SMallpotatoEs in Japan

Memory in the Middle East, North Africa & Asia

Turkish Airlines evacuates Japanese

Posted by japansmallpotatoes on October 11, 2009


I have a thankful sentiment towards Turkish people and one of my reasons to start this blog is to express my appreciation to Turkish people in public.

In March 1985, I was in Tehran, Iran along with my wife and two years old son.  Iran engaged war with Iraq at that time and Iraq used to send bombers to Tehran every night and we kept sleeping under a table in dining room  for the minimum security.

In the evening of March 17, Iraq’s Saddam Hussein announced that Iraq would start  shooting all the commercial flights flying over Iran’s territory with 48 hours’ grace and would begin indiscriminate and intensive attack to Iran.  All the carriers flying to Iran decided to suspend the service by the time limit accordingly and, at the same time, each national flag carrier started to lift the compatriot from Iran for evacuation.

Japan’s national flag carrier JAL, however, was unable to send any flight to Iran for an internal reason and over 300 Japanese citizens were stuck in Tehran.  From the morning of March 18, many Japanese rushed in vain to ticket counters of European Airlines such as AF and LH to seek any vacant seat since the priority was naturally given to its own citizen.   

I knew that there was a land route so-called the Pan-Asian Highway to Istanbul via Erzurum, Turkey, to escape from Tehran and I had once taken the route in 1980 to be faced with a big problem. (I will write the details in other page.)  So, I did not dare to take that way again with my wife and son and was thinking to leave Tehran by car for the Caspian Sea side before the time limit to avoid possible heavy bombing in Tehran after visiting Europen Airlines without success. 

Around 8 o’clock in the evening of March 18, I received a phone call from consul of Japan informing that Turkish Airlines was kindly offering for the vacancy on its evacuation flights to Japanese citizens and suggested to go to Turkish Airlines office in the next morning. From the early morning of March 19, I went to Turkish Airlines office to join a queue for a few hours and finally purchased 3 tickets to Istanbul.

Turkish Airlines saved 215 Japanese in total by two flights just before the time limit 20:00 hours of March 19, 1985. Being so tired and exhausted on those several days, I was sleeping during the flight and don’t remember well how it was but all the passengers clapped their hands soon after the take-off and at the time of the Captain’s statement “Welcome to Turkey” when crossing the border.

Many years later, I came to know that H.E. Mr. Ozal, Prime Minister of Turkey had decided to send the evacuation flights in return to Japan’s efforts to rescue Turkish sailors on board of frigate Ertugrul which was wrecked on the coast of Japan in 1890. Turkey did this for something happened almost 100 years ago!   Those who are interested in this story, please pay a visit to Frigate Ertugrul

I would like to say “teşekkür” thousand times to H.E. Mr. Ozal, the crew members who have risked the life during the operation and all the Turkish people.

I attach an article of Turkish news paper “Cumhuriyet” issued on March 20, 1985 in which my wife’s answer to an interview on arrival at Istanbul airport is quoted. Page 1


14 Responses to “Turkish Airlines evacuates Japanese”

  1. Ismet duman said

    As I am a Turkish man, I am so happy and honored to help Japanese people. You Japanese always welcome today, tomorrow and forever.

    • Dear Mr. Ismet Duman,
      Thank you for your comment and warm welcome. I am very happy to know that my message has been successfully transferred, at least, to a Turkish person. To render my thanks for Turkish people as one of aged small potatoes in Japan, I have been trying to be kind enough for all the foreigners I have encountered in Japan and help them whenever needed. Thank you once again!

      • Ismet duman said

        I am also happy to receive your respond so quick that was great indeed.
        As I have said before and I would like to tell once again, I would like to welcome any Japanese wish to visit our world you people are most welcome. I currently live in Sydney Australia, if you ever wish to visit Australia in the future please let me know I will be happy to arrange an accommodation while you are in Sydney.
        Please keep in touch for never ending friendship of two great nation.
        Yours truly

        Ismet Duman

  2. Sara said

    Hi, thank you for your kind gestures. I have long respected your country and your people and I’m very happy about our mutual love and respect. I know of some Turkish families who live in Japan and they love it there. We will never forget your kindness long ago.

    With much love..

    • Dear Sara,
      Thank you for your comment. I visited again with my wife Turkey in the last month: March exactly after 25 years from the the evacuation. In 1985, I had no time to spend in Turkey due to the rush to go back home and I made a promise with my wife to come back to Turkey one day. So, we went back to Turkey and visited Anatolia and Istanbul for one week as members of a Japanese tourists group and, during the tour, I explained to all the tour participants how we were saved by Turkish Airlines from Tehran in 1985.

      We enjoyed ourselves very much by meeting the people, seeing the marvelous landscape and eating delicious Turkish dishes. I exchanged with our tour guide Mr. Faik, being also a very good friend of Japanese, an idea that we would keep promoting goodwill each other between Turkey and Japan, here and there. I will do me best to keep the promise with him.

  3. Ismet Duman said

    Hi Sara,
    The Turkish people never forgot the kindness and help of Japanese people.
    We promised and we paid our dept back. If we need to support Japanese people again tomorrow we will do it for sure.
    We do admire the greatness of your nation.
    You always welcome.

  4. Ismet duman said

    As every one of us needs a friend or partner in our life time to rely on so do the nations in this world …
    Turkey is established a never ending partnership and friendly country relationship with few countries: Japan is the one of that great, trusted and faithful country.

  5. とても感動するストーリーです。

  6. Seha Ersoy said

    Hello, i have just read ur wonderfull article and it touched me deaply. Thank u for ur kind words towards Turkey and its ppl. We dont hear it much these days 😦 and i really really like Japan would like to visit someday 🙂 greeting to Japan and its kind ppl 🙂 with lots of love from Turkey :)) Arigato gozaimasu 🙂

  7. Alper said

    It’s an honor to serve Japanese people.As a Turkish guy I would like to say that I’m very happy to see my countries decision has helped you.

  8. Korkut said

    My brother,

    There are 3 nationa in the entire world for us;
    Turks, Japans and others.

    Therefore you are allways welcome today, tomorrow and forever.

    Greetings from Turkey

  9. Ahmet said

    We are alll friend

  10. Esra said

    Turkish Airlines have recently published a commercial to celebrate their 85th anniversary.
    The commercial provides brief info on the ailrline history, and rescue of Japanese from iran is part of the commercial. That made me curious and I googled the occasion and came across your words. Tesekkurler for your recognition as well

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