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2016 WOWSA Man of the Year – Nejib Belhedi
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Sunday, October 20, 2013
Alper Sunaçoğlu Swimming For Peace And Brotherhood
Sunaçoğlu swam 78 km from Mersin, the largest port in southern Turkey, to Cyprus in 26 hours 15 minutes in 2010. This year in August, he put aside his ambitious goal to swim in the English Channel and started a swim from the coast of Antakya in southern Turkey to war-torn Syria instead. His goal was to protest the cruelty, death, captivity, and torture and highlight a respect to fundamental rights and freedoms.
But on October 12th, he attempted and completed a unique 280 km (174-mile) wetsuit swim in 125 hours. "Along my journey, I only had a GPS device to document my route and food to last me 5 days and first aid medicine in case of emergencies."
Side Gülden interviewed Sunaçoğlu before his swims:
Side Gülden: When did you start swimming? When you swim, do you ever get bored or scared?
Alper Sunaçoğlu: I swim as long as I have known myself. I feel as if I am a part of the sea while swimming. It is like a kind of worship. You are alone with the God in an unguarded environment and the only thing you can do is trust God who will arrange things for the best. To understand what I mean you have to try what I do. Swim 500 meters away from the coast and wait; no one can see or hear you. You are alone. There is only God, you and the sea with the host of the sea, the living creatures.
Side Gülden: You said you will swim the English Channel. Why was your swim cancelled? You refused the sponsorship of the governorship. Can you explain?
Alper Sunaçoğlu: My project was to swim across the English Channel which is known for its extreme currents and freezing water in less than 7 hours to break the world record, but I postponed because of the problems that the Turkey face and some private reasons. My aim is to break the record in 2014. As part of the sponsorship, we agreed in principle with the governorship but after the Gezi Park protests, I thougt that it will be logical and better to postpone to next year.
Side Gülden: Are you afraid of sharks? Have you ever seen before? Especially Mediterranean is too risky. What do you think?
Alper Sunaçoğlu: I can't say I don't, but I know how to control my fear. I have seen them before and I know I will again. But there has been no threat or attack so far. I hope there won't be any in the future.
Side Gülden: You started a recent protest under the name of Yuzen Adam. You and Bedirhan Karadağ swam across 30 km of Büyük Ada by taking the support of Gürsel Tekin and some member of Parliament. Now the last stop of the protest is Antakya. What is the reason to end this protest in Antakya? What is the meaning of the attempt of swimming across Antakya to Syria? What is the aim of this protest?
Alper Sunaçoğlu: I want a world that shows respect for fundamental rights and freedoms. I appreciate mankind no matter what his language, religion and ethnic origin are. I don't want war, blood, death, violence or an empire of fear. As the president Tayyip Erdoğan said, "There might be be foreign powers or some monkey business, but there is unrest, war and fear in Middle East and the Mediterranean. I protest Muslims killing each other. I am not the supporter of any political party. I don't earn any money. On the contrary, I have many loses materially and spiritually. I only use my right for individual action. I hope this works and I can lead to form common sense in the region. This is my unique aim: 'A good deed is its own reward' in short. My aim is to support peace, brotherhood and mankind. And if the conditions are appropriate, I want to go the place where Turkish aircraft crashed and stand in homage by raising the Turkish flag. If God allows, I will achieve this and return to Turkey safe and sound.
Side Gülden: Who will meet you in Syria when you walk ashore? What is your message to Syria?
Alper Sunaçoğlu: There is nothing clear about it and not important who will meet me. But it is enough for me as someone who is human being because I will be there as an activist with a message to the world. My message is that of a unifier not a separatist. I want respect to the right to life. I, as a swimmer of the Turkish Republic which destroyed many of its enemies in wars along the history, made a cross-border marathon swim without gun and defense. I believe that this message will be effective against foreign powers or other business in the world. Turks are neither afraid of war nor peace. This is my message and philosophy.
Side Gülden: As we see and understand your motivations, you are certainly determined like before during your 26-hour swim to Cyprus. We can see the same courage and determination in you. We hope everything you do will raise awareness on behalf of peace and brotherhood.
Alper Sunaçoğlu: Thank you very much for giving me a chance to share my protest with the public and thank you for your sensibilities. Let's hope for the best for Turkey and the world.
Copyright © 2013 by Open Water Swimming
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