Mustafa Amca Died

crazy neighborMustafa Amca died today(February 1st, 2005), he was our “crazy neighbor” who put us through many tests to our patience and fought all of our attempts to be good neighbours. He was over 70 years old and had been under heavy sedation in a hospital in Antalya for over two weeks as the result of a massive stroke which struck him down at his home immediately across from us. Amca (Amjuh), which means uncle in Turkish, is usually a title of respect for an elderly man.

Mustafa Amca was a bit of a bother to say the least…

Çukurbağ House, TurkeyWe bought our house in July of 2003, an old stone village house with the idea to renovate and live in it. We found a local architect and after much work with her agreed to start construction around the last week in November.

We did not reckon with Mustafa Amca…

Most of the villagers here go to another village (the “yayla”) in the summer months, usually June through October, in the mountains about 70 kilometers from here so almost no one is left here during the summer months. Mustafa Amca did not know we had purchased the house until he returned from the yayla in November. When he saw us getting ready to start our construction he came up to the house and asked us what we were doing on HIS land?!? Imagine our total surprise. My wife told him that we had a deed (tapu in Turkish) for our land and that it had been measured and we were sure that we had everything in legal order. As she tried to talk to and reason with him, he became more and more agitated and told us to get off his land. I stepped in and told my wife to tell him that we were going for the Jandarma and if he was still there when we came back he would be trespassing. He started for his house and said he had a gun and was not afraid of dying since he was an old man anyway.

Well, we did get the Jandarma and they came and the old man seemed somewhat subdued in their presence (they are a force to be feared in most areas) but still insistent that he had a tapu somewhere around that would prove his claim against our land. The Jandarma sergeant told Mustafa that until or unless he found a tapu to our land that he was to leave us alone. However, we decided to delay our construction until this could be straightened out.

Litigation?We started to dig around a bit and found out that the land and house we bought was the childhood home of Mustafa and his three siblings. We bought the house from the widow and son of one of Mustafa’s brothers. The original land was owned by their father and he gave a parcel of adjoining land to each sibling but none of the other parcels had a house on it, only ours!

We had a meeting of the surviving siblings and found out they all disliked, and in Mustafa’s case, hated their deceased brother. They claim he cheated them out of part of the house we were going to renovate!! They were each making a claim to one room of the house and Mustafa was saying that at least 1000 square meters of our land, adjoining his, was actually his land! What a mess. In addition, Mustafa’s son claimed he was consulting a lawyer in Istanbul who would block us unless we settled with the siblings to their satisfaction. We knew that to get tied up in a court in Turkey can take years before a land dispute would be settled.

Villagers until very recently have always had some special privileges regarding their land rights and boundaries. Foreigners and “outsiders” (Turks from the cities) had less rights and often could be beaten in a court dispute. This has thankfully changed but defending your rights can be costly and time-consuming. So we made an offer to pay them a small amount for each of “their” rooms of the house. (This was what we believed, at the time, to be the less costly solution to this problem.) This payment was contingent upon each of them signing away any future claims, in the presence of each other, a land officer, the old muhtar (a mayor like office in Turkish villages) and, of course, us. So we finally had a document drawn up, each of them signed an original and were also given a copy of the land boundaries which they also agreed were correct. So, then we thought, our troubles were over and we could start construction. Little did we know…

Our next contact with Mustafa was when we had some village workers pruning the trees and pulling thistles and he started to harass and harangue them that they were on his land and they should get off and so on. This happened a couple of times but since he was not actually on the land we attempted to ignore him. A bit later, when a couple of the guys were fertilizing the almond trees he almost came up on the land and his shouting and cursing was so prolific that our village workers got scared and started to leave. I saw this as they were leaving and stopped them, got my wife, the architect and another construction worker and asked my wife to tell the guys to continue to work and we would protect them. I also told her to tell Mustafa that we were about to call the Jandarma again if he did not stop. I then went to the land wall next to the road where Mustafa was shouting and told him in my limited Turkish that the land was mine and the tree was mine and he should go. I started to video his actions and then he started to leave, somewhat subdued but still shouting over his shoulder.

Stressed?Our “victory” was short-lived. A couple of weeks later we received word from an assistant to the Muhtar that we were to go to the Jandarma station that afternoon. When we got there we were treated well but had to respond to a written complaint from Mustafa, which he submitted to the prosecutor’s office and claimed that I threatened him with bodily harm and tried to strangle him!!! He also made a written complaint to the land office that we had stolen and were trespassing on his land! We then spent the next three hours responding in writing to his complaints that he was totally wrong, that if anyone, it was he who had threatened us and so on. The Jandarma guys were very sympathetic calling my wife “hanim” (a sign of respect) all the time and letting us know they also believed the complaint was frivolous but none the less, they had to respond to a complaint lodged with the prosecutor’s office. My wife was fingerprinted, we were both read our rights and we had to go to the local hospital to be seen by a doctor to swear we had not been tortured into making our statements!! What a day…

A short while later, the prosecutor’s office called us all to come to wait for their decision to either throw the case out or take us to court. In their wisdom they saw the claim was frivolous and threw it out. In Turkey, unfortunately, a frivolous claim can be made and unless the people who make such claims are counter sued, no harm will come. We chose not to go the court route unless forced to defend ourselves.

After that Mustafa continued to occasionally shout at our workers but in general left them alone. When we would meet him on the road he would pretend we did not even exist and look right through us. If we offered him a ride back from Kaş he would curse us and tell us to go on, so much for neighborly relationships!!

Yet another dispute?Our next encounter was a complaint he made that we were trespassing on village land on the end opposite to his border with us. He made this complaint to the village council and the muhtar. The muhtar came to visit and since he is young and was new to the office at the time he thought he could convince us that Mustafa was right. When he left our meeting he was shown how wrong he could be unless he got his facts straight. He had listened to all Mustafa’s frivolous claims and believed them until we showed him otherwise.

We were relieved when the village council told Mustafa he was wrong and that our borders were correct according to our tapu. Again we were fooled into believing our troubles were over. Wrong again…

Tree war?Next came the infamous “almond tree attack.” Late last year during the end of our almond harvest, I was out with a friend while my wife was overseeing three village workers who were harvesting our almonds. This harvesting consists of using very long tree branches, often three or four meters long, to bang the branches of the almond trees and knock the almonds out onto plastic sheets laid around the base of the tree to catch them. As they set onto Mustafa’s claimed portion of OUR land, he actually came up on the land shouting and cursing the most vile of things. He shouted at them all to get off his land and that they should all get cancer first on one side of their bodies and then on the other and really awful things according to my wife. One of the workers was so upset about what Mustafa was saying he almost hit him with one of the almond tree branches. Fortunately my wife stopped him or he might have killed Mustafa!

My wife called the Jandarma and they came and were quite stern with Mustafa this time, as if they were out of patience with his actions. The officer asked him what was the problem as Mustafa seemed still agitated against my wife. Mustafa claimed she and the workers were trespassing on HIS land. The officer said that if that was the case why didn’t Mustafa call the Jandarma? Why did my wife call instead? Mustafa’s reply was that since it was Sunday he did not think the Jandarma were working. At this, the officer was a bit upset and asked Mustafa if this were true then the crooks and criminals must be having a lot of fun on Sundays since the Jandarma did not work that day. He warned Mustafa that if my wife called him again, he would take him to jail. He also told him that because my wife was such a good person and did not wish to make a complaint against him was the only reason he was not going to jail right then.

A short while later, my wife met Mustafa’s wife and asked her why there was so much trouble between them. She again made the claim we had “stolen” their land and that the authorities did not “listen” to her husband. She is at least as crazy as him of course otherwise they could not have tolerated each other all these years.

Again, we thought this might be the end of our “crazy neighbor” problems but alas, this was not to be…

A few weeks went by and one day the Muhtar came by and said again my wife, me and the Muhtar himself had to go to the Jandarma office to answer another complaint. We had recently sold a parcel of our property, the piece Mustafa claimed to be his own. We warned our British buyers about Mustafa before they bought the land but they said it would be no problem to them even though I insisted they reconsider. They bought the land and started construction, with our written agreement, before their formal deed or tapu came back in their name. They were starting construction of their new house on what was technically, our land. So when the muhtar came by we had to go because the land was still in our name.

The great "roadside wall" disputeMustafa, true to form had made another written complaint that a roadside wall our new neighbors were building was too close to the road and it had to be moved back even though much of the concrete had already been poured. He further claimed that one lone almond tree on the opposite edge of our property was actually on village land and that we were stealing the almond crop from the village. (A major haul of which, when shelled would have made a nice snack for the average US couch potato while watching a football game.)

Again we marched into the Jandarma office, this time the Jandarma guys actually were laughing about the entire episode and were making jokes with my wife at the same time they were apologizing for the inconvenience. Again we had to write responses to his complaints and again we were taken to the hospital to ascertain any “torture” we may have endured. This time the trip was a lot more lighthearted.

This complaint, since it also named him, really pissed off the Muhtar and he went to Mustafa and told him he should withdraw the complaint otherwise he would have another failure to his name in the prosecutor’s office and that we were losing patience and might initiate a counter complaint against Mustafa for trespassing to which we were legally entitled due to the aforementioned “almond tree attack.” Weeks went by and nothing more came of the complaint. The villagers, along with Mustafa and his wife, went again to the yayla in the mountains and we were free of him for a while.

When they returned we thought they might give our new British neighbors a hard time since they were the “cause” of so much trouble due to their construction but they were surprisingly friendly to the Brits and they told us it was “much ado about nothing;” we doubted it but we hoped this were true.

Then a little over two weeks later, Mustafa’s wife was again out in her yard, screaming profanities at the top of her lungs that the new neighbors were building too close to the road and even called her neighbor, one of the village elders, down to her house to put him through a grilling over this accursed wall. She was shouting that we should all get cancers and such things and started to get Mustafa riled up and excited again. He evidently got so excited that he collapsed and they called a doctor from Kaş who said that he had a stroke and she had him taken by ambulance to Antalya, some four hours distant. There he remained until he died, early this morning.

Turkish funeralToday, the entire village seemed to be present awaiting the arrival of the body of Mustafa Amca, our “crazy neighbor.” Muslim tradition means that a person is buried not later than the ‘morrow of their demise’. When the body arrived, a sad and mournful din rose up from the family and many of the women. They carried the body into the house and then a few minutes later took it to the mosque. It is interesting that the majority of the people of this village who previously commented vigorously (behind Mustafa’s back) not to like him, when he was alive, attended his funeral. Custom dictates and funeral customs dictate absolutely I guess.

Today there was a steady procession of visitors to the family of Mustafa Amca to pay their respects. The Village people walked up from quite some distances wearing their best clothes, there were women with snow-white head scarves and men in their best coats and hats. City people in their nice cars and clothing marking them as NOT from the village were also present. This procession continued all day and into the evening. It is an interesting thing to watch this ritual being played out. It seems they believe as if one of them does not show up, then perhaps no one will attend their funeral, they may go friendless or the “evil eye” may cast its pall upon them. Who knows for sure what is on their minds as they come and go? Perhaps it is just that they are curious.

Never has the axiom of “what goes around, comes around” been more true than in this case. Over his lifetime Mustafa made many enemies, many feared or hated him and it seemed almost no one loved him. Such a waste and such a pity, our stupid, foolish pride and unbridled anger will always do us in if we succumb to its seduction.

May Mustafa Amca rest in peace, for his life was full of anger and conflict.

(Postscript: To the current day and time, the widow of Mustafa Amca declares to us and our neighbors that we “killed her husband.” She still refuses to speak with us or even acknowledge our presence.)

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