and prayed for the unity and solidarity of the nation, will never forget Ismail Ertem’s heroic sacrifice. Their love for our land and our people will remain as a legacy and a prayer in the path of kindness.